31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Adermann, Mr Baillieu, Mr Fisher, Mr Goodluck, Mr Lucock and Mr West.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, of the Australian Parliament assembled. The petition of certain citizens of N.S.W. respectfully showeth:
Dismay at the reduction in the total expenditure on education proposed for 1980 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 percent.
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 John Brown, Mr James, Mr Morris, Mr Neil and MrO’Keefe.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia, and overseas students, respectfully showeth deepest opposition to the introduction of discriminatory fees for overseas students.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that fee policy on overseas students be revoked in view of the following:
The matriculation students came to Australia under the impression that they would receive free education. However, this sudden imposition of fees will cause immense hardship to the students and their families. Many students will have to return to their home countries as they are unable to meet the fees. These students, on returning home, will not be accepted by any local tertiary institutions as the Australian Higher School Certificate or the Matriculation Statements (HSC) equivalent are not recognised by their home governments. These students will be deprived of any chances of further education.
Those applicants to study in Australia in 1980 (e.g. students in Taylor’s College, Malaysia) are caught in the dilemma, either to bear the extra financial burden or to give up further education totally.
The majority of overseas students studying in Australia came from the developing countries. Most of them did not have the opportunity to seek any advanced education owing to the poor and extreme shortage of educational facilities in their home countries. These developing countries need trained and tertiary education person to help in meeting the challenge of technological development and to contribute to the economy of the countries. Australia, as a developed country, has a moral responsibility to assist the developing countries.
By the introduction of fees, it would mean only a few students from rich families would be able to come to study in Australia. Students from socially disadvantaged backgrounds would be deprived of the opportunity to obtain higher education. Thus making education a privilege, not a right.
Overseas students have made a tremendous contribution in promoting better understanding and friendship between the people of Australia and the developing countries. The overseas students have provided the Australian public with the opportunity to learn and study the customs, life-style and different cultures of these various developing countries. Further, overseas students have made valuable contributions towards research and development in their post-graduate studies.
Providing educational opportunities to overseas students is the most effective and positive form of aid to developing countries.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr John Brown, Mr Holding and Mr Wallis.
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 further cutbacks in Commonwealth funding to State Schools and transferral of funds to wealthy independent schools as required under the guidelines to the Schools Commission announced by the Minister for Education in early June are of vital concern in that they mitigate against the interests of the great majority of Australian Children in State Schools.
That Queensland State Schools have not reached the Resource Usage Targets set by the Schools Commission, and even at those financial levels will fall well short of actual provision standards envisaged by the Commission.
That Queensland’s effort in respect of Capital works is particularly of concern being less than half the per capita effort of other States.
Your petitioners therefore call on their legislators to ensure-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr John Brown, Mr Holding and Mr Wallis.
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 Connolly, Mr Keith Johnson and Mr Martyr.
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 Indochina 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 affected, 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 transit 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 Falconer, Mr Jacobi and Mr Keith Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we oppose the increase in marine radio licence fees for the following reasons:
Your petitioners therefore humply pray that the government will reconsider the increased licence fee and also consider a reduction for pensioners.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we strongly oppose the increase in Marine Radio Licence fees for the following reasons:-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the government will not only reconsider the increased licence fee, but consider a reduction of same in the interest of Safety.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr James.
To the Honourable the Speaker, and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we have heard the expressed intentions of one entrepreneur to bring the Red Army Choir to Australia, and declare, that regardless of its artistic merits or demerits, the Red Army Choir is a military propoganda, glorifying the Soviet Regime which is still hostile to the democratic way of life. The Red Army is the symbol of the power that is keeping formerly free people under subjugation, and its presence enables blatant violation of Human Rights to be perpetrated.
Your petitioners humbly pray that just as entry into Australian ports is denied to Soviet warships, so too, will entry be denied to the Red Army Choir.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Baillieu.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of electors of the State of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act 1977 should immediately be repealed because:
It provides unfettered power to Ministers to suspend, stand-down and dismiss Commonwealth Government employees and places them in a markedly disadvantageous position as compared with all other Australian workers.
Its use places Commonwealth Government employees in direct conflict with the Government as it circumvents the arbitration tribunals and denies appeal rights.
Its use will exacerbate industrial disputes and inflame industrial relations in the Commonwealth area of employment.
The International Labour Organisation has condemned the Provisions of the Act as being incompatible with the rights of organised labour in a free society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Baillieu.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system, and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully say we are concerned about the lack of public participation allowed in the decision making of the Broadcasting Tribunal.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament take immediate steps to dismiss the present members of the tribunal, replacing them with:
Janet Strickland Chairperson
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrEllicott.
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 the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
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. by Mr Porter.
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 there are Australian Aboriginal children living under conditions of inadequate nutrition in a background of poor housing, hygiene, and overcrowding that amounts to ‘a Third World enclave in the midst of affluence’ (see also the Report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs ‘Aboriginal Health’ 1979);
That such a state of affairs is intolerable in our country;
That only an effort on an uprecedented scale could create conditions that would give these children the rights set out in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will make generous funding available for the specific purposes of: making a real improvement in the health, housing, education , employment and welfare of the Aboriginal people, doing so with due regard for the needs, hopes and aspirations of the Aboriginal people themselves; providing increased help, encouragement and opportunity for Aboriginal people to train as nursing aides and in other paramedical roles, and as fully qualified nurses, doctors and social workers; providing increased health education for Aboriginal people in ways that are acceptable to them.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Ruddock.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Corio withdrawing Notice No. 1, General Business, appearing on the Notice Paper in his name.
– I inform the House that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) today resigned the portfolio of Primary Industry and the office of Leader of the House. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has been appointed Minister for Primary Industry in addition to his existing responsibilities. The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) has been appointed Leader of the House. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) will act as Minister for Foreign Affairs until the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) returns from overseas.
– I wish to advise the House that at a meeting of members of my party this morning I informed my colleagues that the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) wishes to stand aside as Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Party. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has been appointed Acting Deputy Leader of the Party and will remain in that position until the position of the right honourable member for New England has been clarified.
Motion (by Mr Viner)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the right honourable member for New England making a statement to the House forthwith.
-As honourable members will know, contrary to assertions that have been made in the media, I voluntarily intimated to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and my senior colleagues last night that I felt it best in the interests of the Government if I were to resign my position as Minister for Primary Industry and as Leader of the House. I did so in view of a report that was handed down in the New South Wales Parliament yesterday afternoon. The report is the product of Mr M. J. Finnane, an inspector appointed by the New South Wales AttorneyGeneral under the New South Wales Companies Act to inquire into a number of companies with which I am associated. It is of interest in this place, where things are done properly in contrast to there, that this report is undated. It is a report which has a number of aspects to which I wish briefly to refer. But before doing so I think it is also necessary that I explain to this chamber something of the background of special investigations.
I have been told that since the 1973 changes to the New South Wales Companies Act special investigators had been appointed on 26 occasions up to the end of 1978 to inquire into various company groups. Of these, 16 were public companies, one was a partnership stockbroker and nine were proprietary companies. Of all of them, the Sinclair Pastoral Company and those companies associated with it form the smallest group into which inquiries have been conducted.
Moreover, the inquiry is more puzzling as none of the companies is in a state where it has shareholders complaining; the companies have no members of the general public complaining of being adversely affected; they have no creditors complaining and, indeed, as emerges from the text of the report itself, the Corporate Affairs Commission-
– What about the taxpayers?
-I will come to that in a moment. It would be a good idea if a few members on the Opposition side of the House were honest in themselves.
-I ask all members of the House to allow the right honourable member for New England to speak without any interruption.
– Thank you. I wish to advert to those matters because I think it is significant to know that not only was this group of companies the smallest that has been investigated but that there have been only three of these occasions when the Corporate Affairs Commission has not recommended the appointment of a special investigator. The Sinclair Pastoral Company and that group were of course one of that category. Equally, the terms of reference for this inquiry were by far the most extensive ever laid down. So, one has a small group of companies being investigated against the recommendation of the Corporate Affairs Commission and with the investigation having terms of reference more extensive than any others that have been laid down.
I think it is also necessary that I advert to the fact that the person appointed is one who is prominent in the Australian Labor Party. I understand that he was the left wing candidate against the former President of the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council, Mr John Ducker. He is a man, in other words, whose politics must, I think, make him suspect in terms of the conclusions that he reaches. I think it is also interesting to note that in the Sydney Sun late edition of 26 September 1979, yesterday, the anouncement is made that Mr Ronald Clive Pettit, formerly the Deputy Commissioner of the Corporate Affairs Commission, has been transferred from his former responsibilities within that Commission. It is mentioned that Mr Pettit has been in the State Public Service for 40 years and that he joined the Commission in 1963. He has been very higly regarded by all associated with the Corporate Affairs Commission. It is of interest that the Sun says that ‘he was in charge of investigations into the Sinclair group of companies before the appointment of Mr Michael Finnane, whose report is expected today’.
The fact that the report was expected yesterday was announced on the Australian Broadcasting Commission, in the Melbourne Age and in a number of other journals. In other words it would seem that prior advice was given to a number of journalists about the whole of the production of this report in a way which, again, I think I need to draw to the attention of the House. On the last occasion when counsel on my behalf were before Mr Finnane, on 24 August last, he gave a firm assurance that we would be advised on the tabling of any document relating to his inquiry one hour before it was tabled. In fact the Finnane report was tabled in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly at 2.20 p.m. and the document was received in my Sydney office at 2.40 p.m. An assurance having been given- it is in the transcript- that the document would be provided to me one hour before it was tabled, I think it is of note that in fact that did not take place. I think it is also of interest to refer to the fact that in correspondence, which is picked up in the report, Mr Finnane had given some assurances that have also not been fulfilled. I mention this list of matters to suggest to you that conclusions reached by this man need to be treated, therefore, with some cynicism. On 8 March 1979 Mr F. J. Gormly Q.C., who was senior counsel acting on my behalf, wrote to Mr Finnane and, inter alia, said:
However, one thing does occur to us upon which I should formally seek clarification as it may affect the ambit and scope of submissions being made at this stage. You will remember on the first examination of Mr Sinclair on the 13th June 1978, (transcript page 4) that you indicated that if you had any criticism that you might be minded to make about Mr Sinclair, he would be given the opportunity of rebutting those critical remarks, calling evidence about them, addressing on them and so on. This was in effect reaffirmed in your letter to M r Sinclair of 1 1 th August 1978.
I assume, although you do not specifically say so in your letter of 27th February, that the indication so earlier given still stands.
Mr Finnane responded to that letter on 12 March 1979. Again I only refer to the relevant parts of the letter, which states:
On 1 3th June, 1 978 1 informed Mr Sinclair that if I came to any conclusion critical of him in some way I would give him the opportunity to meet the criticism before reporting it because I was conscious that my report might well be published in Parliament. I added that he would not have any critical remarks made against him without being given the opportunity to rebut them, call evidence about them, address me on them or communicate to me that I am wrong.
Your assumption that I intend to adhere to my earlier stated position is correct.
I received the document at 2.40 p.m. yesterday afternoon, 20 minutes after it had been tabled in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly.
The report contains a number of particular comments to which I want to make particular reference. Obviously it is impossible in this chamber to respond in detail to the first report which, in this volume alone, takes up, as honourable members will see, something just short of 600 pages. The supplemental document takes up about another 300 pages. There are, however, a number of matters that I think I should specifically comment on in addition to those that I have just mentioned. The first matter is that the terms of reference were extended on two occasions. As the report indicates on page A in the introduction, the report which follows covers a period from 1 July 1958 to 15 September 1978. However if we turn to part 13 we find that in order to ensure that he has picked up the best political mileage in the whole affair and villified me to the utmost the postscript on the settlement refers to matters that took place on 15 June 1979. In other words, matters have been reported on outside the investigator’s terms of reference, I presume only because he wishes not only to comment selectively about me- I want to pick that up in a moment- but also to ensure that he can also, in a way which I regard as really not at all laudatory, comment on others who have served as independent advisers to those who executed the deed of settlement. All the parties were involved in the deed of settlement; all of them were independently advised.
I might add that among those independent advisers were a number of senior counsel, and the man making this report is of course a junior. It is interesting therefore that in the comments on the deed of settlement the investigator implicity casts a slur on professional advisers who were doing no more than fulfilling their duty to their respective clients. It is also interesting that he completely distorts the true wishes and intentions of the parties to the deed, the parties being all the members of these companies. In other words he is implying, presumably, that the shareholders and directors of a company have a lesser right than somebody who is appointed outside the membership of the company, a man who is appointed under the Companies Act but who has in no way acted in response to a complaint from an aggrieved creditor, an aggrieved shareholder or an aggrieved member of the companies. So in fact he is distorting the opportunities of shareholders of a company to reach settlement on issues that are outstanding between them, albeit that settlement was achieved after independent advice received by each of the parties, and the settlement was executed in the presence of such independent advisers. That final comment on the settlement to my mind improperly attacks my integrity and propriety in circumstances in which the deed of settlement is beyond the investigator’s terms of reference. In my view there can certainly be no reason for his so extending the comments in that way.
In the detail of the report it is difficult to pick on each of the comments. Briefly, though, I see the comments about myself as coming within three areas. The first is in terms of my knowledge and involvement in the matters prior to my father’s death. The second area, in broad, is the allegation with respect to the signature on a number of annual returns of the companies. The third is generally with respect to some loans that were negotiated after my father’s death and during the time of the investigation by Mr Clem Haylen that was commissioned by me on behalf of the company and its shareholders. With respect to the first category of charges, I find something of an inconsistency. The conclusions of the report in fact acknowledge that it is the finding of the investigator that I had no knowledge of the improper transactions undertaken by my father prior to their being reported to me by Mr Haylen. Yet the investigator comes to what I see as the conflicting assumption that in some way I should have known about those actions. In coming to that conclusion he has gone against all the evidence, which is referred to in part in the report but which is certainly far more significantly before him in the evidence that was tendered by a range of witnesses, in that I had no connection whatsoever with the parties to the companies. I was not involved in the day-to-day affairs in any way.
The investigation suggests that in some way I might have known as far as the Sinclair Pastoral Company was concerned that moneys that came from my father were in some way misappropriated because they were large sums and, he says, my father was a man of moderate means. I think most honourable members would acknowledge that it would be an extraordinary son if he were to ask his father how much his income was, how much tax he paid, what the sources of his income were and what size investments he had. If your father volunteered that information to you it would be one thing. But for an only son to investigate the affairs of his father when his father is generous to him I regard as something that is not within my standards of behaviour.
The second category of affairs generally- I think that it is necessary that I refer to these in particular- is those that relate to the forgeries, or alleged forgeries. These are dealt with at some length. Again we need to have a look at the extent to which the conclusions reached by Mr Finnane are predicated on evidence that was submitted to him. As those who have read the report would know- those few who would have had the opportunity to read it, I might add- the evidence on the signatures referred to, on which Mr Finnane has reached conclusions, was largely that of two handwritting experts, namely, a Detective Sergeant Denis William Wardrobe, the Officer-in-Charge of the Document Examination Unit of the Scientific Investigations Section of the New South Wales Police Force, and another independent qualified handwriting expert, a Mrs Patricia Schutz, whom I sought counsel to employ on my behalf. So much for the suggestion that I was concerned about my having forged the documents. I was prepared to get an independent handwriting expert to check on these documents.
In each instance they found that the signature was forged. The report does not go on to say that each of these handwriting experts also stated that they did not know by whom the signature was executed. In spite of that and the fact that the conclusion has been reached on the evidence of these two people, that particular point was not referred to in the report. Again it would seem that the concept of providing all the evidence and reaching conclusions on that has not been followed. Indeed, what has happened is that, using circumstantial evidence, the report examines the reasons why the investigator claims to have reached his conclusion. The two handwriting experts, each of them having examined the signatures separately and quite independently, said that they did not know, nor could they reach any conclusion as to, the person who had signed those three annual returns. They had been shown my signature, a number of other persons’ signatures and my father’s signature. They came to the conclusion that they could not reach any conclusion as to the person who might have forged those signatures.
Mr Finnane has said that my father ‘did not make available his books and records to anyone unless he had some particular reason for doing so. I cannot understand what reason he could possibly have for asking someone else to forge his name on three blank documents’. There is a fairly comprehensive submission on this very issue tendered by counsel on my behalf to Mr Finnane. That submission pointed out that at that stage of my father’s life he was critically ill and he was anxious to try to wind up the affairs of the company to date and to ensure that accounts were brought up to date. He had, in fact, made the books available to other persons in order to accelerate that work. Presumably, because he alone knew of the nature of the earlier transactions, he was in a hurry to ensure that annual returns were concluded. Therefore, he had made the books available.
Yet Mr Finnane has suggested that my father did not make his books available, and that therefore the documents could not have been signed by anybody else. He has discounted the real reason why the documents had been signed in this way, for reasons that I do not find acceptable. Indeed, I did not forge those documents.
Moreover, Mr Finnane has said in the special report that there was a lack of motive on the part of anyone else. Indeed, there was a total lack of motive on my part, because at the time I found these bundles of documents with these signatures on them I was, in fact, collecting documents to give to Mr Haylen and requesting him to complete a total examination of the books of the company and, if necessary, to modify and amend any annual returns which he found incorrect. So, not only did 1 have no motive, but I was instructing an independent professional person to examine whether the annual returns were correct and instructing him to lodge substitute annual returns if necessary.
On page xxvii of the preview there is reference to the fact that these documents were subsequently filed. At the time when I was supposedly putting these false signatures on the documents not only did I do so knowing that I was handing the whole of the affairs to independent chartered accountants, but also I was doing it in the face of the fact that I had instructed those accountants to prepare and amend those very annual returns if they proved to be incorrect. He alleges that I knew the documents to be false. He alleges that no meetings took place. In fact, at that time I had asked my father what stage tilings had reached. I knew that the books were behind. I certainly did not know of the nature of the dealings that were referred to in all of the accounts of the companies. I do not believe that the conclusion reached by the special investigator is valid in the circumstances of the events as outlined in all of the evidence tendered to the special investigator.
The third area of concern in relation to this report is one which relates to a series of loan transactions that were made after my father’s death. I should say to honourable members that the interesting thing about this- no doubt this is one of the reasons why the special investigator found it necessary to go beyond his terms of reference- is that the deed of settlement which was in Part (xxiii) of this volume resolved the fact that all the shareholders and all the directors were totally happy with those loans. All of them acknowledged the circumstances by which they were taken out. The second thing that is of interest is that all those loans were taken out to a level which ensured that there was at no stage a greater advance to me than the credit that was nominally showing in the books to my father and to the Sinclair Pastoral Company. So I was withdrawing within a total credit and not borrowing from funds that were outside that limit.
I think the third thing that is important in relation to the comments made by the special investigator in respect to those loans is that he then queries the fact that I repaid the loans. He queries the fact that I paid interest on those loans. He suggested that in some way it was only because he was appointed that I repaid the loans. Yet there is a record of a series of transactions where these loans were borrowed and repaid throughout the period when the loans were taken out, for they were treated in the same way as funds that were alternatively deposited in other areas on short term deposit. He seems to have rejected totally the fact that in each one of those transactions I was doing exactly what I said I was doing at the very beginning of my discussions with other members of the company, namely, negotiating loans on a short term basis- in fact, on an at-call basis- in order to ensure that money that would otherwise be lying at credit could attract some interest for the benefit of the shareholders of the company. So in each of those three areas I claim that this report is reaching conclusions which are not based on the facts that were before the special investigator.
I think it is also necessary that I refer to two other matters that concern me greatly about the character of this report. The first is that the special investigator has reached conclusions about two highly competent, qualified, professional people simply because they have views different from his own. I think it is pretty important that we realise that in the character of his reaching those conclusions those people are men of integrity whose position and status one must contrast, in reaching a conclusion on this issue, with the status of the special investigator himself. The first of these persons is a Mr Torok. Mr Torok is a professional solicitor who is employed by one of the members of the company. He is a man of considerable eminence. He is not only a qualified solicitor but also a qualified accountant. Throughout the whole of the text of this document there is a series of references condemning Mr Torok for his attitudes, for his views and for his professional competence. I believe that those references are not only repugnant but also inaccurate; they totally belie the real circumstances of a man whom I regard as being highly honourable and one who certainly does not in any way justify the criticism that the special investigator has made of him.
The special investigator has failed to take account of the fact that on two separate occasions in interviews with Mr Creighton Walsh, Mr Allan Walsh and Mrs Jessie Walsh he failed to notify their solicitor, being Mr Torok, that he was going to interview them. In other words, a professional solicitor had been appointed to help these people who unfortunately themselves were not fully aware of all of the circumstances of their own business affairs. There is some comment about the state of health of Mr Allan Walsh who unfortunately is a very sick man, having had a stroke some years ago. The special investigator contacted these people without telling their solicitor. Their solicitor rightly said: ‘Whoa there! What do you think you are doing? Don’t you think you have a responsibility to talk to me first?’ Instead of coming out and acknowledging that that is a correct and proper function of a professional adviser, the special investigator has commented in this report on Mr Torek’s standards and has suggested that he believes they fall short of the professional standards usually observed by solicitors. As I said, I regard that as an absolutely deplorable conclusion and one which is in no way related to the circumstances or facts before the special investigator.
The other man about whom comments are made is the one who came to the conclusion on behalf of the Corporate Affairs Commission that there was no evidence of wrong-doing and that it was proper for Mr Haylen to complete his investigation before there was an inquiry by the Corporate Affairs Commission. In the course of the report there is reference to the fact that Mr Ryan, the Corporate Affairs Commissioner, and Mr Pettit had pursued continuing inquiries with professional people on my behalf. They sent officers of the Corporate Affairs Commission to consult with Mr Haylen. At all times we had been totally co-operative with them in order to ensure that there was a proper scrutiny. Because the Corporate Affairs Commission people came to the conclusion that there was no reason for there to be any appointment of an investigator- honourable members will recall that of the 26 inquiries to which I have referred only three were not conducted on the recommendation of the Corporate Affairs Commission- here Mr Walker, the New South Wales Attorney-General, decided that he would override its recommendations.
Mr Finnane has come out, presumably having had some discussions with Mr Walker, with a series of comments about the conclusions reached by the Corporate Affairs Commission and has transferred Mr Pettit from his position. I do not know Mr Pettit. I have not met Mr Pettit. I have asked professional people on my behalf to contact and work with him throughout. I have read of his record. I believe, again, that the conclusions reached by Mr Finnane do not seem to me to follow the normal course of events of an inquiry of this sort. I believe that his conclusions are totally unjustified in all the circumstances.
Another area I want to speak of in this regard is that there has been a selective inquiry throughout the whole course of these investigations into myself. One of the unfortunate aspects of the whole affair is the fact that the son of Mr and Mrs Walsh, Mr Creighton Walsh, is, I am afraid, a person who it is asserted has an intense hatred of me. That is stated in the report. He is one who is not highly regarded by any of the people who work in the Reliance group of companies with whom he has been associated. The officers of that group of companies have repaired some 40 occasions when he has falsely held himself up to be a representative of the company and has contracted bills for taxi fares and entertainment, some amounting to $2,000 without any justification at all. Mr Creighton Walsh is not a shareholder in the Reliance companies. He is not a shareholder in Allan Walsh Pty Ltd or Allan Walsh (Hornsby) Pty Ltd.
At no stage has Mr Creighton Walsh had any authority to contract debts on behalf of those companies yet he has done so continually. One of the more tragic of his efforts in the last few weeks has been the product of a meeting with a girl, I understand, on a trip to Hong Kong. She rang the Chatswood office to find out whether we could repay some money which he borrowed from her without any security. He told her only that he came from this company. I refer to this matter only because in relation to the affairs of these companies the only reference to the fact that there are borrowings by Mr Creighton Walsh from Allan Walsh Investments Pty Ltd is a nominal reference in the second volume of the first part of the report. The actions of Mr Creighton Walsh, nonetheless, in falsely holding himself out as an officer of these companies have been adversely criticised by the members of those companies. They have spoken to me about their concern on that matter. Yet there is no criticism or comment whatsoever in this report about any of the actions of this man.
There are only two other things that I want to add. The first is this: To the degree to which there is a public interest in these matters it relates to taxation. I wanted to make sure that everything was being done to ensure that there was complete communication with the Commissioner of Taxation. In the first instance, honourable members will recall that the Prime Minister wrote to Mr O’Reilly, the Commissioner of Taxation, on 26 May 1978. In Hansard of 29 May 1978, at page 2630, there is reference to that letter; the letter is set out in full. On 12 September 1979I also wrote to Mr O’Reilly. I said:
Dear Mr O’Reilly,
You will be aware that I have been in touch from time to time with the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in New South Wales concerning matters relating to family companies in Sydney with which I am associated, and which have been the subject of some controversy in Parliament and outside. These matters were also the subject of correspondence from the Leader of the Opposition to the Prime Minister on 25 May, 1978 and I believe an extract of Mr Hayden’s letter was sent to you at that time by the Prime Minister.
I wish to be absolutely certain, and to be able to say publicly that I am certain, in respect of these company affairs all the information required by the Taxation Office has been provided and that there are no remaining matters on which the Taxation Office requires me to furnish further information.
I would appreciate it if you would have the appropriate enquiries made and advise me accordingly.
To that I received a response from Mr O’Reilly on 14 September 1979:
Dear Mr Sinclair,
I have today received your letter of 12 September 1979 about the companies with which you are associated and which have been the subject of some controversy in Parliament and elsewhere.
As far as tax matters are concerned, you will know that since you took these up with my deputy commissioner in Sydney they have been handled there.
I might add that I did not take them up; they were taken up on my behalf -
The present deputy commissioner and his predecessor have kept me generally informed. Since receiving your letter I have had discussions with the present deputy and also with the investigation officer who has been responsible for the detailed work and enquiries from the outset.
I am able to confirm that in respect of the principal and substantial issues my Sydney office has been provided with all the information it has asked for and needs for a determination of the issues. The only information outstanding concerns a subsidiary question of a technical kind. The investigation officer only very recently asked for some further information on this. His clear understanding and mine is that the information is being obtained on your behalf by the accountant dealing with us in these matters and that it will be in my deputy commissioner’s hands very shortly.
Yours sincerely, (W.J. O’Reilly)
COMMISSIONER OF TAXATION
Mr Speaker, I seek leave to have the letters incorporated in Hansard.
The letters read as follows- 12 September, 1979
MrW. J. O’Reilly, O.B.E.,
Commissioner of Taxation,
Australian Taxation Office,
Canberra A.C.T. 2600
Dear Mr O’Reilly,
You will be aware that 1 have been in touch from time to time with the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in New
South Wales concerning matters relating to family companies in Sydney with which I am associated, and which have been the subject of some controversy in Parliament and outside. These matters were also the subject of correspondence from the Leader of the Opposition to the Prime Minister on 25 May, 1 978 and I believe an extract of Mr Hayden ‘s letter was sent to you at that time by the Prime Minister.
I wish to be absolutely certain, and to be able to say publicly that I am certain, in respect of these company affairs all the information required by the Taxation Office has been provided and that there are no remaining matters on which the Taxation Office requires me to furnish further information.
I would appreciate it if you would have the appropriate enquiries made and advise me accordingly.
COMMISSIONER OF TAXATION
Canberra A.C.T. 2600
Telephone 63 9111
Telex 62 187
Reference: 14 September 1979
The Rt Hon. I. McC. Sinclair, M.P.,
Minister for Primary Industry,
Canberra A.C.T. 2600
Dear Mr Sinclair,
I have today received your letter of 12 September 1979 about the companies with which you are associated and which have been the subject of some controversy in Parliament and elsewhere.
As far as tax matters are concerned, you will know that since you took these up with my deputy commissioner in Sydney they have been handled there. The present deputy commissioner and his predecessor have kept me generally informed. Since receiving your letter I have had discussions with the present deputy and also with the investigation officer who has been responsible for the detailed work and enquiries from the outset.
I am able to confirm that in respect of the principal and substantial issues my Sydney office has been provided with all the information it has asked for and needs for a determination of the issues. The only information outstanding concerns a subsidiary question of a technical kind. The investigation officer only very recently asked for some further information on this. His clear understanding and mine is that the information is being obtained on your behalf by the accountant dealing with us in these matters and that it will be in my deputy commissioner’s hands very shortly.
COMMISSIONER OF TAXATION
-I refer to those letters for two reasons. The first is to demonstrate that from the very beginning in the field of taxation, as soon as I found that there were matters that needed to be corrected, we contacted the Commissioner of Taxation in the true and proper way, independently through professionals, and there has been continued co-operation and consultation between the Taxation Office and those professionals on the companies’ behalf and on my behalf. But the second thing, and it is equally important, relates to the criticism of Mr Pettit, for exactly the same form of co-operation existed with the Corporate Affairs Commission. What I am afraid of is that we are seeing a politicisation of the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission; that independent, competent professionals who have operated for many years with total propriety in these areas are being pushed over, presumably to meet some political motivation of those who are currently in government in New South Wales. I believe it important that I refer to that in the context of the fact that the Commissioner of Taxation has had complete co-operation and consultation throughout.
The final thing is that this matter is, of course, a matter of honesty. It is a matter of being sure that presumably I rather than anybody else throughout have acted in a correct and upright way and with total propriety. I therefore find it interesting that yesterday, on 26 September, as recorded at page 1548 of the Hansard, the Leader of the Opposition said:
The second Tact is, however, that the document to which the Prime Minister refers is now a public document and is available in Sydney. A member of my staff purchased a copy of the document in accordance with proper procedures available for any member of the public.
In order to check that, at 3.30 p.m. yesterday my office called the New South Wales Government Information and Publication Office and asked the officer attending whether she could purchase a copy of the Finnane report tabled in the State Parliament that afternoon. She was told that a proof copy would have to be approved before going to the printers and it could be four to six weeks before the report would be available for sale. In order to make sure that that was the position, I sent another member of my staff to the New South Wales Government Information and Publication Office. I quote from a statement that she gave to me:
I, Betty Shelton, Electorate Secretary, today, 26 September, at about 3.30 p.m. called to the New South Wales Government Information and Publication office, P. and O. Building, Hunter Street, Sydney, and asked the officer attending if I could purchase a copy of the Finnane Report tabled in the State Parliament today. I was told a proof copy would have to be approved before going to the printers and it could be four to six weeks before the report would be available for sale.
I understand that one copy only of the report was made available yesterday to the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament. About 25 copies at least were available, however, to the media. Throughout this whole affair I have been subject to a trial by innuendo and a trial by the media. The circumstances of each of the allegations that have been leaked out have been such as to make it almost impossible for anyone to judge the circumstances dispassionately without knowing the true facts. It is interesting, therefore, that in this report the special investigator has come to the conclusion that I released a report to the Bulletin. He does that in conflict with evidence that was given to him by counsel on my behalf of the circumstances whereby I had made a number of letters available to other shareholders, including the Walsh family, and an acknowledgment by the special investigator in the course of that transcript of evidence that if it had gone to the Walsh family, as he quotes on page LXI of the preview:
I have no other way of knowing whether this was so, although I have little doubt that if these documents had come into the possession of Creighton Walsh, he would have released them to the Bulletin magazine.
Yet a few pages before he says that he has no idea how a particular letter of 1 1 August 1 978 came to be published in the Bulletin. It seems to me that in so many matters the evidence that has been presented to the special investigator does not accord with the conclusions that he has reached. I find myself now in a position where, in order to ensure that the Government is not put under a constant blast of criticism for actions and facts quite outside its control, I believe it is necessary and desirable in the interests of the Government of this country that I resign. I do so not because I believe in any way that I am guilty of any of the matters to which I have just referred. Indeed, I believe that the conclusions reached are the product of a distorted assessment of the facts submitted and not of a valid and dispassionate judgment. I am concerned that I am in a position where I have no other forum within which I can resolve these matters. It seems to me that I cannot, in this House, go through in great detail each of the matters referred to in the conclusions of the special investigator with which I disagree. Nonetheless, in making this statement to the House, I assure the House and its members and the people of my electorate and of Australia that I am not guilty of the matters which have been alleged against me and that in no way have I been in any way in breach of the conditions of behaviour and honesty that I believe are necessary for members of a government of this country.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement on the same subject.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted. The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I want to make a point.
-The Leader of the Opposition asked for leave to make a statement. Leave was refused. I will return to the program for the day.
- Mr Speaker, I move:
-The motion must be in writing.
- Mr Speaker, if that is what the honourable gentleman wishes to debate, let him move his motion and debate it now.
– Are you going to gag it in a couple of minutes?
– You will find out.
– Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will remain silent. I take it from the intervention of the Prime Minister that if the Leader of the Opposition asks for leave to move a motion that leave will be granted, is that correct?
– If the motion is in terms he indicated, yes.
– I raise a point of order. Does the Prime Minister accept the motion under Standing Order 110 as a censure motion of the Government?
– I will come to that in due course. Is the Leader of the Opposition seeking leave to move a motion?
– I move:
This morning we have heard from the former Minister for Primary Industry, the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), an extensive defence of certain aspects of findings and conclusions by the Finnane inquiry into alleged business malpractices on the part of the former Minister for Primary Industry. It is not my intent and it certainly will not be the intent of the Opposition to enter into that debate. I want to make it clear that the concern of the Opposition in this matter has consistently been about the propriety and the consistency of behaviour in this Parliament. I want to make it abundantly obvious that our only concern has been to ensure that standards of conduct which were declared so forthrightly on previous occasions by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and imposed on Liberal Party Ministers, one of whom sits on the front bench, are consistently followed at all times. They are standards, as enunciated by him, of sterling quality.
Let me repeat what the Prime Minister has said before, as tiresome as it may be to have it repeated so often in this House. Let me point out that the only reason this is quoted so often in this House is that Prime Minister Fraser has presided over a government that has been disaster prone in terms of scandals affecting members of the Ministry. No government in the history of this country has had as many resignations, as many dismissals and as many Ministers leaving in protest at the way the affairs of the Government are conducted or at the behaviour of Ministers, as has the Fraser Government. That is the record of the proper standard of conduct that the Prime Minister guaranteed Australia. It is the worst record of any government in the history of this country. Just look at it.
In 1976 the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) resigned from the Post and Telecommunications portfolio after he was charged with bribery. In 1977 the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) resigned after allegations about his involvement in land deals. He was suspended by the Prime Minister and forced to withdraw as a Minister because of allegations. There was no proper inquiry; certainly no trail. He was forced to retire. But an exemption was made on this occasion. The only difference is that the present Minister for Industry and Commerce is a Liberal Minister and the right honourable member for New England is a Country Party member. In 1977 Attorney-General Ellicott resigned as a protest over a matter of principle about the way in which the Prime Minister was conducting the affairs not just of the Government but of this country. What a seamy record to develop.
In 1978 Senator Withers was sacked as Minister for Administrative Services because of electoral malpractice. In 1978 the current Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) was stood down because of accusations made against him by a Liberal colleague. The Prime Minister forced him out of the Ministry, took aim at the goose and ended up shooting down the gamekeeper, because he got Senator Withers rather than the Minister for Finance. In 1979 the Minister for Finance was back in the revolving door, resigning again, as a matter of principle. Of course we know that the current Leader of the Australian Democrats is Leader of the Democrats and there is an effective, viable minority party in the form of a democratic party, because of the behaviour of the Prime Minister and the way that the former Minister, Senator Chipp, left the Government coalition parties as a protest. On and on it can go. Let me quote the high standards that the Prime Minister set. He said:
The community rightly demands a high standard from the Ministers of the Government. The judgments on Ministers are more exacting and sometimes more harsh than the judgments which might be passed on those outside the sphere of public life. If these high standards were not upheld, the people’s confidence in government- a confidence which is fundamental to Australian democracy- would be undermined.
That is a sterling statement of principle, one that everyone should endorse. The Prime Minister certainly endorses it as a statement but when it comes to the crunch of applying it in practice he withdraws. I know that it is tiresome to have the statement quoted so often in the Parliament, but it is quoted so often only because there are so many scandals riding through this Government over the period that the Fraser Government has controlled the affairs of this country. The important question here is: Why is there an inconsistency? Why are National Country Party Ministers treated in such a different manner from the treatment that is imposed upon Liberal Ministers? The only distinction that can be established is that the right honourable member for New England belongs to the Country Party. What sort of clout does the Country Party have that it can set itself apart from the proper standards of conduct in this Parliament, the proper standards that are imposed on other members of the Parliament? I repeat that that consistently has been our concern. This is not a trial insofar as the Opposition is concerned and debate in this Parliament should not degenerate into that.
– You are a humbug.
– -If I were a humbug I would be representing you and I would do it well.
-Order! The Minister for Transport should not interject in those terms.
-We are concerned to make sure that this Government which has been ridden by corruption, ridden by scandal and ridden by disasters and dissent within the Ministry, establishes and follows proper standards of public behaviour. Before I move on to the main thrust of my statement I want to say some things about the Prime Minister’s behaviour in all of this and the fact that there is reason for very grave concern about the complicity of the Prime Minister in this particular case. There have been suggestions of collusion. Indeed this morning we heard a reversion to that rather flimsy argument by the right honourable member for New England when he referred to the statement that I made in good faith in the Parliament yesterday, that a member of my staff had purchased a copy of the Finnane report. The very simple fact is that a member of my staff was instructed to purchase a copy because of the narrow and suspicious minds in the Government ranks and the way in which they would seek to misrepresent that. However, the fact is that no copy was purchasable.
– It was lifted from somebody’s hip pocket.
– I beg the honourable member’s pardon? If anything is going to be lifted from the hip pocket of anyone, we can leave it to a Liberal or National Country Party Minister, on the record. The fact is that no copies were purchasable.
-Order! I ask the Leader of the Opposition to resume his seat for a moment. I heard a comment from my right. I am not sure from where it came, but it was an improper comment. Such comments bring forth the sort of response that came from the Leader of the Opposition. That is what makes the standard of debate below that required of a national Parliament. I ask all honourable gentlemen to use appropriate language. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– No copy was purchasable. Copies were provided for a number of interested parties.
Government members interjecting-
– Of course, it is a cause of great hilarity. One of the interested parties happened to be the Prime Minister’s office which obtained its copy exactly 15 minutes after my officer obtained our copy. The Commonwealth Crown Law Office, I understand, also obtained a copy. The report was tabled at 2.20 p.m. At 2.43 p.m. there were snap flash news items on the Australian Associated Press ticker which we referred to yesterday in this Parliament. At 2.45 p.m. my officer obtained my office copy. At 2.55 p.m. the first question was raised in the Parliament. At 3.5 p.m. limited information from the report was phoned through to my office from my officer in Sydney. According to reports this morning, the Government obtained its copy at 3 p.m. and, like my officer, obtained it gratis. So if that is the main thrust of a substantial part of the defence of the right honourable member for New England then he has a very flimsy defence ahead of him.
Let me deal with the case of bias and collusion which was very quickly resorted to in characteristic style yesterday by the Prime Minister and again today by the right honourable member for New England. Some feeling seems to exist among members of the Government that because Mr Finnane happens to be a member of the Labor Party he is therefore excluded from operating in a fair, just and arms-length way in any inquiry. Let me put a few propositions to honourable members. If that argument is seriously put forward, then it follows that members of the Labor Party, trade union officials, are quite justified in believing that if they went before the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Garfield Barwick, who went from a senior position as a Liberal Minister in this Parliament to the position of Chief Justice, there would be no fairness nor any justice for them. The same applies to Sir Nigel Bowen who also went from a senior ministerial position in a Liberal Government in this Parliament, by way of the Supreme Court in New South Wales and the New South Wales Liberal Government, to become Chief Judge of the Federal Court of Australia. Any member of the Labor Party or any trade unionist appearing before him would be justified in believing that there would be neither fairness nor justice for them. Once that sort of argument starts there would be no end to it. We are able to enter into that debate just as energetically as any member of the Government side. It is a nonsense argument.
But was there collusion or bias when Sergeant Wardrobe of the New South Wales Police Force clearly established that in his view, as a professional, signatures had been forged? Was there collusion or was there bias between Sergeant Wardrobe and the nominee of the right honourable member for New England, Mrs Patricia Schutz, also a handwriting expert, when she confirmed the findings of Sergeant Wardrobe? It may be a very unimportant quibble on the part of the right honourable member for New England as to whether he is guilty or not. We do not want to argue that in this House. That is a finding, however, of the Finnane inquiry.
So we come to what is the crunch of this whole situation. It seems to me that there are three very important findings affecting the right honourable member for New England coming from the Finnane report. The first is that he was guilty of forging company statements. The second is that he illegally engaged in a round-robin exercise which, if he is found guilty of that offence, attracts a very high penalty in terms of years of imprisonment. Thirdly, he made unauthorised loans in a way which again, if established as a fact, would be illegal and again would make him liable to imprisonment amongst other possible penalties. These are serious matters. I say that I come to the crunch of this whole affair. For some 18 months this Parliament has been regularly distracted to debate this matter because of the very simple fact that disclosures had been made in the media about alleged improper behaviour by the right honourable member for New England in his business affairs. In spite of the fact that the previous practice, which affected people like the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Commerce and Industry and Senator Withers, had been imposed fiercely in the past it was not imposed in the case of a National Country Party Minister. That was quite inappropriate.
The whole behaviour of the Prime Minister in this matter comes into rather startling focus. The Prime Minister today appears as a man of shreds and patches. He has no credibility left because he nailed his complete reputation to the mast of the right honourable member for New England. He committed himself fiercely and completely to the role, the behaviour and the actions of the right honourable member for New England. As recently as 7 June this year he said:
Again, I think that if one looks at the record of the Minister for Primary Industry since he became executor of his father’s estate, it will be perfectly plain that he has taken every action within his power to right whatever irregularities existed.
I think that anyone would find that a bit hard to believe after reading the Finnane report, but one did not have to go as far as the Finnane report to harbour quite justifiable doubts about that. One had only to read the Bulletin, among other periodicals published in this country, or the Age, which produced documentation which raised substantial and justifiable doubt about the business behaviour and the business practices of the right honourable member for New England. It may well be that after a proper hearing through the judicial process, in which we have complete faith, the right honourable member for New England will refute those matters. It may be so. But it also may not be so.
But that is not the issue here. The issue here very simply is this: The Parliament cannot conduct its affairs properly when regularly these sorts of scandalous reports are appearing in the media to distract the attention of the Parliament and to demand, very properly, that there should be a requirement that the Minister stand aside while an inquiry is concluded. It was the requirement imposed on Liberal Party Ministers. Why was it not imposed on a National Country Party Minister? The Prime Minister also said on 7 June:
The Minister initiated his own inquiries when he found that there were matters that needed to be put right, and he did that a considerable time ago.
