31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-Yesterday, during Question Time, I was asked about Hansard by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown). Given the nature of the proceedings in the chamber yesterday, I issued a statement, which I now read:
During the question time today the Honourable Member for Parramatta raised the question as to whether the Hansard report of an answer given to his question by the Honourable the Minister for Industrial Relations had been altered in such a way as to render it an inaccurate record.
I have now inquired into the matter and am satisfied that the answer of the Minister as reported in the Hansard conforms completely to the words actually used by him and recorded by the Hansard sound tape.
I have been informed by the Principal Parliamentary Reporter that the Hansard ‘green’ sent to the Minister was not returned by the Minister. Accordingly there was no attempt made by the Minister to alter the Hansard report.
However, since that statement was issued by me I have seen a copy of a report which appears to be a Hansard report, which was in the possession of the honourable member for Parramatta and which led him to raise the matter. I have examined a copy of the transcript as it went to the Government Printer. I am informed by the Principal Parliamentary Reporter that the words written in on that piece of paper were added by the reporter in correcting the copy that she had dictated to the typist. The transposition of words was done by a supervisor in order to make the copy agree precisely with what the Minister had said.
-Mr Speaker, I would like your indulgence to say a few words on the matter, to make a very short statement.
– The honourable gentleman may proceed.
-I would like to thank you, Mr Speaker, for your prompt investigation of my complaint. In fairness, I think you would agree that that altered ‘green’ which you and I both saw led me to believe that an alteration had been made. I am quite satisfied that the reply of the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) was exactly in the terms as printed in Hansard. I would like to apologise to the Minister for any embarrassment I may have caused him.
– I indicate to the honourable gentleman that I appreciate the apology he has offered. I should also indicate that the Hansard is a standing record of what occurs in this House. It is within the proper scope of any honourable member, if he feels the record is not accurate, to have the matter raised and I will always investigate it.
– 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 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 woman 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 Aldred and Dr Cass.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That a grave threat to the life of refugees from the various States of Indo-China arises from the policies of the Government of Vietnam.
That, as a result of these policies, many thousands of refugees are fleeing their homes and risking starvation and drowning. Because of the failure of the rich nations of the world to provide more than token assistance, the resources of the nations of first refuge, especially Malaysia and Thailand, are being stretched beyond reasonable limits.
As a wealthy nation within the region most 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 Burns and Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
There is a definite limit to the quantity of Australia’s mineral resources.
Accordingly our resources should be managed and developed under Australian ownership and control.
Publicly owned trading enterprises and corporations have been established and operated for the benefit of Australians since Federation.
The Commonwealth Banking Corporation, Trans Australia Airlines, Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, Australian Wheat Board, were all designed to operate to the benefit of our Nation as a whole under public ownership.
The Fraser government’s irresponsible proposals to sell off our Nation’s interest in the Ranger Uranium Mine, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, and to dispose of other successful statutory corporations such as Trans Australia Airlines, would be contrary to the Nation’s interest.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will reject outright proposals of the Fraser government to sell the Ranger Uranium Mine, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation and Trans Australia Airlines.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass and Mr Howe.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble Petition of undersigned residents of Queensland respectfully showeth that:
Whereas the Noah’s Ark Toy Library for Handicapped Children (Queensland) at New Farm, Brisbane provides a valuable support service to handicapped children and their families in Queensland, Brisbane and Ipswich in particular, in that it offers a therapeutic backup service to therapeutic agencies by the lending of toys, books, play equipment and the provision of other related services. It is now so desperately short of funds as a result of:
We the citizens of Brisbane humbly pray that your Government will provide further funds by way of a direct grant or further subsidy so that this necessary service may continue it’s work for the benefit of handicapped children and their families.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That, in view of rumours that the post office at Tunstall Square might be closed and in view of the convenience of the post office to many local residents,
Your petitioners pray that the post office at Tunstall Square Shopping Centre be retained. by Mr Falconer.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the very survival of mankind is at stake, with the stockpile of nuclear weapons able to kill every person on earth 24 times over and with conventional arms of increasing sophistication having enough destructive power to destroy most life on earth.
Noting that, while millions starve, expenditure on the arms race is $ 1,000m per day for the World and $7m per day for Australia;
And noting that the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has listed ‘peace and disarmament’ as a theme for the International Year of the Child; and further noting that a reduction in expenditure on arms could contribute in both developed and developing countries to the eradication of hunger and disease and to the provision of more adequate housing, education, health services, economic security and social welfare for all people:
In the interests of children in Australia and around the world, particularly in developing countries, and as a matter of highest priority during the International Year of the Child,
We call upon the Australian Government to give political leadership both nationally and internationally in working towards:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Falconer.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, of the Australian Parliament assembled.
The petition of certain citizens of NSW.
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 J.2 per cent while non-Government schools will receive an increase of 3.4 per cent.