On the basis of evidence which was published in various periodicals and on the basis of the Finnane report now, that quite clearly was not so. But the Prime Minister, it would seem, was not too sedulous about demanding detail on such an important matter from the former Minister for Primary Industry. On 30 August, however, in a much more telling statement, the Prime Minister said:
The Minister for Primary Industry has broadly kept me and the Leader of the National Country Party informed of the process he had put in train to correct a situation that he had discovered when he became executor of his father’s estate.
That is a very important statement because the Prime Minister, on earlier occasions in response to other questions, said in this House, or confirmed in this House, that all members of the Ministry had been required to give him full details of their business dealings. He went beyond that and said that he was satisfied that the broad reporting of the former Minister for Primary Industry- the right honourable member for New England- was quite satisfactory to him. I put it quite directly to the Prime Minister that the position from what has transpired is simply this: Either the right honourable member for New England lied to the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister lied to Parliament. There is no alternative. The Prime Minister cannot escape between those alternatives. It is either one or the other.
Did the right honourable member for New England lie to the Prime Minister or did the Prime Minister, having received all of the details which he stated he did, then lie to the Parliament? This is very important, because the Prime
Minister is in a position where he should notone would not expect a man with his experience to do so- accept a superficial reassurance on such a crucial matter. This matter has been debated several times in the Parliament. It was first initiated in this Parliament nearly two years ago and it has been the matter of persistent comment, concerned comment and, in some cases rather alarmed comment in the media of this community. It has been the sort of comment which has included not just speculation, not just theorising, but details and documentation. No reasonable man, no honest man occupying the most important public office in this country- that of Prime Minister- would be satisfied with a mere superficial reassurance on this matter.
The issue is so important and involves principles of such great moment that the Prime Minister should have been forced merely by the responsibilities of his office to have required a full accounting in detail from the former Minister; but, even more than that, he should have required that that accounting be properly tested, properly assessed by experts within the Attorney-General ‘s Department. Why was none of that done? Who did mislead the Parliament? Did the right honourable member for New England lie to the Prime Minister or did the Prime Minister lie to the Parliament? That is the matter which has to be clarified here. As recently as 2 1 August the Prime Minister was saying in this Parliament, in response to a question I directed to him as to whether the then Minister for Primary Industry had the Prime Minister’s complete confidence:
I have confidence-
In relation to bis Ministers- in them all.
He had complete confidence in the then Minister for Primary Industry. Earlier, much earlier, he said:
In other words, my colleague-
The former Minister for Primary Industry- has taken the action which he ought to take in relation to these particular matters and in this he has my full support.
The two quotes to which I referred earlier were in August 1979. That quote goes back to as early as 24 October 1978. So the Prime Minister has maintained a persistent attitude of defence of the right honourable member for New England. He has stated to this Parliament that he has received full and adequate details in relation to the most serious allegations imaginable- allegations that involve fraud, misappropriation and malfeasance- and never once has he deviated from that attitude of complete commitment. I repeat: Who lied, the Prime Minister or the right honourble member for New England?
That is the issue that the Prime Minister has to clear up today. He has to clear up why there has been an erratic application of the standards and conventions in this matter, namely, not requiring the suspension of the former Minister for Primary Industry when the Finnane inquiry commenced. He has to explain to this Parliament how he can possibly expect any public respect or credibility to be extended to a government that is so scandal prone and that has lost so many Ministers because of scandals, because of allegations of corruption and because of public inquiries. But, most of all, he has to satisfy the Australian community as to which of them is lying- the Prime Minister or the right honourable member for New England. Clearly one of them is.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition’s time has expired. Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion. The motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) is the entirely appropriate and correct motion to be moved in the situation in which the national Parliament finds itself today. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, this issue is now 41 months old. It has been dragging on like Blue Hills. Despite that, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has remained inactive and inert throughout the whole process. The Prime Minister fixed the standards for ministerial behaviour when he said during the 1965 election campaign that certain standards would be met by his Government in terms of the propriety by Ministers. More recently he said:
The community rightly demands a high standard from the Ministers of the Government. The judgments on Ministers are more exacting and sometimes more harsh than the judgments which might be passed on those outside the sphere of public life. If these high standards were not upheld, the people’s confidence in government- a confidence which is fundamental to Australian democracy- would be undermined.
That more recent statement was in relation to the dismissal of Senator Withers. The point is that there has been a record number of dismissals and stand-downs within the Fraser Cabinet compared with any other Cabinet in Australia’s history.
We have had a number of serious allegations. The former Treasurer was self-exonerated and exonerated by the Prime Minister. He sits in this Parliament today simply because the Victorian Government did not do what was appropriate in that situation to investigate his affairs, as was the case in New South Wales. The report which supposedly cleared him was prepared by his own barrister and never released to the public. We understand that. Everybody in politics understands it. That is why he is a dead man but will not lie down in the Fraser Cabinet. That is why nobody in Australian business takes him seriously. Despite that he has been able to remain there.
But the same latitude was not extended to the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) who was stood down almost immediately. The honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) related a conversation between a couple of biddies in a Beaudesert hotel and, quick as a flash, the Minister was stood down from the Ministry and had to face a royal commission. On the same basis, Senator Withers had a conversation with the Chief Electoral Officer and in a flash he was stood down from the Ministry. Despite that the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) was entitled to remain in the Cabinet when much more serious allegations, about ministerial propriety were being made against him and despite the fact that the Prime Minister was kept informed of his involvement with these companies right throughout that period. The Prime Minister should have upheld a uniform standard of approach to this question of propriety between Ministers. I shall read from the speech that the Prime Minister made in 1975 when he was involved in a debate between the Government and the Opposition concerning the former Treasurer, Mr Crean, and the former Treasurer, Dr Cairns. The present Prime Minister said:
The Prime Minister convicts one but protects and exonerates the other. Did the Prime Minister know of this? Does he now claim innocence of this?
How appropriate those words are today to this Prime Minister. The Prime Minister convicts one but protects and exonerates the other. Did the Prime Minister know of this? Does he now claim innocence of this? Of course he does not. The Prime Minister, when asked on 30 August by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West) about irregularities, said:
The Minister for Primary Industry has broadly kept me and the Leader of the National Country Party informed of the process he had put in train to correct a situation that he discovered when he became executor of his father’s estate.
That was on 30 August this year, not two or three years ago. The then Minister for Primary Industry, in a debate in June this year, had this to say:
Let me say to this House and to the people of Australia that from the moment these irregularities first appeared, I reported them to the Prime Minister and to my own leader. I told them of the nature and the manner in which I hoped to resolve them. I have continued that reporting.
By the Minister’s own statement he has reported the irregularities which have taken place to the Prime Minister and to his own leader. The question that remains is why was there no investigation by the Government upon those reports? The point is that Mr Sinclair, as the honourable member for New England, was Mr Fraser’s Minister. He was not Mr Finnane ‘s Minister nor was he Mr Walker’s Minister. He was a Minister in the Fraser Government. Despite this fact either there has been no investigation of the fact that there were irregularities in these companies or the Prime Minister has turned a convenient blind eye to the irregularities. Alternatively he knew about the irregularities and ran dead upon them to try to brave the situation out to keep the former Minister for Primary Industry in the Cabinet.
What amazes the Opposition is that in August 1977 the former Minister for Primary Industry made a settlement of $250,000 less costs or earnings and retained dividends with the Reliance group shareholders, which he said were the property of Sinclair Pastoral Company Pty Ltd or the property of his father. The net settlement was $62,000. In June of this year the settlement offered to the Reliance group shareholders was $616,000. So the figure went from $62,000 to $616,000. Despite this the Prime Minister apparently never said to the Minister, ‘How come you told me that the only moneys outstanding were $62,000 net and that amount has now increased to $616,000? Why did the Prime Minister not stand down the former Minister for Primary Industry in June of this year when that settlement was made? Obviously that settlement indicated that all previous information which the Minister may have given to the Prime Minister was false and misleading. That was obviously the case because the settlement figure was very much more than what had been proposed at that time. In fact it was $5 1 5,000 higher. Despite this, nothing at all was said about the matter.
Today the former Minister has made attacks upon the New South Wales Government and upon Mr Finnane. In the Sydney Morning Herald John Spender Q.C.- a prominent Liberaldefended Mr Finnane ‘s integrity and impartiality in a letter which is now a matter of public notoriety. Despite that apparently the Prime Minister wishes to deny the New South Wales Government its rights and its prerogatives under New South Wales Law in respect of companies incorporated in New South Wales. In the settlement in August 1977 one of the extenuating financial matters which the former Minister referred to was the fact that he said that $45,000 was owing to his father for audit fees. In other words the former Minister claimed $45,000 from those people for an audit when he knew that his father had fixed the size of the fee without the approval of the company. Mr Sinclair knew that his father had never carried out an audit and he knew that the funds had been misappropriated. He admitted that fact in a tax return. Despite that fact he then claimed $45,000 audit fees. The Opposition asks: On what honourable basis could he have claimed $45,000 and on what basis did the Prime Minister accept such a claim if he were privy to the details of these charges? In his report Mr Finnane stated:
I found it somewhat extraordinary that the proposition should be advanced by Ian Sinclair that his father was entitled to charge audit fees since he had systematically misappropriated moneys of the company he was allegedly auditing. Equally surprising was his proposition that his father was entitled to some recompense for the service he rendered those companies.
Did the Prime Minister know about this? If he did, let him tell us the details of his discussion with the former Minister for Primary Industry and let the former Minister tell us on what basis he claims $45,000 audit fees or $187,000 of retained dividends, which he then further claimed?
The right honourable member went on to attack the Finnane inquiry in the most miserable way today by alleging that it was a political put-up. The truth is that the inquiry was an investigation that arose from public notoriety about the affairs of three companies incorporated in New South Wales. The New South Wales Government was completely entitled to hold an investigation in order to establish whether the Sinclair family or the Sinclair Pastoral Company Pty Ltd had in fact misappropriated moneys from these three companies. These have been matters of public notoriety for 41 months. They were first raised by the former Leader of the Opposition and were successively raised in this Parliament over that period. Despite that, the Prime Minister has determined to tough it out. He would not at any stage stand the then Minister down even though he knew that there were serious allegations against him. When a settlement of $616,000 was offered in June of this year- obviously to buy the Reliance group shareholders off the right honourable member’s back- that settlement was very much more than was originally proposed two years previously. So on what basis did the Prime Minister leave Mr Sinclair in his Cabinet? There can be three reasons for that. Either the Prime Minister was not aware of what was happening, or he decided to cover up, or he just did not want to lose a friend from the Cabinet. The power of the squattocracy prevailed over ministerial propriety. His camaraderie with the former Minister for Primary Industry, as a couple of flash-jack graziers, was to be more important than the propriety of his Government and his responsibilities to the Australian electorate.
Prime Minister Fraser has failed his own Party and his own Government. He has discriminated against Liberal Party Ministers in favour of National Country Party Ministers. The Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) would have taken a much closer interest in these affairs. He has failed his own Party also and he has failed to recommend the standing down of this Minister. Do not let him be exonerated from the matter. Prime Minister Fraser has run out on a clear commitment, made to the Australian public in the 1975 election campaign, to observe standards of ministerial propriety. The Prime Minister has run out on further commitments he made in the Parliament and he has turned a blind eye to serious allegations of impropriety against one of his own Ministers. Despite the fact of his claims about relying upon the New South Wales Government investigation there is the question of tax losses claimed as misappropriations. That concerns the Prime Minister’s own Government, his own finances, and his own Treasury. Despite that fact there has been no obvious investigation of the status of the former Minister for Primary Industry in respect of the allegedly fraudulent tax claims to the Commissioner of Taxation.
Prime Minister Fraser has let down the Australian Parliament and the Australian public. He has protected a man with a serious cloud hanging over him concerning alleged serious financial misappropriations. By doing that the Prime Minister has besmirched the Parliament and his own Government and he deserves the contempt and censure of this House.
- Mr Speaker, the Opposition has sought to make something of the fact that the honourable member for New England, Mr Ian Sinclair, did not resign earlier, before the Finnane report was published and available. The Opposition has sought to show concern for what ought to happen in this Parliament, for proper behaviour. It has clearly implied that the mere allegation by somebody from the Opposition, a mere allegation in a newspaper, a mere allegation in a journal, is a sufficient reason to require a resignation. Let me say quite plainly that it takes far more than an allegation from this Opposition to require that circumstance. Quite plainly the Opposition has failed to understand from the outset that this matter involves an inquiry from the New South Wales Government and that if anything were to take place it would have to depend upon the outcome of that inquiry and the nature of the report. That was said at the beginning and it has been sustained throughout. It would have been quite wrong, as I believe, for Ian Sinclair to have resigned before he offered his resignation to me early this morning. It ought to be understood very plainly that his resignation was offered not on the basis of that report and not on the basis of any acceptance of any semblance of guilt in relation to the charges made but rather on the basis of his concern for this Government and its integrity and for freeing himself so that he may devote himself to proving his innocence of the charges alleged in the report. That was the cause for it. And the right time for it was last night.
It ought to be understood that when the former Minister first raised these matters with me he said that if I believed at any time that his presence in the Government was an embarrassment to the Government he would resign and accept that view. It was a view that he came to of his own accord last night and in the circumstances which I have related. The Opposition seemed to suggest that it would have been quite wrong to wait for the result of the Finnane report; that people ought to act on the basis of allegations made by the Opposition and evidence leaked and published in various journals bought by one particular journal. I think something also needs to be said about the integrity and propriety of buying matters that are to be put before an inquiry such as the Finnane inquiry and the propriety of publishing them when the matter is part heard, deliberately seeking to poison the atmosphere.
– You are a bloody hypocrite.
-You did it in 1 975.
-Order! The honourable member for Batman will remain silent. The honourable member for Prospect will withdraw his comment.
-I withdraw it.
-I ask honourable members on my left to exercise restraint befitting the national Parliament.
– If I remember aright in 1975 the Government of that day was not prepared to have any inquiry. There was no examination. There was an attempt to cover up one of the most evil circumstances that ever occurred in the history of this Parliament.
– When did you have an inquiry?
– In this particular matter there was an inquiry conducted by an instrument of government. If there were any human decency at all in the Opposition it would have waited for the result of that inquiry instead of seeking to drag it into this Parliament part heard, using it in the most damaging way possible and trying to prejudice the atmosphere in which the results would finally become known. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) suggested that there should be some other inquiry in addition, that because allegations had been made I should have had the Attorney-General conduct another inquiry. How many inquiries does the Leader of the Opposition want? There is already a report of 900 pages. It was appropriate that we waited for the result of that inquiry, as we did. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), who has just spoken, indicated one other thing that is totally wrong. He made allegations about no inquiries or examinations being made about taxation matters. Letters that have been tabled in this Parliament and letters that were read out a short while ago by the honourable member for New England indicated very plainly that the Taxation Commissioner has pursued his responsibility diligently with the full co-operation of the parties concerned. Those charges should not continue to be made as they have been made.
There is no tradition in this Parliament or anywhere in the Westminster system that requires a Minister to stand aside or to be stood aside on the unsupported allegations of an Opposition, which of course is what this Opposition wants. That should be even less acceptable when it involves an Opposition intent on political advantage with no care whatsoever for the interests of the nation. What has been going on in New South Wales has been no judicial process at all. There is no finding, no judgment of guilt or of innocence, no opportunity for the ordinary processes of law to apply- of innocence until guilt is proved. Indeed, the whole process of this parliamentary Opposition and, it would seem, the inquiry itself, is to establish a circumstance in which people will assume guilt and leave it to the honourable member to prove his innocence against the circumstances that have been created. For the first time, yesterday in the New South Wales Parliament specific allegations were made in public against Ian Sinclair the Minister. But no substantial charge had been made before. Very properly at that point the Minister considered his position and advised me that he considered that he should resign as Minister and as Leader of the House until the charges were proved one way or the other and so that he would have a better opportunity of fighting the charges and of proving his innocence than he would have as a Minister of the Crown. I believe the former Minister has had the well-being of the Government very much in his mind in his actions throughout this affair. The course that has been taken is the proper one. I accepted that resignation. That is entirely consistent with what has happened in other instances. It is nonsense to suggest that some special procedures was adopted in Ian Sinclair’s case. The only special procedure has been the howling of the Opposition over months and the attempted vilification of a man whose service to the nation and Parliament rises high above the behaviour of his political opponents here and in other places.
– But you sacked him and it took you 10 hours to get him to resign.
-The Leader of the Opposition will please remain silent.
-The Leader of the Opposition is not speaking the truth as he did not speak the truth in this Parliament yesterday or on other occasions. We need to know and understand the nature of the Finnane inquiry. The report is not evidence in itself that can be put before a court of law. It is a collection of facts put together by Mr Finnane and his own conclusions in relation to them. The report hangs in the air. If the New South Wales Government had any sense of decency, one atom of responsibility for what ought to happen in this case or in other cases involving individuals or corporations, it should also have made up its mind whether it wished to pursue a prosecution in relation to it. What other chance has the honourable member of proving his innocence? The matter is left in the air for the public to assume guilt? It is one of the most terrible things that has happened. The processes of the New South Wales Government and the processes of the special investigator have enabled this to occur. The New South Wales Government has been ably abetted by the Opposition in this Parliament. I think it is worth noting that the Leader of the Opposition should understand precisely the nature of his own behaviour in these particular matters. Yesterday he sought to debate these matters in the Parliament without having read the report. He knew nothing of it. What was the basis on which he was prepared to debate it? It was an Australian Associated Press report and nothing but. Then what did the
Leader of the Opposition try to do? He tried to imply that he had the report. He suggested that anybody could have got the report. As we now know, he said:
The second fact is, however, that the document to which the Prime Minister refers is now a public document and is available in Sydney. A member of my staff purchased a copy of the document in accordance with proper procedures available for any member of the public.
I repeat: with proper procedures available for any member of the public.
The Leader of the Opposition knew then, and he knows now, that what he said was blatantly and plainly false. That document is not yet available to the public. There are 25 or 26 copies. One is with the Opposition in New South Wales. A copy came to me at about 7 o’clock last night. I do not know when the Leader of the Opposition got his copy. Twenty five copies or so have gone to the Press.
– Dear, dear! That’s terrible!
-The Leader of the Opposition is interjecting that he approves of those procedures and that technique. He ties himself to the circumstance of this New South Wales report. He may yet come to regret that very gravely indeed. It is plain that a lie was told to this Parliament yesterday, as lies have been told on other occasions. On 27 February this year as recorded at page 347 of Hansard, the Leader of the Opposition said this:
For the first time in the history of the Westminster system of government- I have had the history traced back to the eighteenth century which is as far as we can go- there has been a resignation of a Minister in the parliament without any explanation at all.
According to The Whitlam Venture, written by Alan Reid- I am advised that Hansard will confirm this- when Mr R. F. X. Connor resigned from the Labor Ministry on 14 October 1975 he gave no explanation to this Parliament, to the public, to Caucus or to his friends. Yet the Leader of the Opposition says that his research goes back to the eighteenth century. A falsehood from the Leader of the Opposition is regarded by him as no falsehood at all.
There is another matter which indicates how other people regard the Leader of the Opposition. On Nationwide last night, somebody said: - But this evening Mr Hayden himself has shown some of the characteristics of a straw man. Mr Hayden waxed eloquent in the Parliament as how the Government was running away from debate. Mr Hayden was indignant as he screamed across the table ‘resign, resign’ … Mr Hayden wanted to debate in the Parliament this afternoon, notwithstanding that he had not read the report. According to his office, he received a copy … at 5. 15 . . . on the basis of purely Australian Associated
Press reports- that is the internal wire service in Australia- on the basis of those reports alone, Mr Hayden appeared on what were necessarily short, sharp newsclips in the various news services this evening, including the ABC News. But Mr Hayden, who was happy to debate in the Parliament before he had read the report, was this evening not prepared to participate in a sustained interview on this program on the grounds that he had not read the report.
The Leader of the Opposition is prepared to say what he wants to say in this Parliament, where his words are written down in Hansard for posterity to see, on the basis of no knowledge at all, or on the basis of an AAP report of half a dozen lines. He would not even go on television, when he could have read the report in the intervening time. This Leader of the Opposition stands exposed as a humbug and a cheat as a person who is prepared to deceive this Parliament and as a person who, in his own words, plainly has lied to this Parliament. The only other thing that needs to be said is this: In all fairness, the New South Wales Government is now -
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I have been asked by the honourable member for Adelaide about language used by the Prime Minister. I should point out that this is a censure motion against the right honourable gentleman and that very serious language was used against him. Therefore I will not intervene.
-The records speak for themselves. I have used documented facts, the record of the Parliament, and the record of what people could do in New South Wales in relation to buying copies of the report. People know that this Leader of the Opposition has lied to this Parliament. The only other point I want to make -
Opposition members- Liar! Liar! Liar!
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. That performance from my left is totally unacceptable in the national Parliament. I ask honourable members on my left to remain silent.
– In relation to this unhappy affair, the next course is clearly with the New South Wales Government. It must make the decisions and must decide whether it is going to prosecute or not. It must allow this matter to get into the arena where the right honourable member will have an opportunity to demonstrate his innocence as he so soundly asserts it in relation to these matters. Every day that the New South Wales Government and Premier Wran leave these charges- they are charges based on a collection of facts by one man- hanging over the right honourable member’s head, where they cannot be checked and cannot be rebutted, and leaves them in that forum without going to the courts, it is an indictment of Mr Wran and an indictment of the processes of the New South Wales Government.
– I rise in support of the censure motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hayden. Anybody who has listened to the debate to date will have to vote for Mr Hayden ‘s censure motion. Mr Fraser was given 15 minutes to explain why he should not be censured. The censure motion is based on two things: Firstly, Mr Fraser ‘s refusal to have this matter debated before, in the 2M years since it was raised; and, secondly, the extent to which Mr Fraser was informed of the activities of Mr Sinclair. We have heard not one word from the lips of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as to what he was informed about. Let me quote what the former Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) said previously in this Parliament:
Let me say to this House and to the people of Australia that from the moment these irregularities first appeared I reported them to the Prime Minister and to my own leader.
That is Mr Anthony-
I told them of the nature and the manner in which I hoped to resolve them.
Yet we have heard not one word from the Prime Minister as to what he was informed about. Was he informed of, and kept up to date with, all the moneys that had been misappropriated from the various companies, leaving aside the involvement of Mr Sinclair? Was he told of the benefits that went to Mr Sinclair from the activities of his late father? Was he told that the houses purchased for the Sinclair family in Canberra were actually bought with money misappropriated from the companies? Was not that sufficient reason to make the Prime Minister believe that he was getting deeper and deeper into trouble the longer he left the Minister on the front bench?
The Prime Minister now says that he and this Government will not act on allegations. Will someone tell me why Mr Lynch is not the Treasurer today? Why were Senator Withers and Mr Robinson stood down, if it was not because of just allegations? Why did Mr Robinson have his good name besmirched? It was only because this Prime Minister acted on allegations; nothing more and nothing less. But in the present affairthe most serious scandal that this Parliament has seen, as described by the Leader of the Opposition- the Prime Minister is not moved. Was the Prime Minister informed that the
Sinclair Pastoral Company received great monetary benefits from the activities of the late Mr Sinclair? Was the Prime Minister informed of these things? If he was informed, why did he not move?
We are not concerned with the sarcasm that was used this morning by the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) against some of his fellow company directors. We have a good form of justice in this country and he has every opportunity to clear his name. What we are concerned about is that today the people of Australia have a much poorer opinion of this Parliament because of the activities of the Prime Minister. When each and every one of us walks down the street tomorrow, people will say: There goes one of those lousy politicians’. This is because of the actions of this Prime Minister. He was told Vh years ago what he had to do. At that time the right honourable member for New England told the people of Australia in an interview that he abided by the highest standards. If those matters contained in the Finnane report are the highest standards, some other things must be going on in this Government.
What did the Prime Minister know? The crucial questions were put by the Leader of the Opposition. Did the right honourable member for New England tell the Prime Minister everything that he knew? If he did, why did the Prime Minister not tell the Parliament for 2Vi years? Had the action that was taken last night by the Prime Minister, in sacking the Minister for Primary Industry, been taken 2Vi years ago, this matter would not have rated one word in the Parliament; but for 2Vi years we have attempted and have sought painstakingly to drag out every skerrick of information about the standards set by this Government. We have watched Mr Lynch, Mr Robinson and Senator Withers all go down the drain and have people look at them as if they are second class citizens. We have seen the Prime Minister treat the National Country Party as the senior coalition partner in this Government. All these things have been done by this Prime Minister, and honourable members opposite all sit there saying ‘Hear, hear’ when he speaks. I ask those honourable members opposite who want Mr Sinclair to come back into the Ministry to put up their hands. Mr Speaker, do you know why Mr Killen puts up his hand? The reason is that he does not want to go to London. That is why he put his hand up. He wants to stay on the front bench. Mr Killen does not want to be Australia’s High Commissioner in London. They always say to beware of a man with hair on his face. But these are the sorts of standards being set by the
Prime Minister. He says that the right honourable member for New England very graciously and righteously resigned last night. The right honourable member for New England has been aware of all of these things for 2V4 years. He did not resign last night; he was sacked. The Government need not call Peter Nixon Acting Deputy Leader of the National Country Party. You are there for good, Peter. Use the staff and the finance and all the goodies that go with the job, because you are not going to be shifted. Even poor little Ian Viner has crawled to the top of the class as Leader of the House. You are going to make it, Ian.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will refer to honourable members in proper language, that is, by referring to them by their electorate or their office.
– There is one most crucial matter in relation to this whole affair which the Prime Minister cannot deny. He was questioned about it. It has nothing to do with the Finnane report, nothing to do with the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission, nothing to do with who is in the Labor Party, nothing to do with who is the Liberal Party, and nothing to do with the Taxation Office. We have told the Government time and time again that this matter involved dealings with the Taxation Officerebates paid on misappropriation of funds from this group of companies. The sole beneficiary of those rebates has been the right honourable member for New England. If that is not sufficient for the Prime Minister to say: ‘You must stand down until all of this is cleared up’, then what is? Under what circumstances in future can we expect action to be taken?
This is the most incredible government. It consists of the most incredible lineup of people. They are the ones who told the people of Australia in 1975: ‘We will give you a new standard ‘. We had not even had the election results before the poor Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) was in the Queanbeyan court answering a prima facie case of having bribed a candidate. That happened even before Christmas Day. Ever since then there has been one scandal after the other. We reached the climax yesterday. The Prime Minister says that until we have read the whole report it is improper to comment. I remind honourable members of the actions of the Prime Minister during the elections of 1977 when he made his off-the-cuff comments about the Royal Commission into Human Relationships. He had not read the report; he just found a couple of paragraphs with which he thought he might be able to denigrate the Labor Party.
The Prime Minister acts in what he thinks are his own best interests. His own best interests are being served at the moment by treating members of the Liberal Party as second class citizens and trying to comfort the National Country Party. All honourable members opposite know that that is the reason the right honourable member for New England was not stood down earlier. That is the reason the Prime Minister cannot tell us what went on. No one else in the Parliament, other than the right honourable member for New England, seems to know. Perhaps the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) knows; the Prime Minister may know, but no one else does. What went on? What does the Prime Minister know? To what extent was he informed about the contents of the Finnane report? In what circumstances did he reach the decision that he could not take action against the right honourable member for New England? When the Minister for Industry and Commerce was laid up in bed during the 1977 elections he was sacked as Treasurer.
What was the variation in circumstances which caused the Prime Minister to apply different standards in this case? We are not allowed to know the answer to that question. We are only members of parliament. We are not supposed to question these things. We just take at face value the Prime Minister’s statement during the 1975 elections that we were getting a government of new standards. Brother, have we got a government of new standards! There has never been a government with standards like those of this one. Someone said the other day that it is the best government we have ever had because never have so many Ministers been cleared by the courts. Never have so many Ministers gone before the courts. Still it goes on. Who will be next?
What will the Government tell the people next time it holds an election? It cannot talk about Medibank or jobs or indexation. All of those things have gone. Will it talk about the propriety of its Ministers? Who will be shifted overseas because he has a skeleton in his closet? The Prime Minister will not say a word. All he says is that the matter is being investigated by the New South Wales Government, so there is still some doubt hanging over the matter. I suspect that people might say, as the Leader of the Opposition said, that perhaps the decision of Sir Garfield Barwick in the Webster case ought to be queried. Is that the standard that the Prime Minister of Australia wants us to accept? Are we to look at the political colour of everybody who sits in justice in this country? Are we to say that the Minister for Defence can represent in the courts only members of the Liberal Party?
– Finnane does not sit injustice.
– The honourable member is casting aspersions. He is a member of a government of smear. The Government likes to smear everybody who does not suit it. Its members sat up until 2 o’clock this morning to force out the right honourable member for New England. That is something that should have been done years ago. Mr Whitlam, to his credit, said almost three years ago that the public will not tolerate the activities of the right honourable member for New England. How right he is. The public are disgusted. They are even more disgusted with us collectively and with the Prime Minister specifically because of his inaction during the period of almost three years in which this matter has been raised in the national Parliament. Nothing has happened in Australia: Ministers cannot do their work, they are being gathered in groups to decide what will happen, deputations of back benchers are going to see the Prime Minister, and members of the National Country Party are in a huddle. All of this is happening because of the actions of one man- the Prime Minister, not the right honourable member for New England. The Prime Minister refused to take action. The Leader of the Opposition asked: ‘Is the Prime Minister telling the Parliament lies?’ I know that Mr Speaker has very strong objection to the use of that word in the Parliament. I do not blame him; it is not altogether parliamentary.
The Prime Minister should be given more time- we on this side of the chamber are quite prepared to give it; I speak on behalf of all my colleagues- to get up and tell us what he knows. He has 15 minutes in which to smear. Will he now inform the House what the right honourable member for New England told him over the last three years and will he tell us why he made a judgment on him different from that which he made on his senior colleagues, the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Industry and Commerce and Senator Withers. That is all we want to know. Perhaps the Prime Minister can clear his name. By his actions he is really deserving of the censure of this Parliament. He has dragged the Parliament down into the mud.
– There would not be a man in this country who has a sense of decency or compassion who has not got a deep feeling for the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) because of the circumstances in which he has found himself. I feel particularly for him because I have been closely associated with him. He has involved me in and talked to me about his circumstances. It was quite obvious that he would be a victim of allegations, of unproven rumours and of scurrilous attacks at a time when he could not defend himself.
Opposition members interjecting-
-The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. Honourable members on my left must remember that they initiated the debate. They have been heard in relative silence. Now a defence to the motion is being put. Honourable members on my right are entitled to be heard. That continual barrage of interjections which we just heard is quite unparliamentary and quite unfitting of the national Parliament. I ask honourable members to observe correct standards.
– All those people who heard the right honourable member for New England speak in this House today will admit that he performed extremely well and made a most compelling case for his innocence. He refuted allegations that have been made and really highlighted the point that justice has to be done in this case. It is up to the New South Wales Government to see that the matter can be properly heard before the courts instead of being left in its present state of limbo. Who would ever suggest that he should resign when these sorts of unproven allegations are made over a period of time? The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has done exactly the right thing in defending him to this stage. However, now that a report has come down -
– Up to this stage.
-Of course he has up to this stage because previously there was no report. The matter has been under investigation in New South Wales for the past 16 months. During that time the right honourable member for New England had his hands tied and was unable to defend himself. The Opposition took the opportunity of the privileges of the Parliament to criticise, abuse and cast aspersions against a man who could not defend himself. Today is the first opportunity that he has had of saying something. But he did not have the advantage of a proper examination of the report to be able to present a case other than what flowed from his heart this morning. I am sure that it impressed every decent person in this House.
Let us go back to the facts. Three years ago the right honourable member for New England inherited a group of family companies. Having looked at their affairs, he immediately made up his mind that there were some inconsistencies. These concerned him. He did the proper and right thing immediately. He had the matter referred to the Corporate Affairs Commission in New South Wales.
-He did it!
-He did it. It was not demanded of him. The professional people in the Corporate Affairs Commission looked at the matter for two years. They made no recommendation that there should be an investigation. But alas what happened? The New South Wales Attorney-General decided to appoint a special investigator. The politics of the situation were too good to let the matter go by. Here was an opportunity to destroy a senior member of the national Government. So the New South Wales Attorney-General appointed as an investigator none other than a well-known Labor man, a man who has been associated with the Labor Party organisation. He is a relatively junior Queen’s Counsel.
– He is not even a Q.C.
-He is not even a Queen’s Counsel. He is a relatively junior member of the Bar. I would have thought that the situation demanded the appointment of a person of the highest credentials to cany out this sort of investigation because of the national publicity it was being given. After the Corporate Affairs Commission had looked at the matter for two years, that investigation dragged on for 16 months, an inordinate amount of time, to draw the maximum amount of politics out of it. We saw the Leader of the Opposition and other members of the Opposition homing in and gnawing away, trying to make the maximum out of it. They smeared and poisoned the right honourable member because of his actions. I thought that the events yesterday summed up the situation very well. We saw the Leader of the Opposition bring forward a question, obviously having the advantage of knowing that the report of the investigation had been brought down, to attack again the right honourable member without any evidence in order to get the matter into the newspapers today. When he was asked to appear on Nationwide last night he ran away like a coward. As Richard Carleton summed it up, he is a man of straw.
The time has arrived for great indignation in this nation at the sorts of tactics that have been followed by the Labor Party in trying to destroy a man by smearing him. That is what Opposition members have been doing. Let there be proven evidence. If there is, the Prime Minister and I will take action to see that the appropriate course is followed according to the dignity and proper conditions of the Parliament. But there has been no necessity to ask the honourable member to stand down. Indeed, it was he who agreed to resign.
– Agreed to resign?
-He suggested that he should resign because he knew that this matter would drag on and that no prosecutions would be lodged against him by the New South Wales Government.
– How long did it take you to talk him into it?
-The honourable member for Batman continues to interject. I ask him to cease. He is a relatively new member but he ought to know that when a censure motion is being debated it is the custom for the House to debate it with decorum and not with continual interjections.
-The right honourable member for New England has acted with complete propriety in this matter during the whole period. He has never refused to get up in this House and state his point of view. I doubt whether any other honourable member of this House could have stood the vilification and abuse that Mr Sinclair has taken over the past three years from both members of this House and the Australian media. He is determined to have this matter resolved. To me, that is proof of an innocent man wanting to see justice. It is this strength that will see him through. I am very proud of the way in which he performed in this House today. It did great credit to him. I am sure that everybody will agree with me.
It is quite obvious that the appointment of Mr Finnane in New South Wales was to do a hatchet job on Ian Sinclair, to bring down a report which would make it impossible for him to remain in his position. That is what he has done. Today Ian Sinclair clearly refuted three of the main charges. If the New South Wales Government does not like what he has done why does it not bring charges? Why does it not bring the matter to court and let a jury decide. Let there be a fair trial, not a political trial as we are seeing in the Parliament. The time has come when the Australian people will react to this sort of character assassination which has been carried out by the Labor Party. This case is a monstrous example of what is happening. The media- not to its credithas played a principal role. For instance, the Age bought information to try to denigrate the right honourable member. If the media thinks that that practice is ethical, let it continue it. It has brought great disgust from the Australian people for that sort of performance.
It is up to the New South Wales Government now to clear up this matter as quickly as possible. It will be a complete indictment of Mr Wran’s Government if action is not taken promptly to clear the man named by these accusations. The right honourable member for New England is one of the most competent members of this House. The Opposition knows it. That is why it has been concentrating its attack on him. But the attack is backfiring now. This is the dirtiest campaign I have ever seen in my political life. It has been orchestrated with the New South Wales Government having all the benefits and privileges of law in New South Wales, and the Federal Opposition having the privilege in this Parliament of being able to say what it likes about the right honourable member. Let us wait until the matter comes to the court. Let us wait and see what the judgment is then. If a jury proves innocence, I believe that there ought to be a royal commission into Mr Finnane ‘s activities in New South Wales. It is a perversion of justice and a prostitution of the laws of this country to carry out a conspiracy of this nature. The matter should be resolved and clarified as quickly as possible. I have absolute confidence in my colleague. He will come through innocent and cleared of the gross and monstrous allegations that have been made against him. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition and members of his party will have the decency to apologise. Of course, they will not do so. They are low animals, as they have demonstrated during the course of this whole affair. They will pay for it. There is a degree of decency in the average Australian.
- Mr Speaker, are you going to sit there while that man refers to members of the Opposition as low animals? It is a disgrace to the Parliament.
-Order! The honourable member for Hughes will contain himself. I understand that the Deputy Prime Minister used a term which is totally unparliamentary. I ask him to withdraw it.
– I am quite happy to withdraw it, but every Australian knows that what I am saying is right.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will withdraw unqualifiedly.
– I withdraw. The Labor Party has lacked principles and is prepared to act in what I believe is the most despicable way in which one can act, and that is, to keep attacking a man who cannot defend himself or have his case properly heard. At the moment we have this report making certain assertions yet there still can be no conclusions to it. It is for that reason that the honourable member resigned, hoping that this would force the issue in New South Wales, hoping that an immediate charge will be made against him so that there can be a court inquiry to determine whether or not he is innocent.
As far as I am concerned, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has acted absolutely correctly during this whole procedure. It would have been quite wrong, as evidence is now showing, to have acted before now. I think that when the eventual conclusion to this case is reached, it will be a sad day for members of the Labor Party because it will prove just how low they are.
-Abuse is no substitute for argument and we have just heard one of the most miserable efforts that I have ever heard from anyone in this House in the 10 years that I have been a member of parliament, and it is a misfortune that such a miserable effort should have come from the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) of this country. It took him 13 of the 14 minutes that he was on his feet to come to the subject of this motion. This is a censure motion against the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), and it was not until the last minute that the Deputy Prime Minister got round to mentioning anything about what the Prime Minister has been doing in the whole of this unsavoury affair. This debate is about standards; not just Sinclair standards. Anybody can look at the Finnane report and come to their own judgment on it.
Government members interjecting-
– I wonder how many of the jackals on the other side of the House have taken the trouble -
-Order! The word used by the honourable member is not to be used.
– I withdraw that word and substitute the word ‘noisy’. I wonder how many of the noisy members on the other side of this House have read this Finnane report yet and have come to their own conclusions? I admit that they have not yet had the opportunity to do so, but before they get locked in too far into the sorts of arguments that we have heard from this emotional claptrap from the Deputy Prime Minister of this country, I give them a warning: Just take a couple of hours to go through that report and see what is in it before you come to any emotional judgment. I said that this debate is about standards, and it is about the standard of the Prime Minister in particular.
-Order! The honourable member for Adelaide will resume his seat. We will just have a moment or two of silence while the honourable members on both sides of the House contemplate their own behaviour in this national Parliament. I think that the debate ought to be conducted with more decorum. I call the honourable member for Adelaide.
-Mr Speaker, As I have said, this debate is about standards and I know that you are trying to apply some standards in this place. But I want to go through the very conflicting standards that have been applied by the Prime Minister. Firstly, as the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) points out to this Parliament and to the people, for two years since August 1977, this Prime Minister, by one means or another has prevented this unsavoury affair from being brought out into the open. He has also applied conflicting standards when it comes to what he has required of his Ministers in the matter of standing down when allegations have been made against them. Instead of our hearing from the Deputy Prime Minister all these innuendoes and all this discrediting of Finnane and of the Leader of the Opposition, why does he not answer the one main question put in this censure motion, and that is: Why is one standard applied to the Robinsons of this world and another standard applied to the Sinclairs of this world? Is anybody going to deny that there was a standing down of the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) when there was an inquiry into his affairs? There were not in any way similar grave allegations against him as have been made against the former Minister for Primary Industry.
But what happened? The Minister for Finance stood down. I will give the dates in a moment as I go through this sordid affair. But time after time since August 1977 with over 30 questions asked in this House on the subject, with three censure motions- the terms of those censure motions are worth looking at- and with all those attempts on the part of the Opposition to raise these questions and properly to bring them out into the open, we have had nothing but a cover-up on the part of this Prime Minister and his team, and we have had nothing but double standards. I mentioned that this affair started as early as August 1977. It started with a Willesee report. I know that most honourable members have not yet read this Finnane report, but when they go through it and see the evidence unfold, I ask them to go back and have a look at the statements first of all brought out -
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The honourable member for Adelaide is referring to the report. I ask whether that report shows how many thousands of dollars Mr Finnane was paid for his Gestapo hatchet job.
-The honourable member for St George will resume his seat. He is not entitled to use the pretence of a point of order to attack a person outside this Parliament in those terms.
- Mr Speaker, the honourable member for Adelaide said that we have not read the report. He can see that we do not have time to read it. I want to know how how much Finnane was paid for it.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is no point of order and I ask him not to use that sort of language by way of a pretended point of order.
-As I said, this debate is about standards and there is a Liberal standard -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will continue with the debate and not refer to the point of order.
– It is relevant now to go through what has happened to other Ministers of this Fraser Government. Firstly, we have already had drawn to our attention the Garland affairthe allegations of bribery which were not proved- and the man is now back in the Ministry. But let us just contemplate the fact that he stood down as soon as those allegations were made. They related to alleged bribery of a candidate during the 1975 general election. Why, indeed, did the same not happen in the case of the former Minister for Primary Industry? The next was the infamous Lynch affair. The Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) was forced to resign as Treasurer under threat of dismissal in the run-up to the 1977 general election. The matter related to the Victorian land scandal. As I said, he was forced to resign. He was not just suspended from the Ministry but forced to resign. Why is there one standard in that case and a very vastly different standard in the case of the Sinclair affair? I have already drawn attention to the infamous Robinson affair. It is infamous not because the Minister for Finance was in any way convicted or in any way shown to be wrongly treated- wrongly treated other than by the Prime Minister- but because he was suspended during the time of that McGregor Royal Commission whereas far graver charges are made against the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). These charges have come out time and time again in those 30 questions in this House, time and time again in those three censure motions and time and time again in Bulletin articles and elsewhere. Yet in no way were the same standards applied there. Of course the Withers affair is just one more to add to the list that we could use in these circumstances.
Of course the reason for it was that obviously these were Liberal Ministers and they were not in the same crony condition of relationship with the Prime Minister as was and still is the right honourable member for New England. That is why this discriminatory treatment took place to this former National Country Party Minister and this is why we have to bring this out into the open in this censure debate as we are doing right now. I repeat: During the emotional 30 minutes of trying to bring into discredit the Finnane report and trying to bring into discredit the Leader of the Opposition he will not get us away from the central point in this debate and that is, that not only are dual standards being applied but also rotten standards are being applied in this Parliament by the present Prime Minister when he seeks to hush up the sorts of affairs we have been attempting to bring out into the open for over two years now.
This very special crony arrangement between the Prime Minister and the right honourable member for New England means that in this case the Prime Minister is far more implicated in what has come out in the Finnane report than he would otherwise have been. I point out to Liberal and other members of this Parliament that as they go through that Finnane report they will find that it is a well argued judgment of these affairs and that the findings are quite convincing in their nature. I hope that Government members will contemplate just how implicated is the Prime Minister in all that has been written in that report. As I have said, the crucial question is: Why has there been this inconsistency? I believe it is also to do with another issue that is very much in the minds of people interested in politics in this country- the relationship within the coalition. We cannot divorce from the sort of standards that the Prime Minister has allowed what is going on with preselections in Queensland and in Victoria for the Senate ticket.
We cannot divorce the fact that there is a Liberal group now seeking to get a candidate against the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), the honourable member for Gippsland. All of these matters and the coalition relationship are very much a part of the reason for the special cronyism and the special treatment- the discriminatory treatment- in favour of the former Minister for Primary Industry as opposed to the Minister for Finance and others. In the last few moments I have I would like to go through those many, many occasions when in this Parliament alone, matters have come before it which should have drawn to the attention of the Prime Minister how grave were the charges against the honourable member for New England. I refer first to the questions asked by the former Leader of the Opposition as long ago as 23 August 1 977 when he brought questions before this Parliament and the Prime Minister relating to pecuniary interests.
Just how often have declarations been made by the former Minister for Primary Industry about his financial affairs? I think this Parliament is entitled to know. Perhaps the speaker following me can ask the Prime Minister the following questions so that this Parliament can be informed: How often have these declarations been made? To what extent have those declarations been accurate? Why is it that the sorts of grave matters that have come out in the Finnane report were not available to the Prime Minister if they were available? The question really is: Were they available? If the conclusions we draw are that that information was available to the Prime Minister, that make the charge of this censure motion even graver because it means that he would have had information in his possession which should have made him stand down the former Minister for Primary Industry a lot earlier than 2 o’clock this morning. We had the Whitlam adjournment debate on 4 October 1977; more information brought before this Parliament.
Go back and look at the Hansard report of that debate. Any man in an independent position, concerned with the standards of this Parliament, and looking at that adjournment debate speech by the former Leader of the Opposition, must come to the conclusion that there were grave charges against the Minister for Primary Industry- still unproven, still having to go before the courts of law, but those charges should have demanded the suspension of that Minister until, in one way or another, they were proved or disproved. Then we have the various questions. I mentioned that there were 30 of them in this Parliament. They were from the present Leader of the Opposition, they have been from me and from the member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) concerning taxation affairs. We have not heard the answers. The fact that we have been unable to bring these grave matters out before this Parliament means that this nation does not yet know what have been the tax losses to ordinary people relating to this misappropriation because there has been this cover-up which we charge the Prime Minister with in the motion before the Parliament right now.
There were further personal explanations from the Minister for Primary Industry, pushed further and further into giving more information in this House. On 6 June this year, the day before the last session of Parliament was due to terminate, there was the knowledge that the Age newspaper was about to publish articles about this Minister giving us more and more information. That flushed him out, brought him into this Parliament to tell us a little more. What he did tell us itself should have been enough to bring to the Prime Minister’s attention that there were these grave charges hanging around which should have meant the suspension of the Minister for Primary Industry. In conclusion, I reiterate the main point of this debate. It is about standards. It is about the fact that there has been a cover-up; the fact that the Prime Minister has been heavily and deeply implicated in this cover-up since August 1 977; it is about dual standards. We can only assume that when the Deputy Prime Minister fails to defend the Prime Minister properly in this censure motion, he is reminded of what he had to say in Bundaberg about Liberals when he referred to them as ‘boneheads’ and having ‘as many brains as all the skulls in the graveyard ‘.
– I have asked to speak in this debate because I believe that a grave injustice is being done, not only to a man, but to this Parliament and, I will add, to the office of AttorneyGeneral in New South Wales. When a matter like this arises there is always an issue. The issue in this case is whether a man shall have a fair trial. That is the issue. On trial here today is not this gentleman, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), but the gentlemen opposite. When I entered this Parliament, like every other member I read the Standing Orders. One that I read said:
All imputations of improper motives and all personal relections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
In the last two years we have seen an attempt by the Opposition to flout that Standing Orders with the one object of depriving the honourable member for New England of a fair trial. From the very beginning it was quite clear that if the alleged charges against him- indeed, there were not any, but all this sort of claptrap in the newspapers, all those statements- were to be looked at, this was not the place to look at them. Honourable members opposite should understand that.
From the very beginning the Opposition has attempted to deprive a man of a fair trial. It has brought this institution into disrepute, and the Attorney-General of New South Wales is currently bringing the high office of AttorneyGeneral into disrepute. That is an office which I will stand up for until the day I die. Let me say, and I will say it whatever it means on either side of the House, that whenever there is political interference in the administration of criminal justice there are grave dangers to our democracy. I am not going to make any accusations about the Attorney-General of New South Wales, or Mr Finnane, or the report; all I say is that there appears to be on the surface a strange relationship between the events that have occurred in this matter, its revelation in this Parliament, and the fact that day after day and week after week, the Opposition has attempted to bring into this Parliament innuendo of the sort that we on this side of the House have had to resist.
An attack has been made on the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I will defend the Prime Minister on this for one reason only and that is because his reason for doing this- as it has been with other Ministers- has been to ensure that the honourable member gets a fair go. I believe that everybody listening to this Parliament today shares that view. The Press, obviously, has taken the view that anybody in politics is fair game. Fair enough, I personally understand that proposition. It is a fact of life. But when a man’s future is involved, when possible criminal conduct is involved, then that is the moment for a democracy to understand a basic principle; that is, a fair trial. Here today we have seen a clear illustration of it. Last night I heard the Leader of the Opposition say, in effect, on radio and television that he hoped the right honourable member for New England would be acquitted. For one moment I thought he was being decent about this and I hoped that he would continue in that way today but no chance.
– No chance.
– That is right, no chance. Today we have seen an attempt by successive Opposition speakers- in effect, a group of jackals wandering around a body -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that word.
-I withdraw it, Mr Speaker. For the last two hours honourable members opposite have been like jackals wandering around the body of a dead minister and tearing at it.
-Order! I asked the honourable gentleman to withdraw the word. He then used the same word but in a different context. I ask him to cease and to withdraw.
- Mr Speaker, you seem to take offence at those remarks. I withdraw them. Let me say quite simply that today Opposition supporters, who through their Leader said last night on radio that all they want is for these matters to be brought out and that they hoped that the right honourable member would be acquitted, have used the same process they have been using for the last two years to deprive this man of a fair trial. That is the main issue before the House today. The main issue before us in this motion is whether a man is to have a fair trial. The other issue is whether this Parliament is to stand up for the basic principles to which it is supposed to be adhering. I have read the Standing Order in question and the fact is that it is constantly abused in Question Time. It is time that we as a Parliament came to grips with the fact that day after day when we are tearing at each other we are judged by the people of this country to be bringing this institution into disrepute. Honourable members on the Opposition side know from their experience on parliamentary committees that the worst place to consider detailed information on a man’s character is in a parliamentary committee. There is no judicial atmosphere. There is no right to cross-examine and there are no specific charges. Time and time again the history of the Parliament has been to avoid this sort of situation. That is the reasoning behind that Standing Order to which I referred. It is not within the ability of this Parliament either as a whole or as individual committee members to pass judgment upon honourable members because when matters such as this arise a judicial atmosphere is required. In other words, a fair trial is required.
Let me talk about the Attorney-General of New South Wales. First of all, let me say that there is one clear example of what type of person he is. He introduced the Evidence Act- the Act that enables him to say what evidence shall be produced in criminal proceedings in court. That is a principle against which I will fight and it is the principle which was the basis of my resignation. That Evidence Act indicates the type of
Attorney-General that we have in New South Wales. I do not hesitate to say that what he did yesterday was an abuse of the office of AttorneyGeneral. I do not know and honourable members do not know how long he has had that report. Apparently there is nothing in the report to indicate how long he has had it. There have been rumours in the Press and we have heard rumours around this Parliament that ‘it is going to come in this week or next week’. One wonders whether or not the New South Wales AttorneyGeneral had it for some weeks, but it does not much matter how long he has had it. If he got it yesterday then it is a reflection on him because at least he should have sat down and studied it. Basically he was wrong in tabling the report in that House because when that happened the right honourable member for New England was immediately deprived of a fair trial. I inform all honourable members that if the right honourable member for New England is accused, he cannot get a fair trial because already those above us have convicted this man through the Press. The very purpose of putting that report on the table was to destroy this man. Honourable members opposite have destroyed part of the great principles that are the basis of our democracy, and they will go on doing so.
– I raise a point of order. We on this side of the House resent those charges being made by a man who prejudiced the case of four former Labor Ministers and tried to hang them.
-Order! The honourable member for Blaxland will resume his seat.
– He prejudiced their cases and tried to hang them. He had to resign when he couldn’t do it.
-The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I raise a point of order.
– Stand up when you address the Chair.
– Can’t you behave yourself with some decorum in the Parliament?
-Order! I call the honourable member for Shortland on a point of order.
- Mr Speaker, will the Minister, who is so concerned about the propriety of the State Attorney-General, tell the Parliament why he resigned in protest at the actions of the Prime Minister in December 1977? What was wrong with that Prime Minister then?
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I shall not bother with that. I will continue with my speech and make a simple point.
-You don’t want to talk about that, do you?
– If you will only listen, the simple point is that the action of the AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales in tabling that document in the State Parliament has deprived a man in high office, a man who has served his country, of a fair trial. Anyone who may be selected to serve on a jury in New South Wales to try this matter will have his mind poisoned by what has happened in the newspapers. Time and time again there is a problem about the publication of committal proceedings. There has been controversy year after year about the Press being permitted to publish the evidence that is produced in committal proceedings. The controversy arises because it is claimed that the publication of committal proceedings prejudices the chances of a person getting a fair trial. Honourable members opposite, perhaps through the influence of their former Attorney-General Murphy, seem to have an affection for the United States Bill of Rights. They are always talking about it. One of the propositions that the United States Supreme Court has embraced is that there shall not be a televising of committal proceedings because it deprives a person of a fair trial. What happened yesterday does precisely that. Today honourable members opposite -
– I raise a point of order. The Minister was a party to the preparation and presentation of this document in Parliament and he claimed privilege. It is the Khemlani papers; the greatest lot of filth ever put forward by anyone in this Parliament.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– He was a party to it. He has now forgotten.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I seek leave to table these documents.
-There is no point of order.
- Mr Speaker, I will not be drawn -
– You don’t want to talk about it.
-I will debate that some other day. It may be in some record, but let me say -
– It is a matter of record.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will remain silent.
– Let me repeat that the United States Supreme Court has held that the televising of committal proceedings is a denial of a fair trial. The tabling of that report in the New South Wales Parliament and the continual reference by honourable members in their speeches today to the right honourable member for New England and what he is alleged to have done is poisoning the minds of people against the right honourable member for New England. It is being done through the microphones in this place. That poisoning is something which every one of us should stand against because it is contrary to the very basis of what we believe in.
Another matter of grave concern is the fact that this inquiry by this inspector in New South Wales was a closed inquiry. Anybody who knows anything about the law who is worth his salt would realise that that inquiry could well lead to allegations which would not be substantiated by a court of criminal law. That is why the Prime Minister, in his wisdom and with the full support of his Government, his Ministers, refused to ask the right honourable member for New England to stand down. Until the time came when serious allegations were made in a public document there was no reason why the sort of innuendo in the Press or in the statements and questions of honourable members opposite should be given credence. The document was brought down yesterday; unfortunately it has been made public. The right honourable member has been deprived of a fair trial but he has done the only honourable thing that he could do. He has handed in his resignation. I, amongst others, understand what that means.
-Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table a document which shows the hyprocrisy of what has just been said.
-Is leave granted?
Government members- No.
– Leave is not granted.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I bring the House back to the terms of the motion, which is clearly and specifically directed at the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The Prime Minister and other Government spokesmen have endeavoured to turn this attack from the real issue- that is, the question of the Prime Minister’s responsibility to maintain the integrity of his Cabinet- to a defence of the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), to an attack upon the New South Wales AttorneyGeneral, and then to an attack upon anybody and everybody. This issue is clearly about the maintenance of the Westminster system and the duty and obligation that rest upon the Prime Minister to so order the affairs of his Ministers that they are not involved in either private or public companies in a manner in which the integrity of their office can be assailed in any way. That is what the tradition of Westminster requires of the Prime Minister. The purpose of this motion is to point out how he has failed to honour that obligation.
To what was this House exposed to as a result of the failure of the Prime Minister to carry out his obligations? We say quite clearly, and we have maintained this attitude all the way through, that what the Prime Minister should have done as soon as there were any allegations of this kind- not just allegations- made by the Opposition was to satisfy himself about the integrity and the probity of an inquiry into companies of which a Minister is a director. It is our view and it has always been our view that when allegations of that nature are made the Minister, whoever he be, should stand down in order to maintain the integrity of office. Now that is the thrust and the heart of the matter. I suppose all of us today could feel some sympathy for the right honourable member for New England, who was virtually forced to put to this Parliament his plea of not guilty. Why was the honourable member for New England in that situation? He was in that situation partly because of his own determination to cling to office but fundamentally because the Prime Minister failed to carry out the obligations which rest upon any Prime Minister to maintain the integrity and honour that goes with the position of Minister of a government.
Let us examine the approach that has been adopted in this matter by the Prime Minister and some of his Ministers. The Prime Minister correctly pointed out that the Finnane inquiry was a correlation of facts upon which conclusions had been drawn. Let us examine that correlation of facts. I will not deal with the conclusions. Let us deal with the facts that are not in dispute and cannot be in dispute. First of all, there was a misappropriation of over $594,000. Of that misappropriation, $4,000 was paid directly to the right honourable member for New England and the bulk of the funds -
-Order! I interrupt the honourable member for Melbourne Ports to indicate that, as I understand it, the report finds that and reports on it but it is not an established fact as yet. I ask the honourable member not to put it in factual terms.
– I would say that the question of whether a sum of $4,000 was paid to a company director- that is what we are talking about- is clearly a demonstrable fact. It was either paid or it was not paid. I would have thought that that was a fact which clearly was not in issue. It is also a demonstrable fact that the bulk of the funds was paid to the benefit of that company director. It is also a fact that there was a round robin for passing cheques between various companies.
-Order! The honourable gentleman may say that the report says this, but to put it in terms of being an irrefutable fact is, I think, to take it beyond the -
- Mr Speaker, if you want to get into the argument you should get onto the other side of the House and then we can get on with it. With great respect, I am entitled to put my case in my way.
-The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will withdraw that imputation against the Chair.
– I withdraw it. There were acts of forgery. There was also an understatement of income -
-Order! My understanding is that the report concludes that. But to say that there were acts of forgery is to attack the character of another honourable member.
- Sir, the right honourable member for New England agrees. What I have said, if you had listened -
-The honourable gentleman must not attack the character of another honourable member.
– I am not attacking the character of the right honourable member. What I am saying is that there are facts which are not in dispute. I have not alluded to any facts which have been the subject of dispute by the right honourable member. I am not reaching the conclusion that was reached in the report. I am just simply saying that there is a fact. I am not going to the conclusion. It is a fact that there was forgery. It is also a fact- it has been admitted in this House at a previous time- that the right honourable member for New England signed a document referring to losses by misappropriation by persons unnamed. They are all facts.
The real question is: At what time were those facts brought to the attention of the Prime Minister? As recently as 30 August the Prime Minister was asked questions in this House as to what he had done to inform himself in this matter. On all occasions the Prime Minister has said that he was informed. If he was informed, surely the House is entitled to know whether the Prime Minister was informed of these facts. If not, why not? If he was so informed, why did he not require his Minister to stand down? As you are well aware, Mr Speaker, the act of standing down is not an act which attributes guilt. It is simply a process which has been adopted time and again to allow the government of the day to get on with its business while a particular set of allegations is sorted out. That is the thrust of the Opposition’s argument.
In all of the verbiage that has been thrown across the table, that essential issue has not been dealt with by the Prime Minister. The House is entitled to be told by the Prime Minister at what stage he became informed of those facts and at what time he took the view that it was appropriate for the Minister to stand down. The thrust of our case is that if the Prime Minister had been carrying out his responsibilities, the appropriate and proper time for the Minister to stand down was when these allegations were first raised and an inquiry was underfoot. That standard has been adopted in respect of other Ministers. It is a standard which has been adopted by other governments. Why was that standard abandoned on this single issue? That is the question that has to be answered by honourable members opposite.
Dealing with integrity and the way in which arguments are put in this House, I am appalled at the way in which Ministers of the Crown were allowed to attack the integrity of the AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales. He is a politician and I suppose that he can look after himself. But it is an extraordinary situation when, after all these allegations are made, we are told by the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony) that there ought to be a royal commission into Mr Finnane. A man who has discharged the obligations cast upon him, a man whose probity in his professional business has never been challenged at any stage, is suddenly the vehicle for the most slanderous attacks by Ministers opposite. I would say, in defence of the Attorney-General of New South Wales, that he is under an obligation to see that the provisions of the Companies Act are observed. If a felony has been committed he is not permitted to allow that felony to be compounded by some private sweetheart deal. He is also under a clear duty to ensure that corporate crooks are not exempt from an inquiry because of their political connections. The logic of the Government, if one follows it as it has emerged from the Prime Minister and some of his colleagues, is that if the jurisdiction is state jurisdiction which has a Labor government and if the person concerned happens to be a political supporter of this Government or a prominent member of the Liberal Party, no matter what laws under the companies Acts are broken, the Government will simply say that it is all part of a huge political conspiracy. Is it seriously suggested, when it has been found that forgeries have taken place, that Mr Walker or Mr Finnane was involved in inventing that evidence? When a document is signed by the former Minister for Primary Industry in which he says generally that there has been a misappropriation and that taxation claims were made in respect of that, is that an invention of the State Attorney-General? The political conspiracy theory is an act of political fantasy by desperate men.
What would have happened if the Finnane report had exonerated the former Minister? Would there have been all these allegations against Mr Finnane? I refer the House to the view of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) about the Finnane report which we heard today. There is a well known process which you, Mr Speaker, would be familiar with. It occurs in all jurisdictions from time to time. If counsel acting for and on behalf of a client believes that the nature of a jurisdiction or, indeed, the judge or the investigator, is for any reason likely to have bias in the conduct of an inquiry- it has happened time and again as you would be aware Mr Speaker-it is respectfully and properly pointed out and it is dealt with. If in fact it is now argued that Mr Finnane was some kind of political persecutor of the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) why was the point not taken earlier? Why was it not raised at an earlier point in time by the Prime Minister? What did the Prime Minister have to say in this House on 14 November 1978 about Mr Finnane? When this question was being debated he said:
I make no aspersions about the integrity of the person conducting the inquiry . . .
-Who said that?
– That was said by the Prime Minister on 14 November 1978. I find it extraordinary that on 14 November 1978 the Prime Minister was perfectly happy to accept the integrity and honour of Mr Finnane. I ask the House to listen to what the Prime Minister went on to say in respect of an allegation made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). He said that questions on this matter ought to be directed to Mr Finnane or to the New South Wales Government and further said: . . because they are the ones conducting the inquiry and they have better access to the information than any person in this Parliament.
That was the view of the Prime Minister on 14 November 1978. Once the report came out, then of course the only tactic that was left to this incompetent Prime Minister who has created this situation, was to attack the Attorney-General of New South Wales, to attack the person who conducted the inquiry and to suggest to this House that the plight of the right honourable member for New England was the result of some kind of vast political conspiracy. That statement will not wash, because the reality is, despite the fact that the right honourable member for New England was asked many questions about this matter, that he maintained that his position was that of a unique phenomenon unknown to the law- a nominal director. If one can get off with those sorts of funds as a nominal director, it is pretty fortunate for some of the other directors that the right honourable member for New England was not a full-blown director.
During his defence he got down to the stage of attacking in this Parliament a former business colleague- one talks about privilege- on the basis that he lent some lady in Hong Kong a sum of money. Possibly, if the deprivations on the company had not been so bad, that person might have been able to pay back that money if he had received his share of the cut. I just want to say that this sorry incident would never have arisen if the Prime Minister had adopted proper standards. But what were the standards we saw in this House today? We were told that the right honourable member for New England is a gentleman and that he would not do that sort of thing. The Government blames the former Labor Government, a Labor government Attorney-General and an inspector. I say this: A thief can pass for a gentleman when he has stolen enough money to make himself rich. Within the Fraser Government a rich thief can pass for a Minister of the Crown so long as he is a crony of this Prime Minister.
– A few vulgar and meretricious phrases from the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) will not rescue his case. I say to the honourable gentleman, that if ever he were a student of history, his labours were in vain. This is a very great pity, because the honourable gentleman, apart from being a member of this House, is a lawyer. I would have thought that the whole of the discipline of the law was directed towards the meticulous observance of justice in its clear sense. The honourable gentleman, despite your quiet interrupting, Mr Speaker, continued to assert what he described as a factual case. He spoke about facts. He did not even bother to distinguish them from findings. He did not even bother to tell the House the basis upon which the alleged facts had been drawn. I wonder whether my friend would not take offence if I remind him of the great Bushell case three centuries ago. Some of us may sneer at the past, but we are just fleeting visitors in this world and the great lessons of history are there. It should be our effort to see that we are tutored by them and that we do not have to go back and fight for the right for those rights to prevail. Two Quakers, was it not, in 1671, William Mead and Penn, who spoke to a gathering in London and were charged with a tumultuous and unlawful assembly. The judge directed the jury on the facts to find the accused guilty. The members of the jury refused and he fined them. They refused to change their attitude and they brought the great writ of habeas corpus. It was held that a judge sits to advise on the law; the jury determines the facts. From that day henceforth no judge would ever direct a jury as to what the facts should be.
Yet here is a case today where the honourable member for Melboure Ports finds facts on a report which I will later describe as a thoroughgoing disgrace to inquiry. No, you do not level a charge against the Prime Minister of this country. Do not think for a moment that the right honourable member for New England is on trial. We are on trial and, yes, the fourth estate is on trial. Every newspaper editor in this country is on trial, because one must remember the great occasions in the past when men and women fought for great rights. Now, what is the case? I have complained about this miserable proceeding in the past. I will continue to complain about it. I believe that a very great disservice has been done and is being done to our history. This proceeding which the honourable gentleman for Melbourne Ports described to us this afternoon as a forum, a body which has determined the facts, has determined nothing of the sort. It has made findings, the quality of which I look forward to examining in a few moments time. Two years ago this proceeding started in camera. Has this country lost its capacity to get indignant about a proceeding in camera when a man’s rights and his reputation can be put at risk? This is no mean, petty consideration. It is a great profound consideration. Any person who has any feel for history and fairness and who has any capacity to identify with justice, should feel outraged that this proceeding has gone on. Yet the honourable gentleman who just sat down, what did he say to us? He said: ‘Ah, the facts as found’. He said that allegations were made and that therefore the Prime Minister should have stood down my honourable friend, the right honourable member for New England. But on the basis of what? On the basis of allegations made before an in camera proceeding? I would have thought that if that body had any character or any capacity for courage the person who presided over it would have said: ‘Oh, no. I have a heavy preference for the inquiry to be in public’. We do not know what went on before that inquiry. Not one member of the fourth estate knows what went on before that inquiry, yet bit by bit, dribble by dribble, there came from that inquiry what purported to be evidence. We did not know the status of that evidence. We did not know if it had been crossexamined out of existence. We did not know whether the person who gave the evidence had been held up to be a raging fool or to be a person with such a sense of hatred of the right honourable member for New England that he was incapable of giving evidence impartially and honestly.
I have not read one word from any editorial writer complaining about that disgraceful proceeding which was in camera, that shabby, clandestine-like proceeding held behind locked doors. Some rough words have been said about the assessment made by the man who presided over the proceedings. I would have thought that in all conscience what had been said about him bordered on the generous side. The person who presided over the proceedings too is a lawyer. I say to my honourable friend, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding), without any hostility from one to the other that surely we have not forgotten the great principles of natural justice? Let me take them as they apply to Mr Finnane and let me leave it to the judgment of the House and the country as to whether the points are well founded. The charge was made against Mr Finnane that he was biased. Very properly the Leader of the Opposition said: ‘Well, does that mean to say that if you appeared before the Chief Justice of Australia who sat in this House as a Liberal member and Minister, you would complain about that?’ It is a fair debating point at first blush but I understand that Mr Finnane is a current member of the Australian Labor Party.
I would not have the slightest hesitation in appearing before His Honour, Mr Justice Murphy, in any jurisdiction, but I say that if Mr Justice
Murphy was presiding over a court in which I appeared and it was known to me that he was a card-carrying member of the Australian Labor Party, I would object to the jurisdiction and I would object to his presence. This is as fundamental a point as you can find. I ask my honourable friend, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, who has appeared in the courts, whether a man is biased by dint of association or stated attitude, can sit in judgment and can pose as one who is impartial. That is the first count upon which I denounce Mr Finnane. There is a more grievous count to come. Mr Finnane said to the honourable member for New England: ‘Before I make any finding that is harsh, I will hear you’. I would have thought that that was a blazing display of condescension. It is not a matter of saying ‘I will hear you’. He was duty bound to hear him. This is not some principle that has been whistled up from a few years ago, from the sixteenth or seventeenth century. This is a principle that has been known to mankind since mankind appeared. This principle has been found in the history of the literature of the early Greeks. It is embodied in the Germanicus in Seneca’s Medea and it was unknown to Mr Finnane. Ah, yes, Rhadamanthus the cruel judge of Hell, never observed the hear the other side rule, the audi alterem partem rule; neither did Mr Finnane. I would have thought that an Attorney-General, conscious of those two points, not mere limitations but substantial defects in the manner in which Mr Finnane had proceeded, would have said of that report: ‘No, I will not allow that report to sully the table, the Parliament of New South Wales’.
The Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) in a forthright parliamentary speech before lunch said that the man will find it impossible to get a fair trial. Mr Finnane has despised two of the great principles of natural justice, and nobody seems to care. I say to my honourable friend, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, again in no spirit of hostility, that surely we are entitled to be indignant about that. Let me take one of the findings of Mr Finnane. I would like to take the lot of the findings, not facts but the findings. He has found that the honourable member for New England forged a signature. That is his finding but it is not a fact. I want to examine the finding.
– He did not say that.
– Oh, yes he did, very much so. Two handwriting expert witnesses were summoned before that tribunal- so-called. Both of the handwriting experts have said of one or several of the signatures that they were forgeries.
Neither expert witness was prepared to say: Yes, and furthermore that is the writing of the right honourable member for New England’. What are Mr Finnane ‘s qualifications in the field of experts on handwriting? Mr Finnane brushed to one side the findings of the two handwriting expert witnesses and said: ‘No, never mind. I know more about this than you.’ He alleged that that writing belonged to the honourable member for New England. Can I remind the honourable member for Melbourne Ports again that the jury is the judge of the facts? Mr Finnane says: ‘No, I will determine what is right and what is proper here’.
Would any honourable member opposite, charged before a court or a body which could substantially alter his status and move his reputation- indeed some may say that it would put his reputation in infinite peril- like his reputation and his name to be handled in such a fashion? I would have thought that the natural instinct for indignation when unfairness came into light would say no. Surely one finds a sense of revulsion with this, but this is what this report has done. Not one word of that report can be admitted in evidence against the right honourable member for New England in a trial. The whole of that report is tendered against him in his public and private life. What an offence to fairness. Has this Parliament lost its capacity to identify fairness? I am told that twenty-five copies of the report have been circulated. Why were those copies circulated? I would have thought that no report would be tabled in the Parliament unless copies of it had been printed and were ready for sale. Every person with a proper public interest- and there would be many hundreds of thousands of people in this country who would fit that description, not merely 25 selected papers and not merely the Attorney-General and not merely those who sit in the Parliament of New South Wales- could have had a look at it.
I do not complain about the rancorous rapture of some of my honourable friends opposite at the distress of my right honourable friend from New England. That is legitimate enough, I suppose, in the clash, clang and fury of political contest. My complaint is not about that. My complaint is that for two years that proceeding has gone on in that tawdry, miserable and contemptible way and now a man’s position and his reputation have been put in jeopardy. We are beckoned here today not merely to adjudicate on the rights or wrongs, whether real or imaginary, of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. We are beckoned today to remember our history and to try to avoid that; we must not re-live it.
– I remind the House of the terms of the motion -
Motion (by Mr Viner) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Hayden’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-Mr Speaker, I desire to raise a matter of privilege. On page 15 of the Age newspaper of today’s date there is a report of yesterday’s proceedings in this House. Mr Speaker, it claims that at dmes you lost control of the proceedings. I draw your attention to that, firstly, because it is a reflection upon the Chair and, secondly, because it is completely inaccurate. Let me refer briefly to a much more accurate report in the Australian, which said:
The one outstanding figure in yesterday’s drama was Sir Billy Snedden. He regained and then kept control over potentially the most explosive confrontation seen in Parliament for many years.
It was a difficult situation. I have discussed the matter with many of my colleagues, who have all affirmed that you, Mr Speaker, are the best Speaker in memory.
-Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order -
-I think that the honourable member for Corio ought to hear the rest of this. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-The rest is -
- Mr Speaker -
-This is a matter of privilege.
– I realise that it is a matter of privilege. It is on that basis that I want to take a point of order.
-I will call the honourable gentleman on the point of order after I have heard the matter of privilege.
– That means that my point of order becomes irrelevant.
-Mr Speaker, the rest is that the overwhelming view is that you, Sir, are the finest Speaker in any parliament in the world.
-Does the honourable member for Corio wish to pursue his point of order?
– No. The matter of privilege was irrelevant in the first place. There is no point in taking a point of order on an obviously irrelevant speech after that speech has been made.
-On the matter of privilege, it is my responsibility as Speaker to decide whether an issue of privilege arises and whether it is a prima facie matter which can be referred to the Privileges Committee. I must say that I did see that report in the Age newspaper this morning. To me, there were two things that stood out. One was the suggestion that I had lost control. That was not a reflection against me; it was a reflection against the House. I do not think that the House would wish to pursue it.
– It is not true, either.
-It is not true. The House was not out of control. I will not find a prima facie case to go to the Privileges Committee. It might be worth while for the editor of that newspaper to consider taking any course of action that he thinks may be proper. One of the things he might also consider is the allegation in the same article that this House made so much noise that it could be heard in the Senate chamber. That is possibly the most ridiculous comment that I have read about this House in the time that I have been here. I will not refer the matter to the Privileges Committee; but I cannot say that I am disappointed with its being raised by the honourable gentleman.
- Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented in the previous debate?
-The honourable gentleman may proceed to make a personal explanation.
– In the course of the debate both the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) referred to some statements made by Mr Richard Carleton on the Nationwide program last night. I ignore some of the more characteristically flamboyant comments of Mr Richard Carleton in his introductory remarks and go to the main point, which was dwelt upon by both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. I quote what Mr Carleton said:
But Mr Hayden, who was happy to debate in the Parliament before he had read the report, was this evening not prepared to participate in a sustained interview on this program on the grounds that he hadn’t read the report.
That is not a truthful statement. I did not speak with Mr Carleton, but a Press officer attached to my staff did. I have asked that officer to give me a report on the discussion that took place between him and Mr Carleton. Insofar as Mr Carleton ‘s statement covers matters about my preparedness to appear on the program it is correct. I read from what my Press officer says:
Carleton was told that you would be quite ready to go on the program and debate the matter with the Prime Minister. Carleton said he was trying to get ‘someone’ from the Government side. I said that if it wasn’t Fraser, then you would not be available, as you were in your office reading the full Finnane report in readiness for the resumption of Parliament today.
That is vastly different from claiming, as Mr Carleton did, that I would not go on the program- to use his words- on the grounds that I had not read the report. That claim of Mr Carleton ‘s is misleading and untruthful. Furthermore, I would like to know whether Mr Carleton approached the Prime Minister and, if so, why the Prime Minister reneged on yet another offer to debate publicly a great national issue.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now debating the matter.
-Questions Without Notice. Are there any questions?
– I ask that questions be placed on the Notice Paper.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Pig Industry Research Act 1971 I present the annual report of the Australian Pig Industry Research Committee 1979.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929 1 present the Wine Board annual report for 1978-79.
– Pursuant to section 8 ( 1 ) of the Poultry Industry Assistance Act 1965 I present the annual report on the operation of the Act 1978-79.
Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce Report
– For the information of honourable members I present the text of a statement by the Attorney-General relating to the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce report on the Australian Trade Commissioner Service.
– Pursuant to section 122 of the Repatriation Act 1 920 I present the annual report of the Repatriation Commission 1978-79.
– For the information of honourable members I present the Commonwealth Accommodation and Catering Services Ltd annual report for 1978-79.
– Pursuant to section 6 of the National Fitness Act 1941 1 present the National Fitness in Australia report 1977-78.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Anglo-Australian Telescope Board 1978-79.
– For the information of honourable members I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Science and the Environment on grants to voluntary conservation organisations.
– by leave- I wish to inform the House that I have accepted the advice of my Department to terminate the Turana target aircraft project. I gave appropriate direction to the Department four weeks ago but I have delayed informing the House prior to the tabling of the Auditor-General ‘s report.
Turana is a small radio-controlled jet aircraft similar in appearance to the Ikara antisubmarine missile. It was developed out of the successful Ikara project, with the objective of providing the Royal Australian Navy with a ship’s gunnery and missile target. One particular requirement which was sought was the simulation of sea-skimming missiles. It was envisaged that, carried aboard Ikara fitted vessels and, as a consequence, compatible with the Ikara system, Turana would give RAN ships an independent capability to use target aircraft.
The work of Turana was assigned to the Government Aircraft Factory at Fisherman’s Bend, Victoria. That factory had produced remarkable results with the Jindivik and Ikara projects. Work on Turana commenced in 1969. The original concept was for 41 aircraft to be introduced into service. Flight trials were held in 1971. They were encouraging. The risks associated with further development appeared acceptable. They were accepted. An initial order for 12 aircraft was placed in March 1971. Further trials commenced in 1972. Since then the project has run into a series of research and developmental difficulties. The difficulties, while profound, were not completely daunting. Having regard to the encouragement which earlier trails had offered, the judgment was that research and experiments should continue.
In 1 975 there was a review of the project. It led to a modification of some of the specifications. A re-design phase took place over the period 1976 to 1978. In November 1978, a further series of trials was conducted. Professional judgment was that, without substantial further investment, the level of reliability required of an operational target aircraft such as Turana could not be achieved. I had a series of consultations with officers involved in the project. I looked closely at the prospects and the likely orders of cost. It was with regret that I decided I could see no alternative but to accept the advice that the project should not be taken to a further stage.
I do not disguise my disappointment. However, I am bound to say all of us should understand that when you are involved in work which is in the forefront of technology you must be prepared to take risks. There never has been- I doubt that there ever will be- assurance of success available in carrying out experiments with high technology. Failure is always in prospect. It deserves to be said that risks on the same scale were also carried in the highly successful Jindivik and Ikara projects.
Hindsight is the strongest of all sight. It is very easy to make harsh judgments of the past. Our successes in the past may have encouraged greater confidence in the Turana project than was justified. For my part, I do not believe that past decisions about Turana were wrong. Those decisions had to be made. Comparable decisions will continue to be made. They are an absolutely indispensable feature of defence science activity.
My predecessor in 1975- that is, the honourable Bill Morrison- was faced with the results of a technical review which, to put it mildly, were not encouraging. He had the courage to direct that the project was not to be abandoned at that time. The RAN’s gunnery practice requirements will continue to be met with targets towed by aircraft and with Jindiviks. The requirement for a fast, manoeuvrable sea skimming target, organic to RAN vessels, cannot be met at this stage. May I say that no navy is yet in a position to meet this requirement- a fact which lends point to my earlier remark about Australian work at the forefront of technology where frustrations must inevitably occur from time to time.
As with all such work, the non-achievement of the immediate, specific objective is not the end of the story. Without the Turana endeavour, Australia’s impressive expertise in the field of remote-controlled aircraft would have withered. Instead it has been maintained, especially in the areas of flight vehicle control, mathematical modelling of guided weapons and target aircraft, and methodology for controlling the thrust vectors of rocket motors and telemetry. Such knowledge is of direct relevance and benefit to the latest Jindivik development- the Mark IV, which we are jointly progressing with the United Kingdom- and to the recently announced trainer aircraft study. There are also other projects emerging where the expertise amassed out of Turana will be taken further forward. I can make mention at this time of Turana ‘s outstanding flight control system, and also its miss-distance indication systems. Both will have direct application in new projects.
-by leave-The Opposition does not disagree with the decision just announced by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) to discontinue the Turana target aircraft project. It also does not disagree with the Minister’s remark that it was reasonable previously to proceed with the project even though the prospect of success was not as great as one would have hoped. Defence technology and technology in general have to be put in such a position that experimentation with new systems can take place so that those on whom we depend for the advanced technological advice which may be required in a defence emergency can be exposed to problems. This project may have been unsuccessful but it may be that the investment in it was money well spent because of the technical advances and the increased technical capacity which evolved from the experimentation which took place. The fact that the problems in the ultimate were not able to be overcome is not a reason for not endeavouring to overcome those problems.
The Minister referred to spin-off benefits which have come from the investment which has been made and the experimentation which has taken place in this project. Without trying to challenge the major powers in relation to major weapons systems, Australia has a very good record in defence technology for evolving and developing systems which are within a reasonable price range and which perform functions that have to be carried out not only by our own
Defence Force but also by the defence forces of other nations. The Jindivik program has been a successful one. It probably would have been much more successful had the management arrangements for construction and marketing over a long period been more of a commercial nature. Nevertheless, approximately 500 of these pilotless aircraft have been manufactured and sold. During the period in which it was evolved its technical capacity was increased and the technical knowledge available to the Australian Defence Force and to Australian industry in general was advanced.
If the criteria that money invested in this type of operation has to bring forward a result and end in success- that appears to be the criteria which the Auditor-General uses- were to be adopted either by the Government or by nongovernment agencies involved in seeking technological advances, then cobwebs would grow around the technicians and the technical capacity of the nation. We have to keep up with modern technology. We have to advance our technical knowledge within bounds which are reasonable according to our financial capacity. In order to do so we have to invest risk capital in development. This project is one which has been minimally unsuccessful. I doubt that it is fair to say that it has been completely unsuccessful even though it has not reached the manufacturing stage and has not actually resulted in the production of the type of target aircraft which the Navy requires. Other spin-offs have been and are available from the project, and other projects will benefit from the knowledge which has been gained.
Other projects in the defence area have been highly successful. I think the Jindivik project was one and the Ikara was another. The Ikara antisubmarine missile has been able to be marketed internationally. We have developed an anti-tank missile which the British Army adopted. We have evolved the Mulloka sonar system, which one hopes will shortly be fitted to Australian vessels. Unfortunately we are cutting back the manpower resources of our weapons research establishments in a manner which may inhibit development in the future. Those responsible for government finances have inhibitions which tend to make difficult any rapid technological advances. I think it is fair to say that the Nomad project, which now could well be a significant commercial success, could have been killed at any time in the last 10 years had the reservations of those responsible for the financing of the project, such as Treasury and others, been accepted by any of the subsequent Cabinets which dealt with the project.
The Opposition does not oppose the statement made by the Minister for Defence. However, on behalf of the Opposition, I say that I hope that this project’s failure to come to complete fruition does not stop research in this area of technological advance. In the not too distant future Australia will need, not target drones for the Navy, but the type of aircraft which has a substantial range and which can act as a substantial carrier of our surveillance equipment without the necessity for piloted aircraft. There is and will be in the near future a need for a nation such as Australia which has wide spaces and great areas of coastline to put into operation and maintain remote controlled vehicles .such as the Jindivik with substantially greater capacity than exists at the moment. We have to keep up with technology ourselves. We should not allow ourselves to be dependent on others for all the things we need to defend ourselves. The Opposition does not oppose the proposition in the Minister’s statement.
– I thank my honourable friend for his remarks.
– by leave- This report was tabled on 3 April 1 979. It raised a number of fundamental and complex questions about the public expenditure process, the role of the Parliament in that process, and the relationship between the Parliament and the Executive. The Government is giving very careful consideration to the issues raised in the report, particularly because of their nature and importance. The Government will therefore not be in a position to respond to the report in detail strictly within the time frame of six months which it is our policy generally to adhere to. However, I wish to inform honourable members that I expect to be able to make a full statement to the House on the Government’s response to the report within the next few weeks.
-by leave-I respond to the statement by the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) as chairman of the Standing Committee on Expenditure. I heard only indirectly that a statement was likely to be made by the Minister. I express a little disappointment that we were not informed that an interim statement was to come from the Minister. That is the usual practice in the House. The Committee will look forward to a further statement. Before that ultimate statement is made we would expect to be able to have consultations with the Minister which is the usual practice when statements are made on committee reports.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion ( by Mr Viner) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 9 October next at 2. IS p.m. unless Mr Speaker shall fix an alternative day or hour of meeting to be notified by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House.
-by leave-I present the report of the Australian delegation to the International Conference of Parliamentarians on Population and Development at Colombo, Sri Lanka from 28 August to 3 September 1979. The five-day Conference, cosponsored by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities and the InterParliamentary Union, was the first to bring parliamentarians together to discuss global issues under the auspices of a United Nations organisation. The Conference was attended by 64 countries. Australia was represented by Senator Tate and myself. It was an extremely enlightening and, if I may say so, successful Conference. The key address was by former British Prime Minister, Mr Edward Heath and the Honorary Chairman of the Conference was a former Japanese Prime Minister, Mr Kishi. I would like to pay tribute to the participation of Senator Tate, who attended all sessions and worked extremely hard at all levels of the Committee stages. Subsequently, we were able to work as a team on a strictly bipartisan basis.
Whilst the subject may not be a fashionable one in Australia, population and development is a global issue, and I firmly believe that Australia must get more involved in the problems besetting the developing countries in the world today. Sri Lanka proved to be an extremely appropriate country to hold such a conference. The people were friendly and hospitable. The country is beautiful, yet it left an indelible mark, unfortunately not for those reasons.