We call on the Government to again examine the proposals as set out in the guidelines for Education expenditure 19S0 and to immediately restore and increase substantially in real terms the allocation of funds for education expenditure in 1 980 to Government schools.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, by Mr Gillard. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Government has for too long delayed its decision on the legislative proposals concerning oil companies and petroleum marketing practices announced by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in October last year, and that in the meantime proprietors of Service Stations offering complete garage service in the electorate of Griffith and in almost every other federal electorate in Australia have received notice from their respective supplying oil companies to change their mode of operation to self service, despite (a) customer complaints (b) the employment consequences of such a change, and (c) the danger to road safety as a result of less professionally supervised maintenance.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Government will introduce legislation to prohibit oil companies from involvement in the retail market, remove discriminatory pricing practices of supplying oil companies, and give tenant dealers security of tenure from arbitrary and unfair termination of tenancy or refusal to remove tenancy.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, by Mr Humphreys. Petition received.
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 the agreement between the Commonwealth and Japanese Governments granting Japanese long line fishing boats access to Australia’s recently declared two hundred mile fishing zone for a fee of $ 1.4m will seriously imperil the world’s largest population of black marlin which inhabit the north Queensland waters and consequently endanger the invaluable tourist and ancillary industries in that area which depend on big game fishing. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government will declare:
Your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Humphreys. Petition received.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the city of Nunawading in the electorate of Deakin respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the government of the Commonwealth of Australia per medium of the Minister for Social Security give all directions to ensure that necessary action be taken without delay.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, by Mr Jarman. Petition received.
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 unprecedented 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. by Mr Ruddock.
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 price of LPG in Victoria has risen by $80 per tonne since November 1978 as a result of Federal Government policy thereby causing hardship to country consumers using LPG for cooking, heating and hot water and to decentralised industries using LPG for industrial purposes.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
that pending the establishment of a fair price in accordance with Clause 2 above and to provide some immediate relief to country consumers:
-I refer the Minister for Industrial Relations to his answer in Parliament yesterday when he said that his staff had checked with the program PM and had confirmed that it had a copy of the Staples letter last Thursday night before his office circulated the letter. In view of the program’s broadcast statement last night which directly contradicted the Minister’s claim, will the Minister now correct his misleading statement made to Parliament yesterday?
-Order! I have drawn to the attention of questioners that they should not include any imputation in their questions. The matter is one for debate. A question should ask for fact. The use of the word ‘misleading’ in the question is wrong. I ask the honourable gentleman to confine his question to a search for fact.
-Mr Speaker, I will rephrase the question. In view of the program’s broadcast statement last night which directly contradicted the Minister’s claim, I ask the Minister: Does he stand by the statement that he made to the Parliament yesterday?
– I refer to a transcript of the PM program of 1 1 October which states specifically:
The judge’s letter, a copy of which came into our hands today . . .
That was in the transcript. There was then some additional comment. Following that I asked my staff to confirm whether in fact that statement was true, whether in fact a copy of the judge’s letter had come into the hands of PM. That was confirmed to a member of my staff. Further, it was confirmed that, that letter having come into their hands, they then wisely, I believe, sought to check its authenticity. They said that they had done that with someone who was close to Mr Justice Staples, and confirmed to my staff that the extract from the transcript- ‘The judge’s letter, a copy of which came into our hands today’was correct.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. It concerns the family reunions of East Timorese in Australia. Can the Minister inform the House what progress is being made with the reunions of families between East Timor and Australia? Does the Minister recall that some months ago preliminary approval was given for about 600 people to come from East Timor to Australia to be reunited with their families? Has this process slowed down in recent months? Can the Minister say when the program will be completed?
– As honourable members would know, the Australian Government did negotiate with the Indonesian authorities last year and there was an agreed list of some 600 people. This list was to provide the background for the reunion of those people still in East Timor with their families in Australia. Movement of those people started early this year or late last year. So far some 285 people have come to Australia under this reunion program. An additional 85 people have been reunited with their families under normal migration arrangements. The program was proceeding satisfactorily, if slowly, but unfortunately in recent times it has slowed down. This is a cause of some concern to me and my Department. The Government is presently having consultations with the Indonesian Government to see whether the program can be got moving again. We want to see the families reunited as quickly as possible and all our endeavours will be aimed at achieving that result.
– Did the Minister for Industrial Relations authorise his staff to hand out copies of, and to brief journalists on, the Staples letter? If he did not -
Government members interjecting-
-Order! If there are interjections while the question is being asked, it is likely that there will be interjections while the question is being answered. I therefore ask all honourable members to remain silent.
-Did the Minister authorise his staff to hand out copies of, and to brief journalists on, the Staples letter? If he did not so authorise his staff, did they hand out copies and brief journalists without his knowledge? If this did occur without his knowledge, what action has he taken on the matter?
– As I have already explained to this House, following the PM program, which was the subject of the last question, I asked my staff to check whether it was correct that PM had a copy of the letter. They informed me that it was, as I also informed the House yesterday -
– Well, someone has to be telling a lie in all this.
– Just a moment. Some time later that night- about 9 o’clock- I authorised the distribution of those comments by Mr Justice Staples.
– That was 9 o’clock.
-There is confusion here-I come back to yesterday’s Hansard- between approving of the distribution and becoming aware of the distribution. That is the matter that I would like to clear up now, if I may. I authorised this at about- I cannot be precise- 9 o’clock. I was then engaged in other business. A good deal later- I suspect it was probably after 10 o’clock- I became aware that the document had in fact been distributed.
– My question also is directed to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Can the Minister inform the House of the result of his discussions last night with the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Sir John Moore?