If I may speak personally, when one leaves an island like Tasmania and goes to an island, roughly similar in dimension, yet with a population of nearly the same as Australia, one realises how well off one is here in Australia. Whilst we have problems they are far less in magnitude than those facing the people of Sri Lanka. I saw untold poverty, lack of sanitation, a lack of job opportunities and a lack of direction generally. I am not in any way being critical of the present Government of Sri Lanka which is working under extreme difficulties. With the two extremes of environment, the cosy environment of the Conference and the poverty stricken environment of the city itself, Sri Lanka was an ideal position to hold a conference of population and development.
At the completion of the Conference a declaration was drawn up which will be known, and significantly so, as the Colombo Declaration. I have the draft form and whilst it was debated and completed at the eleventh hour of the Conference, the final declaration has not been received in Australia. The declaration draws attention to the considerable progress that has been made in the problems associated with population and development since the World Population Conference was held in Bucharest in 1974. It reaffirmed the principal aim of social, economic and cultural development, of which population goals and policies are integral parts. It aims to improve the levels of living and the quality of life of all people and there was a reiteration that there is a direct link between population programs and developing programs. There was a realisation that no population program should be considered from policies and plans of health, housing, education, employment, the environment and the use of resources. Equally, there was an increasing recognition that development programs should reflect population policies.
It was significant and important to note that by the best of research in the 25 years up to 1975, the total population increased from just under 2,500 million to over 4,000 million. By the year 2000 it is expected to reach 6,200 million of which four-fifths will be in the developing countries, with a substantial majority living in desperate poverty. The implication of such increases are staggering in the developing countries. Between now and the end of the century, 800 million additional jobs will be needed to be created. This is more than the entire actively employed population of the developed world at the present time. Problems of similar magnitude will be posed as far as the provision of food, water and shelter is concerned.
In the developed countries, per capita consumption of resources are much higher than in the developing world. Other vexing problems are the aging of the population, an internal and international migration becoming significant and important. The problems on a global level continue to expand. Human demands have created intolerable pressures on resources, particularly energy. Demands on fisheries, forests, grasslands and crop lands are mounting steadily and will continue to do so. Human needs have already begun to outstrip the productive capacity of many local biological systems as currently managed. It is clear that we can no longer afford to limit our viewpoint to the year 2000. Unless effective action is taken now in the field of population and development, world population could continue to rise to 8,000 million, or even 10,000 million people. A delay in just one generation in bringing world population to a stable level implies that approximately 3,000 million additional persons will be on this earth.
The main objectives of the report are to improve the quality of life for these increasing numbers, to have governments concentrate on the requirement of food, shelter, clean water, work, education and medical care, as well as a decent environment to live in. If we are to avoid continued aggravation of the world population situation in the twenty-first century, we must follow the goals and objectives that are clearly spelt out at conference level in all countries of the world. A massive expansion of resources devoted to development programs will be required as well as the restructuring of those programs. We will need also a major expansion of preventive health and medical care and the family planning services linked with them.
As soon as the final Colombo Declaration is received, it is my intention to ask my Government that it be incorporated in Hansard as I believe that it is significant and important. I think it is a viewpoint that all Australians should look at. We have problems in Australia, but they are nowhere near the problems of the Third World. We all should be aware of that. For the reasons I have given, I was very pleased to attend the conference with Senator Tate.
Speaker has received letters from both the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) and the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107, Mr Speaker has selected the matter which, in his opinion, is the most urgent and important, that is, that proposed by the honourable member for Corio, namely:
The frequency and the extremely high cost of defence accidents.
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-
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Viner) agreed to:
That the business of the day be called on.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to make it clear to the House that the reason the Opposition has not divided on this matter is that Estimates Committees are meeting and we feel that a division would be an unnecessary disruption. We did want to pursue the matter but the Government has obviously decided that its defence is to gag the debate.
-The honourable member’s remarks are noted.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. The Proposals implement the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on paper products.
The Commission recommended that most of the products under reference should be dutiable at 25 per cent of the remaining goods and that certain fibre building board products should be dutiable at 15 per cent; wall papers and coverings should attract 6 per cent; most goods currently entered duty free should remain duty free; and cigarette papers, cigarette tissue, filter paper and certain transfer media should be reduced to free. These recommendations generally mean a reduction in duty. The Government has accepted the Commision ‘s recommendations, except in respect of cigarette papers which will continue to be subject to the revenue component of the present duty, namely, $0.0145 per 60 tubes, papers or equivalent thereof.
The Government noted the Commission’s assessment that, in view of the limited competition from imports of most of the goods, implementation of the recommended rates is not expected to have an impact on Australian industry. The Commission had also considered that the goods under reference had been assisted by comparatively high levels of assistance and in its view, continuation of such assistance could not be justified.
The new rates operate from tomorrow. A comprehensive summary setting out the nature of the duty changes is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members I table the Industries Assistance Commission report on paper products dated 16 May 1979.
– I move:
This proposal is for the construction of a terminal complex to accommodate passengers, airline and concession operators, aircraft movement areas and support facilities to replace existing terminal facilities which are inadequate for the current volume of passenger traffic. The facilities will comprise: Terminal building; aircraft apron; roads; carpark and engineering services. The estimated cost of the proposed work examined by the Committee was $4.465m at May 1979 prices.
In reporting favourably on the proposal, the Committee has requested that the matter of security be kept under regular review and that if Commonwealth Police and/or departmental security staff are required, they should be located within the terminal building. The Government notes this request and will ensure that the matter is kept under regular review and that appropriate accommodation is provided as and when necessary, in consultation with the relevant authorities. Upon concurrence of the House in this motion, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
-The Opposition has great pleasure in supporting the motion before the chamber. The standard of services at Coolangatta Airport is deplorable. The open air collection of luggage, the open air assembly of passengers, the exposure to all elements and the general congestion and total lack of security are most undesirable. It is to be hoped that this recommendation from the Committee will result in a quick assessment of the needs at that airport and some early remedial action to overcome the problems there.
Because of the essential nature of this airport, because of its location in respect to the tourist industry of Australia’s east coast, the Opposition wants to see services there approved as soon as possible. As I said, it is essential to providing the kind of infrastructure and service we need to take advantage of the great tourist potential that exists on the eastern seaboard of Australia. The Opposition welcomes the motion and supports it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The proposal is for the construction of support facilities for the new Fremantle class patrol boats and comprises: A breakwater to provide a sheltered harbour; dredging; berth facilities for up to six patrol boats; ship vertical lift facility to lift boats out of the water for maintenance; covered two-bay maintenance shed, workships, stores and administration facilities; and associated engineering services. The estimated cost of the proposed work examined by the Committee was $ 1 7.75m at June 1 979 prices.
In reporting favourably on the proposal, the Committee has recommended that the Department of Housing and Construction liaise with the
Northern Territory authorities to ensure that inconvenience to the residents of Larrakeyah from heavy vehicles during construction is minimised. The Government notes this recommendation and will ensure that the Department of Housing and Construction continues its liaison with the Northern Territory authorities so that this particular requirement and recommendation of the Committee are met. Upon concurrence of the House in this motion, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
-The Opposition welcomes and supports this motion. The recommendation of the Public Works Committee is an appropriate one. I think we all recognise the importance of the nature of the facility to be constructed. We of the Opposition hope that in the national interest the actual construction work will be expedited.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 26 September, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Willis had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘whilst not opposing the second reading, this House condemns the Fraser Government for presenting a budget which-
1 ) reduces the real living standards of Australian families;
will increase unemployment to the highest level in the nation’s history;
facilitates and stimulates the recent fresh outbreak of inflation;
ensures that economic growth will be well below the nation’s productive capacity;
fails to introduce an effective job creation program, particularly for the young;
6 ) savagely reduces the allocation of funds for job training and re-training program;
will be responsible for the highest level of tax and total revenue collections in the nation’s history;
forces State and local governments either to reduce their services or increase their charges, and
intensifies the lack of credibility of the Prime Minister and his government and adds to their long list of broken promises’.
-Last night, when speaking in support of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), I was making the point that the Liberal Party claims to head a free enterprise non-interventionist government, that it leaves resources allocation to the market place, and conversely that government interventionist policies are socialist policies. The simple fact is that in many ways the Liberals do intervene to distort the market. They are forced to. They intervene with discriminatory tariffs, quotas, bylaws, regulations, tax schedules, concessions, grants, allowances, merger approvals, contracts, financial arrangements and marketing arrangements. The examples I have cited only scratch the surface. Governments are and will increasingly become involved in a whole range of corporate sector issues including international commodity price negotiations for minerals, energy and rural products. Such policies can be coordinated and integrated only if governments elect to provide the leadership that is necessary to make them effective and efficient.
The inflationary impact of this Government’s tax rip-off has greatly affected Mr and Mrs Average. Inflation is imposed upon the people of this country by a government which is prepared to allow the more wealthy element in our society, those who are the most powerful, the most resourceful and regrettably often the most unscrupulous, to prosper under it. In the interim, the rest of our society suffers while inflation, induced by this Government’s policies, multiplies. Undoubtedly the most serious social consequence of this Government’s policies is growing unemployment. One is reminded of the cartoon in which a newly unemployed worker is congratulated on joining a very special group making a major contribution to the war against inflation. On being presented with a certificate of unemployment he is told that he can be very proud of having been chosen as one of a special group playing such a crucial role in the economic fight against inflation. Commenting upon the certificate the unemployed worker received, he remarked: ‘Gosh, it’s beautiful. Wait until my family sees it’. Somebody, some section of society, is obliged to pay the price and under a Liberal Government it always must be the poor and the underprivileged.
Whilst the family allowance has been frozen at the same level for three years prices have escalated by 30 per cent, spending on education has been reduced, child care services have been starved of funds and housing has become dearer and dearer. That is what happens when the Liberals tinker with our economy for 3Vi years. As Professor Sumner-Miller is wont to put it: ‘Why is this so?’ It is worth remembering that the great mass of our people who put their trust in the traditional order-that is, the innocent and the unworldly, all those who undertake useful and productive tasks but do not know how to manipulate money, the elderly who hope to live on what they earned in the past- are doomed to suffer under inflation.
Australia is not alone in the inflation stakes. We ought to look at what has happened in the United States. It is a classic example. Last month a gruesome milestone was reached in the great inflation debacle of the 1970s. The number of millionaires in the United States passed 500,000. Less than a decade ago there were fewer than 100,000. Inflation alone comes nowhere near explaining how the very richest among us have quintrupled their numbers in so incredibly short a time. I well recall that in the debate on the securities and companies legislation in 1 975 it was mentioned that in the United States in that year 70 per cent of the corporate sector was controlled by 1 per cent of the population. During the 1970s the average pay of the United States factory worker actually declined in real terms and the poor, both in Australia and in the United States, were even worse off. What is being experienced both in Australia and the United States is a revolt but not by radicals against the pillars of society but, to put it more bluntly, by the rich against the poor, as John Kenneth Galbraith said.
I regret to say that the Australian people have failed to grasp how inflation rises disproportionately among them. Just who do they blame for it? They blame, for example, the petrol crisis on the oil companies or the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Their recreational driving in fact accounts for only a minute fraction of Australia’s total energy consumption. The manufacture of carcinogenic chemicals and herbicides accounts for much more. Australian people fail to comprehend- they are given little assistance in understanding- that the fundamental structure, the distribution of income and wealth, is at the root of inflation. But I qualify this by saying that most people are not spendthrifts who indulge in wasteful buying to feed inflation. They cannot afford to be. The fact is that the majority of Australians have little influence on inflation because they cannot give up the basics of clothing, food and shelter in the national interest.
In the United States the top 7 per cent of families receive more of the total income than the bottom half of the United States population and the percentage of the hold that the tiny minority has on discretionary income- money left over after the basics- is even greater; possibly as high as 50 per cent to 60 per cent. In this country the top 10 per cent of families get 36.5 per cent of total net wealth and the bottom 50 per cent get 15 per cent. The poorest 25 per cent of American society get barely 5 per cent of the total income yet in Australia the poorest get about 4.5 per cent of the total income. Thus cutting off the crumbs will not cure the ills of our economy especially when 10 per cent of our society, the most affluent, have control over 25 per cent to 36 per cent of total income. The message is simple: Until we as a nation stop blaming ourselves collectively for inflation there will be no solution. Let me quote from a very telling article published in the United States a month ago on the panacea to control inflation. It commenced by saying that we should work towards, firstly, placing a ceiling on selected prices, from hospital costs to gas, oil and basic food items such as bread and milk; secondly, we ought to expand our supplies of basic commodities such as housing by way of selected mortgage assistance, conservation of synthetic fuels, the introduction of consumer co-operatives, family farm aid and more direct marketing of food; and thirdly, we should establish new public- not governmentinstitutions such as energy corporations and health maintenance institutions to force the big corporations to compete both openly and more efficiently. Something has to be tried in the light of the remark of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in the Budget that inflation will be over 10 per cent before the end of the year. Inflation, without doubt, next to this Government, is the greatest destroyer of security in Australia. Ernest Hemingway summed up the position far more effectively than I could when he said:
The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity. Both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists.
Let me conclude by making an observation on the debate earlier today, if I am permitted to do so. One of the problems of inflation in today’s society is the manipulation of the corporate sector. We spend an inordinate amount of time -
-The honourable member is not free to allude to the earlier debate.
-No, I will not do that. I simply wish to say that we spend an inordinate amount of time in this Parliament on petty cash. Very little time is devoted to discussing people who manipulate and have the combination to the national bank vault. I refer the Treasurer to a proposition which I have put to my Party in relation to the national companies and securities legislation. There is a need to provide in that legislation for an accounts standing review committee. I doubt whether I will get this Parliament to accept that there is a need for, in effect, an accounting standards review committee. The debates in this House on the crashes of Cambridge Credit Corporation Ltd and Associated Securities Ltd show that all the major rip-offs in the corporate sector can be sheeted home to one factor, that is, the failure to observe professional competency and honesty. If ever there is a need in the corporate sector to safeguard ordinary people it is the need for appropriate accounting standards and procedures in all companies. If that had been observed, the matter which we have been debating over the last day and a half would not have arisen.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am pleased to give wholehearted support to the Federal Budget, for it is a balanced and reasonable document which shows the Government’s determination to proceed with policies which are succeeding in restoring a greater sense of equilibrium to the economy and removing the distortions which developed during the years of the Labor Administration. This Budget is fair to all sections of the community for it displays Liberal principles of promoting a flourishing private sector with incentives for initiative and at the same time seeks to uplift and support the needy and the under-privileged.
The constructive approach of the LiberalNational Country Party Government contrasts markedly with the negative approach adopted by the Australian Labor Party in this Budget debate and in the amendment which it has moved. The poor tone for Labor Party contributions was set by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) with his tirade of malicious abuse against the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It was utterly devoid of reasoned argument. The Leader of the Opposition has admitted to walloping donkeys in his youth. The braying he has substituted for reasoned debate over this Budget could lead one to believe that he has been transformed into one of those poor animals he used to torment. The Leader of the Opposition reminds me of the British political leader who confessed: ‘There are two problems in my life. The political ones are insoluble and the economic ones are incomprehensible’. That is a good summary of the confusion in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition about this Budget and about economic matters generally.
To the degree that anything coherent could be discerned in his speech, his theme was to spend more of the taxpayers’ money and increase the deficit, both by an unspecified amount. In other words, the Labor Party has not learned the lessons of its disastrous years in government between 1972 and 1975, during which the present Leader of the Opposition held a senior office and for which he must take a major responsibility. The Labor Party is still a party of high government spending and an expanding public sector. Apart from being totally lacking in economic responsibility, this approach is not what the people of Australia want, as the last two federal election results have clearly demonstrated and as was demonstrated recently in the South Australian election results.
Opposition members have shown the severe limitations of their capacity for economic analysis by claiming that the Budget is on the one hand pro-business and on the other against the average family man. This simplistic dichotomy completely fails to grasp what the Budget is about. It is a fundamental economic fact that restoring prosperity in Australia requires a healthy outlook for business and that this is inextricably linked with the prospect of more job opportunities. The two go together. Opposition members, in seeking to set the interests of employers and employees against each other, are simply regurgitating the old slogans of the class warfare of the 1930s. Such notions are rejected by most Australians but are still alive and well in the minds and on the lips of members of the Opposition.
A Labor government would expand the deficit without considering the effect that that would have on inflation and in worsening unemployment. The Opposition displays a very narrow focus when it calls for more spending on particular welfare areas. It fails to appreciate that overall economic policy is a vital part of welfare policy, for failure of total economic policy is bound to hit the disadvantaged for whom the Labor Party falsely claims to speak exclusively. That was clearly demonstrated by the events of 1974-75 when it was in government. It has been highlighted by the conclusions reached by the Committee of Inquiry into Poverty- the Henderson Committee. In other words, restraining inflation and creating more chances for jobs in the long run are important benefits for the needy, as are specific benefit payments. This capacity to take a sound overall view of the economy is one of the great attributes of the present Government.
The comment by the Leader of the Opposition concerning the creation of a youth works corps especially interested me. It snowed a complete absence of reality in the Labor Party’s thinking.
The Leader of the Opposition claimed that his scheme could create jobs for 50,000 young people at an annual cost of $80m to $ 100m- that is, about $40 per week per head. Such a sum would be quite inadequate to run a scheme for that many people. The sum needed would be much higher- in the order of $300m to $500m. How this could fit into the Budget priorities has been left unexplained by the Opposition. Far from providing long term employment for 50,000 young people, the detrimental impact of such a program on the Budget deficit and hence the economy would destroy far more jobs in the private sector than would be created in the public sector.
The Leader of the Opposition also spent time in his speech on the Budget complaining about the non-restoration of tax indexation in the Budget. The Government made it very clear in May that it could not remove the surcharge and restore tax indexation at the same time. The Government therefore removed the surcharge but has made clear its commitment to the restoration of indexation in due course. For all the Leader of the Opposition’s complaints about this aspect of the Budget, it is worth remembering that just a few weeks before the Budget he himself said:
Well, we’re 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 $500m. 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.
Yet even when this Government, to some degree, takes his advice he still moans and groans about it. By contrast to the Labor negativism there is the clear positive thrust of government policy as presented in this Budget and based on a record of real achievement. I realise that economists often differ as to what policy approach is the best. I am reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s remark that if all economists were laid end to end they would not reach a conclusion. Nevertheless, I believe that this Government has found the best mix of policies. We have brought inflation down from the dizzy heights of the Labor era. We have provided real incentive for individuals and businesses. We have significantly reduced the call of the Government on the country’s financial market. Furthermore, we have extended our commitment to assist the needy and the disadvantaged. Hence, the Budget deserved the favourable comments made about it both in the community and in the media, such as that of the Australian Financial Review when it stated:
The policies of the Budget provide the best possible environment for business.
The Government’s anti-inflation policy means our industries are getting more competitive in overseas markets and we can expect to maintain our relative advantage over the corning year. Our better competitiveness in manufactured goods means that exports are rising. Thus, in the 12 months to June 1979 exports by metal manufacturers increased by 3 1 per cent compared to just over 1 per cent in the previous year. The export of machinery and transport equipment in 1978-79 was up by 23 per cent compared with the previous year. This Government is committed to making sure that the economy becomes more export oriented and is therefore changing assistance to industry on a rational basis so that Australian industry is viable and competitive in the long run.
Such rationality is apparently not welcome to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) since he has made a strong attack on the Industries Assistance Commission and, indeed, threatened its future. This is something to be deplored. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition seems to be objecting to the process of rational debate on the Commission’s draft reports. He has also opposed the move from quotas, which can be particularly stultifying, to protection through tariffs. Such an approach is extremely shortsighted. Australian industry can never fulfil its full potential unless the economy is more open to the competition of world markets so that Australian industry can, in turn, reap the benefits of the economies of scale which production for world markets provides. Only this will give the basis for the growth of permanent job opportunities in the long run.
Since I have a particular interest in the formulation of policies for young people, I was pleased to see some important advances for the young in the Budget. Funds for the Home Savings Grants Scheme have been increased massively- from $20m to $75 m. Spending on the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training, which is an important aspect of the Government’s manpower training program, also rises significantly from $26m to $54m.
Many forms of education allowance including the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowances are having their means tests adjusted so that more students can benefit from them than would otherwise be the case. The very important education program for unemployed youth will receive $3. 7m, an increase from the previous $3.1m. In addition to that, $2. 5m will be paid in allowances to participants. Over recent years this scheme has had a demonstrably positive record in upgrading the skills and attitudes of early school leavers with low levels of skill achievement and low motivation. It is fitting them for the work force and for job opportunities that are available. The sum of $200,000 is allocated to experimental projects for the Voluntary Youth Community Service Scheme. Apart from the young, other sections of the community will benefit from this Budget. Pensioners have had six-monthly indexation restored, which is something I have been urging for some time. I welcome the Government’s initiative in this area. I am also delighted that the income limit for eligibility for fringe benefits for pensioners has been liberalised. This will be of considerable benefit to a number of people who are resident in my electorate, which has a high percentage of elderly people by comparison with the Australian average.
The assistance to tourism, which has been initiated in this Budget with the introduction of depreciation allowances for new incomeproducing buildings for tourist accommodation, also has special relevance to my electorate of Kingston with its magnificent beaches and the Southern Vale wine district increasingly being recognised by tourists. The small business sector is a vital source of jobs in Australia. I welcome the further assistance to that sector by an easing of the distribution requirements for private companies under Division 7 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. The retention allowance is increased from 60 per cent to 70 per cent. I was also pleased to see that there was no substance in the rumours about the imposition of a wine tax and about which some rumour mongers in the Opposition encouraged significant speculation. I am pleased to see the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles) has just entered the chamber. He is one who has joined me very strongly in the fight on behalf of the wine industry in this country and in particular in South Australia. One of the great challenges facing us is of course employment. We must not be blind to the need for policies to deal with this in the future. But it is also proper to reflect on the progress made so far in creating permanent private sector jobs which this Government seeks for the people of Australia. Recent statistics show improvements in this regard, unlike the massive loss of jobs which was caused by the policies of the previous Labor Government and which began during its period in office.
A fair basis of examination of unemployment in Australia is to compare the Bureau of Statistics numbers of unemployed for any given month with the number of unemployed in the same month a year earlier. This method avoids difficulties about seasonal adjustments as might occur on a month to month comparison. When one looks at those figures and compares them for each month of this year with the same month for the year before, one can see that the employment situation is at present improving. Thus, unemployment in February this year in Australia was 14,700 lower than in February 1978. In March, it was 20,700 lower than a year before. The news in April this year was not so good in that the figure for unemployment was 1 1,600 up on last year and in May it was up by 2,500. Good news returned in June when unemployment fell by 6,700 compared with June 1978. In July, unemployment was 5,500 down on last year and in August it was 17,900 lower than 12 months previously. So, for all but two months since February this year unemployment has been lower than in the same month for the previous year.
As a South Australian, I was particularly interested in the figures for that State. I found to my sorrow, but not to my surprise, that South Australia under the previous Labor Government had done much worse than the rest of the country. Since February in all months but one the number of people unemployed in South Australia is higher than for the same month 12 months previously. Thus in February 1979 the South Australian figure was 5,900 higher than in February 1978, while in the rest of Australia excluding South Australia, unemployment fell by 20,600. In March, unemployment was up in South Australia by 9,000 while in the rest of Australia unemployment had decreased by 29,700. In April in South Australia unemployment was up by 6,900 while in all the other States put together, excluding South Australia, the rise in unemployment was only 4,700. May saw a rise in unemployment in South Australia of 3,000 compared with May the year before, while in the rest of Australia, excluding that State, unemployment dropped by 500. In June the South Australian unemployment figure went up by 4,700 while in the rest of Australia it went down by 1 1,400. In July the South Australian situation improved a little. Unemployment dropped by 100, however the rest of the country saw employment improve by 5,400. In August South Australian unemployment was once again on the rise by a figure of 800 while in the rest of Australia unemployment fell by 18,700. So, not only has the performance of South Australia been disastrous in comparison with the rest of Australia, but in being so, it has pulled the rest of Australia down more than it ought to have.
The other matter we ought to remember when considering employment is that there are more people employed in Australia than ever before. Clearly, South Australia has had a particular problem preventing its sharing in the progress being made in the rest of Australia. Happily, there is now a new climate in the South Australian economy thanks to the wisdom of the South Australian voters last Saturday week when they decisively rejected the Labor Government which had been in office for some years and which stultified development in that State. They have now put a Liberal Government into office.
– For ever.
– As the honourable member says, I certainly hope that it will be for ever. I certainly believe that the policies that the new Government has already demonstrated it will implement will lead the electors of South Australia to give it the kind of support which will enable it to enjoy that electoral success. With the election of a Liberal Government there is already renewed confidence in that State. In the future there will be a willingness by business to create new jobs. As time passes South Australia’s employment performance will begin to compare favourably with the rest of Australia. However, just as it is taking the present Federal Government some years to gradually but surely correct the economic imbalances created during the Federal Labor era, equally the new South Australian government cannot restore prosperity overnight. But South Australia now has an exciting future to which it can look forward, especially with its prospective mineral developments under a Liberal Government determined to remove the shackles from private enterprise. That was something that the State lacked under the socialist yoke a fortnight ago.
I conclude my remarks in this debate on the Budget by reminding the House that the successive Budgets of the Fraser Federal Government since coming to office in 1975 are keeping Australia on the correct path for restoring balanced economic growth and renewed prosperity and in developing real hope for a confident future in Australia. I am proud to be able to support this Budget and in so doing I reject the amendments proposed by the Opposition.
-We have heard a lot in this debate about how marvellous this Budget is. But hidden amongst all the statistics we are told that it is expected that over the coming year average weekly earnings will go up by 9 per cent. However, inflation will go up by 10 percent.
– Ten percent?
– At least 10 per cent, probably more. The estimate is 10 per cent. My guess is that it will be much more than that. The tax we will pay will, in total, go up by 15 per cent. Quite clearly, if all those suggestions contained in the Government’s assessment of the future are correct, there will be a severe fall in real income for wage and salary earners. What does that mean? By and large wage and salary earners earn so little that they are unable to save very much. They usually spend what they earn. If they earn less, quite clearly less is spent. One could suggest on the basis of these figures that overall there will be a reduction in the demand for goods because of the lower disposable income that the vast majority of the Australian community will have in the coming year. As to the Government’s moves to cut the deficit, we are told that deficits are dangerous and lead to inflation. Let us examine what that means. Most of the Government’s expenditure where the cuts are going to be applied is in the area of health services, social services generally, pensions, unemployment benefits and so on. These are the sorts of services where, when the Government pays the money out, once again it is spent. There are very few pensioners who finish up saving anything of their meagre pension. The reality is, of course, that if you increase the payment to pensioners they spend it practically as soon as they get it, not because they are spendthrift but because they are living close to the breadline. For their own satisfaction and ease of living the pensioners will spend any additional funds that they are granted. Once again the overall effect of cutting the deficit by cutting back on public spending is lower demand.
The Government has cut back the funds available for education, whether it is in the state school system or the private sector. Mainly the poorer schools in both the state and private sector have been cut back quite viciously in terms of capital grants. If the money is provided the States will not store it or bank it, they will use the money to build schools. That will increase the demand for resources, skills, employment and so on in the building industry. We are told that the Government feels that that is dangerous and we have to cut back on the deficit and we cut back on those things. Again the result of the deliberate policy of the Government is to cut back on demand. We add to that the increases in the price of petrol. The Government has decided that local producers should be allowed to charge the prevailing rate for petrol in the world market. When the petrol producers pass on the increased costs to the consumer, although the public is not very happy because the Government is taking a rake-off, it allows the Government to make the Budget look a little less difficult than it might otherwise have been. The end result is that the community pays more for petrol.
In changes to the health scheme, the cost of health care is going to rise dramatically if people continue to insure themselves in the way that the Government is exhorting them to do. I add that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) gets almost apoplectic when we suggest that in view of the changes that have been made to the health scheme, the community is now back to where it was before Medibank was even thought of. We are back to the system that prevailed before the Labor Government was elected in 1972. In those days a lot of people took the risk and did not insure themselves. It was the Nimmo committee report, set up by a Liberal government, which highlighted the deficiency of the voluntary health insurance system. The report showed how a significant proportion of the population took the risk and did not insure themselves. I suggest that we are back in the same position, except that now many more people are wiser than they were then, in the sense that in those days the people who took the risk were by and large the poorer sections of the community. They just took the punt that they would stay healthy. If they were really sick, they accepted their fate and they would have to go to a public hospital.
I do not blame the people for that. The standards of health care in public hospitals are better than anywhere else. That is my assertion and my view. Now we find that after all the changes to the health scheme and the comings and goings, the people in the better off section of the community, in the age group from 15 to 50, the healthy members of the community, are now contemplating quite seriously taking the same risk. They ask themselves: Why bother to insure? If one insures in order to get value for money in their terms- it is no good arguing the matter that people ought to insure- in my view it would be far better if those people paid the taxes necessary to provide the health scheme. That is far more equitable. Given that the community is offered the choice in this beautiful, free enterprise system, no one can blame it for making the calculation that in order to get value for money, if the people bother to insure themselves, they would need to consult a doctor once a week. Clearly the healthy section of the population is not going to do that. Equally clearly more and more of them will take the risk and they will not bother to insure. They take a calculated risk that if they are seriously ill, knocked down in the street in an accident or have a sudden severe illness beset them. They know that the best thing that can happen to them is for them not to see a private doctor but to be taken to a public hospital.
If a person is involved in an accident on the street he is not even asked, he is just taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital where the best quality medical care is available on tap. If a person is seriously ill he will be treated and will not have to pay for it. That was simply an elaboration on the health cost argument. For those good people who feel that they must insure themselves, and do so, the increased health costs will represent a very serious drain on their income and they are going to have less to spend and they will, in turn, buy less. That will lead to a fall in demand. The total effect of the Budget is not as sweet as the Liberal Party members would suggest. It is a tough, severe and depressing Budget. The question still remains of what effect the Budget will have on what the Liberal members consider is the main probleminflation.
We have already been told that in the last quarter in the manufacturing sector costs have gone up by something like 1 5 per cent. Wait until that rise hits the market in the next few months. We are told that inflation is the problem. We are told that we must fight inflation and declare war on inflation. Is inflation the cause of our problems or is it one of the effects? Is inflation the disease or is it simply one of the symptoms? What is the disease? There seems to me to be no ready answer. I would like to quote from what I believe is a very stimulating publication, the World Paper. From the copy I have it appears that it is published by the Age. It has an article entitled What’s Wrong with the World Economy?’, and sub-titled ‘The poor nations meet in Manila, the rich in Tokyo, the oil-producers in Geneva . . but tension only increases.’ The writer states:
We find ourselves in an economic dislocation unparalleled since the Great Depression . . .
Whatever the diagnoses- and throughout the world there are many different expert opinions- it is now painfully evident that the world economy has entered a long period of instability and inflation. The symptoms include: sluggish economic growth verging on recession; stubbornly high rates of inflation; high and intractable unemployment; recurring disruptions in the monetary system; the emergence of a real energy crisis; rapidly escalating Third World debt; widespread poverty and malnutrition.
Such global disorder cannot be caused by economics alone. Ultimately, it involves the world structure of power.
Quite clearly, to my mind, inflation is only one of the symptoms of the malaise affecting us. We are told that that is the main problem as far as the Liberal Government is concerned. Let us look at what the Government suggest we have to do to solve the problem. We have to combat excessive wage demands and we have to have a period of wage restraint. Let us see what happened in the United Kingdom when, for a number of years, the trade unions in that country accepted the social contract offered by the Labor Government. The trade unions practised wage restraint, but the result was utter disaster. Inflation and unemployment continued. Hidden unemployment increased. We are told how terrible it all is and how a lot of people were employed unnecessarily and took on jobs that did not have to be done. At least those people were employed. We are now told that Mrs Thatcher is going to set it right and she is going to get rid of those people who are not doing real jobs. Mrs Thatcher will further increase the level of unemployment and the problem of lack of demand. When those people who, in the eyes of the entrepreneurs, may not be doing a full day’s work are no longer employed, no longer paid, they will cease spending money. They will then buy fewer goods. Then we will find the business community will complain that demand has fallen even further.
What has been the position in Australia? Since 1975 in effect we have had the same situation. The unions have continued to try to get wage increases but the wage increases have been less than would be necessary for full indexation. That means that the increases have not compensated for increases in the cost of living or the rate of inflation. So in sum total the wage and salary earners are now getting proportionately less than they were getting in 1975 compared with the rest of the community. In other words we have in fact cut the wage overshoot, or whatever the technical term is that is used to suggest that workers are getting too much. It has been cut. But we are now told that costs are shooting up again in the private sector, the manufacturing sector. So much for cutting wages as a means of cutting inflation. The real effect of wage restraint has been a fall in demand. The whole business community is complaining about it.
Let us also observe another incongruity. In many key areas profits are going up, not down. This is mainly in areas where large corporations or transnational corporations are involved. How? Why is this so? Because they are best able to cash in on increased productivity. They have the resources to bring in new methods of production which lead to increased productivitymicroprocessors, automation and all that. But this is at the expense of employing people. Wage payments of these companies go down because they employ fewer people. They produce more goods. They do not reduce their prices. They are content to sell fewer goods at the same large mark-up. Because they have spent less on wages and materials to produce the goods their profits go up. To a certain extent they do not care whether they sell fewer goods as long as they can maintain profitability. So large corporations have increased profits. But it means that the rest of the community is winding down, particularly in the small business area. The small businesses are the ones going to the wall, going broke. In this debate about the causes of our problems and what we ought to do I think that we are all kidding ourselves. We catch on to jargon phrases such as ‘we have to beat inflation’ but the ill is far deeper than that. The problem is more than inflation; inflation is merely a symptom.
What is wrong is that we have lost sight of the fact that the purpose of all our effort is to provide for people’s needs. We have centered on providing for the making of profits, irrespective of what effect that might have on people. When satisfactory profits can no longer be made in a country such as this we export jobs. When manufacturing capacity is developed in underdeveloped countries it makes matters worse for us in this country because it results in the sacking of more people. It also makes matters worse in the underdeveloped countries because they then have to export their goods to the developed nations because the underdeveloped countries do not have the means to purchase the goods they produce. The effect of all that is simply to heighten the crisis in the world community.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I would like to mention one or two points relative to the former speaker, the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass). I do not think anybody on the Government side of the House is sweet-selling or soft-selling the Budget. I think every responsible member of this House- most of us are on this side- regards the Budget as tough and responsible. We have not regarded the Budget as something about which we can say: ‘Aren’t we good boys? Haven’t we given you everything you wanted?’ No. We have said that Budgets are to be used to stabilise the economy, to bring responsibility back into government. We have said that employment, development of the country and the welfare of our citizens are important matters which must be seen within the context of the whole Australian economy. The previous speaker was wrong. We have presented a tough and very responsible Budget.
He mentioned that this year we have budgeted for a possible inflation rate of 10 per cent. Let us recall when the Labor Government put down a Budget in this House. I think the then Treasurer is now the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). He framed his Budget on an inflation rate of 16 per cent and a 22 per cent increase in wages for the year. Now that is responsible! We have heard the speeches of several members in the Opposition. I refer to one honourable member who said that the Government seems to have an adherence to a deficit fetish. Does this mean that if the Australian Labor Party were back in power it would start the printing presses again? Does that mean that we would go through the same thing again? In each of the 10 years leading up to 1974-75 Budget outlays remained at about 25 per cent of gross domestic product. Yet in 1974-75 this proportion- highlighting, as it did, the massive diversion of resources to the Government sector as opposed to the private sector- moved to an unbelievable 30.5 per cent in the short space of the 12 months to June 1975. If ever there was economic madness it was that. We talk of responsibilities in various sectors of the community. Yet in 12 months the proportion of the gross domestic product diverted from the private sector to the public sector increased from an average of 25 per cent to in excess of 30 per cent. That was inviting trouble.
I see that the honourable member for Maribyrnong is shaking his head. I remind him that in the 1 975 Budget the then Labor Treasurer slashed funds provided under the aged persons homes legislation. Honourable members opposite will recall that that Budget meant that one organisation alone in Sydney received a cutback in funds which caused the closure of 600 beds in one year. There was sheer chaos as a result of the 1975 Budget despite the fact that the then Treasurer was desperately trying to bring the economy back into order following the two previous Budgets. The whole basis of the Labor Government policies of those days required that there be- as it used to put it- some increase in the share of resources going to the public sector. As another politician would have once said: Some increase! ‘ We are still trying to overcome it. These are the difficulties we have to face.
I do not wish to speak for the whole of the time allowed. It gives me pleasure to support the Budget. I support the thrust of the Budget. I am pleased with the success that has been achieved by last year’s Budget. I stand behind the remark of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that this Budget maintains and reinforces the ongoing strategy in that it consolidates and strengthens Australia’s economic recovery as a firm foundation for Australia in the 1980s. Is that sweet talk? Scarcely. Much nonsense has been spoken by the Opposition. I am not exactly speaking to a crowded House now but when the Opposition benches were full Opposition members were asking: Is there any real recovery? Is the community regaining confidence? I remind them that employment in the private sector is 64,000 more than it was a year ago and that there are 18,000 fewer unemployed than at this time last year.
No matter what is said by the Opposition or by some of the Fourth Estate the fact remains that unemployment has been reduced from 6.2 per cent to 5.8 per cent of the work force. However, the problem of unemployment does remain. Not one of us in this House can rest easy where the welfare and progress of the chronically unemployed youth are involved. Despite what has been said from the other side of the chamber, it was encouraging to see the general increases for unemployed youth included in the Budget that was brought down.
Let us recall some of the increases. We saw an increase in expenditure of $25.9m for the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training scheme. We saw an increase in and a maintenance of the expenditure for the Community Youth Support Scheme. We saw an increase in the expenditure on occupation information to assist people seeking jobs. We saw the provision of $67.9m for the National Employment and Training System. We saw an expansion of the program for assistance to Aboriginals, with an estimated expenditure of $ 17.5m this year under the Aboriginal training programs. That is $3.6m more than that of last year. We saw the doubling of expenditure on training in industry and commerce programs to $2. 4m. We saw an increase for national youth organisations under the program for assistance to youth organisations. We saw the introduction of funding of pilot projects under the voluntary youth program. We saw a continuation of the program of upgrading and modernising the Commonwealth Employment Service. We had a good Budget with regard to attempting to solve the problem of the chronically unemployed youth. This is something that has been approached by honourable members on both sides of the House, because the number of chronically unemployed youth is no longer merely an economic statistic, if it ever was.
We have to face continuing social problems. We have to face the reality that in parts of Australia we are going to have an under-class, as the sociologists now call it. We are going to have a group of unemployed people who are the children of unemployed people. We need to do something to give these people hope again, and this does not mean just jobs temporary occupations. If I may use a colloquialism, this Government has been really fair dinkum in its approach to the problems of the unemployed youth. It is not a simple thing and neither side of this Parliament can come forward with a simple solution. For the reasons which I have outlined already, I put it to the House that we have some cause to be proud.
There is only one small matter upon which I would like to comment, and that is the decision to limit the value of motor cars for depreciation and leasing purposes. I do not wish to canvass the details at this time, but I point out that unless some solutions and answers are found- they have not come forward in the Budget- we are going to have considerable unemployment in certain sections of the motor industry. I hope that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and his advisers will be coming forward very soon with some realistic proposals in regard to the selling of these motor cars. At the moment there is total confusion, and that does nobody any good at all. I hope that thought will be given to the fine print when it comes to working out the depreciation and leasing provisions for some cars. I will not go on any longer. I repeat that this Budget has been responsible. It reflects the growing confidence that exists in the manufacturing industries around Australia. We hope that from now on this will be improved in South Australia. We can look at this Budget and say that the Budget of 1979 was the Budget that turned Australia towards the progress and prosperity that we hope will take place in 1980.
-I would like to concentrate for a few minutes on something related to what the previous speaker, the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie), had to say in respect of motor vehicles. I wish to speak on the question of what fuels motor vehicles and the kind of tax-take the Government is taking from petrol. The Government has spread the misnomer that it is a low tax party, whereas it is a very high tax party. In fact, it is the party of the highest taxation in Australian history. The Budget documents demonstrate this. On the basis of Commonwealth receipts as a proportion of gross domestic product this is also very clearly demonstrated. In the last three years the Government has moved to tax by stealth, by taking the emphasis away from direct taxation- although that has not decreased in real terms by anything like the amount indicated by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser); it has, in fact, risen- and shifting the emphasis across to indirect taxation.
In the last Budget we saw massive increases in the prices of petrol, beer, spirits and tobacco. For instance, the price of a bottle of whisky went from $5 to $11 overnight. In the period of the Fraser Government the price of petrol has gone up by 60c a gallon or, if one has a vehicle with an average size tank of about 12 gallons, by an extra $7.20 a tank. That is not $7.20 a tank; it is an extra $7.20 a tankful. Every time a motorists fills up his car’s tank he pays an extra $7.20 per tank of petrol. That represents a massive impost in taxation over a period of 12 months. Whether one pays it through one’s wage packet or at the petrol pump, it is still a tax. Similarly, the health arrangements once were much more generous from the Commonwealth to the public. Now the public has to pay all of the costs, whether by way of weekly tax or to some health insurance fund. If one is not insured and one pays the doctor without a reimbursement, one has a tax imposted. Therefore, in respect of health, the Government has tried to shift these taxes out of the Budget structure. In respect of petrol, it has levied severe imposts upon the motorist.
This year Australians will spend about $3,000m on petrol. Of that amount, about $2,500m will go directly to the Commonwealth Government by way of royalties, excises, et cetera. On top of that, the Commonwealth has always levied what it calls the refined product excise, which is the ordinary pump tax. This year the pump tax alone comes up to $950m. If one adds to the $2, 500m which is coming from the other taxes on petrol, the pump tax revenue of $950m, the total tax-take from one commoditypetroleum and petroleum products, but particularly petrol- is $3,450m or almost $3te billion. That represents 1 1 per cent of total budgetary receipts. So the Fraser Government is now getting 1 1 per cent of its receipts from one commodity alone. This is having a very heavy impact upon the Australian motorist, upon inflation, because the cost of fuel goes right through the economy, and particularly upon the rural community, which of course is subject to heavy fuel costs.
The political impact of higher energy prices, particularly in the rural sector, was not driven home to the Government last year because it was a relatively good season and the weather was very kind to us. This year will probably be a reasonable season as well. What is going to happen is that as time goes on the price of fuel will cripple Australian agriculture. The responsibility for these very savage imposts rests squarely with the Fraser Government. In addition to that, the ordinary motorist who for years has had a sixcylinder car- the six-cylinder medium compact that does something like 16 to 20 miles to the gallon is a sort of standard Australian family car- will suffer a very heavy impost. There will be a heavy impost for families, and it will be far more savage for commercial travellers, taxi operators and others who do a very high mileage.
To add insult to injury, it is one thing when people pay tax to the Government, but it is another thing when the Government tries to escape the blame. The Fraser Government has tried to say that this is all the fault of the Arabs, that it is the Arabs who are fixing the price. Of course, that is wrong. The Arabs fix the price of Arab oil; the Australian Government fixes the price of Australian oil. Two-thirds of our oil requirements are produced in Australia and only one-third of them are imported. I admit that we have to pay the price of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries- the Arab price- for the one-third of our requirements which is imported.
We were paying $2 a barrel for the oil produced in this country. We are now paying $18.66 a barrel. We are now paying the full world price or the Arab price for Australian oil. One might ask: Why are we paying the Arab price for Australia oil? The simple answer is that the Fraser Government has a linking mechanism pushed into the pricing system so that as soon as the Arab price moves the Australian price moves with it. Then the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Government blame OPEC. Of course, the public sees television coverage of OPEC meetings in Abu Dhabi, Geneva and other places and sees in the newspapers the simple banner headline ‘Arabs put up the price of petrol 60c a gallon’ or something to that effect and the public then believes mistakenly that the Arabs are the people who have put up the price of Australian oil. The truth is that the Prime Minister has put up the price of Australian oil.
What we have seen is tax by stealth. It is not a means of taxation where the Government is at the forefront saying: ‘We are going to collect another $2,500m in petrol tax from you’. What it is saying is that it will collect that tax, blame the increase in tax on the Arab states and hope that the Australian public will be duped into believing that OPEC fixes the price of Australian oil rather than the Canberra-based Commonwealth Government. So all of that money is being paid through the petrol pumps. It is like having a branch of the Taxation Office at every petrol station. What happens is that the money collected by the petrol station proprietor is sent back to the refineries. The refineries then pay the producer- Esso-BHP- which sends a great slab in excise back to the Australian Government. It is the greatest tax lurk in history. It proves over and over again that this Government does not stand for tax reform; it stands for increasing taxes. It does not stand for axing taxes, as somebody said recently. This whole question needs to be reviewed.
Where does the Australian Labor Party stand on this question? The Labor Party in government will break the nexus between the price of Australian oil and the OPEC or Arab price of oil. It will break the nexus with import parity pricing, as the expression is. The effect of that will be that petrol will be cheaper under a Labor government than it is under the present government. We are powerless to change the price of the onethird of our requirements of oil which is imported. The price of that oil will continue to rise. But if the price of the two-thirds Australian production did not rise, as it would not under Labor, the price of petrol would be lower under Labor than it is under the present Government. A future Labor government will break the nexus, and therefore reduce the inflationary impost of higher petrol prices without losing anything at the same time.
The Government has said that the maintenance of this nexus is encouraging exploration. That is just not right. Both the major parties in the Parliament believe in the policy introduced by the Whitlam Government in September 1 975 to pay import parity prices for oil produced from new discoveries in Australia. That is the current policy of both parties; that is the ruling price regime. In other words, if an oil company discovered a pool of oil, say, off Western Australia, that oil would automatically be priced at import parity. The reasoning behind that is that that is the price we have to pay for oil if we did not have our own supplies, so why not pay it to the Australian companies and then tax them on the difference in price? Rather, the Government is now making us pay the full price for oil which is produced from oilfields discovered ten years ago- oilfields which already have production facilities and which were producing oil in Australia at around $ 1 a barrel.
I do not think the Australian public understands that the Bass Strait oilfield- Bass Strait is the largest old oilfield in Australia- produces oil at around $ 1 a barrel and that the difference between $1 a barrel and $18.66 a barrel, which is the current price, represents a mixture of what the Government wants to take and what it wants to give the companies. That mixture presently works out as follows: The companies get $5 a barrel from which they deduct about $ 1 for extraction costs and production costs. That leaves them $4. They then pay $2 company tax. So the companies get $5 a barrel and the balance goes to the Government. One can see the heavy grab made by the Fraser Government into the pockets of the Australian motorist.
Under Labor that situation would not continue; it would be stopped. Therefore, this whole furphy that Labor would stop exploration by changing that policy is nonsense because we still believe in the policy of import parity on new discoveries; that is, by definition, new fields of oil discovered after 14 September 1975. That takes account of new exploration. We are really only talking about how an existing low cost oilfield is treated for price and taxation- whether one leaves the price at $2.10 a barrel, as it was, or whether one takes the price to $ 1 8.66 a barrel. This Government has lunged right in and taken the lot. We are saying that we will reduce the price that the Australian public pays for old oil but that we will be maintaining the policy of import parity on new fields yet to be discovered so that in the future we will have an adequate supply of oil and petrol to keep our cars running. The Government’s claim that it must charge this price to find new oil is just bunkum.
Let me turn to the other incidental question of liquefied petroleum gas. Liquefied petroleum gas- butane and pentane- is produced in two ways in Australia. It is produced from refineries and it is produced, as it is called, naturally occurring, that is, as a by-product of the oil production facilities in Bass Strait, Barrow Island and Moonie- at those three places in Australia. Liquefied petroleum gas is the material which is used in cigarette lighters, in campervan burners and in commercial applications. It is now used in automotive applications. Many taxis are using LPG, as it is called. The other application of LPG is for town gas in all of the provincial cities of Australia which are not connected to gas pipelines, such as Orange, Bathurst, Lithgow and Parkes in New South Wales and Bendigo in Victoria. In all of these places the gas used for domestic cooking and for commercial heating is liquefied petroleum gas which is brought to those centres by ordinary road tankers and then reticulated through the system.
The price of that gas has gone up from $52 a tonne two years ago to $ 147 a tonne. That means that there has been a 300 per cent increase in the price of liquefied petroleum gas. The liquefied petroleum gas produced in refineries in Australia is coming out at that price because under the Government’s policy the refineries have to pay full import parity for the oil which goes in as feed stock. The crude oil which goes into the refineries as feed stock and which produces the liquefied petroleum gas goes in at the import parity price. Therefore, the price of the LPG which comes out has to be in line with that price. That means that the price of the naturally occurring Bass Strait LPG has to be priced similarly, otherwise people will buy that LPG and will not take to the refinery LPG. We would then have a situation similar to that which we saw earlier in the year when the BP Australia Ltd refinery in Melbourne was flaring the LPG at night, resulting in a 200-feet flame above its refinery. Any energy policy which advocates doing that is, of course, a very silly one.
The Government has locked Australia into high energy prices. One of the spin-offs of that is that the people in the rural centres of Australia that I just mentioned who turn on the gas at home to cook their evening meals or to warm their houses are now paying three times the price they paid previously. I will give an idea of the sort of situation I am talking about. If a person living in Melbourne turns on a gas cooking stove or a heater for warmth the gas comes from the pipeline that is connected to Victoria. In the case of a person who lives in Sydney the pipeline is connected to Adelaide. Such a person buys that gas at $3 a barrel oil equivalent. People in country towns buy liquefied petroleum gas at a price of $ 1 8 a barrel oil equivalent. People who get gas from pipelines from the major gas producing centres get it at about one-sixth of the price that the people in rural towns have to pay. This is another consequence of the Government’s policy. People in country towns are complaining about it. They are saying to the Government: ‘We want you to reduce the price of liquefied petroleum gas.’ The Government, particularly the National Country Party which represents some of these areas, is starting to panic about this. It wants to reduce the price of liquefied petroleum gas but if it does so its whole policy will fall to pieces. The Government has a policy which it claims produces substitution of energy but when that substitution process starts to take place it is scared. It runs away from its policy and wants to subsidise prices. The whole substitution effect of the policy then falls to bits.
The policy is then a naked revenue grabbing policy for high oil prices.
The Government is caught in a cleft stick. It has put up the price of oil and, therefore, the price of LPG has gone up. If it were to lower the price of town LPG the substitution effect of its policy would fall down. It is the substitution and conservation effect that the Government is using to try to rationalise its policy. There would have to be virtually a bottomless pit of subsidies to keep the price of LPG in some kind of loose equality with the price of natural gas coming out of pipelines. The Government is hoist with its own petard. The high cost of energy is starting to hurt. Well it might. The Government’s policy is designed to fund the Budget deficit. The Government’s obsession with funding the Budget deficit has led to a $2,000m increase in oil prices. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet thought that this was the quickest, best and slipperiest way of getting $2,000m without the public really knowing where the money came from. At every petrol pump and gas cooker in rural Australia a tax man is taking money from people and sending it back to Canberra.
This is the highest tax Government in Australia’s history. That fact has to be brought home to the Australian public very clearly. In the three years of a Labor Government, average Commonwealth outlays were about 27 per cent of gross domestic product. In the present Budget Commonwealth outlays are 3 1 per cent of gross domestic product. That is the only way to look at Commonwealth outlays over a period of time in real terms. It is no good looking at inflationary dollars because inflation does all kinds of things to figures. We must look at Commonwealth outlays in terms of the gross domestic product of the country. In the three years of the Labor Government, Commonwealth outlays were 27 per cent of the gross domestic product. They are now 3 1 per cent of gross domestic product under the present Government. This is a big spending, high tax Government, it has placed the burden of tax on indirect taxes. The worst thing about that is that the man on a low income has to pay 29.5c per litre for his petrol which is the same price as a man earning $200,000 a year pays. In other words, the tax does not discriminate as to capacity to pay. Worse still, the lifting of the surcharge by the Prime Minister and the Government in this Budget has meant that the money which goes back to these people on low incomes is less than the amount that goes back to high income earners. Everybody pays an equal amount of tax regardless of income but the people on the highest incomes get the biggest payback. That is the kind of tax equity people get from the Fraser Government. The burden of taxation has been shifted from direct tax to indirect tax. This is a massive tax grab across the board. The Australian public should say no to higher petrol taxes. The next Labor Government will break the nexus between Arab oil prices and import parity. It will give Australians some benefit from their natural resources, one of which happens to be our natural oil and gas fields.
-The first sentence in the editorial of the Australian on 22 August aptly described the 1979 Howard Budget. It stated: lt is an honest Budget which has made an impressive fist of getting the deficit down.
Those words indicate the tone of the parameters in which the Fraser-Anthony coalition Government operates. It operates in a spirit of honesty and responsibility, secure in the knowledge that this country can have a great future only if we are cognisant of the needs of the present generation. The Budget was framed with the background knowledge of problems in international affairs and also distortions at home. I want to itemise some of the highlights of the Budget. As the Australian newspaper said, it sets an attack on the deficit of $2,200m- the domestic deficit is $875m- a total of 1.9 per cent of gross domestic product. That compares with the mammoth deficits of the Labor Administration.
At the outset, I make one comment about the speeches of members of the Opposition. They are not confident enough to let the Australian people know of their alternative Budget. They have been irritatingly vague about how they would run the country. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) said quite openly and specifically earlier in the year that the people of Australia have to be educated to a system of high taxation so that the Government can take more of the wage earner’s pay and do for him the things that it believes are appropriate rather than leaving the choice to the taxpayer. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) stands for higher taxes. He has said that a Labor Government would support a larger deficit. The previous speaker, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), raised a few criticisms of government policy. I will deal with those later. I remind him and the people of Australia who may be listening to the parliamentary debates that a larger deficit would have two disastrous effects. Before detailing these let me remind Australians that the Labor Party would call for more taxes. The Labor Party stands condemned on its policies. It would impose taxes on capital gains, wealth and resources. It wants to frighten away investment in this country. It wants to take away any profits that may accrue to people who are prepared to take the risks.
– It would bring back death duties.
– As the honourable member for Mallee said, it would bring back death duties. It is committed to all those policies which destroy confidence. A larger deficit will do two things: Firstly, inflame inflation and, secondly, increase interest rates. I remind honourable members that a short exercise on how inflation affects rural Australia comes up with this finding: Every one per cent increase in inflation results in a decrease in income to rural Australia of $60m a year. A one per cent increase in inflation rips from the Australian rural producers, the farming community, $60m. None of us is happy with the rate of inflation. But let us take stock of some of the things that the Australian nation has achieved. The rate of inflation in Australia, give or take a few percentage points, is around 9 per cent. In the United States of America it is 14 per cent. In the United Kingdom it is 22 per cent. The average inflation rate of countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is 12.9 percent.
– We are down to 8 per cent.
-I am reminded by the honourable member for Paterson that the inflation rate in Australia is 8 per cent.
– And going up to 1 2 per cent.
-Will the honourable member for Batman please keep quiet? He reminds me of an irresponsible person who burns down the house to roast the fatted pigeon.
-Order! I think that the honourable member for Batman might well stop interjecting because he is seated right below the honourable member for Darling Downs.
– We intend to continue our onslaught on inflation. As I have just pointed out, we are doing very well by world standards. There is a need to continue our efforts. Our export industries can remain competitive only if we in Australia have a manufacturing cost factor which allows us to sell competitively on overseas markets those natural goods which we can produce in great abundance. Here I give great praise to the Australian rural industry because our producers are the most efficient producers of farm produce in the world. But we fall down on the export market because of the high wage cost of turning those raw materials into exports. We have to maintain a competitive situation. But I cannot understand the trade union movement of Australia which is not alive to the situation. We now mine iron and coal in Australia and export it to Japan where the Japanese manufacture it into hardware, be it cars or heavy earth moving material, and then in order to protect the jobs of inefficient Australian workers we have to put a mammoth duty on those imports in order to make sure that the Australian product can be sold.
This Government’s policies are responsible policies. We do not subscribe to the Labor Opposition ‘s policy of taking the cash and letting the credit go. Under the Fraser-Anthony coalition, disposable household income in Australia in 1977 improved by 1 1.6 per cent. So in effect, the Australian housewife had 1 1 .6 per cent more money in real terms to spend in 1977 than she did in 1976. The situation kept on improving. In 1978 she had 12.8 per cent more money and the figures for the first half of this year indicate a disposable household income increase of 13 per cent. These are real and meaningful increases for the Australian housewife and the Australian worker. We are doing pretty well. I suppose it is true to say, without being boastful, but with a little bit of pride- and what is wrong with thatthat Australia is pulsating with energy and drive. We are getting on with the job of developing this great country.
Investment in plant and machinery this year as compared with last year is up by 10.9 per cent. Farm income is also up by 20 per cent. I congratulate the Australian farmers. Sure they had a good season, but they know how to apply the techniques of modern science to the improvement of agriculture. Private incomes have risen by 14.1 per cent. This is most important and I wish the honourable member for Blaxland had been interested enough to stay in the chamber and learn something about the heart and pulse of the Australian nation. The income-tax ratio, that is income tax and other direct taxes including fines, was 15.6 per cent of income last year whereas the previous year it was 1 7.2 per cent. All these things indicate that we are a government of low taxation; we are a government that believes in letting the Australian people do with their own money what they deem to be appropriate rather than adopting a big brother attitude and saying: ‘Thou shalt do what we tell you’. Those figures have been obtained from the quarterly national accounts of the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the years December 1 977 and 1978. We have adopted a policy of tax concessions and investment allowances, which combined have meant an increase in post-tax profits of 1 3 per cent over the last year.
This brings me to the question of employment. None of us in Australia is happy with the employment prospects and the employment position in Australia at present. Let us have a little bit of history; let us analyse what the problem is and how it came about. The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures indicate that in November 1972- and I am not going to itemise who was in power from 1972 to 1975-106,300 people were unemployed in Australia. By 1975 that figure had increased to 232,400- a massive jump of 126,100. That was under a government which had pledged to support the worker and to preserve the jobs of the Australian people. Those are the facts. That is what happened. What a pity the honourable member for Blaxland is not in the chamber to learn the truth. In August 1979 the unemployment figure was 376, 100.
I suppose it is true to say that these figures have increased because we now have more women in the work force. None of wants to engage in a philosophical debate about that but let me say that I support the statements of the Treasurer (Mr Howard), the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and my own leader who believe that it is appropriate for the Government to examine the proposition of the splitting of income in families where there is only one wage earner. Maybe this would lead to the development of a climate wherein married women would leave the work force because of the advantages that would accrue to the splitting of income and the attaching of a lower taxation rate to that one income.
It is to be regretted that people, including young people, are unable to obtain employment. However, few people are aware of the true situation as far as employment is concerned. In June 1979, civilian employment was 4,770,300. This figure was higher than the December 1975 total of 4,726,800. Full time employment for the last year- and I was delighted to note that the Prime Minister touched on this aspect in his excellent speech in the Budget debate- increased by 64,000. Private employment increased by 48,900 and government employment by 15,000. This means that, notwithstanding the huge number of people unemployed, 127,900 more people were employed this year than last year. That is an encouraging sign and a developing trend. I know of the great concern for providing employment opportunities to the Australian people shown by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite), the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) and the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O ‘Keefe). I endorse their great fight in providing employment opportunities for Australian people.
During the year 1974-75- and again I do not want to highlight who was occupying the Treasury benches at that stage- civilian employment decreased in those 12 months by 55,000. Private employment- and a private person was aware that the Labor Party was out to torpedo and sabotage his business- decreased by another massive 55,000. But government employment, the non-productive sector, the people who do not contribute much to productivity, increased by nearly 100,000. So we had a massive decline in productivity in the wealth creating industries of Australia and a massive increase in nonproductive jobs, all encouraged by a socialist government.
Of course that Labor Government was helped by a trade union movement which was determined to increase strike activity in Australia. I make an appeal to all Australians to forget about divisiveness in Australia, and unite and work towards ensuring a greater future for our country and for the people who are going to follow us in the generations to come. It is wrong that people are not prepared to move forward in tandem and in harness. I make a special appeal to trade union leaders and members of the trade union movement as far as the export of primary products is concerned. I know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you are fully aware of the situation in your home State. People in that State spoke through the ballot box a couple of weeks ago about what they thought of irresponsible trade union activity regarding the export of live sheep. A similar situation has now developed in the wheat industry. I ask the trade unions whether they really understand what they are doing. Do they know how wrong it is that a great export industry, a great income earner, can be held up because of a demarcation issue between two unions on some simple procedure? Do they not realise that because of a decline in world export prices for wheat, they have caused a drop in income for rural Australia of $20m that could have been spent by the farmers in improving their properties, thereby creating more employment opportunities in manfacturing industry and in developing their farms? I inform the trade unions that rural Australia will be contained no longer. Quite bluntly, we have had a ‘gutfull’ of irresponsible trade unions. I serve notice on the trade union movement that if its members are not going to load the wheat ships, whether they be in Fremantle, Gladstone or Brisbane, the Australian wheat farmer will. I know that in one State of Australia, that great State of Queensland, the farmers will be actively supported by the Queensland Government. If union members are not going to load the wheat ships, if they are not aware that they are denying their fellow workers a job, they should understand that people in the rural industry who have been silent will not remain silent.
Some comment has been made in this Budget debate about the allowances for the apprenticeship training scheme and the Special Youth Employment Training Program.
– Not enough.
– The honourable member for Griffith says: ‘Not enough’. I admire him. His policies are almost good enough to allow him to sit with members of the National Party. Certainly his policies are far removed from those of the left wing academics who are supporting the Labor .Party. But I should not be giving him this advice free. I remind the honourable member that it behoves him to study and analyse the Budget Papers. An amount of $25. 9m has been made available for apprentice training this year. Maybe it is not enough but it is a meaningful and significant contribution. Unfortunately, the Government has had to change the guidelines for the SYETP because some employers were abusing the system. Less money is being made available but the training period will be shorter and the payment, $45 a week, is lower than was the case previously.
I am delighted to see that once again the Government has proved to the Australian people that it has honoured its promise- that is a government that is open in its proposals in various areas. It has increased local government’s share of personal income tax from 1.52 per cent to 1.75 per cent. It is interesting to note that State government’s share by right- they do not have to come to Canberra cap in hand because it is spelled out in the formula- will be 39.87 per cent of personal income tax revenue.
– Once again I am indebted for a most pertinent and excellent comment by the honourable member for Paterson who said that this money is untied. The States can do whatever they want to do with it. It is not tied in any way. There is no direction from Canberra on how the money will be spent. I remind the States that they are partners with the Federal Government in this massive fight against inflation and it is necessary for them to reduce the deficit in an effort to bring down interest rates. The States have a responsibility. They should not adopt a policy of expecting manna from heaven every year. Under our federalism proposals the States have the right to impose a surcharge or grant a rebate on personal income tax. I hope that they will adopt that proposition because far too many State Ministers and members take the easy way out of telling their constituents, for cheap political gain and personal notoriety and popularity, that they would have given the people this road, this bridge, this school or this hospital if the Government in Canberra had given the States more money. If the States want more money let them be responsible, take it on the chin and increase income tax. They have the power to do this under various pieces of legislation.
It is worth reminding the House that this year the States will get $5,429.5m, an increase of $639. lm or 13.3 percent on the 1978-79 figure. I congratulate the editorial writer of the Sydney Morning Herald who this week, quite specifically, quite deliberately and quite accurately, spelled out that the New South Wales Government was able to adopt a policy of no increases in taxation only because of the generosity of the Treasurer in the Commonwealth Government. We are proud of the fact that we have decreased taxation. From 1 December, every wage earner in Australia will pay less tax. Notwithstanding what the honourable member for Blaxland said, there has been no increase in indirect taxes in this Budget. In actual fact, there have been certain decreases.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In case the people who are now listening to the broadcast did not hear what the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) said, I remind them that he said that this year the average taxpayer in Australia will pay an extra $7.50 every time he goes to the petrol pump to fill the tank of his motor car. He will pay that in petrol tax. That is an illustration of the responsibility of this Government. That is an example of what it is doing in relation to taxation. In fact, for the first time since the McMahon Government, a government is reintroducing into the Australian lexicon taxation by stealth. It is introducing it by imposing increased charges for petrol. Despite the fact that Australia is about 85 per cent selfsufficient in motor spirit, Australians are being asked to pay the import parity price of oil. They are being asked to pay massive sums of money to the Federal Government because, contrary to what the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) suggested, this Government has got itself deeper and deeper into hock. The successive deficits of this Government are in total much higher than the deficit which existed under the Labor Government. This Government is not only a high tax government; it is a government which year-by-year is putting this country deeper and deeper into hock. The reason for this is that the Government is not able to do what the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said as the Leader of the Opposition in 1975, the Liberals were quite sure they could do. I remind the House of some of the things that the Prime Minister said in December 1975. We hear a good deal of claptrap in this House about what may or may not have happened in 1973, 1974 and 1975. We are not often reminded by the Prime Minister of what he said when he was making his claim for power. He said: ‘Australia needs an immediate change of direction. What can be done immediately and must be done is to establish, for the first time in three years, sound and honest management of Australia’s affairs’. The words sound and honest management of Australia’s affairs’ are very interesting today. Today we heard something about the honesty of Ministers in this Government and we have seen something of the dishonesty of the Prime Minister of this country.
-Order! The honourable member is not entitled to reflect on the Prime Minister or any other member of this House. He will withdraw that comment.
-I withdraw. If I am not permitted to refer to the duplicity of the Government and its leadership I would like to refer to its mangement record. The Government’s promises in 1975 are quite clear. Before I quote those promises let us remember that in 1973-74 we saw the greatest crisis in the international economic system. It was the greatest crisis for capitalism since the 1930s. That crisis occurred throughout the Western world. What happened in terms of inflation and in terms of unemployment in that time affected every developed country in the Western world. No country escaped the rise in unemployment. No country escaped the rise in inflation. Despite the fact that the world was entering into a recession at that time this Government came to power on very firm promises. The Prime Minister, perhaps because he is not the most intelligent of people, perhaps because he did not read international newspapers, perhaps because he is obsessed with power -
-Order! I have already warned the honourable member that he must not reflect on any member of this House. He has not abided by that comment. That is a warning.
-In 1975, despite the facts that I am referring to, despite the reality of international economic recession at that time and the by-products of that recession, the Prime Minister -
-Mr Deputy Speaker, no one stopped the Deputy Prime Minister from saying those things about members on our side.
-Order! The honourable member for Batman will resume his seat. I cannot hear him while the honourable member for Corio is interjecting. Would the honourable member for Corio like to take a point of order?
– Yes. My point of order is that if you, Mr Deputy Speaker, examine the speech made by the Deputy Prime Minister you will see that exactly the same allegations were made against members of the Labor Party but apparently we are not allowed to respond. That is my point of order.
-I thought that debate was over.
– I am talking about the Budget debate, not the one this morning.
-The honourable member for Corio deserves an explanation for that. The Deputy Chairmen have had a discussion on that matter. As far as possible the Chair will not allow those sorts or remarks to occur again. I thank the honourable member for Corio.
-In December 1975 the Prime Minister- the Leader of the Opposition as he was then- said:
As a nation we are operating well below capacity.
We can attack the deficit by getting our economy working up to capacity.
I reiterate that the deficits have in fact increased under this Government. I repeat that in December 1 975 the Prime Minister- the Leader of the Opposition as he was then- said:
We can attack the deficit by getting our economy working up to capacity. Because of the slack caused by Labor, there are great opportunities for growth about the long-term average growth- if the right policies are adopted.
– I raise a point of order. I do not seek to interrupt the honourable gentleman but I remind him that the present Prime Minister was also the Prime Minister in December 1975. 1 am just pointing out a factual mistake.
-There is no point of order.
– I was referring to his policy speech as Leader of the Opposition. I repeat that he said:
Because of the slack caused by Labor, there are great opportunities for growth above the long-term average growth- if the right policies are adopted.
This Government has had four years to adopt the right policies. There is no doubt that the Government has had long enough. But the Government has not been able to adopt the right policies. It has not been able to achieve what it set out to achieve because it is premised on the wrong policies. It is premised on some basic misunderstandings of the nature of the economic crisis which faces the Western world and the nature of the problems which face Australian society. It is fundamentally because of the failings of that analysis and because of the simplicities of what the Government wanted to say and said in 1 975 for political reasons that it is in so much trouble at present.
I want to refer quite specifically to the amendment which is before the House. In referring to the Budget the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) described it as the most contractionary Budget since he first became a member of this House. It is a Budget which, at a time when the economy is more slack than it has been at any time in the 1970s, is designed, if anything, to reduce economic activity, to reduce the level of activity. In these circumstances the Government introduced this kind of Budget. It introduced a Budget which does nothing to resolve the fundamental immediate problem which the economy faces, that is the problem of a lack of domestic demand.
Furthermore, the Budget which the Government has introduced is likely to exacerbate that problem because it sets out, as the amendment suggests, to reduce the real living standards of Australian families. It is not going to take a great deal of argument to establish that that is a fact because this is the fourth of a series of Budgets which redistribute from the lower income people and the working people towards the wealthy. In the process it reduces the real living standards of the vast majority of Australians. One could refer to the measures in relation to health. There will be additional health charges on the individual, through health insurance, of up to $3.50 per family. One could refer to the petrol taxes to which I referred earlier. One could talk about the priorities in relation to expenditure on education in which there have been substantial transfers of funds from the government school system to the private school system and there have been substantial transfers of funds from the poorer schools to the schools which are already best equipped. The whole concept of needs in relation to education has been jettisoned by this Government. Or one could refer to the fact that direct taxation, apart from indirect taxation, will increase more rapidly during this year than wages and salaries. There is no doubt that this Budget will reduce the real living standards of Australian families; nor is there any doubt that it will increase unemployment to the highest level in the nation’s history.
Unemployment is already at that level. We can expect to see unemployment worsen considerably within the next 12 months. Indeed, if one examines the Budget Papers, one sees that that is what is predicated, that unemployment will reach even higher levels during the 12 months ahead. The Budget is likely to make that more rather than less certain. Furthermore, one can argue that measures in this Budget, particularly in relation to petrol prices and health, will facilitate and stimulate a fresh outbreak of inflation. At the very time when inflation is on the move again the Government introduces a number of inflationary charges which are likely to accelerate that particular movement.
It is absolutely extraordinary that a government which in four Budgets has said that it has no objective with a higher priority than reducing inflation, has introduced these charges. This Government has been prepared to sacrifice equity. It has been prepared to sacrifice important community programs such as housing, welfare, urban affairs and employment. But it has said that whatever else it does, it will bring down inflation. That is the Government which is now in office, but inflation is rising again. The member for Darling Downs ought to recognise that fact and come to terms with it if he is serious in what he says about the Government’s economic policy.
The fifth point I make is that the Government has failed to introduce in this Budget an effective job creation program, particularly for the young. The callousness of this Government has to be seen to be believed. At a time when we have the largest unemployment in our history, at a time when we have the most severe youth unemployment of any country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Government has cut one of its key programs in relation to youth unemployment, the Special Youth Employment Training Program, by over $30m. It has cut that program substantially. It has substantially cut the Community Youth Support Scheme. The member for Holt (Mr Yates) might shake his head, but that is a fact. That program has been cut. The Government has added some funds to the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprenticeship Full-time Training Scheme which, since it has been in operation, has not done very much at all. Last year there was a four per cent reduction in the number of apprentices even though that scheme was in operation. There is not a cent in this Budget to do anything to create jobs for the nation’s youth. I can understand why that may be. It was a Liberal-National Country Party Government that sacrificed a generation of this country’s youth through conscription and the war in Vietnam. Now, only a few years later, a government of the same ilk, is prepared to throw hundreds of thousands of young people on to the scrap heap because it is not imaginative enough to develop a creative program which might give those young people some sense of being part of this community.
This Government is prepared to stand all of that isolation, all of the social problems that it will bring over a long period of time. It is prepared to stand all of the costs, simply because it is determined to bear down on the economy. It is determined to create pressures on those who are employed so that they will not work towards achieving higher wages and higher living standards, thus enabling larger profits to be made and distributed to people in the community who already are among the more affluent and wealthy. It is in this context that we see the chopping back of training and retraining programs, and the largest tax revenue collections in the history of the nation. A government which claimed that it was a low tax government has turned out to be the highest tax government in this nation’s history. I think the honourable member for Blaxland has established that point. This is a high tax government. The Australian people are coming to believe that they cannot trust this Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) or this Government to redistribute wealth in any other way than in favour of the more affluent and powerful.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Yates) adjourned.
– by leave- On Thursday last I indicated to the House that the Government was re-examining its decision regarding the request for assistance to the Evatt Memorial Foundation. The Premier of New South Wales has written to me seeking advice as to the intention of the Commonwealth Government regarding a donation to the Foundation. I now wish to advise the House that a careful review of the earlier decision has been made. I have indicated to the Premier that in our deliberations we remained conscious of the notable achievements of Dr Evatt. He stands high in the history of Australia and we note the intention to commemorate these achievements by means of a memorial foundation. During our examination we learnt that the constitution of the Foundation provides that only current members of the Australian Labor Party National Executive are eligible to become members of the Foundation. Perhaps that needs some little explanation because the membership, as we can see it from the documents, is in two classes. The original members who did not have to be members of the National Executive of the Australian Labor Party come under clause 4 which states:
The first members of the association shall be members of the first committee.
Clause S states:
The persons eligible to become members of the association are current members of the Australian Labor Party National Executive.
Clause 7 states:
A person shall cease to be a member of the association if he (a) ceases to be a member of the National Executive.
It is therefore clear that this is a foundation which the Australian Labor Party is quite determined to keep in its hands. Coupled with that, some of the purposes of the Foundation, as revealed by one of the documents, indicate a very close relationship to the Australian Labor Party rather than to broader national perspectives. In other words, it is a foundation to remind people of the memory of a very distinguished Australian, Dr Evatt. It is also a foundation which maintains very close affiliations with one political party and, in part, for the purposes of that party and for the enshrining of the history of that party. As such we believe that it is not appropriate for a Commonwealth contribution to be made. These factors I have mentioned of course distinguish this foundation from other funds to which the Commonwealth Government has made donations. It is of course distinguished from the John Curtin School of Medical Research and the Clyde Cameron College, both of which have purposes that are entirely national and also from the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Trust. It ought to be noted that Dr Evatt, distinguished as he was, was not a Prime Minister. John Curtin and Sir Robert Menzies are two Prime Ministers who have had their memories perpetuated, one by a school ofmedical research and one by the Menzies Memorial Trust. They both made very distinguished contributions to Australian life, one from one side of politics and one from the other. These special considerations in regard to the Evatt Memorial Foundation in the view of the Government prohibit the Government from contributing in the way suggested.
-by leave- We regard the decision by the Government not to contribute to the Evatt Memorial Foundation to be a rather mean and narrow approach and taken for the wrong reasons. At least, the reasons given are not correct, as I am advised. I am advised that the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that only current members of the Australian Labor Party National Executive are eligible to be members of the Foundation is wrong. The Executive Committee of the Evatt Foundation consists of a number of people who are not members of the Australian Labor Party National Executive as well as a number of people who are.
– I think you might not have heard my earlier remarks. Under clause 4, the first members of the association will be the members of the first committee. They are not all members of the National Executive. That is quite plain; that is understood. But the persons eligible to become members of the association- under clause 5 of the Foundation’s documents, from which I am reading- are the current members of the Australian Labor Party National Executive. Then clause 7 provides:
A person shall cease to be a member of the Association if he (a) ceases to be a member of the National Executive . . .
-The Prime Minister has the advantage of me in one respect. I have just been given my copy and he has had one. The original statement made by the Prime Minister -
– That’s a disgrace.
– It is not a disgrace because we were only advised that this statement was to be made about a quarter of an hour before it was in fact made. If we had been given more time, we would have had all the material available. The original statement made by the Prime Minister in the speech that he had prepared and brought into the House was that his first reason for the Commonwealth’s not giving any donation to this Foundation was that only current members of the Australian Labor Party National Executive were eligible to become members of it. That certainly is not true.
Furthermore, he says that some of the purposes of the Foundation have particular Labor movement associations. He has not spelled out what he means by that. I assume that what he has in mind is the assumption that because the Evatt Foundation proposes to establish in Canberra a museum and a reference library, both of which will be related to Labor history, and will therefore record a very important part of Australia’s national heritage, that is somehow a party-political objective and therefore something that should not be supported by the Commonwealth Government. We do not regard that as being anything like a party-political approach. It is just recording an important part of this nation’s heritage, making sure that it is available in a form which would be capable of appreciation and use by people interested in Labor history, and that that is something which is worthwhile retaining. Of course, if the Prime Minister sees it differently, as he apparently does, such donations will not be made, but I must say that the important point is that if the Government takes this approach to the Evatt Foundation, which is patently not a political fund-raising activity at all, but rather one which seeks to record and to revere the name of a very famous Australian, we will have a very sour approach to the Menzies Foundation. We have not approached that in any political way at all, but because of the action of the Government in respect to the Evatt Foundation, I am sure that he will find on the part of people associated with the Australian Labor Party- not just members of Parliament but supporters throughout the country- a rather more sour approach towards the Menzies Foundation than would otherwise have been the case, and I regard that as unfortunate.
– I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the constitution of the Herbert Vere Evatt Memorial Foundation Incorporated.
CONSTITUTION OF THE HERBERT VERE EVATT MEMORIAL FOUNDATION INCORPORATED
The basic objects of the Association are:
In addition to the basic objects of the Association the objects and purposes of the Association shall be deemed to include:
A person shall cease to be a member of the Association ifhe:
The Office Bearers of the Association shall be:
Powers of committee
Conditions and Requirements of Donors
Auditor 2 1. (a) At each annual general meeting of the Association, the members present shall appoint a person who is not a mem ber or the public officer of the Association as the auditor of the Association.
Audit of accounts 22. (a) Once at least in each financial year of the Association, the accounts of the Association shall be examined by the auditor.
General and special meetings
Books of Accounts and Records
Accounts 26. (a) True accounts shall be kept-
of the property, credits and liabilities of the Association, and subject to any reasonable restrictions as to time and manner of inspecting them that may be imposed by the Association for the time being, these accounts shall be open to the inspection of the members of the Association.
Record of members
Record of gifts and donors
Selection and Removal of Applicants
Alteration of Rules
Income and Profits of the Association
– I thank the House.
– I am glad that we have now returned to a consideration of the Budget. I will not today take part in a snarling contest with Her Majesty’s Opposition. I do not think that is getting the country anywhere and I cannot see how it can possibly be understood to be a sensible way in which to approach the situation. The Budget that Parliament has before it has been well received. Already a verdict has been passed upon it. I refer to the election which took place in South Australia. I cannot see any point in going on about the Budget itself at the present time. There are a number of things in the Budget that affect people in my own electorate. Those people are the lower paid groups on the tax scale, those who are disadvantaged and the disadvantaged who will not seek prescriptions because they have no means of paying for those prescriptions. It is in these spheres that Liberal Party backbenchers are now trying to work out, with the help of the Government, some alleviation for these groups of people. In addition there are also the senior people who are on retired pensions. Although the Budget was the only Budget that could have been produced in the circumstances I would have thought that there are a number of groups of people in this country to whom we must show even more care. The Government looks forward to doing what it can in the next three months to readjust the taxation system to take care of those who have to bear the burden in the lower income groups.
No speech on the Budget would be complete without reference to the unemployed youth. There is nothing more distressing than this fact, and that was why last year, with the help of my friends and others, I wrote the paper Serve Australia. This was an effort to look at the problem of youth employment. There have been a number of other efforts to examine youth employment, particularly the recent release of a committee which worked for the Catholic bishops. I also agree with Professor Karmel. I wonder whether the people we are dealing with in this age group should in fact be paid the dole at all. Is it not our duty to make certain that they have some form of training? Am I to believe that there is not sufficient work both here and overseas for these young people? I am sorry; I cannot accept that situation. I hope that members on both sides of the House, including those who are connected with education and those who deal with the Community Youth Support Scheme and those who deal with apprenticeship, will try again to see whether this country, learning from the lessons of Europe and other countries, will devise a better scheme to look after young people who, for one reason or another, are unable to get employment.
In my own electorate I have four CYSS programs all working and great credit goes to those who operate them. One program deals with girls who cannot get a job and who are given office training. The rate of replacement of those girls in industry has been substantial and successful. A youth resources centre, where young people can learn carpentry, metal work and things which concern engineering, has been successful in placing in various companies in the Holt electorate young people who have not had a job. It is therefore right that I thank the industrialists who have taken the trouble to take on these young people who, for one reason or another, were unfortunate on leaving school. In Airlie Street there are a group of people who are trying to assist the young who have not had or who have lost the art of reading, writing, arithmetic and job application. That is a very interesting and valuable program. The fourth one, at Grassmere in Doveton, concerns the teaching and the assisting of young people who have not had a sufficient education at school. Only today I gave the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) a request from Mr Andrew Davis that the Government assist in this youth education scheme to take place at the Grassmere Centre. I am fortunate that the majority of people in my electorate, such as industrialists, the council, local government and the State Government take seriously the problem of employing or finding work for young people. There are a number of other serious matters in the education field. For example, I met the Asian students at Cleeland high school last week and there are Asian students at many other schools. There is the Dandenong high school and the Hallam high school and many such schools in the electorates of honourable members. Those Asian students who came here three or four years ago were given an undertaking in the high commissions in Kuala Lumpur, in the Philippines, in Bangkok and in Singapore that if they were successful in their secondary school education in Australia they would be staying on for their tertiary education.
What is going to happen to these people under the new scheme? I am glad to say I have seen one of the Minister’s advisers this afternoon. I am told the Government proposes to make a statement either this weekend or next. I hope it will safeguard the position of these young Asian students who are our guests and will preserve their right to carry on with their tertiary education.
The other matter I want to deal with is the question of hospitals. We are getting more and more building of houses in the area of Endeavour Hills and Cranbourne. I do not know what is happening. Who continues to prosper? There are more houses going up every day and more complications. I regret that people sometimes find there is no primary school readily available. I agree that transport is difficult. Transport belongs to the State. I agree too that there are problems of proper hospital services and facilities. Certainly the Dandenong hospital is a first class major hospital, but people who fall sick down in the Cranbourne area will certainly have to look for some form of hospital service in that area.
My real objective today is not to continue any further discussion on these subjects but to discuss the journey I made with the taxpayers’ money. I believe if an honourable member receives a gratuity from the Government in order to make an overseas journey it is his first duty, surely, to report to this House and to give his electors some account of what he did with the taxpayers’ money which he was given by the Parliament. I want to turn today to my visit overseas. I travelled 24,000 miles. I visited 1 1 countries and part of those 17 days were spent in the air. I received both before going and on return the enormous help of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Indeed, without its assistance I could not have achieved all I did in the time. I do not think this House or this nation should too glibly run down those who work in Foreign Affairs. They are being proved to be some of the greatest experts in the field of international relations. I found that out not only in Vietnam and in China but in Cyprus and the Middle East.
The world situation is really that Australia has been partially isolated from the major oil crisis because we have our own supplies. Everybody overseas considers that we have one of the highest standards of living in the world and that 14 million people on this continent are in possession of some of the world’s greatest energy supplies, including uranium. So far we have not been subjected to any threat, nor has there been much internal dislocation. We are having problems with our manufacturing industries- that is nothing new. These problems have to be faced by all countries in the Western world. We realise that places like Singapore, Korea and Taiwan are able to produce the things that we would like to sell; they produce them cheaper. These factors alone do not threaten the Australian industry. We simply have got to learn to make adjustments for the technical change in the technical world in which we are living.
The world situation, in fact, is far more stable than either the national media or the so called experts, both civil and military, can comprehend. It is unfortunate that their interest lies in sensation and drama. Both these preclude vision, understanding or wisdom. The danger of a world nuclear war by accident is much reduced because of the impact of the Cuba crisis which has not been forgotten. However, the increasing nuclear capacity to make weapons in India, Israel, Pakistan and perhaps Brazil is a matter for serious national concern.
The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks now going on in Moscow are proof that the Soviet Union and the United States would like to come to an agreement, and that the agreement should be honoured by the United States, but the discovery of a Soviet mechanised regiment in Cuba- even though it has been there since 1972- has caused some problems. A war between the Soviet Union and China is as illogical as it is unthinkable. At present both countries are discussing their relations in Moscow. I do not believe that these two countries will suddenly stop discussing their rivalry, because they are two rival marxist communist countries. Their statements about each other may mainly be for the folks back home. The balance of world power of course has altered and it must be accepted. The treaty of friendship signed by China and Japan last year shows that they are both sincerely interested in helping each other. Japan needs the raw materials and China needs the technical assistance. Indeed it can be said that their economies are almost complementary.