– A short time ago I released a statement about my meeting with Sir John Moore last night, following his request to me for a meeting. Sir John is aware of the terms of that statement and he has confirmed -
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I point out that, as the Minister has already pointed out to the Parliament, there is a twopage statement which was made available to the Press and to other interested people at a quarter past 10.I would have thought that that in itself was sufficient insult to the Parliament -
-Order! There is no point of order.
– But the Opposition is quite prepared -
-There is no point of order.
– To debate this matter with the Government after Question Time.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– He should not use Question Time for the making of ministerial statements.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Port Adelaide to resume his seat. I warn the honourable member for Port Adelaide that if he persists in interjecting and taking points of order of the nature of that he has just taken I will have to deal with him.
- Sir John is aware of the terms of that statement and has confirmed that it accurately reflects our discussion. I table the document.
– Incorporate it.
-Does the honourable gentleman ask for leave to incorporate the statement?
The document read as follows-
News Release from the Minister for
Industrial Relations the Hon. Tony Street, MP.
Following Sir John Moore ‘s meeting with senior presidential members of the Commission and the Executive of the Commissioners’ Association, he requested a meeting with me to discuss the consultative proposals in the legislation currently before the Parliament.
I then made arrangements to see Sir John Moore last night.
Sir John told me of concern within the Commission about the autonomy of the Commissioners and asked specifically whether the consultative proposals in the legislation would enable a Deputy President to direct a Commissioner, or whether Commissioners’ decisions would require the approval of a Deputy President. I assured Sir John that under the proposed legislation, Commissioners retained the right of final decision on a case they had heard. They would not be subject to direction by a Deputy President, nor would their decision be subject to approval by a Deputy President. The requirement was to consult, and it would be up to the Deputy President and Commissioner concerned to work out arrangements suitable to them and the circumstances.
Sir John then raised the question of the working of the Commission itself. He pointed out that the proposed consultative procedures could result in delays in getting final decisions in some instances, and asked whether the requirement to consult might be limited in order to lessen this problem.
In reply, I pointed out that the object of the consultative procedures was to get the maximum possible consistency in principle in the decision making of the Commission. While decisions inconsistent in principle were not frequent, they had resulted in great industrial disruption and inconvenience to the public. The Government believed it had an obligation to make every effort to reduce to a minimum the chance of this happening.
Any qualification on the need to consult would obviously carry with it an increased risk of inconsistency. Sir John acknowledged this point.
Finally, Sir John said that he would expect the consultative requirements would put an extra work load on the Commission. If the Commission were to carry out its work effectively, and with minimum delays to the parties before it, more people would be required on the Commission. I said that I could see the logic of this point and the Government would await advice from Sir John when he had had an opportunity to make an assessment of the situation.
Sir John asked when the legislation was expected to be passed through the Senate. I replied that the legislation would be dealt with in the normal way, but that the actual timing was of course in the hands of the Senate.
Canberra 18 October 1979.
– I might add that a short while ago the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions contacted me, seeking further consultations on the legislation before it is finally passed through the Parliament. I point out that the opportunity was given specifically to the ACTU to join in consultations about this legislation long before it came into this Parliament. I informed the President of the ACTU that the legislation would be going ahead.
– My question to the Prime Minister follows directly on the statement just made by the Minister for Industrial Relations. In view of the Government’s reluctant decision to consult with the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Sir John Moore, regarding the consultation provisions of the conciliation and arbitration legislation, will the Government delay the Bill in order that talks can be held with the peak councils of the trade union movement?
-The Government was not reluctant at all to consult with the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. My colleague has consulted with him. I understand there had been some discussion earlier in relation to that. It is for the Government to establish policy in relation to these matters and the Government has done that and intends to do so. For the benefit of the honourable gentleman let me again state just one or two of the reasons why the legislation is proceeding and why I hope it will be through the Senate in the course of this day. We know quite well that one particular dispute, the Telecom dispute, dragged on for weeks at great inconvenience to people. It was getting to the stage where the Government was having to make some emergency arrangements in case an escalation of that dispute and the bans and limitations by Telecom employees cut off hospitals, elderly people living alone, old people’s homes and all the rest. This was very clearly a serious situation. One of the reasons this dispute got out of hand, as the Government fervently believes, is that the matter did not get to the Full Bench of the Commission anything like early enough.
Now we have established, under these amendments, a circumstance in which the President of the Commission can take over a case and get it into the hands of a Full Bench, if he believes that that is desirable in the national interest. Under that provision there is also a circumstance in which the Minister can bring matters to the attention of Sir John Moore, but it is Sir John Moore who makes the judgment as to whether the case ought to be taken over or not in the national interest. I believe that overwhelmingly the people of Australia, who are utterly fed up with industrial disputes, would want that power to be in the hands of the Commission. The role of the President of the Commission is strengthened by that amendment. It is a good amendment.
In addition, we know quite well that there have been cases in which individual commissioners- not many, but some- have made decisions which are right outside wage indexation guidelines. Consequently, these decisions have caused a good deal of concern and disruption. They have been appealed against. It is much better if, through a process of modest consultation, that can be avoided in the first instance. Therefore there are circumstances in which commissioners will need to consult with the deputy presidents in relation to those matters. Those amendments should mean that the Commission will work more cohesively as a body in the national interest discharging its responsibilities under the law and under the Constitution. The sooner the amendments become law the better I believe it will be.
A great deal of nonsense has been spoken about these matters over recent days- nonsense as to what happened about a letter from Mr Justice Staples. Again I make the point that the transcript of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s . , _ , , , _ , .
PM on Thursday, 1 1 October, made it perfectly plain. It stated:
The judge’s letter, a copy of which came into our hands today . . .
Sure, at a later point Geoff Duncan of the PM program tried to modify that statement by saying:
Just to set the record straight, at the time we went to air on Thursday evening and broke the story of Mr Justice Staples’ letter -
I emphasise the words ‘and broke the story of Mr Justice Staples ‘ letter’-
PM did not have a copy of that letter.
But then he said:
We had sighted a copy and had been able to confirm its authenticity.
So, to all intents and purposes, the letter had in fact been published. But, even if the letter had not been published, let me make it perfectly plain -
– The big fibber from Wannon.
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports will remain silent.
– Another whopper, Malcolm.
– It is the Leader of the Opposition who is doing most of the interjecting, Mr Speaker.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. When the House comes to order, I will call the right honourable member to resume his answer.
– Bring Constable Fraser up.
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle has been a member of this place long enough to know that he does not entertain anybody by making those comments.
-Let me make it perfectly plain that PM said
We had sighted a copy and had been able to confirm its authenticity.
If the PM people had sighted it, obviously they had read it and had spoken about it. But, even if that had not occurred, when the copy of the letter was sent to the Minister, if he believed it was necessary to make that letter available to the Press who were asking for it I would believe that that is a perfectly appropriate course of action to take and no apologies whatsoever are needed for that.
-I ask the Minister for Special Trade Representations: As the European Economic Community is to be enlarged from nine to 12 member states, what steps is the Government taking to safeguard Australia’s trading interests, particularly in respect of dried and canned fruits?
– It is true that the European Economic Community is to be enlarged. Greece has signed a treaty of accession and will join the Community from January 1981. Spain and Portugal are expected to become members later. Given our previous experience, it is only prudent for Australia to assume that enlargement of the EEC will create difficulties for some of our exports. Greece is a large producer- in fact it is the world ‘s largest exporter- of currants and sultanas and also a large producer of peaches for canning. I and colleagues of mine have taken many opportunities in our visits to Brussels to have discussions with the Commission in an endeavour to ensure that our trade will not be adversely affected and to safeguard our trade in these products with the present Community member states, future ones and also third countries around the world.
The Government will certainly continue to take every opportunity to ensure that we protect our legitimate trading interests. I might say that these changes to the EEC have some implications for the General Agreement on Tariffs and
Trade. We shall be pursuing our rights energetically when such matters come before GATT. I and other Ministers are endeavouring to get a Greek Minister who is engaged in such matters to visit Australia soon. We will certainly make representations very strongly to him.
-I remind the Minister for Industrial Relations that when he was asked on Tuesday of this week whether any member of his staff was responsible for distribution of the Staples letter he said: ‘I will check up and let him know’. I ask the Minister now: Can he say quite specifically whether he did authorise his staff to hand out the letter? Was he aware of it when it was handed out?
– I repeat that there is a difference between the approval and the becoming aware. Yes, I did authorise it. I became aware later that in fact it had been distributed.
-Is the Minister for Home Affairs aware of statements made earlier this week about the standing of Australian sports men and women in world ratings? Is the Minister able to state what government programs will help the people of Australia to again achieve excellence in sport? Does the Minister consider that government programs already introduced in the area of sport, recreation and the use of leisure time should be further developed? If so, in what areas?
-Honourable members might be aware of the fact that last week I announced the final grants of the Sports Development Program. They totalled some $2m. In making that announcement I indicated the amounts that had been allocated to various bodies. As honourable members will be aware, it is the practice to allocate specific amounts to specific purposes, that is to say, to administration, coaching, international competition and the like. For the assistance of honourable members I would like to table the break-up of the various amounts that were in fact decided for allocation to the various bodies. If honourable members opposite were interested- they do not appear to be interested- I would be prepared to have the information incorporated in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
– A number of aspects of that program are important. Under the Sports Development Program honourable members will be interested to know- I do not think there is much point in my talking to honourable members opposite; I think I will talk to honourable members on this side of the House -
-I suggest that the Minister inform me.
-Obviously honourable members opposite are not interested in the sports people of this country.
– You had a table prepared for a question without notice?
-I did not have it prepared for the question without notice. May I simply indicate this: Under the Sports Development Program at the moment 24 national sporting organisations are receiving full time assistance for a national director; 12 national sporting organisations are receiving assistance for a full time national director of coaching; and a number of grants will enable world championships to be held in Australia this year, in fencing, squash, bocce, bowls and Softball.
I think one particular aspect of the grants is very significant. The Australian Soccer Federation hopes to have the world junior championships held in Australia in 1 98 1 . The Government has agreed to provide an amount of $ 100,000 over three years in order to assist with holding those championships in Australia. That will be a very significant event in our sporting calendar. Honourable members will also be aware of the National Coaching Accreditation Scheme that has been announced in co-operation with the States.