The other major event in world affairs has been the development of the new conciliation and consultation group. In any world crisis the following countries will consult immediately: The United States of America, Britain, India, Japan, Australia and other members of the Commonwealth. A fast and active world consultation group has been slowly developed to make certain that a war does not break out and get out of control. Of course there have been a number of scares. There have been Russian ships in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Even though the Soviet Union may decide to build more modern battle cruisers this should not cause us undue alarm. If the Soviet Union persuades Vietnam to build naval installations at Da Nang and Cam Ranh Bay that would be a matter of some concern to Japan and all of us in the Pacific area. Maybe the Soviet Union just wishes to demonstrate that she is a world power in practice as well as in theory. Therefore, I cannot see at present a major military threat being levelled against Australia. At present our neighbours do not have the naval capacity to lift a force to the mainland, to supply it or to give air cover. That does not mean that we should not be careful that serious internal disputes are not developing within Papua New Guinea.
I think that what the Budget has provided for defence is adequate. Having visited the armoured regiment at Puckapunyal last week to watch firing on the range and also having travelled in the Leopard tank I am satisfied that the readiness of Australian Armed forces, considering the size of the nation, is adequate, is perfectly valid and is a very valuable defence deterrent. The major point of my tour was to visit Vietnam to discuss with the Vietnamese Government the problems it is having with China and then to go to China, as the guest of the Chinese Government, to spend a fortnight in that country. Indeed, it would be wrong if I did not today say that I am deeply grateful to the Deputy Vice President of the Institute of International Affairs. He gave up a great deal of his time to discuss the Vietnam situation and also to listen to my views concerning Tibet and to the views I had to express to him from the staff of the Dalai Lama, whom I visited when I was in Delhi.
At the same time I had an opportunity to discuss trade between our two countries. It must be taken on the record that the present trade is worth $800m per annum- $700m in our favour. Therefore it is essential that the businessmen of Australia now take the opportunities that are available to them in the developing markets in China. The Chinese Government has recently passed a Bill through its parliament which permits Chinese companies to undertake joint ventures. It is therefore very interesting that I was able to take this news back to companies in my electorate and ask them whether they could assist the Chinese Government with some of the more modern technical applications of the refrigeration industry and things of that sort. Let it be not thought that China is not very technically advanced in any field it so chooses. I had an opportunity to go the motor factory in Peking to see army trucks being produced and to visit the machine tool industry in Kunming. Everywhere I was impressed by the number of young Chinese- and young Chinese girls- who were handling some of the most sophisticated and most modern machinery.
China today is certainly one of the world’s greatest powers. Its Government has shown far more interest in discussion of matters which concern law. It has now introduced its criminal code. China has also found quantities of oil and it has adequate quantities of other materials. Considering that today is China’s national day, I think it would be polite of me to extend the good wishes of myself and all other honourable members who wish to associate with me to the ambassador for China in this country when I go and see him in a moment, and ask him to convey my personal goodwill to the Government in Peking.
The visit in which I took part lasted a fortnight. I was able to travel on the railway between Chunking and Ch’eng-tu. I spent four days in Yunnan and I was able to see some of the old temples in Kunming. I am very glad to say that the Gang of Four was got rid of in time. One could hardly believe that it was actually about to put small factories into some of the most precious Buddhist temples in that part of the country. In Yunnan is the home of the tobacco growing industry. I am wondering whether some of the Australian tobacco companies will start buying Chinese tobacco. Why not? If there was a German buying mission there, they must have known that the tobacco of that part of China is low in tar content and is also low in nicotine. Therefore, there does seem to be a number of areas in which we ought to work together. Of course, one of them is the exploration of petroleum in the Gulf of Pohai. I must say to my Chinese hosts that I was deeply grateful for the opportunity to visit their country. Everywhere one sees Chinese they are always working, busy and active, and they are always bicycling.
Australia cannot prosper if the Federal Government runs deeper into debt. Australia can never help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. Therefore Australia cannot help small business by destroying big business. Australia cannot further the brotherhood of man and national unity if people preach class hatred. Australia can never build character and courage if the Government takes away man’s initiative. The Liberal Party philisophy stands for the protection of those who need protection. That is the party philosophy. It is the party of liberty and humanity. I commend the Government, and ask it please to make sure that all its Budgets are humane.
– The honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) deserves a little attention because of some of the points he made. I think all honourable members of this House would agree with him that it is highly commendable for Community Youth Support Scheme programs to train people in office work, metal work, carpentry or whatever. However, I think it needs stressing that training people in those particular activities will be training people for jobs that are fast disappearing, for jobs for which the demand is declining. It has been stressed in this House, particularly by the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) and others, that Australia now produces more food than ever before with only 8 per cent of its population on the land, whereas two or three generations ago perhaps 90 per cent of Australia ‘s people were engaged in that type of activity. We now manufacture more than ever before with only 1 5 per cent of our work force. The trend is accelerating rapidly. The intake of apprentices by Telecom Australia has virtually dried up because of technical changes. So it is necessary for governments to take an entirely new look at the employment position, not merely to continue to encourage the young people who want to take up traditional types of employment.
The threat of nuclear war was also raised by the honourable member for Holt. He spoke of war as being unthinkable. He spoke of the hope that resides in the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty agreements and the consultation network that has been set up between Japan, the United States and Commonwealth countries to ensure, as he said, that a war does not get out of hand. I would agree with his statement that there is no immediate threat of a major invasion of Australia. There are no powers that are likely to feel disposed to deploy the enormous naval and air forces that would be required to establish a beach head here. In World War II the combined forces of the two strongest powers on earth were amassed to cross 22 miles of ocean on D-Day. Our little moat happens to be more of a deterrent than that. But I would question the argument that because of that Australia should not feel that it would be a target in the event of World War III. There was a time when I believed that, as the honourable member said, it was unthinkable that we could have World War III. I no longer think this way. I belive that it is coming.
As the late Lord Russell said: ‘Man, since Adam and Eve ate the apple, has never refrained from any folly of which he was capable’. Before World War II, I can remember well the learned discourses by experts in politics and military arts about World War II being unthinkable, that it could not happen, that no sane person could possibly plunge the world into another world war because of the horrible nature of modern weapons. They said that it was even possible to wipe out whole cities in one mass bombing raidmass obliteration bombing, something unheard of in World War I. Of course, that proved entirely correct. Hamburg was wiped out. Coventry was wiped out, perhaps not in one night. Large slices of Berlin and other places were wiped out in mass bombing raids. From what we read of Idi Amin, of Pol Pot, and of some of the luminaries and leaders of the modern world, we can say that Hitler could not hold a candle to them for their brand of sanity, which one day is going to have its finger on the buttonwhether it be in Pakistan, Brazil, Israel or any country which at the moment is contemplating getting nuclear bombs or whether it be some bandit who reads one of the popular versions of the recipe for the home grown nuclear bomb, which is now a possibility. I believe that we are going to have World War III. I do so because the world has refrained from taking the essential step towards what is the only proven and known antidote to war, that is, to sit around a table before the war and not after- to make law and not war.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I wish to draw attention at this stage to further matters concerning the Aboriginal people and the provision which was made for them by the Government. According to the Northern Territory News of 9 September a further complaint was made by Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu, of the Northern Land Council, about pressures being placed on him or on the Council to agree to mining development at Nabarlek. I have adverted previously in this House to the pressures that were applied to Mr Yunupingu, in particular as Chairman of the Northern Land Council, to sign the Ranger agreement and how he in turn applied pressure to traditional owners to sign that agreement.
It seems that the Government has not learned from its disgraceful exhibition on that occasion what a demoralising effect it has on the Aboriginal people and particularly on traditional land owners when they are not consulted, do not have the agreement explained to them and are given an ultimatum which says: ‘Sign or else’. The implication was that if they did not sign they could lose the Northern Land Council, the Land Council could lose some of its rights, the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act might be amended, or the Government might appoint an arbitrator. In any case, any of those outcomes was more likely than the appointment of an independent arbitrator to determine Aboriginal land rights in the event of the Aboriginal people not toeing the line and not signing the agreement which the Government felt they should sign within the time specified by the Government. Various allegations were made by senior Ministers. Some of them were closeted for hours with Mr Yunupingu, particularly the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who also assists the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and is a member of the Cabinet.
The mining companies concerned, in which the Government has a major interest, delayed for many months replying to the initial proposals put by the Northern Land Council on behalf of the traditional owners. Yet the Aboriginal people were expected to respond within six weeks to the request to sign on the terms put forward by the Government in the mining interests. There was no opportunity for the local owners to have a translation of even the simplified English version of the agreement. They were harangued for some hours by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Chairman of the Council in a way that alleged that they were responsible for holding up the progress of Australia. Four of the owners were induced to sign the agreement and a great celebration was then held at which souvenir pens were handed out. But at no time did the bulk of the owners or any members of the Northern Land Council feel that they understood what was being signed, why it was being signed or what their options were. In fact, no options were put to them.
The then Minister and the Government have alleged that tapes were prepared in order to put the Government’s proposals to those people in their own language. We have had no report in detail to this Parliament as to how these tapes were distributed, what facilities the Aborigines had for listening to them, whether the proposal was discussed with them after they had heard these tapes and, if they heard them, whether they were told that this would be the basis of the ultimatum that was being offered to them. I am sure that this has been a major factor in the loss of confidence of various Aboriginal groups in the Northern Land Council. There are now moves for various groups, such as the Walpiri people, to set up their own independent land councils. They feel disillusioned and let down. It seems that even though Mr Yunupingu has been induced to work for the Government in these negotiations, he is still complaining of pressure being exerted over the Nabarlek agreement.
I think that it is high time that the Government brought forward in this House for debate- it has been debated in the Senate and carried unanimously- the motion which Senator Bonner moved in that chamber and which I have placed on the Notice Paper of this House though in terms adapted to this House. That motion recognises the prior ownership of this nation by the Aboriginal and island people and expresses the need for the Government on behalf of the later settlers who have dispossessed the Aboriginal people to make some firm and lasting commitment to compensate them for that dispossession. We have succeeded not only in wiping out whole tribes, language groups, nations, if you will, of Aboriginal people- this is so not only in Tasmania but also more particularly in the south eastern States- but also we have gone far to destroying other Aboriginal tribal structures throughout the nation.
– Since 1788. It is time that we did what has been done by the invading and conquering settlers in other British possessions, including New Zealand, North America and even South Africa, where formal treaties have been negotiated with particular national groups, tribal groups or language groups. It may be that we can negotiate a single agreement with a body that speaks for all of the Aborigines of this country, but that is a matter for them to determine and to negotiate.
I commend to all Australians for discussion the proposals put forward by non-Aboriginal Australians headed by Dr H. C. Coombs. I hope that the negotiations involving those proposals will result in the emergence of a form of covenant or treaty of commitment between the present Government and the Aboriginal people. It will be a disgrace if something is not negotiated between now and 1988. I think that some move should be made this year. I think that the land rights issue has been expressed in the policies and platforms of all the major parties as a matter which is vital to the preservation of Aboriginal culture and to the recognition of the right of Aborigines to their identity and to selfmanagement. If the Aborigines do not have some guarantee of land that they can call their own, of some permanent economic structure to replace that land in cases where they cannot be permanently identified with it, then we are condemning them to an inferior status which should not be tolerated in this day and age.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Neil) adjourned.
– by leave- I take pleasure in reporting on the implementation of the Galbally Report on Post-Arrival Programs and Services to Migrants. For the information of honourable members, I table a summary of the action taken to date. The summary is in the form of an up-dated edition of the Galbally Information Kit which in previous versions has been circulated to a number of people closely associated with implementation. It covers the first year of activity and indicates continuing progress. At this stage of the implementation program, 13 recommendations can be counted as fully implemented, whilst progress on the others continues to be closely monitored by the committee of senior Commonwealth public servants forming the Galbally Implementation Task Force.
In proceeding to implement the 57 major recommendations of the Galbally report, the Government is upholding a principle that I believe all Australians regard as underpinning our society: The principle of equal opportunity. The theme of the Galbally report is the need to overcome the disadvantage migrants experience when they are newly arrived or when, as has been allowed to happen over the past 30 years, they have accumulated a backlog of unmet needs. The Galbally implementation program can be seen as supportive and remedial in that it responds to needs that are currently perceived. It will also prevent future problems because it anticipates future needs, ensuing that people arriving in Australia now and in the future will reach the goal of self-reliance as equal members of our society more quickly than many of their predecessors. The summary will enable honourable members to trace for themselves the progess on individual recommendations. The main points are described in it. Where possible, my Department will provide honourable members with further detail on particular initiatives. In this statement I shall highlight the main lines of progress. The progress already achieved has required a massive administrative effort.
This Government is concerned with action. In accepting the Galbally report, the Government saw the need for quick action as a sign of good faith. Within a few weeks of receiving the report, the Government had accepted its recommendations and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had made its commitment public by tabling the report in this House. That was on 30 May 1978. Within days of the tabling, the administrative machinery was in gear and, within a few weeks, progress on some recommendations -notably those for which the Commonwealth alone is responsible- had been made. Initial approaches were being made also to gain the cooperation of State governments. There was quick action to make good the promise the Galbally report held for that section of the community which it had identified as suffering considerable disadvantage.
Before proceeding to implement the more complex recommendations, the Commonwealth needed to consolidate its position. Whilst my Department has carriage of 3 1 of the 57 recommendations, 12 other departments have been actively involved and the levels of co-operation they have reached in the course of implementation are a feature of the program. Commonwealth departments had to look to where Galbally programs fitted with other on-going programs and to realign priorities. Ethnic liaison officers working at senior levels within all Commonwealth departments and most statutory bodies continue to raise awareness of the special needs of migrants, refugees, and ethnic groups, thereby influencing the planning of programs and services.
Building on the framework of existing, ongoing programs, the Galbally report costed the additional Commonwealth expenditure required at close to $50m. The Galbally report is now something that goes beyond the work of its creators. The Commonwealth Government accepted the recommendations and timetable proposed. It has accepted the financial commitment entailed. There is some explanation of the financial considerations in the document I have tabled, but I want to emphasise a few points. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) has indicated that there is provision this year of some $ 1 5m for Galbally initiatives in migrant programs and services.
That compares with expenditure of $4.7m in 1978-79. Neither of those figures represents the full extent of the Commonwealth commitment to the welfare of migrants. We have to remember that expenditure recommended in the Galbally report refers only to additional Commonwealth expenditure. The Galbally program is additional to, and an increment on, other programs. In fact, the report stressed that as far as possible the needs of migrants- some 20 per cent of the population- should be met by general programs directed at the whole community.
Some measure of the impetus the Galbally program is giving to on-going programs can be made from looking at the appropriation proposed this year for my Department. We have an increase of $1 1.7m in expenditure this financial year to bring the total to $73.4m.
That is an increase of about 19 per cent in money terms and a significant increase in real terms. Just over half of this expenditure, about $37.7m, is for provision of various kinds of settlement services. The Galbally program is giving impetus to many individual programs not specified in the report itself but which reflect the spirit of the report. Moreover, the impact of the Galbally report is reaching beyond Commonwealth responsibilities and is helping to stimulate action and expenditure by State governments and by community organisations including those representative of ethnic groups. As implementation advances, therefore, it is increasingly difficult to match progress to a single time-table. We cannot look too narrowly at the way in which the Galbally report links action to expenditure over a three-year implementation period- year 1, year 2 and year 3- especially if one looks at those three years as 12-month periods beginning from the Prime Minister’s statement of May 1978.
It is a mistake, however, to see the Galbally program solely in financial terms. The effects of the Galbally program go well beyond those of purchasing power. We are re-ordering priorities. The 57 recommendations are not consecutive; they cannot be ticked off like a shopping list. The program is constructing a new vehicle taking new routes in the delivery of programs and services to migrants. As well as changes of direction, it introduces structural changes. The changes of direction give a new emphasis to orientation on arrival and, to encourage self-help, also require a transfer of resources from government to voluntary community agencies. The structural changes involve a network of community based settlement councils, settlement committees, settlement centres and migrant resource centres. They involve reshaping the adult migrant education program, giving impetus to multicultural education in schools and in the community and upgrading the teaching of English as a second language. It is a program for the future as well as the present.
At every point in the implementation program the special needs of migrant women are being taken into account, although it is not always easy to determine the extent to which migrant women are disadvantaged as migrants or disadvantaged as women. The Office of Women’s Affairs is overseeing the implementation of recommendation 43 which requires that women’s interests be met in all aspects of the program. We are taking into account the National Women’s Advisory Council report entitled ‘Migrant Women Speak’ which my colleague, the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott), tabled on 6 June. We are taking account of the recommendations of the National Conference on the English Language Needs of Migrant Women held in Melbourne during May this year. Women are involved in every aspect of the implementation program as professional planners, as advisers, as service deliverers and, significantly, as community volunteers. At least one woman has been appointed to each settlement council and we are urging that women to be included on the committees of management that run the migrant resource centres. Material prepared for on-arrival orientation courses is emphasising women’s needs. The survey of migrants’ information needs will reflect the views of women. More than half the people consulted in the qualitative phase were women and, as far as possible, men and women were interviewed in equal numbers during the quantitative phase. Other examples of the emphasis on women’s needs can be found within the document I have tabled tonight.
Allowing that some of the 57 recommendations overlap, it is still possible to sort them into three compartments with connecting doors: First, those covering initial settlement, meeting the immediate needs of migrants on arrival; second, those providing what might be called back-up services, helping newcomers towards full participation in the Australian community; third, those recognising the cultural diversity which characterises Australia today.
With the on-arrival program, we have made substantial progress in building up settlement services and education facilities covering orientation and English language courses. Eighteen months ago there was no particular on-arrival program. In the financial year just ended, nearly 8,000 adults attended courses of up to 12 weeks’ duration and many went on to take advantage of the further courses being offered in the community as part of the back-up services. To meet the new requirements of the on-arrival courses, stressing the things people need to know immediately upon arrival, teaching materials are being supplemented and distribution of orientation material covering more than 120 subjects will begin soon. Thousands of copies are being produced in a variety of languages reflecting the composition of the current intake.
The on-arrival program is setting up structures that will remain effective well beyond the implementation period. All the elements of this complex program should be fully operational by the end of 1 979. Since conditions vary from one part of Australia to another, the point of arrival is one of many variables affecting the individual experiences of newcomers. With the cooperation of State and territorial governments, we have set up all eight of the settlement councils which in each State and mainland Territory have the responsibility of identifying local needs. We have set up 12 settlement centres, each with its own regulating committee- that is, one centre at each of the 12 hostels now in use compared with nine, envisaged in the Galbally report. While these centres are located in hostels, they are not exclusively for hostel residents but, wherever possible, are open to the surrounding communities. Similar centres are being set up at locations outside hostels.
In establishing this network, we are having to take account of current and likely changes in the migrant intake, especially recognising the proportion of refugees. Very early in the implementation program, my Department diverted staff to begin the work mapped out for settlement coordinators and settlement officers. Since then more than 2,500 people have applied for some 45 positions associated with Galbally programs advertised by my Department. To fill the positions we have taken time to ensure that we select the people best qualified for the tasks. The short list of applicants, including a number of people from outside the Public Service, is now being considered and persons are starting to take up duty.
Substantially more services are now available from within the community. These back-up services are designed to support newcomers as they move into the broader community. It makes sense, therefore, that they should be communitybased, drawing as far as possible on the voluntary efforts that Australians have always been willing to make. As the Galbally report noted, ethnic communities are keen to help their members. We have acted quickly to get money flowing to ethnic and voluntary organisations. In the first year of implementation, 39 new grants were given under guidelines set in accordance with Galbally recommendations and, in addition, after careful assessment, 34 grants held under an earlier program were included in the new scheme. Thus, a total of 73 grants was made in 1978-79 as a result of Galbally recommendations, all for three-year as opposed to one-year terms. Forty-eight special project grants with total expenditure of $150,000 were made in 1978- 79 to encourage self-help among ethnic groups and to help trade unions in providing welfare services to migrant members.
The first migrant resource centre under Galbally programs opened in Melbourne on 4 July and the one in Darwin on 3 August; Geelong and Hobart, with a branch in Launceston, will open soon. By the end of this year- 1979- ten will have been established, the other locations being Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, the Sydney suburb of Liverpool, and Wollongong. Another four will be established in the first half of 1 980 at locations to be decided. In response to needs that have emerged during implementation, the Government has advanced the original time-table and increased its financial commitment to resource centres. All these centres are being run by community groups in which migrants, including migrant women, are represented. Different patterns of management and activities are emerging, reflecting local circumstances, needs and interests.
Government and non-government agencies alike will be reappraising their services in the light of results from the extensive survey into the information needs of migrants and the channels through which they communicate. These results are now coming to hand and will be made public soon, along with guidelines on how they might be used to enhance communication to and from ethnic communities. Several Galbally recommendations hinge on the results of this survey. For that reason, our desire to produce usable data quickly has been tempered by a desire to ensure that the data is soundly based. At another level, communication is already improving through the extension of interpreting, translating and bi-lingual facilities. The Telephone Interpreter Service, now amalgamated with the translation unit of my Department to maximise the capacity of both, has extended to localised services in Canberra and Hobart and, by exploiting new technology, we expect to be able to exceed the Galbally proposal. Through a switching system linking rural areas with capital city services backed by locally engaged panels of interpreters and translators, it will be possible to cover significant concentrations of migrants outside major centres. This is a unique Australian system providing a valuable service which we are working to extend to most people in Australia requiring interpreting and translating assistance.
The Adult Migrant Education Program operates widely throughout the community. This is an example of the Galbally report re-shaping an existing program. From an appropriation of some $24m to adult migrant education this year, an increase of $6m on expenditure in 1978-79, about $2m is directly related to Galbally initiatives. The recommendations and guiding principles of the report are being applied in the general program. Courses and learning opportunities other than those at the on-arrival stage are attracting about 100,000 enrolments a year. Those learning opportunities are being reviewed to match better the differing needs of students of differing levels of ability and fluency in English. The Home Tutor Scheme is being extended along with courses in industry. The objective is to have 11,000 people being helped under the Home Tutor Scheme this year compared with about 9,000 last year. Initiatives are being taken in teacher development and important surveys and studies of language needs are under way. Action has been taken to improve the content of courses.
We are proceeding also with pilot courses enabling groups of professionals with overseas qualifications to improve their knowledge of English and groups of Australian professionals to improve their knowledge of ethnic cultures and community languages. Again, in this area, we have drawn on the expertise available within the community- funding courses mounted through tertiary institutions, two large Melbourne hospitals and with the assistance of, in one case, a community organisation and the Victorian Government. That participants in these courses had to be selected from hundreds of applicants indicates that the concept meets a widely-felt need.
Recognition that English is not the only language in daily use in Australia is a prerequisite for supporting newcomers in their programs towards equality of opportunity. It is also a reminder of the way our society has progressed in its development towards what the Galbally report calls ‘a united, cohesive, multicultural nation’. Following the precedent the Prime Minister set when tabling the Galbally report, I am arranging to have the statement I am making now translated and published in a similar range of community languages.
Multiculturalism is a concept we and others in the world know too little about. Following recommendations from a five-member interim council, which sought and analysed a number of submissions from a wide range of organisations and individuals throughout Australia, the Government has introduced legislation to set up an Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs as a statutory corporation. The Institute will be located in Melbourne. Formal machinery is being set up to provide advice on migrant education and multicultural education. It allows for representation of Commonwealth, State and non-government authorities, parents, teachers and ethnic communities.
Facing the facts as we now know them, we have made considerable progress on the other recommendations the Galbally report made in this area. We have provided extra funds- more than $lm this school year- to enable government and non-government schools in all States to upgrade the teaching of English as a second language. For that purpose the schools systems this year are able to draw on Commonwealth funds totalling more than $28m. Additional funds have been allocated also to promote multicultural educational activities, initially by increasing opportunities to learn languages other than English. A Commonwealth-States working party has been set up to identify the exact nature and extent of unmet needs in the teaching of English as a second language in schools. At another level, the Australia Council reports that, through its various boards, it has moved to increase substantially its support to the ethnic arts and ethnic artists.
It has been somewhat more difficult to obtain quick results in areas requiring changes of legislation by the Commonwealth and States- for example, in resolving anomalies in voting rights. It is difficult also to get quick results in other areas- for example, social security, where it is necessary to settle principles on which discussions and negotiations for agreements with other countries might proceed. Nonetheless, progress is being made.
Broadcasting presents huge technical as well as administrative challenges. In this formidably expensive field, we have to make sure that resources are used effectively. Honourable members may have seen the historic innovation of ethnic television which, in its experimental phase in Sydney and Melbourne, was designed to test some programming options on which a permanent service can be based. Further experimental programs are being prepared for transmission. Technical difficulties delayed the extension of ethnic radio from Sydney and Melbourne to Geelong, Newcastle and Wollongong. But translator services are now in operation in Newcastle and Wollongong, and the Sydney and Melbourne transmitters will have increased strength within the next month or so. Over the coming year further government-supported ethnic programs can be expected in such cities as Adelaide, Perth, Canberra and Brisbane.
From the outline I have given it can be seen that progress has been substantial. It is not complete. I have been talking of the starting points in a three-year program. We have made a good start. We are still moving quickly in areas for which the Commonwealth alone is responsible or mainly responsible. Except in the education field, we are having to move more slowly towards agreement on some of the 19 recommendations which impinge on State responsibilities.
For the most part, we have encountered goodwill and co-operation in our negotiations with the States; for the most part, they share our concerns and our sense of priorities. We have, by agreement, extended the scope of recommendations to cover needs in the two mainland Territories. Resulting from discussions with migrants, ethnic and other organisations and State and Territory administrations, we have made adjustments to the program, following in this the advice tendered in the Galbally report itself. For example, instead of making grants to the States for employing ethnic workers for the aged, we are making grants direct to ethnic organisations through the grant-in-aid scheme. We have reached agreement with Victoria on cost-sharing arrangements to boost translation services within the State-the Commonwealth will pay $ 140,000 representing 100 per cent of costs in the first year and 50 per cent up to agreed amounts in the second and third years. We are negotiating similar agreements with two other States.
Four States and the Northern Territory have accepted the Commonwealth’s offer of 100 per cent funding in 1979-80 for the employment of additional ethnic health workers under the Community Health Program. Commonwealth funding will continue in 1980-8 1 and 198 1-82 at a 75 per cent level, with the State authorities generally contributing the balance. In addition, a Government initiative closely associated with the spirit of the Galbally report, but which goes beyond the recommendations of that report, is the Commonwealth’s invitation to the State and Northern Territory health authorities to submit proposals for the funding of additional health interpreters and translators. An amount of $940,000 has been earmarked under the Community Health Program for this purpose in 1979-80. The level of Commonwealth funding for health interpreters and translators is to be at a 100 per cent level in 1979-80 and for two years thereafter at a 75 per cent level. Along with its medical research activities, the newlyestablished Migrant Health Unit within the Commonwealth Department of Health, with the co-operation of health authorities in the States and Territories, is building up a comprehensive picture of health information currently available to migrants so that the gaps can be plugged.
In seeking to share resources equitably, we are having to reach agreement on areas of greatest need. We are not neglecting the needs of migrants in rural areas which, whilst perhaps different in degree, may be no less pressing than the needs of individuals in greater concentrations of population. We are faced, of course, with competing claims, all of which are more or less pressing. These can be resolved only by the exercise of judgment based on an overview. We are faced with claims that go beyond what any government can reasonably meet at once. There has been criticism too which has balanced out- some have claimed we are moving too quickly, others that we have moved too slowly. Many have been keen to offer advice, and in no way do we wish to discourage those who have advice to offer. We are making sure, nevertheless, that not just the loudest voice is heard.
Competing claims, differing needs, differing aspirations make the question of direct consultation with ethnic communities all the more important. As I have noted already, the Commonwealth accepts the view that people who will be affected by decisions should have an influence on those decisions. Commonwealth departments engaged in the implementation program are consulting directly with ethnic representatives. Through the Galbally Implementation Task Force and through the regional offices of my own Department and other departments, very extensive consultations have been held on general as well as on specific issues. This exchange will continue and increase as, in line with Galbally recommendations, we refine the mechanisms for consultation and co-ordination.
At Commonwealth level, the Australian Ethnic Affairs Council, which advises me on all aspects of ethnic affairs, and the ethnic liaison officers appointed at senior level in Commonwealth departments and statutory bodies have important roles to play in consultative and coordinating processes. My Department will soon have 1 1 ethnic affairs officers operating at State and regional level, responsible for developing two-way links between the Commonwealth network and ethnic communities. Within the community, we have a valuable source of advice through the newly-established network of settlement councils, committees and resource centres, in all of which local ethnic representatives have a major voice. In the end decisions must be taken by the Government- the elected representatives of all the people. I am confident that the decisions the Government is making now and will continue to make in the interests of migrants are firmly based in the genuine desires of the community and the people they affect. I am confident also that, in the wake of the Galbally report, the whole Australian community is more aware than it was of the problems newcomers can experience and, by and large, is also more sympathetic to action to avoid or overcome these problems.
The Prime Minister, when he tabled the Galbally report in this House on 30 May last year, spoke of the need to evaluate the implementation program. That this role is being carried out by the Social Welfare Policy Committee of Cabinet indicates the importance the Government attaches to it. The Galbally Implementation Task Force has made frequent reports to that committee. Furthermore, Mr Frank Galbally has been appointed to advise me and the Task Force chairman on the detail of implementation, thus ensuring a continuity that preserves the spirit of each recommendation. Other members of the original Review Group, each having day-to-day contact with ethnic groups in the States, have been consulted from time to time. The Australian Ethnic Affairs Council is also providing valuable advice to the Government as well as involving communities through public meetings.
The Government reaffirms its commitment to the program recommended in the Galbally report. It reaffirms the commitment to monitor developments and adjust actions so that they respond to community wishes. As we proceed through the implementation program, we will be building on the firm base that has been laid. In meeting current needs, we will not neglect our longer term responsibilities to future migrants. In providing for today, we are building for tomorrow. For reasons I have made clear on other occasions, this Government sees immigration as a key element in planning Australia’s future. When we welcome newcomers in future, we will be offering to share with them our ideal of a society in which all have equal opportunity. We are ensuring that the welcome carries with it full access to the benefits of our society. We are acting now to give the ideal a firmer grounding in reality.
Mr Deputy Speaker, if I may be allowed one final remark, I have been using the term Galbally report’ as a familiar reference to the report of the Review of Post-Arrival Programs and Services to Migrants. Present and future migrants owe much to the members of the Review Group- Miss Francesca Merenda, Mr Carlo Stransky, and Mr Nick Polites. No less a debt is owed to Mr Frank Galbally, who chaired the Review and has taken a continuing interest in the implementation program.
– by leave- The statement of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) was a long and beautifully worded statement which I am sure sounded marvellous to those listening to the broadcast. I will try to deal with the very few hard points in it which I hope will indicate that it is mainly a statement of intention rather than of achievement. We are told that the need is to get a closer liaison between members of the ethnic community and the rest of the Australian community. This closer liaison begins, of course, with Commonwealth Government departments. Therefore, ethnic liaison officers have been appointed at senior levels to try to raise an awareness in government departments of the special needs of migrants, refugees and ethnic groups generally. One can only say that, judging from the reactions of many migrants, these workers- I am not criticising their efforts- have a long way to go. That is not necessarily a criticism of the Minister or of those people but it does highlight the enormity of the problem that is confronting the whole of the community.
If we make a more detailed examination of what really has been done, we find for a start that the Minister’s statement indicates that the Galbally report proposals were costed at something like $50m over three years. This represents a very meagre increase in expenditure on migrants by the Government compared with the funds provided already under initiatives of the Labor Government. This sum of money sounds good if we just say it and then forget that it is to be provided over three years. Realising that, however, really it is not such a great increase in expenditure, particularly when one bears in mind that as a condition of the Government’s accepting this proposal it withdrew the right of migrants to claim as tax deductions the funds that they send overseas to maintain their dependants. The reality is that as a result of that move migrants as a group will lose $20m in the first year. However, taking into account wage increases and the consequent increased taxation they will pay, that sum becomes even higher. If we look at the sum in terms of the actual yearbyyear expenditure, we find that in the first year the sum spent on the Galbally proposals was a magnificent $4.7m. That is a profit to the Government of $10m. In the coming year there will be expenditure of $ 15m but, given the fact that migrants are losing the sum that I have mentioned- $20m- that is a profit to the Government of $5m. Another point about this matter is that most of these programs were started by the Labor Government and considerable funds, although not enough, were made available by that Government. If we take into account the effects of inflation and the fact that most of the increases in funding in this area are attributed to the Galbally report proposals, we find that the increase in expenditure often lags behind the rate of inflation. It is barely enough to keep up with the losses incurred due to inflation. The Galbally report mentions the needs of migrants and the relevant part of the Minister’s statement reads:
The report itself stressed that as far as possible the needs of migrants- some 20 per cent of the population- should be met by general programs directed at the whole community.
We agree with that. That is precisely the way in which we provided services. We tried to ensure that services for migrants would be available within the service departments and that there would be sections within the departments of Social Security, Health and Education to deal with the needs of migrants. Of course, the policy of this Government has been to centralise all these things back into the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, which is quite contrary to the spirit of the Galbally proposals.
We are told that this year there has been an increase in expenditure of $ 11.7m on the total programs of the Department, bringing the expenditure up to a grand total of $73.4m. But just over half of this expenditure- about $37.7m- is a provision for various kinds of settlement services. Let us not forget that in the last couple of years there has been an enormous increase in the influx of refugees into this country. An enormous proportion of this funding is really for the emergency services necessary to cater for these refugees, who will prove to be far more expensive than the usual run of immigrants. Once again, and taking that factor into account, we find that the expenditure on services for the number of migrants that we expect to arrive is far less than it ought to be.
We are told that the program is constructing a new vehicle to take new routes in the delivery of programs and services to migrants and that structural changes involve a network of community-based settlement councils, settlement committees, settlement centres and migrant resource centres. Those are marvellous and very clever ideas. We agree completely with the concept of self-help and community-based organisations. They are wonderful in principle and enable members of the community to help themselves. But if community-based organisations are inadequately funded they cause heartburn only to the many people working in them. They have no real support and people are struggling to deal with the problems facing them and fellow members in the community while the Government off-loads the burden onto those organisations. That, in my view, is really what the Government has done. By saying it is right to have community groups involved and then giving the responsibility to those community groups but without adequate funding, what it has really achieved is a reduction in the financial responsibilities of the Government. That, in my view, is the real outcome of the structural changes that have been involved.
The Minister says that we have to give a great impetus to multi-cultural education in schools and in the community and we have to upgrade the teaching of English as a second language. Of course, we agree with all that. But, of course, again given that we have had this problem- that is how we have looked at it- of immigrants to this country for many more years than the last two or three and even longer than the three years that the Labor Government was in power, far too little has been done and far too little is being done at this stage. The Minister talks about the special needs of migrant women. He says then- needs are being taken into account. If the actions being taken in respect of migrant women matched the actions being taken by the Government in the whole area of women generally, then it is tokenism of the worst kind which is characteristic of this Government. There are very few women in this country who would say that the Government is doing anywhere enough for the special needs of women generally. My bet is that the migrant women feel exactly the same. We are told that at least one woman has been appointed to each settlement council and we are urging that women be included on the committees of management that run the migrant resource centres. Why, at least one woman? Why not talk about nearly half of the appointments to these bodies being women. After all, half the people who come to the country as migrants are women.
Let us get onto the three main facets of the program. I will deal with the on-arrival program first. We are told that in the financial year just ended, nearly 8,000 adults attended courses of up to 12 weeks duration. Now, in my view, I would have thought that is totally inadequate in view of the numbers of migrants coming to the country. I suppose that there are 50,000 to 60,000 if refugees are included. There must be at least 20,000 adults who would like to have tuition in English, but we have provided for a magnificent total of 8,000 unless, of course, the effect of the Numerical Multifactor Assessment System is to ensure that mainly English speaking migrants are selected to come to the country. The other aspect of this, of course, is that 8,000 adults have been able to take up the course over the past 12 years.
– No, 11,500 would be correct.
– The Minister interjects that it will be 1 1,000-some thing this year. I know, but this is supposed to be a review of what happened last year. On the basis of what happened last year I am pointing out that it was totally inadequate. Even 1 1,000 this year is a long way from what I think the figure probably ought to be unless, as I say, we have managed with NUMAS to tip the balance so that most of the migrants coming here now speak English which is possible. Some have claimed that is one of the inherent biases in the NUMAS system. It is going to make it more difficult for non-English speaking migrants to get here. But then, even taking this suggestion that they are being offered a course of 12 weeks duration, there is evidence to suggest that this is totally inadequate. I will touch on that later when we come to English courses for professionals and so on. Coming to the back-up services, the Minister stated that, as the Galbally report noted, members of the ethnic communities are keen on helping themselves and helping their own members. The Minister stated:
We have acted quickly to get money flowing to ethnic and voluntary organisations.
He said that 39 new grants were given under the guidelines set by Galbally and in addition 34 grants held under an earlier program were included so that a grand total of 73 grants have resulted from the Galbally recommendations. Do not let us crib. The fact is that there were 39 grants from the Galbally proposals. The 34 were already there. We cannot count them together and say that is all due to Galbally. To have stopped at 34 would have been a cut back. The Government simply, in fact, with Galbally has provided an increase of 39 grants. It is interesting to note too, of course, in analysing it, if I remember correctly, that only six of the grants actually went to ethnic community groups. The rest went to the usual voluntary organisations, not ethnic based.
– There are existing ones. It is a three-year term.
– Even if they are three-year terms, the fact is that not to have continued the 34 grants which were available would have represented a cutback. Surely the grants would not have just petered out after one year. The nature of the grants is such that they should be a continuing program. So, once again, I insist: Do not crib. The expansion has really only been 39. When we come to the 48 special project grants, which were offered to encourage self help among ethnic groups and to help trade unions in providing welfare services to migrants, with a total expenditure of $ 1 50,000, this sounds good. But it is an average of approximately $3,000 per grant or the magnificent sum of about $60 a week. We will achieve a lot with that miserable sum of money, I am sure! In other words, it is really totally inadequate.
We are told that an extensive survey is being undertaken into the information needs of migrants and the channels through which they communicate. I can assure honourable members that we are looking forward to receiving this report. Without a doubt I am sure that it will puncture many of the preconceived notions about the information needs of migrants. But, then, we are all ignorant about these matters. I am not aiming that comment at the Minister. I acknowledge that we in the Opposition need to get the results of that survey too.
I turn now to the telephone interpreter service. It is an excellent initiative. To pay credit where it is due, I note that it began just before the Labor Government came to power and was given a hefty push when it was in power. I suggest that, since then, it has suffered grievously from totally inadequate funding. The availability of the service and the awareness among members of the ethnic community that the service was available has led to an enormous increase in the demand, such that it is far beyond the capacity of the service. Of course that is a problem. But I think the Government should have responded far more generously than it has in relation to this service. I think we must bear in mind- and these are the comments that I hear from people who make complaints to me- the political manipulation that has sometimes gone on. I am not blaming the Minister, but I understand, I am sad to say, that there have been cases of patronage where jobs have been offered to people who have purported to be interpreters, but without any real qualifications, on the grounds that they had association with someone either in the service already, or the Liberal Party. It is not surprising that there are many complaints from migrants about the inadequacy of this service, both in terms of numbers and in terms of the quality of the people employed. I am not saying that they are all like that. There are many very highly qualified people. If an organisation is being set up to look into it, I am glad of that. It is certainly not before time to have an organisation to vet the qualifications of interpreters. I certainly welcome that.
I come now to the pilot courses enabling groups of professionals with overseas qualifications to improve their knowledge of English. I was fortunate to attend a meeting at the La Trobe University not long ago where we were provided with a preliminary analysis of the results of this pilot study. It appears that a threemonth course for highly skilled and highly educated people is totally inadequate. Given that it was totally inadequate for professionals, I wonder what the real value of it is to all the other multitudes of immigrants not highly skilled people, not used to study -
– That was a pilot course.
– The Minister says it was a pilot scheme, and I agree. I am just drawing a conclusion from it; and, sadly, it looks as if three months is inadequate.
– We can learn from that later on.
– I agree completely. I am just pointing out that the claims of achievement up to now are sadly inadequate compared to what appears to be the need. The Minister also says that participants in these courses had to be selected from hundreds of applicants, and that this indicates that the concept meets a widely felt need. I agree completely. The non-English speakers wish to learn English so that they can cope adequately; equally, the English speaking professionals are recognising more and more that they must be able to speak at least some community language. They must know something. Even if they do not speak the language, they need to be taught something of the diverse cultures of the various ethnic groups so that they can understand better in their own professional fields what is needed. Of course, I hope that these pilot courses lead to a greatly expanded effort by the Government. Referring to multi-cultural development the Minister said:
Recognition that English is not the only language in daily use in Australia is a pre-requisite for supporting newcomers in their programs towards equality of opportunity.
I quite agree. It would be nice to see multilingual signs at airports, railway stations, bus stops and government buildings. It would be nice to see multi-lingual documents and so on. We have a long way to go in these areas. When we arrive overseas even the simple landing documents require that we fill them in in English, I am informed. I was given this bit of choice information by the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones).
– You surprise me.
– There is a very humorous side to it. He points out that different languages seem to raise enormous problems in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. If one looks at the landing card one sees that everything may be filled in with a tick. Of course, it is printed in English. In every other country it is not true that one has to struggle through the native language. When English speakers go to other countries they usually see English printed underneath the native language. Surely we could print one or two ethnic community languages on the card. I understand that there is only one place on the card other than where one puts one’s name and address- which of course does not really matter all that much- where an English word is required; namely, one’s occupation. It seems that it would throw the whole department into a fit if someone wrote in French that he was a wood turner or something like that. I really think that that is quite pathetic. After all, when we go to other countries we are not told that we have to fill in our occupation in the language of the country we are landing in- if it is at all required. We are allowed to fill it in in our native tongue. I am sure that with a little struggle the Minister could overcome that problem.
In the spirit of multi-culturalism the Minister said that he is arranging for his statement to be translated into a number of languages. Maybe my comments could be attached in the same languages. I do not think that that is likely because the Government does not go that far in making sure that members of the ethnic community learn about the other points of view in the political spectrum- but never mind. The Minister said:
Multi-culturalism is a concept we and others in the world know too little about.
I agree with that completely. He further said: the Government has introduced legislation to set up an Australian Institute of Multi-Cultural Affairs . . .
I will not comment in detail at this stage because there is legislation before the House, other than to say that because of the way in which it is drafted, with all due respect to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, it is tokenism. The Opposition will come up with some good amendments which hopefully will make it good legislation. I only hope that the Minister will accept them. I agree that it is difficult to obtain quick results in the areas which require changes by legislation, particularly when one is dependent upon the States. The Minister went on to say that it is difficult also to get quick results in other areas; for example, social security, where it is necessary to settle principles on which discussions and negotiations for agreement can be reached with other countries. That is true. For 23 years before Labor came into office, when we had an enormous influx of immigrants, nothing was done about that. When the Labor Party came into office it managed very quickly to provide for portability of pensions. It was an insurmountable problem until the Labor Party came into office. It was resolved within three years. Since then nothing more has been done. The Minister said that negotiations are proceeding. For how many years? That is how the song goes. He went on to say: the historic innovation of ethnic television which, in its experimental phase in Sydney and Melbourne, was designed to test some programming options on which a permanent service can be broadly based.