There is only one other matter. Last week I attended the granting of certain awards to private companies in Melbourne relating to the Olympic Games appeal. It was very gratifying to find that the Australian Olympic Federation has now been able to raise, dollar for dollar with the Commonwealth, $500,000 from private organisations. So the Olympic Games funds that the Government will be providing this year will total some $700,000. Including the amount that was provided last year, the total will be $800,000. That is by far the largest amount ever provided by government in Australia towards the Olympic Games. I am sure that honourable members on both sides of the House wish the Olympic Federation well in the competition in Moscow next year.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Industrial Relations.
Government members- Oh, no!
– Cheats never prosper.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat. I ask the honourable member for Blaxland to withdraw the comment he made.
– What- that cheats never prosper?
-The honourable member will withdraw his comment.
– But they never do, Mr Speaker. I withdraw.
-The honourable member will withdraw unqualifiedly.
– I withdraw unqualifiedly.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Industrial Relations. I refer to the answer he gave to the last question he was asked in which he said that he authorised the distribution of the Staples letter and the briefing by his staff to journalists on that letter last Thursday night. I also refer to his answer on Tuesday that he did not know whether the staff had distributed the letter and briefed journalists. When did he become aware that he had authorised the distribution of the Staples letter?
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order under Standing Order 85 which relates to tedious repetition. Is it in order for the honourable member to keep asking these questions when it is as plain as day that someone from the Opposition must have leaked the letter?
-There is no point of order.
- Mr Speaker, I have a point of order. I think I speak on behalf of all members of the Opposition in saying that I find the last remark of the honourable member for St George objectionable. Obviously it has now been proved that the Minister gave the letter out for the first time.
-There is no point of order.
– When I answered the question last Tuesday I said that I would check the facts, which I have done. I have given the answer this morning on when I became aware: When I authorised the distribution of the document.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. After a number of years of unsatisfactory television reception in parts of Queensland ‘s Gold Coast, I understand that the Minister has called for translator television transmitters at the Gold Coast. Is this, in fact, a change of direction for the Government or will there be further moves in this direction to provide television facilities to the four million Australians who receive less than satisfactory television programming and many of whom live in high density population areas? Will provision also be made for better radio transmissions?
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The business paper indicates that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications will make a statement today with regard to the domestic satellite system. That will be part of the business of the day. That is the time at which a statement will be made in respect of the whole communications system in Australia.
-There is no point of order.
– After a great deal of consideration over some time, I recently made an announcement in Queensland in the presence of my colleague, the honourable member for the Gold Coast or whatever his electorate happens to be called. I made it clear that the need for decent television on the Gold Coast was well and truly understood, that reception in that area, which not only is one of the most rapidly growing areas in Australia but also, of course, has an identity of its own, is appalling in many parts and that in many other parts Brisbane and Lismore stations are received perfectly adequately. I have decided that we shall call for proposals for translators for the services which are presently providing an imperfect service to the Gold Coast as the best thing to do next in order to get on the Gold Coast television of a quality which will be equal to that received in any other major centre in Australia. I make it quite plain that that does not preclude the possibility of looking later at the feasibility of a local station on the Gold Coast. The whole approach we have adopted in this area is. indicative of the desire of the Government to have more and better television and radio broadcasting for the people of Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Industrial Relations a question. It relates to the Press statement which he released this morning following consultation he had with Sir John Moore, senior presidential member of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The Minister will recall in that statement making this comment in relation to Sir John Moore:
He pointed out that the proposed consultative procedures could result in delays in getting final decisions in some instances, and asked whether the requirement to consult might be limited in order to lessen this problem.
Is the implication of this statement and following statements in this news release evidence that the interpretation of law, especially in the area of arbitration and conciliation, is now out of the hands of the processes of the courts and rests with the Government? I refer to the Minister’s statement of belief to the President:
The Government believed it had an obligation to make every effort to reduce to a minimum the chance of this happening.
Is that statement further evidence of this and clear evidence of an injunction as to procedures to be adopted in the future by the commissioners and by the presidential members of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission?
– It was a rather rambling question. As I understand it, the Leader of the Opposition was asking: Do the procedures which the Government intends to implement for the consultation processes take the conduct of business out of the hands of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? The answer is no. There are court cases on record which show quite clearly that procedural matters so far as the Commission is concerned are matters for the Government to determine, and that is what has been done in this case.
– I have a supplementary question.
-I call the honourable member for Fadden.
-Has the Treasurer’s attention been drawn to a speech I made in this place some weeks ago when I drew attention to the serious error I discovered in the concessional expenditure rebate section of the income tax form as provided for the past three years? Is he aware that the Commissioner of Taxation has since given an assurance that he will ‘consider’ the matter when the 1980 form is drafted? In view of the error having more than a potential cost to taxpayers of millions of dollars in lost concessions in their retirement years, will the Minister request the Commissioner to ensure the error is corrected for next year’s return? Will the Treasurer have discussions with the Commissioner to ensure further that he takes measures to alert all taxpayers who have been misled by the wrongful advice in the stated period? Finally, does the Minister personally know anyone holding a high position in this country who has been a victim and who is able to explain to the Commissioner that just to consider it is not good enough?
-The answer to the first part of the question is yes. The honourable member has drawn my attention to it about a dozen times. The answer to the second part of the question relates to part, I think, of the explanatory memoranda which are available with income tax returns and which draw the attention of people who make payments in respect of life assurance and superannuation and who may not have concessional expenditures which exceed $1,590 to the need to supply the Commissioner of Taxation with details of contributions for life assurance and superannuation which may not be the subject of a claim for a concessional deduction, so that upon the retirement of those persons, certain benefits can be calculated and made available.
I think the honourable member has raised a very practical point. He has made a very sensible suggestion. I will talk to the Commissioner of Taxation about his proposal. I think it is a very sensible one and I think that the Commissioner’s being able to accommodate it within the form in the final shape of the taxation return is ultimately something to be determined by the Commissioner of Taxation and not by me. I think it is a sensible idea. If the honourable gentleman’s suggestion is adopted I believe that a number of taxpayers, including one I know very well, who have not furnished that sort of information in the past will do so in future.
– I ask a supplementary question to the last question which I asked of the Minister for Industrial Relations. I refer to his Press statement of this morning following his discussions with Sir John Moore, in which he said that Sir John Moore had:
Asked whether the requirement to consult - which is provided for in amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act: might be limited in order to lessen this problem.
Is it usual for the courts to ask government to interpret law and to advise the courts as to how they should administer law?
– Yes, Sir John Moore raised the question of possibly limiting the requirement to consult in relation to the possible delays which could result from the present procedures with the existing resources available to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I said that the prime requirement that the Government was facing in this legislation was to ensure that the maximum possible degree of consistency in principle was observed in the decision making process of the Commission. That was -
– That makes the Commission a puppet. Do you realise that?
-The Leader of the Opposition will remain silent.
– The question of greater consistency in principle in the decision making of the Commission is in fact a requirement to maintain consistency in principle with the guidelines laid down by the Commission itself- not by the Government- to maintain internal consistency with the principles which the Commission itself has laid down for the determination of wage claims. As I said, where these inconsistencies in principle have created great disruption and great inconvenience to the public, the Government has regarded it as its prime responsibility to try to protect the public interest. As I said in the Press statement, any qualification to limit the requirement to consult would increase the risk of inconsistency and, as I also said in the statement, Sir John acknowledged that point.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Does the Government have any evidence of the extent of the circulation of the letter of Mr Justice Staples?
-There is some evidence that has not been referred to in the Parliament up to this point. When I give the Parliament that evidence, I think it will understand very plainly the total hypocrisy of the campaign against my colleague, the Minister for Industrial Relations, by the Labor Party. There is not the slightest doubt that the Labor Party had copies of that letter, the document, from Mr Justice Staples some considerable time before it was broken on the Huw Evans program, PM, on 1 1 October. It is very plain. I would like to read one section of the document from Mr Justice Staples, which I hold in my hand. The document states on page 1 1:
The declaration may rest upon the losses alleged to have been incurred by shareholders. Such persons are ‘part of the community’.
Let me read a part of a speech given in the Parliament on 9 October, two days before the document broke through the Australian Broadcasting Commission program. On page 1771 of Hansard of 9 October, it is stated:
The declaration may rest on losses alleged to have been incurred by shareholders, because shareholders are part of the community.
The words are so close that one would have thought that the honourable gentleman making that speech would have wanted to be plain and give an attribution, give the author. Well, it was our good friend from Victoria, Clyde Holding, who made that speech.
Honourable members interjecting;
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-Mr Speaker, I have not finished yet.
-There is far too much interjection on my right. I ask honourable members to remain silent.
– I would like to read another section of Mr Justice Staples’ document. It states:
Whether or not the jurisdiction is left in our hands by the High Court, which of us in any event would want to be like the judges in pre-war Germany who simply acted out their office in a train of events that culminated in legal conclusions that ‘Jews ‘ and ‘Communists ‘ were no longer full citizens entitled to rely on rights previously accumulated, that is to say, were persons who could be struck down by a mere executive act.
That was part of the second last paragraph of Mr Justice Staples’ document. I would like to read part of Hansard again. It states:
The judges in prewar Germany were legally able to conclude that Jews and communists were no longer full citizens entitled to rely on rights previously accumulated.
I repeat ‘entitled to rely on rights previously accumulated ‘. Hansard continues:
That is to say they were persons who could be struck down by mere executive act.
The conclusion is absolute; the conclusion is inescapable. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports had a copy of the Staples document long before the ABC broke it through its PM program. The assumption must also be that the Labor Party made it available to the ABC. It shows very plainly -
– That is another lie.
– Is the honourable member prepared to say that no member of the Australian Labor Party gave the document to the ABC when the honourable member for Melbourne Ports had it at least two days before the event? The Labor Party has been caught out. I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I wish to draw to your attention that it was at 1 1 . 1 6 that Question Time was terminated. Obviously, the Prime Minister has squibbed on any further questions here this morning.
Honourable members interjecting-
-Order! Thursdays are not good days. I ask honourable members to remain silent.