That was widely touted as an enormous success. The Government is terribly proud of it. I will quote from the no longer secret Ethnic Television Review Panel Report. The heading is ‘Reaction to the Pilot Series’.
-Did it fall off a truck?
-It apparently fell off a lot of trucks. We asked about it of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) during the Estimates Committee hearing last night. He confirmed that it was widely distributed. I managed to find a copy.
-Did Tony Staley say that?
– Yes. The report submitted to the Government states:
The element of criticism has increased over the period of the experimental service. A substantial number have indicated that the service was not truly experimental. Overall it has not provided a real basis for meaningful discussions with members of ethnic groups or media experts.
When it all started we said that we felt it would be disastrous because in fact from our soundings it had not been started by discussions with members of the ethnic communities. It was set up and started and then they were asked for their reactions. They have reacted in a completely predictable way.
I come now to the problems confronting ethnic radio. We are told that technical difficulties delayed the extension of ethnic radio from Sydney and Melbourne to Geelong, Newcastle and so on. The Minister went into a whole rigmarole about how finally it would be extended to those centres. Again, for 23 years, when there was clearly a need, the Liberal Government failed to establish a single station. In the three years in which Labor was in office, we set up stations 2EA and 3EA. It has been four years since we were kicked out but not one additional station has been established. That is very fast progress. The Government is living up to its reputation and achievements in the 23 years before Labor came to office. Quite clearly, it is time that it was moved out again so that a Labor government could get things moving once more. I refer to funding for ethnic health workers in the four States and the Northern Territory. The magnificent sum of $ 107,000, which is not referred to in the Minister’s speech but is to be found in the Budget documents, will be provided for that purpose. An ethnic health worker must be sensitive to many things- social work and attitudes and health- so that he can talk to patients, who will be wanting to discuss their problems. It might be possible to get a health worker with such broad skills for $12,000-if one is lucky. Therefore, the magnificent sum of $107,000 will allow the employment of nine people in the four States and the Northern Territory. That will go a long way, I am sure. Members of the ethnic community will realise what a magnificent effort that is. They will not even hear of those health workers.
Again, we are told that the magnificent sum of $940,000 has been earmarked, under the community health program, for additional health interpreters and translators. What the Minister does not say is that that sum is to cover the requirements of Aboriginals as well as of members of the ethnic community. After all the report that we are considering is meant to deal with the first year of implementation, to 30 June, but the money referred to is for the coming year. Nothing was provided last year. The reference here is to things to come, not to what has been achieved. It is what hopefully is to be achieved. Again, if one were to offer a mere $ 12,000- such people are probably worth more than that, but let us choose a modest sum- the magnificant number of 78 people, in all, could be employed to serve the whole of Australia, including Aborigines and all members of the ethnic community. The Government may call that an achievement. I call it a very, very small beginning.
I shall conclude my remarks, because there is not much more that one can say about a statement which, largely, talks of good intentions rather than real, solid achievements. The Minister, in speaking of consultation, said that direct consultation with ethnic communities was all the more important, that people who would be affected by decisions should have an influence on those decisions. He added that Commonwealth departments engaged in the implementation program are consulting directly with ethnic representatives. It did not happen with ethnic television. Not much is happening with ethnic radio. Things have not moved very far. Listen to the moaning in the ethnic community when the suggestions were put out. The ethnic community was told how the program co-ordinators would be chosen, how the programming would be controlled. They were not asked; they were told. They resented it and complained a lot. Consultation with the ethnic groups in my view, and in the view of the Australian Labor Party, has been totally inadequate at practically every level. In fact, when the Galbally report was tabled in the Parliament most members of the ethnic communities who were supposed to have been consulted had not even heard of Mr Galbally, had not seen him or any of the people who were associated with him. In fact, very few of those people had met members of the ethnic community and discussed their problems with them. The report was based more on the pre-conceived notions of the Government. I am glad to say that it was tempered by the very sound work of some members of the panel who were, in fact, members of the ethnic communities.
Debate resumed from 22 August, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Bill now before the House is a commonplace machinery Bill but it raises important issues in relation to the deficit. I would like to say quite a bit about the deficit after I have dealt with the more technical aspect of the Bill. The Bill provides authority for borrowing necessary to make up the expected deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund during the current financial year. The funds borrowed under this Bill cover much of the overall Budget deficit which is estimated to be $2.2 billion during 1 979-80, of which $ 1 .6 billion is in the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
The Bill authorises borowings for defence purposes so that the approval ofthe Loan Council is not required. Commonwealth governments have taken the view that borrowings to finance the Commonwealth deficit should not be subject to State government approval. A simple and now traditional procedure for providing adequate legislative authority for borrowing to finance a deficit is through a Loan Act which authorises borrowings for defence purposes, so defence expenditure already approved under an Appropriation Bill can be transferred out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund and charged to the Loan Fund. As I said, this is a normal type of machinery piece of legislation. It is clear from what I have said what this Bill is about. It is largely to finance the deficit.
I would like to deal in some detail with the Government’s view of the deficit because clearly, over the last several years, there has been a great deal said in this Parliament and outside it about the nature of the deficit. I think that it is not unfair to say that this Government has an absolute obsession with the deficit. It believes, for various reasons, that reduction in the deficit is a fundamental precondition for economic recovery. The first reason is because of its belief that deficits represent irresponsible financing of Government expenditure, that deficits cause inflation and so lower deficits reduce inflation, that lower deficits enable reduced interest rates, and that lower inflation and interest rates are basic to economic recovery. Those are the basic assumptions of the Government in respect of deficits.
There are many points that I would like to make. The first point to note is that this Government, which has said so much about the need to reduce the deficit, has been so spectacularly unsuccessful in so doing. The deficits of the Fraser Government have been far higher than the collective deficits of the previous Whitlam Government. If honourable members look at the three years of the Whitlam Government and the three years of the Fraser Government, honourable members will find that of the collective Budget deficits for the full three financial years of both governments the collective deficits of the Fraser Government are 50 per cent higher. For the years 1976-77 to 1978-79 the collective Budget deficits were $9.6 billion. For the previous three years the deficits were $6.4 billion. It is quite clear, on the face of the Budget deficit figures, that the Fraser governments Budget deficits, after three years of government, have been 50 per cent higher than those of the previous Labor Government. That is the result from looking at only the Budget sector.
If we take into account the non-Budget sector to get the total Commonwealth sector deficit we find an even more spectacular difference. That should be done because this Government has been distorting and misrepresenting the Budget deficit figures by prepayments in the year 1975-76 so that it can load expenditures into a year which it can blame on the Whitlam Government and take them off a year which would be attributable to the Fraser Government. It is doing this by moving various items out of the Budget sector into the non-Budget sector of Commonwealth Government expenditure. The Government has been manipulating the Budget deficit, but despite those substantial manipulations, the fact is that its accumulative Budget deficits for three years have been 50 per cent higher than those of the previous Labor Government.
If honourable members look at the total Commonwealth sector, which avoids these distortions by playing with what is in the Budget sector and what is outside it, and take the total Commonwealth sector they will find that for the three years of the Labor Government the collective deficits were $6.4 billion. For the three years of the Fraser Government, from 1976-77 to 1978-79, the total deficit was $10.8 billion-69 per cent higher than for the three years of the Labor Government. All of these figures come from page 245 of the Budget Paper No. 1. They are readily verifiable from the tables on that page. It is quite clear that the collective Budgets of the Fraser Government went far higher despite all the rhetoric we have heard about the need to reduce Budget deficits.
It could be argued that what is relevant is not the actual amount of the deficit, although the Government usually seems to argue that that is very relevant, but rather that one must look at the deficit as a proportion of the gross domestic product. That way it would be seen in the context of the total national production and income. That is fair enough. If one does that one finds that the point still holds that the Fraser Government deficits have been higher than those of the Labor Government. The three years of the Labor Government from 1973-74 to 1975-76, the total Commonwealth sector deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product averaged 3.3 per cent. For the period of the Fraser Government it has averaged 3.9 per cent, again substantially above the figure for the Labor Government.
If one takes actual money amounts as a percentage of gross domestic product the point still holds that the deficit figure is much higher under Fraser. Even if one takes into account the State and local government sectors, not just the Commonwealth sector, and gets a total government deficit figure for Australia, the point still holds. It is relevant to do that to some degree because this Government has been off-loading expenditures on to State governments and local government authorities, forcing upon them the decision as to whether they will spend moneys on certain projects or not. In one sense one could say what is relevant is this total public sector deficit. For the three years of the Labor Government it averaged 4.6 per cent of the gross domestic product and for the three years of Fraser Government it has averaged 5.5 per cent. Whatever basis one uses one makes the rather remarkable discovery that the Government, which has made so much noise about the need to reduce the deficit, has been so spectacularly unsuccessful in so doing. That I think is a rather interesting opening to the whole discussion on the deficit.
We acknowledge that high deficits, and especially continuing high deficits, create some problems for economic management. I am not saying deficits do not matter. I want to make that absolutely clear. One of the problems that it creates is simply the cost of servicing the public debt. Interest payments on the public debt this year will be over $2 billion and are estimated to constitute 6.9 per cent of total Budget outlays. However, that must be seen against the fact that 10 years ago in 1969-70 public debt interest payments were 7.4 per cent of total Budget outlays. So this year’s level is still below the level of a decade ago. It is interesting to note also that that percentage fell continuously from 1969-70 until 1975-76. So interest payments on the public debt as a proportion of gross domestic product fell year by year during the period of the Labor Government until in 1975-76 it was 4.4 per cent, but since then they have resumed a steady upward path. Now they are back to 6.9 per cent, as I mentioned.
If a large deficit continued for many years into the future it would become an increasingly large item in the Budget. Clearly that would be undesirable. We would be using more and more of our revenues for payment of interest on our public debt and clearly that would be a highly undesirable procedure. It is said that there can be a difficulty in selling government securities to finance the deficit. We acknowledge that there could well be something in that point. This is sometimes referred to as a stock and flow problem. The Government has the problem of continuing to persuade those who buy government securities not only to hold the government securities that they have but also to take more. The argument goes that continuing high deficits will choke up the financial markets with government paper, and it will become increasingly difficult to get people to hold what they have and take the increasing amounts necessary to finance the higher deficit. However, despite substantial deficits over the last few years it does not seem that this is a great problem at present. Financial institutions are not choked with government paper, as some financial commentators would have us believe they are. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which shows government securities as a proportion of the assets of financial institutions.
The document read as follows-
Sources: C. of A., Government Securities on Issue at 30 June 1978, Budget Paper No. 6; Reserve Bank, Statistical Bulletin, Financial Flow Accounts Supplement, January 1979.
– This table shows the total amount of government securities on issue in Australia- not just Commonwealth Government securities but other government securities as well-for the years 1967-68 to 1976-77 as a proportion of the total assets of financial institutions. The table shows that there was almost a continuous reduction year by year in the percentage that total government securities on issue in Australia represented as a proportion of the total assets of financial institutions. It follows from that that there is now much less pressure on the financial institutions than there was, say, 10 years ago with the much lower proportion of their assets being taken up with government securities than was the case a decade earlier. Although there may be something in this point at some stage, I find it hard to believe that there is something in it at present. It does not seem that financial markets are choked with government paper. Therefore the whole problem about the stock and flow aspects or persuading the financial markets to take up government paper to finance the deficit is a current problem.
Nevertheless, it is clearly desirable substantially to reduce the deficit. The question therefore is how best to eliminate it. That is what we are really arguing about, not whether continuing high deficits are good. Clearly they create problems if they continue at high levels. The question is: How do we go about eliminating or substantially reducing the deficit. Before considering that it is relevant at this stage to ask why the Fraser Government has been so spectacularly unsuccessful in reducing the size of the deficit despite its axiom of having severe restrictions on various expenditure programs. There are two reasons. Tax avoidance is one reason. It has exploded under the present Government, despite various measures to end specific tax avoidance schemes. At the end of last year the President of the Taxation Institute of Australia acknowledged that tax avoidance had really taken off only in the last two years-that is, in 1977 and 1978. Of course, we have always had tax avoidance but the explosion of it occurred in that quite recent period.
The figures for the income tax being paid by various groups reveal how true that is. In the years 1976-77 to 1978-79 the total tax paid by pay-as-you-earn taxpayers- essentially wage and salary earners who pay their taxes and who are not able to enter into tax avoidance schemes- increased by 22 per cent. Total tax payments of non pay-as-you-earn taxpayersthose who earn their incomes through dividends, businesses of various kinds, farming et ceterawent down in the same period by 5 per cent. That is a quite extraordinary difference. Wage and salary earners’ tax payments went up very substantially and non-wage and salary earners had an absolute reduction in the amount of taxes paid. Company tax receipts also went down by 2 per cent last year. Obviously, tax avoidance has a lot to do with the differences in the trends between the taxes paid by wage and salary earners and those paid by non-wage and salary earners.
The other important reason for the very high deficits ofthe Fraser Government is that they are essentially the products of recession. If there is a substantial number of unemployed and a recession there is going to be a high deficit level. The expansion of the deficit first occurred in 1974-75 and was the result of the recession. There was only a small deficit in the first full year ofthe Labor Government- 1973-74. The deficit in that year was $293m. If one looks at the domestic budget- that is, excluding overseas transactions and looking only at those transactions in Australia- one finds that there was a domestic surplus of $21 lm that year. After June 1974 unemployment began to rise quite rapidly and therefore the deficit naturally increased. As expected taxation revenue did not eventuate and unemployment increased so expenditure on unemployment benefit increased correspondingly. In addition, in 1974-75 the Government increased expenditure in an attempt to offset the recession. This also added to the deficit for that year. The deficit in 1974-75 blew out to $2.6 billion and subsequent deficits have remained high ever since, despite constant Government rhetoric on the importance of reducing the deficit.
It is crucial to understand that that is the inevitable result of recession. The more unemployed resources that we have the greater the deficit is going to be. As I have already mentioned, the fact is that so much tax revenue is lost through having people not in work. Not only is income tax lost from wage and salary earners but also company tax is lost because companies are not operating at such high levels and their profits are not so high. The Government also loses sales tax revenue because there are fewer items being bought and there is much more to pay in unemployment benefits. With those two factors- loss of tax revenue and increased expenditure- it is inevitable that there will be a substantial expansion of the deficit. That is what happened in 1974-75, and that is what has happened ever since. It is essentially why, despite all the rhetoric about how we have to reduce the deficit, the Fraser Government has found that at face value its deficits have been 50 per cent higher than those of the Whitlam Government. All this has occurred because the Government has not been able to get rid of recession.
A measure of this is given by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, which has calculated that if we were to get back to full employment the deficit would totally disappear. It calculated that with current tax and expenditure programs, we could totally eliminate the deficit with a return to full employment. In fact, the Institute went further than that and said that if we got back to full employment by some absolute miracle, given present tax and expenditure programs, we would find that Australia would have not a deficit but a surplus of $3 billion. Of course, that calculation involves various assumptions and may be it is out by a billion or two. But, essentially the point remains that if we could get back to full employment, the deficit would be wiped out
This is the essential difference in economic policy strategy between the Opposition and the Government. The Opposition says that the way to eliminate the deficit is to move towards full employment; the Government says that we cannot move towards full employment unless the deficit is eliminated. As I will explain later, the very measures taken to eliminate the deficit ensure that we stay in substantial recession; the recession then worsens and a continuing high deficit results. We have this absurd situation of the Government saying that recovery is dependent on reducing the deficit, but measures adopted to reduce the deficit ensure that we move deeper into recession and, of course, that the deficit blows out. In 1977-78 it was found that despite the best efforts of the Government to reduce the deficit, the deficit blew out by 50 per cent. That is an enormous blow-out. The deficit that resulted was 50 per cent higher than the planned deficit because of the fact that recession was higher and tax avoidance also was operating.
Last year, despite the utterly fortuitous rural boom which generated much higher levels of economic activity than would otherwise have been the case, there was still a 25 per cent blowout of the deficit. Again, that was because of recession and because of tax avoidance. So, in the Opposition’s view the Government’s policy is pushing the economy into what I have described as a recessionary vortex. That is, that as we move into recession the deficit gets higher. The Government then says that we have to get rid of the deficit so it increases taxes and cuts expenditure programs to reduce the deficit, but all that does is force us into greater levels of recession and higher levels of unemployment, and the deficit blows out again. So, we have these continuing high deficits but more and more unemployment. That is the path Australia has been on, with various minor fluctuations up and down, over the past three and a half years and it is the path on which Australia will continue while present policies are pursued.
The other point which is relevant is that it has great implications for the tax burden in this country. The Government’s policy is increasing the tax burden on the Australian people and this burden is significantly higher under the Fraser Government than it was under the Labor Government. Despite all the rhetoric about how this Government will cut taxes and give people more choices as to how they spend their money, the tax burden is much higher now under the Fraser Government than it was under the Labor Government. I refer honourable members to page 247 of Budget Paper No. 1, on which there is a table headed ‘Receipts of Public Authorities as Proportions of GDP’. It shows extraordinarily interesting figures. It shows that for the three years of the Labor Government- 1973-74 to 1975-76- income tax as a proportion of gross domestic product was 15.9 per cent. For the next three years, under the Fraser Government, the average was 16.5 per cent. That takes us up to only the end of last year; it will certainly be much higher in this current year.
So, there is no doubt that the incidence of income tax, taking total income tax payments as a proportion of gross domestic product, is higher under the Fraser Government than it was under Labor. Of course, that does not take account of the fact that there was all this tax avoidance. If tax avoidance had not been going on, the figure of 16.5 per cent under the Fraser Government would have been rather higher. If we look at all taxes and all receipts received by the Commonwealth Government we find that for the three years of the Labor Government they represented 25.2 per cent of the GDP and for the three years of the Fraser Government they represented 26.5 per cent of the GDP. So again it is substantially higher. If one looks at the total level for all public authorities, taking into account State and local governments, one would find that for the three years of the Labor Government it was 31.6 per cent of GDP and for the three years of the Fraser
Government, 33.3 per cent. So on any basisincome tax of the Commonwealth Government, total taxes by the Commonwealth Government, total taxes for all government- we find the situation is the same. The tax burden is greater under the present government than it was under the Labor Government. This is the inevitable consequence of the Government’s deficit paranoia. Its whole determination is to reduce the deficit first. The means of doing that is to increase taxes, thereby forcing higher levels of taxation on the economy and on the people of Australia, and ensuring that we remain in the levels of substantial recession and high unemployment. So the higher deficits of the Fraser Government are, in large measure, a logical product of the means by which the Government has been seeking to reduce the deficit. The very measures it has used to reduce the deficit have further recessed the economy. The deficit has remained high and the Australian people have been left with a growing tax burden and more and more unemployment. Of course, this year’s Budget will reinforce and accentuate that trend. Being a severely contractionary Budget it will certainly ensure that employment and output growth is minimal and there will, therefore, be a tendency for the deficit to blow out again. However, the distinct possibility of a further unbudgeted increase in the crude oil levy, following any rise in prices by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries this year, will have an opposite offsetting effect on the deficit but only at a cost of further increasing the tax burden and further contracting the Australian economy.
This year’s Budget will severely increase the tax burden on Australian taxpayers, even without a further rise in the crude oil levy. Payasyouearn receipts are estimated to rise by 15 per cent compared to wage increases of 9 per cent to 9Vi per cent on which the Budget is estimated. So we have got this large increase in the tax burden again where taxes are up much higher than wages. Overall tax receipts will rise 15.4 per cent compared to 8.9 per cent last year; more than double the rate of increase in the previous year. This large rise in receipts is the major means by which the Government hopes to reduce the deficit. Again the extent to which it does so will be at the expense of more recession and a higher tax burden on Australian taxpayers. We will all be deeper than ever into the recessionary vortex. Apart from explaining why the deficit remains high this analysis also explains why a government that has proclaimed itself the low tax party has become the ever high tax party. It is a logical consequence of its economic strategy and the difficulty of slashing too deeply into public expenditure because the Australian public sector is already very small by international standards.
So long as the Government continues to pursue its policy of reducing the deficit first, then so long can we expect the tax burden to increase. What makes this Government believe that the deficit reduction is fundamental to economic recovery? There are essentially two answers to that question. One is that it believes its own propaganda. In Opposition it made great political capital about the large deficit that occurred in 1 974-75 when recession hit the Australian economy. It especially attributed our high rate of inflation to the increased deficit in complete contradiction of the facts, and when in government it has continually asserted the need to reduce the deficit in order to overcome inflation. In this regard it should be noted that Australia’s inflation rise in the early 1970s occurred when there was almost no deficit at all. Inflation was near its peak before any substantial deficit developed. Inflation reached its peak in March 1975 and then slowly declined as the deficit continued to increase. Now those are the facts of what happened in the period of the Labor Government. Inflation did not come as a result of some enormous increase in the deficit. Inflation preceded the deficit and the deficit is attributable not to inflation but to the fact that we had a very substantial move into recession which has deepened ever since.
The inflation rate for the 12 months to the June quarter of 1974 was 14.4 per cent. But the Budget was still in domestic surplus at that time. For the first half year of 1974 the domestic surplus, seasonally adjusted at an annual rate, was $2 50m compared with $150m in the previous half year. Yet inflation was accelerating all the time. In the second half of 1974 the domestic deficit began to appear but it only became really large in the first half of 1 975 by which time inflation had already reached its peak. In March 1975, the inflation rate was 17.6 per cent. It then fell notably in the next 12 months so that by March 1976 it was down to 13.4 per cent. The deficit reflecting the continued slump in economic activity had continued to rise. So it is utterly simplistic to attribute our increase in inflation at that time to the deficit. The deficit had little to do with the rate of inflation. On the same point, it is instructive to analyse the situation in other countries, that is, to compare the movements in deficits in other countries and their inflation rates. At this stage, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which shows deficits and prices in various Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries in the period 1974 to 1978.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. This is an extremely interesting table. It shows a general picture for all the countries of increasing deficits but falling inflation rates over the period 1974 to 1978. Most of the countries have a higher deficit than Australia. The deficit figures are all shown as a proportion of the gross domestic product and are taken from standard national accounts produced by the OECD. They show that Australia had a surplus in 1974 when the inflation rate was at its highest. Over the period from then, the deficit has continued to rise, but the inflation rate has continued to fall. In Austria, there has been the same pattern as Australia, but it has a much larger deficit and a much lower inflation rate. The situation in Canada is similar to Austria. In Germany, there is a higher deficit than ours, but the inflation rate is far below ours. In Japan there is a much higher deficit but a much lower inflation rate. It is the same picture in the Netherlands. In Sweden there is a smaller deficit than we had in 1978, but a higher rate of inflation.
That is just a quick summation of what this table shows. It shows quite clearly that there is no discernable relationship between the size of the deficit and the rate of inflation. It is clear from our own history and from the experience of other countries that there is no discernable association between deficits and inflation. I hasten to add that this is not to say that they are irrelevant to inflation. Clearly they are one of the relevant factors, but that is all that they are. The deficit is clearly not the determinant fact in regard to inflation that some financial commentators and this Government would have us believe. I believe that it is tremendously important for members of this Parliament to understand that point. There have been so many misrepresentations made about it. The fact of the situation is that the relationship between inflation and deficits is simply nothing like what the Government would have the people of this country believe. The whole premise of the Government’s economic policy, which hinges on this assumption of the tight relationship, is shown to be totally false when one analyses not only our own history but also the history of other countries.
Various economic arguments have been put forward as a rationalisation for this supposed link between the need to reduce the deficit as a means of reducing inflation and thereby bringing about some form of non-inflationary economic growth. The Treasury has argued in the detailed Budget Papers and in a published article by its head, Mr Stone, and some financial commentators, that deficit reduction is important and essential to economic recovery. In so doing, it is admitted by those who hold to this argument that the long accepted analysis from Keynesian economics that a deficit increase through reduced taxes or increased government expenditure would have stimulatory effects on the economy and conversely that a deficit reduction by tax rises or an expenditure cut would have contractionary effects on the economy. They say that that is correct in the short term; so, it is accepted. It is accepted by those who put forward this argument that we need to slash the deficit first. Nevertheless the Keynesian argument is that doing that will have contractionary effects in the short term because we will take money out of the economy by reducing government expenditure or increasing taxes and this will tend to reduce economic activity. What they try to sayunfortunately, time is running out on me- is that there is a whole array of expectations in the economy which will offset that recessionary Keynesian factor and bring about some form of stimulus. They have never shown anything to prove that.
There is no economic analysis, econometrics or any other form which I know of which supports that except very shaky assumptions related to the supposed expectations of business, consumers, wage earners and the economy generally. I believe that those expectations are falsely assumed by the Government and the Treasury. I suggest that if we are to get back to some form of economic recovery in this country we need a complete change of economic approach and we need to break this paranoia with the deficit. We need instead to have stimulatory economic policies which, by bringing about economic recovery, will in the end bring about the abolition of the deficit.
– I was fascinated at the long plank which the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) made between his conception of the deficit and what the Loan Bill is about. For the first minute or two of my remarks I wish to refer to the precise terms of the Bill and then I shall deal with one or two of the points made by the honourable member for Gellibrand. This Bill is intended to fund the Consolidated Revenue Fund in the early months of the financial year so that it can operate for the rest of the year. The Consolidated Revenue Fund, as every honourable member knows, is the fund from which the principal payments by the Government are made, whether to the States, to persons or for administrative purposes. So the method of funding of that fund is intimately related to what the economy can do between now and the end of the financial year or, more particularly, the time that the next Budget is brought down. That is what the Bill is about.
Its purpose is also to ensure that defence expenditure is allocated appropriately. This year the allocation is of the order of $ 1,800m, which is a little in excess of the expected deficit in that fund of $ 1 ,604m. So the Bill is for that purpose; it is a mechanical Bill. But the important aspect of the measure is that it therefore leads quite logically to consideration of two other matters. They are the matters on which the honourable member for Gellibrand spoke at such length, namely, the nature of the deficit to be made up of the credits and the debits ofthe three funds- the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the Loan Fund and the Trust Fund- as well as the conception of the interest rate structure in the Australian economy.
Having said that, I wish to cross over immediately and to make one or two points on the comments made by the honourable member for Gellibrand. He would know that nobody on this side of the House or anywhere else has a deficit mania. It is merely said that deficits are quite important and that the manner in which they are arrived at is quite important. The honourable member being, I hope, a student of history, would know that when the first speech was made in this House proposing a deficit, when Theodore proposed his Fiduciary Notes Issue Bill- I think it was for £ 1 6m in the context of the depressionthe deficit was proposed to be one deliberately arrived at for the purpose of increasing production, increasing growth, creating employment and establishing an appropriate wage and interest rate policy. I am saying that a deficit has to be considered together with the other economic aggregates which are being measured and which are occurring in the economy. Nobody would say, even in a fit of stupidity, that it ought to be considered on its own or that it ought to be put somewhere and worshipped for its own sake.
The Opposition has put forward two propositions. It suggested to the Government that its approach was wrong because the deficit was too large. Then it said that the deficit should be small. It then proposed ways in which it ought to be larger. We have a trilogy of contradictions in the one sentence. The Opposition ought to consider this proposition: If a deficit is allowed to increase enormously at the same time as there is promoted a lack of confidence, at the same time as which productivity has become negative and at the same time as which there is an increase in inflation and a rise in interest rates, the circumstances of that deficit could be very damaging to the economy. They are the precise conditions which occurred during the period that the honourable member for Gellibrand defended his own Government. It was utter gall for the honourable member for Gellibrand to upbraid the Government for increasing taxation revenue this year when in late 1974, while sitting almost in the place occupied by the honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield), he stated that the tax policies of his Government were not too bad. Taxation revenue did not rise by 36 per cent that year, it rose by only 32 per cent! Now we are upbraided because the rise this year is of the order of less than half that. So I think that you immediately see, Mr Deputy Speaker, that a number of enormous contradictions were made by the honourable member for Gellibrand.
Let me indicate the circumstances under which the deficit, which he contrived and defended, blew out. A couple of years ago a very famous economist, Sidney Weuntraub, visited Australia. He had a chart on which he was able to organise all the economies of the world in terms of both their inflation rates and their increases in production. He had nine types of economies, from stationary-state economies to pure-growth economies, to inflationary economies, to slumpflation economies, to stagflation economies. But Australia’s economy beat him because, of the nine types of economies which he was able to depict, Australia did not fit. It did not fit on his chart because just before the time he was here, Australia had been in a state of negflation, with an increasing deficit. What constitutes neR.flation? Negative productivity, a rapidly increasing unemployment rate, rising interest rates, and an all time high rate of inflation, plus an enormously increasing deficit constitute negflation. That is the background against which the honourable member seeks to escape the past. It is always our intention to stand on the shoulders of those who have gone a little before us to see what they did. The past is a very useful indicator of what people would do if they had power.
Time is going on and I think I will turn to some of the points I wish to make in this debate. There we have an outline of the situation. This year the deficit is to be reduced quite significantly and it is quite clearly part of the Government’s proposition that interest rates be reduced and be reduced as far as possible. The Government does not say that interest rates are to be reduced to the exclusion of everything else. The Government is not saying that it wants a low deficit in order that the country can go into an enormously deep recession, or that it would take a delight in obtaining low interest rates- perhaps even zero interest rates- if there were no growth. The Government does not say that; it says that it wants to have interest rates sufficiently low to enable a rate of growth of the economy that can be accommodated. That is the simple proposition which the Government puts forward. It knows and everybody knows that unless interest rates are brought down there will be no flexibility in what can be done with the economy. But everybody knows also that if interest rates rise the past will come back to haunt us. That aspect requires a comment. The honourable member for Gellibrand spent a few moments talking about the interest debt, the per capita debt which has to be borne by the Australian people in meeting the interest on bond issues and so on. Let me say something about the interest debt because it has risen. In 1969-70 the interest debt was of the order of $47 a person. This year, the interest debt on bond issues made in the past will be a little over $ 1 SO a person. That is too high.
-Is it really?
-It is a significant rise, no matter what the honourable member would like to say. But what has to be understood is this: Nothing is a hostage to the past as much as the interest people have to pay on debts negotiated. If high interest rates have been negotiated in 1973 or 1974 or 1975, that debt will continue to be met in 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983. I was surprised that the honourable member for Gellibrand made an attempt to compartmentalise the burden of debt by saying that we could cut it off one year and look at a new beginning the next year. Honourable members opposite know that that is not rational economics; it has no rationality at all. The interest debt burden that lays upon the Australian people now was generated overwhelmingly during those three years. I will give another illustration of what I am talking about as the honourable member for Gellibrand touched on these matters.
– It will be a circus next time.
– The honourable member for Barton has a very fertile imagination.
-! doubt whether the honourable member for Lilley needs the support of the honourable member for Barton. He seems to be going quite well.
– Let me illustrate the problems that occur if interest rates are allowed to rise and if a debt is developed which has to be met in subsequent years. For example, of the Treasury bonds on issue now nearly 14 per cent will mature within the next two years. Of those on issue in 1975- this is not related to the government of the day- only a little over 12 per cent matured within the next two years. The Australian people have to have sufficient confidence not to want to renew their Treasury bonds at all costs but to convert them. If interest rates are allowed to rise and if the deficit is allowed to increase in any circumstances whatsoever without regard to the future, so many bonds will mature that they will weigh upon the rest of the economy. That debt will have to be met either by note issues, taxation or by one of the funds.
What I am saying is this: As with bonds on issue and the public debt interest per capita, we cannot compartmentalise one year from the next. It ought to be remembered that a one per cent movement in the number of bonds on issue which mature within a year means a debt of $ 1,600m or $ 1,700m. That debt has to be met from one source or another. Whatever a deficit is designed to do, it ought not to be negotiated in an economy which will destroy confidence and cause people to want to cash in their paper. That was one of the great problems in 1973-74 and 1 974-75. The amount involved in redemptions of domestic borrowings in previous years was of the order of a couple of hundred million dollars. In 1973- 74 redemptions were over $800m. In 1974- 75 they were over $600m. That was one of the factors which caused the Government at that time to- increase its tax take so enormously. We are not able either to compartmentalise one part of the economy from another or to insulate one year from another. If people redeem their bonds the debt has to be met from one source or another. If interest rates are permitted to increase in a lax and unstable economy, that is precisely what will happen.
I will summarise what the honourable member for Gellibrand said. He said that the interest debt per person had risen. I acknowledge that it has risen in real terms. It has done so now because of the debt which was negotiated, the paper which people bought, at extraordinarily high interest rates during 1974-75. That debt still has to be met. If interest rates are encouraged to drop and stabilise we will not have the enormous redemptions that we had during the two years to which I have referred. But the honourable member for Gellibrand ignores all this.
May I return once again to the taxation issue, which is important. The past will have its way, and the past cannot be ignored. During the three years in which the party of the honourable member for Gellibrand was in government, Australia led the world in its rate of increase in taxation. Some of that taxation was raised for debt purposes; some of it was raised for quite worthy purposes; a lot of it was raised for quite unworthy and permissive purposes. Of the 24 market industrialised countries in the world, Australia traditionally had one of the lowest rates of increase in taxation. In 1972, for example, of the 24 industrialised countries in the world that are officially measured, Australia was twenty-first or twenty-second in its rate of increase in taxation. In the following year Australia went to the top, and in the next two years it was fifth and second respectively, in the rate of increase in taxation which the Australian Government obtained. In other words, for those three years Australia led the world in the rate of increase in tax take for which the Commonwealth Government was responsible.
Despite those circumstances, the honourable member for Gellibrand accused us of being unconcerned about interest rates, about deficits, or about taxation. What he said is just not correct. Any policy which seeks to reduce the deficit and is a part of that reduction, and which seeks to reduce interest rates, has to be a long term policy and a long term proposition. It has to look at 1983 and 1984 as well as looking at next year. It is rather a long term policy. As a car manufacturer once put it, it is like making love to an elephant. If you are successful, there is no result for years. If you are not successful, you get trampled in the rush. Interest rate policy embraces that kind of proposition.
I return to the Bill. Traditionally the Loan Bill is a mechanical Bill that has to do with the nature of funding of the Consolidated Revenue Fund that is carried on so that the normal services of government can be developed during a particular year. If the Loan Fund were not funded in this way early in the year, it is quite likely that the Revenue Fund would run into deficit. If the Revenue Fund were to run into deficit, those payments from it, whether to other governments, to persons on social security, or for administrative purposes, would all fall short. So the measure that the Government is undertaking now is an important one. It is a safety measure and it needs to be considered. The way in which the Government has looked at this measure is to try to secure, at the same time as the reduction in the deficit is to be funded, all the circumstances that will cause a reduction in interest rates.
Let me end where I began- on interest rates. Unless interest rates are reduced, little flexibility will be allowed or possible in terms of overall fiscal policy. If interest rates were allowed to increase willy-nilly in any circumstances whatsoever, we would have the kind of fiscal policy we had under the previous Government- taxation increases of 32 per cent and more a year. If ever we are to have a capital works program, if ever we are to have expenditure for purposes which will increase economic growth by 4 per cent, 5 per cent or 6 per cent a year, we have to have low interest rates. If interest rates are high we will have insufficient flexibility in terms of overall economic management to be able to engineer those circumstances. For those reasons, this Bill deserves to be supported. Its very substance deserves to be supported. The nature of the deficit to which the Bill is directed needs to be supported because it deals not only with the economy this year but also with the burdens which will lie upon the Australian people in the mid-1980s.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr MacKellar) read a third time.
-The Budget has been extremely well received in the community. It is interesting to note that according to the Morgan Gallup Poll the Government’s standing has increased by 4 percentage points since the Budget. I am confident that the Government ‘s support will continue to increase until it is returned with another very substantial majority at the next general election.
However, the Budget was not well received in this House by Labor members. It was particularly noted by members of the Government that every piece of good news for the community that was mentioned in the Budget was met by Labor members with frowns, with scowls and with obvious concern. They know that the Budget is setting the trend further for the recovery of the Australian economy and for the boom that Mr Wran, the New South Wales Premier, has predicted for 1 980. But of course good news for the nation is not in their interest. When the Budget was being delivered, they were sitting there with furrowed brows, more concerned about their own miserable political skins. There were deep mutterings amongst their ranks as they realised that a good
Budget which would save Australia and develop it for the 1980s was being brought down. They could not stomach it. They are utter and complete prophets of doom. But the New South Wales Labor Premier has proved that their prophesies are complete rubbish because he has said that the 1980s will be a decade of boom and of plenty for Australia. His own Budget, which he brought down yesterday, was an easy Budget because of the extremely good deal he has received from the Federal Government under the new federalism policy, which provides for responsibility in government.
I wish to deal with four main headings: Firstly, the economy; secondly, social security; thirdly, defence and foreign affairs; and fourthly, the bitter alternative that would otherwise be provided by the Labor Party and that will be completely rejected by the Australia people. The economy has shown dramatic improvement since the return of this Government to office at the end of 1975. Certainly things could hardly have been worse at that time. There was rampant inflation, a massive increase in unemployment and fear throughout the land because people were scared. They were scared stiff of the Labor Party. That is why the people threw out the Labor Government. Of course people still cannot trust the Labor Party.
The great improvement in the economy can be seen in the increase in gross domestic product in the past year, the increase of more than 30 per cent in manufactured exports and the rural boom, which has provided tremendous gains for the economy generally. This Budget will bear down on inflation in a most responsible manner. We have always said that the key to economic recovery is the reduction of inflation. This Budget bears down on inflation despite renewed world trends. This is in great contrast to Labor policies between 1972 and 1975. The Labor Government’s policies exacerbated world trends and most of the inflation in Australia at that time was caused by domestic Labor Party decisions. This Government’s policy bears down on inflation against one factor which is to be welcomed- the increase in the money supply that would otherwise flow from the rural boom. This does have a tendency to push inflation up slightly, but this Government’s policies are going to bear down on inflation despite the rural boom. We are also bearing down on inflation despite the difficulties created by world uncertainties in relation to fuel. This Government’s oil pricing policies will be seen by the Australian public to be extremely sound. As I have said, the Budget bears down on inflation despite those difficulties and in all the circumstances will provide for continued recovery of the Australian economy, which in turn will provide for ultimate reductions in the level of unemployment.
I am pleased to advise the House that with the recovery in the manufacturing industry unemployment is going down in the St George electorate. The reason for that is very simple. During the Whitlam years manufacturing industry in many areas of this country was decapitatedfinished. In the St George electorate manufacturing industry was brought to its knees but not quite decapitated. Employers and workers alike in that electorate, having thrown off the yoke of the Labor Party, have used the investment allowance to make industry more efficient, used the Government’s export incentives to promote exports, and used the Government’s employment training schemes to help young people. This has produced, particularly in manufacturing industry, significant reductions in unemployment. For example, in the Rockdale Commonwealth Employment Service Office unemployment figures are being reduced dramatically month by month. At present that office is unable to obtain sufficient junior employees, both boys and girls, in the 15 to 17 years age group. The office cannot find sufficient employees to meet the requirements of employers.
It is extremely interesting to note that the area’s general unemployment is primarily of males aged over 40 years who have difficulty speaking English. That problem has arisen from the Government’s humanitarian programs in the past few years under which many refugees or quasi-refugees have been brought into this country. The Rockdale and Arncliffe areas have refugees from Cyprus and Chile and a sizable number from Lebanon. In the near area, not too far away, there are some from South East Asia. Those from Lebanon, in particular, find it difficult to work in factories. So it is because of the Government’s humanitarian attitude that there has been a weighting upwards of the unemployment figures in the area, figures which otherwise would be significantly lower. I think that the Government will get great credit for not trying to avoid its responsibilities but, instead, instituting special programs to assist those persons. The underlying rate of unemployment in the area is dropping significantly and will continue to drop as manufacturing industry gets on its feet.
One of the most important things in the Budget is the return to the standard rate taxation system. As of 1 December, 90 per cent of all Australians will pay a 32c in the dollar tax rate. That applies to every Australian earning up to approximately $17,000. It is most important to realise that that 90 per cent of all Australians will pay tax only on the difference between approximately $4,000 and whatever is their income. In other words, people who earn $14,000 pay only 32c in the dollar on approximately $10,000 of their salary. That compares with an actual rate of approximately 45c in the dollar imposed under the vicious Hayden scales that were introduced in the vicious Hayden Budget of 1975 when the Labor Party was desperately seeking ways to finance its programs. Having milked the printing press dry, having borrowed extensively overseas and having planned to borrow through Mr Khemlani, it put up the tax rates shockingly. This Government has ensured that as of 1 December, 90 per cent of all Australians will pay a 32c in the dollar tax rate.
I mention two of the totally spurious claims of the Labor Party on this point. The first was that if a person’s income went up during the year he would be paying more tax at the end of the year. However, if a person’s salary stays below the $17,000 figure his rate of tax will not increase, but if he earns more than that naturally his overall rate of tax will increase. I believe that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and other Government members have completely buried that preposterous criticism by the Labor Party. It was a dishonest attack by the Labor Party. The Opposition’s other claim is that because overall income tax will increase by about 18 per cent something is wrong with the figures. The answer to that is simple. A government can reduce everybody’s individual rate of tax while still having the same total tax take if, as the Budget shows, there is a one per cent increase in employment in Australia because more people will be employed.
The increase in the gross domestic product results in more economic activity. Because of the Government’s economic policies it is expected that profits will increase and there will be a higher tax return to the Government. So the Government has achieved a magnificent result in reducing individual tax rates. Yet because of the increased economic activity the Government will be able to obtain more tax revenue. This will reduce the deficit and the interest rates; therefore helping to produce the boom. But these people on the other side have the gall to attack the Government. They are clutching at straws. They have absolutely nothing to go on. The domestic deficit this year will be approximately $850m, the lowest for six years. That is a magnificent tribute to this Government.
The other aspect about the Budget is that it has been widely welcomed by business. Business will keep this country moving. I want to read to this House a very significant quote that I think every member of this House and every member of the business community should frame on his wall. It reads:
Private investment is essential for the welfare of the economy and the maintenance of full employment.
Those are the exact words used on 29 January 1975 by the former Labor Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, and the only piece of flashing, blinding light of intelligence that he ever had in the entire period of his miserable government.