– I have heard you say that about Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
-The Leader of the Opposition tells me he has heard me say that about Wednesdays, too. We will all come down to earth. Now I call the honourable member for Corio.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to raise a point of order. It arises out of a point of order I took yesterday. Yesterday, I drew your attention, to a remark which was made in the House in which an honourable member made an allegation that the Leader of the Opposition had leaked a document to the Press. Yesterday you asked whether any honourable member opposite would acknowledge that he had made that remark. You asked for it to be withdrawn. In your ruling you upheld my point of order. The Hansard report of yesterday’s sitting records the names of honourable members who made that remark. One of those who sought to own up, in fact, made a similar allegation during a point of order at Question Time today. That was the honourable member for St George. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) also made a similar allegation today. Since yesterday, that allegation that the Leader of the Opposition has acted improperly, which is a slight on his reputation, has not altered. I would hope your ruling on that has not altered. My point of order, Mr Speaker is: Will you examine the Hansard report of that particular incident yesterday and the Hansard report of the point of order taken by the honourable member for St George today and give a ruling on whether or not those honourable members who did not acknowledge that they had taken certain actions yesterday should, in fact, be made to withdraw even though they seek anonymity.
-I will look at the matter.
– Pursuant to section 7 of the Tobacco Industry Act 1955, 1 present the annual report of the Tobacco Industry Trust Account.
– Pursuant to section 35 of the Student Assistance Act 1973 I present a report on the operation of the Student Assistance Act 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on passenger motor vehicles import restrictions.
-The honourable member for Corio has indicated to me that he wishes to make a personal explanation.
-During Question Time yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm
Fraser) said of me, during the period that I was Speaker of this House:
He - referring to me-
Would know quite well that use and abuse that Ministers made of that in those circumstances. He also showed a very great readiness to name honourable members who took points of order that were not points of order. The parliamentary Hansard will record that.
At the time I indicated that that statement was incorrect. The statement is incorrect. During the period that I was Speaker of this Parliament two members were suspended from the service of the House.
– Who were they?
– Well, some people just get -
-Order! The honourable member for La Trobe will remain silent.
-Fortunately, the honourable member for La Trobe was not here. Two members were suspended during the period that I was Speaker of the House. The then honourable member for Mackellar was suspended for disorderly conduct and the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), who was Deputy Leader of the National Country Party at the time, was suspended for refusing to obey a directive from the Chair, in that he was ordered to resume his seat, and he refused to do so. A number of honourable members were warned because of conduct which, at that time, the Chair judged was not in the best interests of the House. Honourable members were warned for making fallacious points of order. In the statement that I made yesterday I said that I agreed with the particular point raised by the Prime Minister and, Mr Speaker, I agree with your ruling on it too. Some honourable members were -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now debating the matter.
-I am not debating the matter. I am saying that in fact some honourable members were named, and when they agreed to obey the ruling of the Chair further action did not follow. Only one honourable member of this House could be said to have been suspended because of action connected with taking a false point of order; and that was for refusing to obey the Chair’s ruling to resume his seat. I would have hoped that the Prime Minister of Australia would acknowledge that the Chair cannot -
-Order! The honourable member is debating the matter. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports has indicated to me that he wishes to make a personal explanation.
-I claim to have been misrepresented.
-The honourable gentleman may make a personal explanation.
– I have been seriously misrepresented by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He made allegations that extracts of my speech in respect of the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill were based upon the Staples document and he implied that I, as a member of the Opposition, had leaked that document to the Press. I wish to make this statement perfectly clear. I have not discussed any aspects of my speech, nor have I leaked any documents to the Press. As to the quotes which were used by the Prime Minister, I say that he did not fully quote from Hansard. If he had fully quoted Hansard in respect of the point that I was concerned to make about the similarity of executive acts in Nazi Germany, he would have seen that I had said- this will be recorded in Hansard; I do not have a copy with me but I have a very clear recollection- that as a result of my own research the only precedent that I could find where there was a similarity was in Nazi Germany.
I have met Mr Justice Staples only once, for a period of about 10 minutes. This was at a social function where some hundreds of other people were present. I have not discussed with Mr Justice Staples -
Government members interjecting-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. The honourable member for Canberra, the honourable member for La Trobe and several other honourable members continue to interject. I ask them to remain silent.
-But did he have the letter?
-Order! The honourable member for Diamond Valley will remain silent.
– I was just curious.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Diamond Valley to remain silent.
-Before I was interrupted the point that I was making was that I have not at any stage discussed with Mr Justice Staples his view of the proposed amendments to the Act. I based my speech on briefing material which was made available to the Opposition at a series of meetings. At no stage did that material contain the Staples document. I completely refute the allegations of the Prime Minister.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. These matters are dealt with by indulgence. The honourable member, I believe, was claiming that he was misrepresented. I would have thought that the matter of misrepresentation which had to be dealt with was the question of whether or not he had a copy of the Staples letter in his hands. It is not a matter of answering a question which can be skirted around. The honourable member has to say either that he has been misrepresented in that regard or he has not.
– On the matter raised by the honourable member for Dundas I refer to page 1773 of Hansard where, following the speech made on 9 October by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, I asked -
– I raise a point of order.
-I am listening to a point of order. The honourable member for Port Adelaide will remain silent.
– On that occasion I said to the honourable member:
I wonder whether the ALP consulted, for instance, Mr Justice Staples when it wrote its policy. Who did it consult.
There was no response from the honourable member.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is no point of order raised either by the honourable member for Dundas or the honourable member for Mitchell.
– by leave- During 1977 and 1978 the Joint Committee on Publications conducted a comprehensive review of the operations of the Australian Government Publishing Service- AGPS- since its inception in 1 969. In its report, presented to Parliament on 23 November 1978, the Committee concluded that the concept of a central government publishing office is sound and has led to a vast improvement in the standard of Commonwealth publications and their availability to the public.