I would now like to turn to social security. The first thing to be noted is that this Budget restores six-monthly indexation of pensions. I am proud of the Government for taking this action. I am proud of the way that the Prime Minister was prepared to listen to those of us who abstained from voting on the issue last year- the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney), the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean), the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) and the honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield). They all came with me to discuss the matter with the Prime Minister. Eventually the Government said: ‘Well, it looks as though we will have to reverse that decision ‘. I am also extremely pleased with the decision to increase the limits for the purposes of fringe benefits. This is most important because a serious anomaly was arising. It is important to note that with the large majority that this Government has we as members of parliament now service areas of the community that we did not serve in previous years and we are extremely close to the people. Our offices are open to the people. We are immediately able to reflect the views of the ordinary person to the government. The Government saw the problem that was arising for pensioner groups. I pay a tribute to the Returned Services League sub-branches in the electorate of St George and throughout Australia. We were able to get from the Government a decision that was in the best interests of pensioners.
I particularly want to lay to rest the myth that the Labor Party has a mortgage over social security advancement. Let us look at the history of this Liberal-National Country Party Government and its predecessors. Let us look at all the great measures that were introduced in this country. Almost all of them were introduced by a
Liberal-Country Party government or its predecessor. Which government introduced the age and invalid pensions? It was the Deakin Government in 1908. When were payments made to hospitals for pensioners? It was in 1918 by the Nationalist Government. Which government first introduced automatic pension increases? It was the Menzies Liberal-Country Party Government in 1940. Which government introduced the pensioner health benefit services? It was the Liberal-Country Party Government in 1951. Which government reduced the residence qualification period from 20 years to 10 years to help migrants? It was the Menzies LiberalCountry Party Government in 1962. Which government introduced the nursing home benefit? It was the Menzies Liberal-Country Party Government in 1963. In 1969 the same Government provided supplementary benefits for intensive care patients.
– Yes, it was magnificent. What happened to the wives’ allowance in 1972? The McMahon Liberal-Country Party Government extended the allowance. Which government gave widows of pensioners the extended pension rate? The Gorton Liberal-Country Party Government in 1968 provided that the surviving spouse would receive up to 12 weeks payment equivalent to the married rate of pension. Which government brought in in 1976 automatic increases for pensions according to the consumer price index?
It was the present excellent Government. Which government introduced the domiciliary care benefit? It was the McMahon LiberalCountry Party Government. Which government introduced the new scheme for public bed patients? It was this Government. Which government introduced the family allowance scheme? A Liberal government did. Which government abolished the assets component of the means test? This Government did. Which government changed the ratio of $ 1 extra permissible income earned ,to the loss of $ 1 of pension? Which government changed that to a loss of only 50c of pension? It was this Government. Which government provided the fringe benefits? This Government provided an extension of fringe benefits in a previous Budget. Which government made the pension taxable for the first time? The Whitlam Labor Government did in 1973. Which was the first Government ever to decrease the pension? It was a Labor government in about 1932. It decreased the pension by seven shillings end sixpence per week. So much for the disgraceful attitude of the Labor Party to social security!
In the short time available to me, I wish to deal with two other very serious matters. They are defence and foreign affairs. I will speak further on these matters in the consideration of the estimates for the Department of Defence. It is a fact of life that in the past 15 years military expenditure by the Soviet Union and its allies has leaped dramatically far beyond the increase in the United States. Secretary Harold Brown has recently announced a massive new program to help to maintain strategic equivalents. He has pointed out that Soviet military doctrine emphasises the virtues of cover, deception and surprise. We saw cover, deception and surprise used by the Soviets and their puppets, the Vietnamese, in the invasion of Kampuchea. We are seeing the Kampuchean people starve and millions of them may die unless there is an international aid effort.
What is the Soviet Union doing about aid? It is doing almost nothing. Yet we find that the Soviet Union has increased its forces in Asia. In 1965 there were 20 Soviet divisions and 210 Soviet fighter attack aircraft in the region. Today, there are over 40 Soviet divisions and more than 1,000 Soviet fighter attack aircraft in the Asian region. Since 1976, the Soviet Pacific fleet has received additional surface combatants, including the Minsk, other aircraft carriers, the Ivan Rogov amphibious assault transport- what does it want that for?- and several nuclear submarines. There is still a long way to go before we can say that there will not be a possibility of instability in our region. While there is that possibility this Government must ensure that we have adequate defence expenditure. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Killen) is to be congratulated on the 2.6 per cent increase in expenditure in real terms on defence in this Budget.
– In real terms.
– In real terms, as the honourable member for Perth says. The final point I wish to raise is the bitter alternative that the Labor Party would provide. What is its policy which was decided at the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress and the Labor Party Conference in Adelaide and which binds every single member of the Parliamentary Labor Party in this House, all of whom took the socialist pledge? It has no economic policy. It says that it will develop an economic policy with the understanding and cooperation of the trade union movement- the trade union left-wing movement. The leftists have taken over. The communists in the Labor Party, who stay in the Labor Party because it gives them cover, have taken over the Labor Party. They have demanded that they have absolute power.
– A point of order -
– They have provided a policy that will make the unions immune from any penalties and yet keep penalties on the employers.
– A point of order -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! If the honourable member for Grayndler speaks from his place, I will listen to his point of order.
– Their policy provides that there will be no what they call judicial interference in the affairs of trade unions. In other words, trade unions will be above the law.
– That is a disgraceful thing. The law should be above all individuals and organisations. They will emphasise and encourage political strikes. They have provided for an increase in the closed shop.
– A point of order -
-Order! The honourable member for St George will resume his seat.
– They have said that there will be no use by the Government of the defence forces in an industrial dispute.
– A point of order -
– This is Labor disruption. They do not like it.
– A point of order -
– He is bound by the left wing. He is bound by the leftists. They do not like what they hear in this House.
-Order! If the honourable member for St George does not slow down a little, he will not be in the House very much longer.
– It is a spurious point of order.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Grayndler.
– The honourable member for St George should not talk about spurious points of order. He spends his life in this Parliament taking them.
– What is the point of order?
– I take exception as do other members on this side of the House. I would like you -
– They are going to have a socialist newspaper of their own.
– Would you quieten him, Mr Deputy Speaker?
– Order! I am trying to hear the point of order.
– I am reminded of the adage about empty vessels and most sound.
– What is your point of order?
– Our colleague from the National Country Party says that the member for St George is irrelevant and no doubt he is.
– What is your point of order?
– My point of order is that the honourable member for St George cast a slur on members of this side of the House in alluding to the fact that we had members who were communists in our organisations.
– I said that you were bound by the left wing trade unions.
– Can he hear the point of order before he goes rattling on with irrelevancies as he normally does?
– Order! The honourable member for Grayndler will come to his point of order.
– My point of order is that I would like you to ask the honourable member for St George to withdraw this most scurrilous attack upon members of the Opposition. It is typical of the type of remarks that this man makes in this Parliament. Mr Deputy Speaker, you of course remember that he was called upon earlier today to withdraw on two occasions. I would now ask you to ask him to withdraw again this evening.
– I cannot uphold the point of order. As I heard it, the honourable member for St George did not particularise that any member of this Parliament is a communist. I cannot uphold the point of order. I call the honourable member for Burke.
– I notice that the honourable member for Shortland wishes to speak. I give way to him.
– I do not think anybody with any sense of reason and competence takes much notice of what the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) says. I think it is best left at that. He is an embarrassment to his own party, to the Government parties and an embarrassment to his electorate. What he fails to recall in the novel history lesson which he gave to this Parliament is that for 90 per cent of the time since World War II his colleagues have been in control of the affairs of this country. Whatever the ailments and difficulties this country faces, they are a direct result of that. Let met just say that it was those conservatives in that period who reduced pensioners to penury, to poverty. It was the Whitlam Government that introduced six-monthly pension adjustments and did away with pensioners coming down here in droves and begging on the steps of Parliament House. Those conservatives put this country in hock to the tune of $5, 109m which is costing the taxpayers of this country something like $ 1m per day in interest for nought.
I now want to turn to the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition and particularly to paragraph ( 9 ) which reads: intensifies the lack of credibility of the Prime Minister and his government and adds to their long list of broken promises.
I want to deal specifically with the part of the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) immediately after the election in 1975 when he said:
Our wish and our obligation -
I underline obligation- is to serve all the people in co-operation and understanding . . .
We commit ourselves to integrity in government of the kind that Australia has a right to expect.
Australia is entitled to a much higher standard of integrity in government than what we have witnessed in this place since 1975. He went on to say:
We . . . commit ourselves to . . . tolerance between those who posses differences of attitude and mind.
For ‘tolerance’ we have seen divisiveness, confrontation, denigration of the unempoyed youth and denigration of trade unions and employees. I want to refer specifically to the treatment that has been meted out by this conservative Government to a very fine, prominent, well-respected Australian of Italian descent, a man who has been a resident of this country for 30 years, who is well regarded and a successful businessman. I refer to Mr James Bayutti, A.M. He was President of the Apia club. He organised one of the first, and still the best, soccer teams in Sydney. He was the first to organise ethnic radio in New South Wales. He was President of the ItalianAustralian Association. He was organiser at the Friuli appeal. He has an excellent and respectable business record and has assisted in the construction and development of this country. He was appointed to the Board of Qantas Airways Ltd by the Government of the day on 1 October 1974. The appointment was for five years. I have no doubt that he participated fully and effectively in his duties as a director. I have no doubt that he is a prodigous worker in the interests of Qantas and Australia. There is no doubt that he was a most useful and effective member on the Board, who brought great benefits to Australia and Qantas. Let me say that the 700,000 Australians of Italian descent derived pride and pleasure from the fact that one of their number had been recognised for high public office. Yet he has been unceremoniously dumped by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) from the Board of Qantas.
Let us examine the manner of the dumping, which can only be described as a crude, rude snub to those 700,000 Australians of Italian descent whom I have mentioned. In the late afternoon of Tuesday, 25 September, Mr Bayutti was handed by personal delivery a letter from the Minister for Transport advising him that his directorship would terminate on Sunday, 30 September. The letter also contained, surprisingly, an apology for the government’s failure to conclude an agreement for cheaper air fares to Italy. There was no explanation for the termination of his directorship and no explanation of the government’s failure to re-appoint him. There was no criticism of his performance, just a blunt notice of non-re-appointment. I ask why? What were the Government’s reasons? The obvious inferences are incompetence, in the absence of any explanation; the fact that he was a Labor Government appointment; and the fact that the Italian Government had not met the demands of this Government in relation to cheaper air fares.
I put it to the chamber that this is a serious and disgraceful affair and that the public is entitled to know just what is going on. Is it a vendetta against Labor appointees to public office? Is it a further discrimination against people of Italian descent now resident in this country? Is it a reaction against a denial of cheaper air fares to Australia, because the Italian Government has not been prepared to accept what is pushed at it by this Government? I believe that all of these things are reasons. Let me say that the Labor Party, when in government, re-appointed Qantas Board members who had been appointees of former conservative governments. On 21 July 1975 the Labor Government reappointed Sir Kenneth Humphreys for a further five years. On 1 July 1973, the Labor Government re-appointed Mr Law-Smith for a further three years.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has made great play of Cabinet consideration of appointments to public office. This raises the question, the very pertinent question: Did Cabinet consider Mr Bayutti ‘s re-appointment to the Qantas Board? Did Cabinet reject him? If not, why not? Why did not Cabinet consider him? If Cabinet did consider him, why has he been so unceremoniously dumped from the Board? Let me repeat my earlier comments with respect to Mr Bayutti. He is a respected, effective, prodigious worker for Qantas and for Australia. We on this side of the chamber believe that he should be re-appointed to the Board of Qantas.
Let us contrast the treatment of Mr Bayutti with that accorded to the National Country Party confidante and activist Mr Harry M. Miller. He was not snubbed, sacked or fired, despite the Computicket scandal. It was only after the crescendo of public outrage following the report of the liquidator of the Computicket organisation, Mr Pegler, that Mr Miller tendered his resignation from the Board of Qantas and the Meat and Livestock Corporation. Both organisationsthis is very important- are responsible to National Country Party Ministers. On 15 March the Opposition called for Mr Miller’s suspension from the Qantas Board. In the last paragraph of my statement I said that Mr Pegler, the liquidator for Computicket, said that he was unable to comprehend any justification for Mr Miller, as executive chairman, allowing the company to operate while losing a quarter of a million dollars a month. On that day Mr Miller was dismissed as special adviser to the Federal Government on the 1988 Bicentennial Celebrations Committee by the Liberal Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) following the laying of charges against Mr Miller.
On 16 March, the former Minister for Primary Industry, the former National Country Party Minister, released a Press statement in Canberra announcing Mr Miller’s resignation from the Board of Qantas and the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation. In that statement he said:
Mr Harry M. Miller today sent telexes to Mr Peter Nixon and myself - meaning the Minister- concerning his directorship of Qantas and membership of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation.
He has advised that he will be writing to offer his resignation from these two positions in view of charges laid against him.
I ask: Where is the letter? When was the letter written? When, in fact, did Mr Miller terminate his services with the Qantas board? The former
Minister for Primary Industry went on to say in respect of Mr Miller:
His participation in Qantas has similarly been very much in the interests of that Company and the Australian community.
He finished with these words:
In tendering his resignation Mr Miller has acted in the only way possible in the circumstances and it is with regret that his offer has been accepted.
The compliments paid to Mr Miller are in dramatic contrast to the treatment accorded to Mr Bayutti who, for all intents and purposes, has been sacked. Again I ask: Why? Let me reiterate that Mr Bayutti and the 700,000 Australians of Italian descent have been demeaned and discriminated against by the treatment being accorded to Mr Bayutti. I repeat my earlier question: When was Mr Miller’s letter of resignation written? When was it received? When did it become operative?
I want to refer to a third member of the Qantas board who also is facing the same conditions of termination of membership of the Board as Mr Bayutti. I refer to Mr C. J. Smith, the Regional Director of the Department of Transport in Victoria. He also was a well regarded and effective member of the Qantas Board. His services also are being terminated. Again I ask: Did Cabinet consider this? Did Cabinet make a decision not to reappoint him? If so, what were the reasons? Why then has not Mr Miller’s vacancy on the Board been filled? That is the important question I was leading to. We have a board of nine directors. Mr Miller resigned or intended to resign on 16 March. That was the impression given to the public. I do not believe that that is what happened. I do not believe that Mr Miller terminated his services with Qantas on 16 March. It is up to the Government now to table the documents involved and advise the community of what actually happened. But why has not Mr Miller’s position been filled? Why now are there two more vacancies on the Qantas Board? Three out of nine positions will be vacant as from next Sunday. We have not heard a word from the Government. We have not heard a word from the responsible Minister.
Qantas is a business which had a turnover last year of $649m and which has assets of $647m. It is an organisation of which Australians are proud and which ably represents Australia across the globe. Is the Board of Qantas to be stacked with the Prime Minister’s puppets? Will there be more jobs for the boys? The explicit undertaking of the Prime Minister, which he gave over and over in the early stages of the 1975 election campaign, was that that would not happen. Who will be the new appointees to Qantas? More of the Prime Minister’s staff? More of the puppets of the Prime Minister and those who sit opposite? Is it a case of out with the honourable, responsible and effective Board members such as Mr Bayutti, one of 700,000 Australians of Italian descent? There was no explanation about Mr Bayutti ‘s behaviour. There as been no consideration for the role that Italians play in this community. His termination quite clearly was a deliberate slight on Australians of Italian descent in this country.
In the last minute I have I want to say something about Mr Law-Smith of Trans-Australia Airlines. He is known to be a close and intimate associate of the Prime Minister. He is the ViceChairman of Qantas. On 9 August he was appointed Chairman of Trans- Australia Airlines. He was 65 years of age on 9 July 1979. He could not be appointed to the Australian National Railways Commission and he could not be the Federal Police Commissioner who must retire at 60. He could not be a member of the Australian Shipping Commission who must retire at 65. But Mr Law-Smith, the Prime Minister’s confidant and friend, was appointed Chairman of TAA one month after he turned 65 years of age. Where opposite are the men of honour? Where is the integrity about which the Prime Minister lampooned? That is the only way to describe it. He really lampooned about integrity in the election campaign in 1 975. He said he would bring in a standard of integrity acceptable to Australians. I conclude by saying that the standard of integrity that this Government has brought to this country is base. It has debased the Parliament. It has a responsibility to smarten up, as Mr Fraser said he would in Perth a few weeks ago -
-The Prime Minister will be referred to as such.
-In Australia’s interest.
Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– This evening I would like to raise a matter which affects a number of young people in my electorate and, I dare say, in the whole of the Sydney metropolitan area. Recently I directed the attention ofthe House to publicity in the metropolitan media of Sydney concerning a matter which I hope the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) will duly note. I refer to the fact that the Institute of Technology in Sydney has been conducting a bachelor of arts course in communication but recently has curtailed the course and told most of the more than 100 students enrolled that it will be wound down during this semester. That will inflict grave hardship upon a number of young people who enrolled in good faith. Because of either maladministration in the Institute of Technology or in the Commonwealth Department of Educationwhich is responsible for the funding of universities and colleges of advanced educationongoing funding for this course has not been provided. It might be suggested that 138 first year students in a BA degree course are not worth taking much account of. However, to those 138 students it represents the most crucial decision in their lives. They enrolled in good faith and in some instances gave up places in other metropolitan tertiary institutions to do so. They now find that because of lack of funding the course has been discontinued. That is a deplorable situation.
As we have learnt from a number of speeches that have been made in this Parliament in recent weeks, youth unemployment in New South Wales and Australia is rising. These young people, who have attempted to educate themselves and gain a valuable qualification now find that because of circumstances beyond their control they will not be able to complete that education. In fact, they find that they are being excluded from other courses in which they might otherwise have enrolled. I would hope that this Parliament and the Minister for Education would take note of their plight and that in the next few weeks some recourse will be opened to them so that their plans for additional education will come to fruition. A matter of thousands of dollars- not hundreds of thousands or millions, such as this Parliament usually deals in- is preventing these young people from completing their degree courses. It is a deplorable situation. Either the Commonwealth Department of Education or the Institute of Technology administration should be severely censured for the problems that they have caused these young people. I hope that some action is taken to ensure that the present situation does not continue.
To the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) it might appear to be a rather funny matter. He has managed to get himself an education, but the people who are attending the Institute of Technology in the main are students from the inner city suburbs of Sydney, people who have worked their way through high school to ensure that they will do a little better in the world. It behoves the Parliament to consider the matter seriously. I would hope that when the Minister reads of the matter in Hansard he will take it under consideration and ensure that funding will be provided so that the students who have been undertaking the BA course in media study at the New South Wales Institute of Technology will be able to continue that course and fulfil their aspirations.
– You could do with some of their advice.
-The honourable member could do with some education, instead of sitting there looking like a frog. He is reputed to be quite good with figures. In fact, he has the best rubbery figures around. All that these young people want is a fair go. They do not want to be robbed of that by stockbrokers and phoney members from the outer metropolitan areas. They want to get an education. This Government should assist them to do so.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In the adjournment debate on the night of Tuesday, 25 September the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) raised the question of telephone charges between parts of his electorate and Melbourne and he referred in particular to the town of Woodend. He made some very misleading remarks in his statement that night. I would like to set the record straight tonight. I do so because although Woodend is in the electorate of the honourable member for Burke it was until the last redistribution in my electorate. I understand from talking with the people of Woodend- as I continue to do- that the honourable member for Burke still needs a road map to find the place and that he rarely attends that part of his electorate, as is the case with most other rural parts of his electorate.
The honourable member for Burke suggested in his remarks the other night that it was the Government that had taken a decision which had the effect of depriving Woodend from being in the nearest telephone zone to Melbourne. That is totally incorrect. I am sure that the honourable member would know that earlier this year Telecom Australia completed a comprehensive review of the telephone zoning and charging practices throughout Australia. In that review Telecom took account of the fact that many areas on the urban fringe have business and social links with capital cities. However, as has been pointed out repeatedly by Telecom and subsequently by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley), the extension of full local call facilities to areas around metropolitan centres would be very costly and would raise questions of relevant equity with other telephone customers.
– Give us the name of your barber.
– You could do with one. As a compromise the concept of a community call extending subscriber access at a charging rate of 9c for each three minutes to the nearest service town with reasonable facilities was proposed and adopted Australia-wide. As a result of that most rural areas in Australia have benefited significantly by a reduction in telephone charges in their areas.
In the case of Romsey, which was the other town that the honourable member for Burke mentioned, the charging zone adjoins the outer metropolitan area, and that zone area was included therefore in the Community Access 80 Scheme. However, the zone which includes Woodend does not adjoin the outer metropolitan zone and will not have community call access to Melbourne at this stage. I repeat that this was a decision as a result of a review by Telecom, not by the Government. If community call facilities were extended to Woodend anomalies would be created which would result in a breach of one of the major principles of the Community Access 80 Scheme, that is, that no call charges should be increased. Day rates for shorter distance subscriber trunk dialling calls were reduced significantly in November 1978 and Telecom is, as I understand it, constantly seeking further to reduce call charges as economic conditions permit. That is something for which I know many honourable members, including me, have been pressing for a long time. The solution of this problem of telephone charges in rural areas will be solved in the end by a progressive widening of the zones.
Despite the concern that the honourable member for Burke purported in his comments to have, it appears from his comments that he has not made representations on this matter to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I might say that I have because I know that since 1977 the people of Woodend have not received the service that they deserve from their local member. I hope that these comments will set the record straight a little in terms of the very misleading remarks that the honourable member for Burke made the other night.
-Tonight I wish to discuss that organised hypocrisy, the Liberal Party of Australia. I want to illustrate that remark by reference to its actions as compared with its words on unemployment. During the recent South Australian election we were inundated with advertisements telling us how much the Liberals were concerned with the unemployment problem in South Australia. We have listened to the Minister for Unemployment consistently prate about his band-aid schemes for the young unemployed. However, I think the height of sanctimoniousness was reached by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) on 28 August when he said:
I am not prepared to sit in this House day after day and be lectured, indeed hectored, by the honourable member for Port Adelaide on the supposed fact that I have no concern for the unemployed, that the policies that are being pursued are nonsense.
He went on to say that he too loved the unemployed. Let us contrast those words with the actions that are now taking place right round Australia in relation to unemployed youth. In the Budget the various schemes to reduce youth unemployment were severely cut. The Special Youth Employment Training Program was simply gutted, the National Employment and Training Scheme was cut by half and the Community Youth Support Scheme was cut by 14 per cent.
The people in the electorate of Bonython, where there are some 3,000 young people unemployed, took the Minister at his word and in the last 18 months got under way a whole series of programs under CYSS. In the city of Elizabeth the scheme had been given $47,000; in Salisbury North, $51,000; in Pooraka, $35,000; and in Teatree Gully, $43,000. Local community people got together, set up their committees, worked with a project officer to get this money and in August were all operating on budgets which had been approved for that year. At the beginning of September, without any discussion with the various groups that had been appointed, without any discussion with the committees that ran these schemes, and without any discussion with the project officers, a cut was simply authorised across all the schemes. As a result, $6,000 was taken off the Elizabeth scheme; $1 1,000 was taken off the Salisbury scheme; $2,000 was taken off the Pooraka scheme; and $3,000 was taken off the Teatree Gully scheme.
In one of the regions where there is the worst youth unemployment in Australia these was a cut of $22,000. This was in an area where the Liberals only a fortnight before had said that unemployment was increasing. This is how we can measure the words of this organised hypocrisy. In one of the worst areas for youth unemployment $20,000 was cut without consultation with any of the people who in the last six months to a year had put a great amount of effort into getting those schemes off the ground. That is not the end of that kind of hypocrisy. The Minister concerned had the hide to send me the following telegram:
I am very interested in seeing the Community Youth Support Scheme utilised to assist young people looking for work. Therefore I am pleased to advise you that a grant of $39,749. 1 7 has been approved under the Scheme to fund the proposal from Department of Youth, Salisbury, for a period of 39 weeks.
First of all, that is a lie; it is 52 weeks. He does not like to admit that, in fact, that is the cut. So that it ran -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! I ask the honourable member to withdraw that.
– I withdraw that. That is an incorrect statement. The $39,000 does not cover 39 weeks; it, in fact, covers 52 weeks. Nowhere in that congratulatory epistle does the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) tell me, or any of the other committee members, that that in fact is the cut figure. A budget was approved three months ago and the community groups were working on a budget of $51,000. We are now blessed with this telegram which tells us that we should be happy about the $39,000, with not a single mention that it involves a cut of $1 1,000. 1 believe that the people in my community are not going to accept these decisions. I am prepared to use all forms of resistance in areas such as Bonython to resist the kinds of cuts that are being unilaterally made without discussion with the groups concerned.
– I wish to raise a matter tonight which concerns me greatly in regard to sensible industrial relations and the integrity of courts in New South Wales. I refer to a report in the Parramatta and District Mercury of 1 June 1979 concerning the arrest of 23 men from a Stocks and Holdings site in Baulkham Hills on 66 charges comprising trespassing, resisting arrest, hindering, malicious damage and inciting to riot. Shortly after those arrests and the placing of charges I was most interested to receive a circular from the Secretary of the Builders Labourers Federation of New South
Wales, Mr Steve Black. The circular, which is entitled ‘Three Big Victories for Builders’ Labourers’ gives details of the outcome of the dispute on that site. The circular states:
The outcome of this dispute is then enunciated in six points. I would like to draw the attention of the House to the two most relevant points. The first is point three which states:
All charges which the company had laid against Officials and Labourers (trespass, malicious damage, et cetera) to be dropped.
Point four states:
All the police charges (resisting arrest, hindering arrest, inciting a riot et cetera) to be dropped.
I think it is most interesting that before a case is heard in the courts a settlement, which has been agreed upon by the parties, is made a matter for the public by the union involved. It seems to me that there was collusion and, in fact, blackmail on this matter. On 27 July further information was available in the newspapers and I quote from the Sydney Morning Herald of 24 August in which this matter is raised. The article states:
A spokesman for the Premier, Mr Wran, who is also the Minister for Police, said later that the company and the federation had applied to the Acting Commissioner of Police, Mr J. T. Lees, for the charges to be dropped.
Further in the report it states:
Dropping of the charges laid by the company and also by the police was a condition of the settlement of the industrial dispute.
At this stage the matter was before the court. I quote further from the Parramatta and District Mercury of Tuesday 28 August, after the court case. This newspaper which represents the case, to my view, accurately, states:
The company had agreed to withdraw the 23 trespass charges against the men and the Police Commissioner had agreed to withdraw the other 33 police charges.
Under the circumstances, no explanation at all has been given and the application is denied. ‘
This was said by the magistrate, Mr Dale. The report continues:
But Mr Dale refused to withdraw the charges.
On this basis, the court is entitled to an explanation,’ he said.
The matter which I wish to place before the House tonight is that in these circumstances I claim that there has been criminal contempt of the court. I believe the price of settlement with the Premier and with the company has been industrial peace on that site. I think that the collusion and the pressure- blackmail- that has been used by the BLF in these circumstances has made it impossible but for the Premier or for the company to continue to accept the agreements put forward by the union. I take this opportunity to charge that union with criminal contempt of the court. I call on the New South Wales Attorney-General to investigate this matter as a case of contempt. Let us choose. Let us see what are his bona fides. Let us see his integrity in this case, if not in other cases. The blackmail and contempt allegations must be answered by the Attorney-General establishing a proper and full investigation.
-A court controlled ballot of the New South Wales branch of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association is presently being conducted in New South Wales. The ballot is to be completed by 10 or 1 1 October. The ballot arises out of Proceedings Nos. 14 and 33 of 1978 of the Federal Court. There is little need for me to inform honourable members of the enormous amount of legal inquiry, court challenge and counterchallenge into matters concerning this union and the shop branch of the Australian Workers Union. I am proud to be a member of the AWU but I make no judgment as to the virtues or vices of the three groups contesting the ballot, although of course I am well aware of some of the allegations being made. I am not fully aware of the complications involved in eligibility for people to vote because of people being registered at both State and Federal levels, or at State level only. There is some confusion in the minds of some of the eligible voters.
However, I am concerned at the way the ballot is being conducted, and at allegations of improper practices that constituents have brought to my attention. A constituent has informed me that she had been visited at her home, at night, by a person purporting to be from the SDA and that this person asked that she hand over her ballot paper so that she could fill it out for her. I visited the home of my informant and am convinced that the event occurred. Of course, such an action is a breach of section 171 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Another woman has complained to me that, although her employer has been deducting union dues and forwarding these to Victoria for use by the union, she has been denied a vote because she is not on the roll. I have advised her to contact the electoral officer.
On making inquiries about the first matterthat is, people visiting homes and asking for ballot papers to be handed over- I have been told that there have been at least three complaints of similar events which have been reported to the Commonwealth Police. This is a big election and I understand that some 40,000 ballot papers have been sent out. The ballot has been ordered by a Federal court- it is a court controlled ballot- and one would have hoped that, with all the machinery of government behind it, there would have been no irregularities in the ballot. I would be very much obliged if the responsible Minister could check into the allegations being made to me, particularly with respect to the complaints to the Commonwealth Police. The Government wants the courts to control all union affairs when it suits it, and many Government members opposite want to involve courts in decisions on strike action. If union ballots, which one would anticipate are relatively straightforward, cannot be conducted without problems such as I have outlined, I believe the Government should take some action to tighten up procedures to ensure that abuses do not take place.
-In recent weeks, a number of honourable members have raised the problem of so-called religious cults emerging in our society, but as well as the emergence of these pseudo-religious cults there is yet another phenomenon which seems to be developing, which is often causing much in the way of mental and financial anguish to many of our families. This is the so-called ‘mind development courses’. One such course that has come to my notice in recent weeks is an outfit named Focal, or Focal International, which bases itself at 31 Sherwood Road, Toowong, in Brisbane and at Focal Lodge in the Brisbane suburb of Pullenvale.
Focal claims to be one of these such courses, offering the ultimate in personal development. I understand it also operates in Perth and has offices in other capital cities, although it has been virtually run out of South Australia. There would appear to be two separate operations of Focalfirstly, salesmanship courses and, secondly, the alleged self-development course. It is the second of these that appears to cause the most problems. Introductory literature is cleverly worded to appeal to people who believe they have personality problems, although Focal safeguards itself by saying in its literature that: ‘No person with a record of psychiatric, medical or emotional problems should participate in this high powered course without the consent of their doctor’.
The literature states clearly that the personnel involved in the training are not psychologists or psychiatrists, but claims that the teachers are highly skilled in the art of living. It even has the hide to claim that there is a money-back guarantee if a person is not completely satisfiedprovided that person has completed the course to the fullest participation and provided he or she has signed a release clause, the release clause being one that completely clears Focal. I have seen the document forwarded to a person who claimed on the money-back guarantee. It is a page of abuse and insult and can only be described as obscene. The money-back guarantee is not worth the paper it is written on.
But, the frightening aspect of this operation is the cost- $1,000 for the privilege of undertaking a four-day course, although Focal claims that it is life membership. Constitutents who have approached me have claimed that they have spent, in one instance, $2,800 and, in another instance, $4,000. It is a case of milking the clients dry. I understand that finance can be arranged by the organisation and that it is quite common practice for people to put themselves into great debt, such is the power of Focal. The four day mind development course is held at Focal Lodge at Pullenvale. Up to 24 people attend each course every second weekend. People who have done the four day stint have told of the hell that they have been through. I believe it is a classic technique in mind bending. Participants are allowed very little sleep, they are disoriented, subjected to weird lighting effects, loud music but little food. People who emerge from such a weekend are described as walking zombies.
There are frightening stories of techniques used in the area called ‘The Pit ‘. There are public humiliation sessions, public confessions from people subjected to tirades of abuse and personal degradation. The name of this particular section ofthe course is ‘Greatness in You’. Other titles of courses include ‘The Sensuous Woman’, Business Motives’ and ‘Sales Training’, although the most frightening of all could well be the one entitled ‘The Fascinating Girl’, which is a special course for young ladies aged between 1 6 and 1 8 years. The mind boggles at what might be involved in that. It would seem that the courses are attended by a great cross-section of people ranging in age from as low as 1 3 years up to people in their 70s. The rip-off would appear never to cease. People who try to get out are often convinced by the principals of Focal to undertake other courses at extra cost to get over their doubts about what Focal provides. But what frightens me is the refusal to speak about the courses by people who have been through them. It would seem to be a fear of speaking up about what really goes on at the Focal Lodge. I have, however, spoken to a prominent journalist who investigated Focal ‘s operations in South Australia. He told me that he had received death threats when he started reporting on Focal.
The sad conclusion of these courses is what happens to a number of people who, after the maximum amount of money has been taken from them, make a break, and end up with the most serious mental and nervous conditions. The Department of Mental Health in Queensland has had experiences with such folk as members of GROW, that fine organisation which plays such a wonderful role in the rehabilitation of those people with emotional and mental problems, who point out that voluntary organisations such as theirs do not charge for such services. Focal charges $1,000, allegedly for this mind developing course. It is sad to see families torn apart when one of its members enters into Focal. I have had two such cases that have come to light in my electorate. It is sad to see the effect on people who involve themselves in so much debt to this organisation and who go through such incredible emotional anguish when they realise just what their financial commitment is to this group. I believe that the pressure and standover tactics are there and someone has got to stop them. I warn all people to be very careful before they sign for a Focal course in Brisbane.
– I wish to draw the attention of the House to a false, malicious and misleading advertisement in this afternoon’s Sun newspaper in Sydney inserted by the Honourable Kevin Stewart, Minister for Health of New South Wales. In this advertisement he says:
As announced last month the NSW Government is required to make changes to the NSW Hospital System.
All other State Governments are also required to do the same because of massive financial health cutbacks by the Federal Government.
That statement is a deliberate and disgracefully dishonest one. It is one that flies in the face of the facts and I believe that this House ought to condemn the State Minister for Health for so endeavouring to mislead the people of New South Wales. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard two tables clearly showing the 14 per cent increase in money made available to New South Wales this year for health.
The tables read as follows-
– I thank the House. This advertisement was paid for by the people of New South Wales- allegedly a State which has been so cut back by the Federal Government that it has no money. This advertisement which was inserted at the expense of the people of New South Wales is one of the most despicable acts by a Minister for Health who is seeking to hide behind the Federal Government when making his own decisions on what should happen to the health services in that State. He has got a 14 per cent increase in the money available for hospitals in New South Wales this year. Yet he is pretending that every time he closes a bed or a hospital it is the fault of the Federal Government. The fact is that enough money is being given to New South Wales this year to enable the maintenance of existing services and to account for inflation. The fact that the New South Wales Government chooses, sensibly I submit, to expand its operations in growing areas and to contract them in decaying ones is sound economics. It is utterly disgraceful for the State Minister to pretend that there is something wicked about this and that it is the fault of the Federal Government. Something like 50 per cent of hospital beds in New South Wales have a utilisation of under 70 per cent. That is a disgraceful waste and it is about time that the State Government woke up to this fact. But for heaven’s sake, is it not also time that it stopped crying falsely that everything that happens in regard to hospitals is the Federal Government’s fault.
Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 9 October next at 2.15 p.m. unless Mr Speaker shall fix an alternative day or hour of meeting to be notified by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 21 February 1979:
What sums were paid for (a) hotel or other accommodation for him and his staff on official overseas trips and (b) the rent overseas of (i ) official offices and (ii ) domestic premises used by any member of his Department during the periods (A)11 November 1975 to 30 June 1976, (B) 1976-77, (C) 1977-78 and(D) 1 July 1978 to date.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the Prime Minister’s reply to Question No. 3172 (House of Representatives Hansard of7 June 1979, page3143).
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 7 June 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) and (2) The most recent year in respect of which the relevant data are available is 1976. ABS statistics indicate that at 3 1 December of that year:
These statistics should be interpreted in the light of the Explanatory Notes in the ABS Bulletin ‘Foreign Control of Finance Companies 1976’ (5324.0). Comparable data for the years 1 977 and 1978 are not available.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 7 June 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
ABS statistics indicate that for the financial year 1975-76:
1 ) Eighty-one enterprises contributed towards expenditure on petroleum exploration in Australia.
The total value of the exploration expenditure, including both on-shore and off-shore exploration, was $59.6 million.
Forty of the enterprises involved were foreign-controlled.
The percentage of expenditure funded by foreigncontrolled enterprises was 74.4 per cent.
(a) 22 of the enterprises were US-controlled; and(b) 8 of the enterprises were UK-controlled.
(a) The 22 US-controlled enterprises accounted for 34.1 per cent of the total expenditure on petroleum exploration; and (b) the 8 UK-controlled enterprises accounted for 36.7% of the expenditure.
These statistics should be interpreted in the light of the Explanatory Notes in the ABS Bulletin ‘Foreign Control in Mineral Exploration 1975-76’ (5323.0). Comparable data for the years 1977 and 1 978 are not available.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 7 June 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
ABS statistics indicate that for the financial year 1 975-76:
1 ) 502 enterprises contributed towards expenditure on mineral (excluding petroleum) exploration.
163 of the enterprises involved were foreign-controlled.
54.4 per cent of expenditure was undertaken by foreign-controlled enterprises.
Of the 163 foreign-controlled enterprises, 56 were US-controlled and 39 were UK-controlled.
The proportion of expenditure on mineral exploration (excluding petroleum) which was funded in each State and in the Northern Territory by foreigncontrolled enterprises was as follows:
New South Wales (40.6 per cent); Victoria (25 per cent); Queensland (58.3 per cent); South Australia (41.8 per cent); Western Australia (63.9 per cent); Tasmania (60 per cent); and the Northern Territory (38.4percent).
These statistics should be interpreted in the light of the Explanatory Notes in the ABS Bulletin ‘Foreign Control in Mineral Exploration 1975-76’ (5323.0). Comparable data for the years 1977 and 1978 are not available.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 7 June 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The most recent ABS statistics are for 1 975-76. These statistics indicate that in 1975-76 the largest 200 enterprise groups accounted for 50 per cent of the value added of all manufacturing industry.
Statistics covering the operations of all foreign-controlled enterprises in the whole of the economy are not available.
These statistics should be interpreted in the light of the Explanatory Notes in the ABS Bulletin ‘Foreign Control in Manufacturing Industry: Study of Large Enterprise Groups 1975-76’ (5315.0). In particular, it should be noted that while the question refers to ‘enterprises’ the information requested is available only in respect of ‘enterprise groups’. The ‘enterprise group’ is defined as the aggregation of all manufacturing establishments operated by a group of enterprises related in terms of Section 6 of the uniform companies legislation.
asked the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 7 June 1 979:
What is the expected number of Special Youth Employment Training Program trainees in 1978-79, and what is the expected cost.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In 1978-79, 66,331 young persons were approved for assistance under the Special Youth Employment Training Program. The cost of the Program in 1 978-79 was $82.6m.
asked the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 7 June 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the reply given by the Minister for Administrative Services in answer to Question No. 4299 (Hansard, pages 972-3 of 1 1 September 1 979).
Task Group on Youth Affairs (Question No. 4356)
asked the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 21 August 1979:
What have been the activities and achievements of the Task Group on Youth Affairs since the formation of his Department.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Task Group is an inter-departmental co-ordinating committee set up to assist co-ordination of policies and programs which bear significantly on Government services to youth. The Task Group comprises representatives from the Departments of Employment and Youth Affairs, Education, Finance, Health, Industry and Commerce, Prime Minister and Cabinet and Social Security (Social Welfare Policy Secretariat). It receives advice from all other Departments and meets in committee every two months. The Task Group provides advice to me and to the Government when appropriate.
asked the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 21 August 1979:
What are the administrative costs of tightening the work test
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is not possible to calculate the additional costs that may be involved in revised administrative arrangements for the application of the new work test guidelines.
asked the Minister for Employ ment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 21 August 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 28 August 1979:
What percentage of those Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders eligible for (a) age pensions, (b) invalid pensions, (c) widows’ pensions, (d) other pensions, (e) social security sickness benefits or (f) unemployment benefits, is estimated not to be receiving these payments on account of limited motivation, awareness or capacity to obtain the payments.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The possibility of collecting statistics on Aboriginals in receipt of social security payments by means of an additional question on application forms is currently under examination.
Statistics on the numbers of Aboriginals whose entitlement to social security pensions, benefits or allowances could be established if they applied are also not available. To arrive at a reliable figure would require far more information than is currently available about the characteristics of the Aboriginal population.
In the absence of data about the number of Aboriginals receiving social security payments and those whose entitlement to such payments could be established if they applied, it is not possible to provide the information requested.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 29 August 1979:
What is the estimated impact on the CPI during 1979-80 of the (a) changes to health insurance arrangements, (b) abolition of the trading stock valuation adjustments, (c) 2 per cent indirect levy on most duty free imports announced on 24 May 1 979 and (d) crude oil levy.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The CPI is affected, of course, by the flow through of changes in the import parity price. In an address to the Australian Finance Conference on 23 July 1979 I indicated that oil price increases were expected to add directly around1½ percentage points to the rise in the CPI in 1979. Of this, around1 percentage point is expected to flow through in the second half of 1979. The Budget estimates make no allowance for any possible further changes in the import parity price during the balance of this financial year.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 13 September 1979:
Further to his answer to Question No. 4057 (Hansard, 30 August 1979, page 890) what was the (a) quarterly rate of inflation during (i) 1970 and (ii) 1971 and (b) annual rate of inflation during (i) 1969-70, (ii) 1970-71 and (iii) 1971-72.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Postal and Telecommunications Department
-On 8 March 1979, Mr Lionel Bowen asked me the following question without notice:
I direct a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. It is supplementary to questions asked earlier. Is it a fact that $ 1 4m in licence fees remains uncollected due to the staff shortage in the Minister’s Department? Is it also a fact that there are 2,000 unattended complaints of radio interference because of thatstaff shortage? Is it not a fact that an independent review suggested that the Department’s staff be increased by 144 but that because of the Prime Minister’s interference only 67 were allowed to be employed? In view of the fact that revenue amounting to $14m remains uncollected and that 2,000 complaints are still unattended, I ask the Minister whether he will override the Prime Minister and employ the staff suggested by the independent review.
The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I understand that there is an amount of revenue in the form of licence fees that remains uncollected. It is not possible to assess the amount of revenue involved, though $ 1 4m would represent something in the order of 550,000 licences. It is apparent that there is a discrepancy between the number of CBRS radios imported into the country and the number of licences in force. However, no reliable information on the number of CBRS radios in Australia is available.
There have previously been industrial disputes in my Department, however additional officers are now being recruited in this area, and the difficulties presently being encountered should be alleviated progressively as additional resources become available.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 September 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790927_reps_31_hor115/>.