While the Committee commented favourably on AGPS achievements in applying standards in the design and style of publications, in bringing a new expertise to the central procurement of printing and in effecting a wider and more efficient distribution of publications through government bookshop and mail order services, it was critical of a number of matters. In presenting the Committee’s report to this House, its Chairman, Mr Hodges, expressed concern that the application of staff ceiling controls throughout the Department of Administrative Services, in which the AGPS is located, had led to a reduction in its services or their decentralisation to other departments. He proposed that AGPS be re-established as a semi-autonomous and commercially independent body.
It is true that AGPS has been experiencing difficulty through continuing growth in business volume at a time when the Government has been following a general policy of restraint in staffing. I can, however, assure the Committee that the Government has no intention of abandoning or decentralising to departments those AGPS functions which are most efficiently performed centrally. AGPS is already a separately identifiable organisation within the Department of Administrative Services. Honourable members will be aware that even statutory authorities are subject to staffing restraints and I see no particular purpose being achieved by providing greater autonomy for AGPS at present.
The Committee also suggested that AGPS operations should be placed on a more commercial footing. The Publishing Service, however, does not operate in a completely commercial environment. Because of the special nature of government activities it is subject at times to demands not encountered in the private sector and must act within government policies and procedural arrangements. Nevertheless some scope is seen for adopting more commercial methods and the Government is arranging for these possibilities to be explored.
The Committee devoted a good deal of attention to the operations of the Government Printing Office, which has since 1 970 functioned as a branch of AGPS. The Government believes there is a need to define more precisely the role of the Government Printer and his relationship with other elements of the Publishing Service. It accepts the Committee’s suggestion that a charter of printing and publishing responsibilities be drawn up and approved. It does not, however, agree in all details with the statement of responsibilities included in Chapter 18 of the Committee ‘s report.
It is the Government’s belief, for example, that the Government Printing Office is an agency of the Government, not the Parliament. It could not be contemplated that the Parliament could direct the Government Printer to give priority to all parliamentary work at the expense of crucially urgent government tasks. Satisfactory arrangements already exist with the Presiding Officers for the printing of parliamentary publications and the Government Printer allocates priorities during parliamentary sittings to ensure that documents required for Parliament are produced within the required times.
The suggestion that departments be compelled to place general printing orders valued at more than $500 with or through the Government Printing Office has been rejected as likely to add to delays and costs. It follows that the Government sees no advantage in separating the Government Printing Office from the other elements of AGPS. Alternative means will be found for ensuring that, following a review of its plant and equipment, the productive capacity of the Printing Office is adequately utilised, including allowing the Printing Office to compete on an appropriate commercial basis for general printing work.
Finally, the Government is unable to accept the Committee’s proposals for a Board of Review with supervisory responsibilities over Commonwealth printing and publishing, including power to direct departments and statutory authorities on matters associated with their publishing programs. Such a body would cut across the executive responsibilities of Ministers and permanent heads. The Government, however, recognises the need for a broader base in developing policies and procedures connected with printing and publishing and has decided to establish a standing interdepartmental committee to act as a point of reference for AGPS and to advise its Minister.
Many other matters were covered in the Committee’s report. Of the 108 recommendations requiring a response from the Government, 42 have been accepted fully and 21 with some modification. A further 8 have been deferred until reviews have been completed. The Government’s response to each of the Committee’s recommendations is set out in the attachment to this statement. I present the following paper:
Australian Government Publishing Service- Ministerial statement, 18 October 1979.
I seek leave to have the attachment to this statement incorporated in Hansard.
That at the commencement of each Session of Parliament, a Resolution be agreed to by both Houses of Parliament similar to the following:
That the Government Printer be responsible to the Presiding Officers for the printing of all Parliamentary publications and be provided with the necessary resources to meet Parliamentary printing requirements. That at all times, the Government Printer give priority to Parliamentary work.
The Government believes that the Government Printer is an agency of the Government, not the Parliament. It observes that the longstanding arrangements with the Presiding Officers for the printing of parliamentary publications have proved satisfactory. The Government Printer allocates priorities during parliamentary sittings to ensure that the documents required for Parliament are produced within the required times. The Parliament will appreciate, however, that there will be circumstances when the Government Printer would need to give priority to urgent Government printing. The Government also believes that it would be preferable for parliamentary as well as departmental publications to continue to be arranged through the AGPS Publishing Branch.
That the Government Printer carry out such confidential and urgent work of the Government as may be determined from time to time.
That the Government Printing Office be made operationally independent of the AGPS and all administrative support necessary for its operation be placed within the responsibility of the Government Printer.
The Government does not accept this recommendation, believing that there is a close relationship between printing and publishing and that separation of these functions would be inefficient The present arrangement, which was proposed by the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications (the Erwin Committee) in 1964, has worked effectively.
That the Government Printer be administratively responsible to the Secretary of the Department administered by the responsible Minister.
In line with its response to Recommendation 3, the Government does not accept this recommendation. An appropriate organisational structure for both printing and publising functions will, however, be drawn up when details of the Charter (see the response to Recommendation 92) have been determined.
That all factors involved in calculating the rates of charge used by the Government Printer be reviewed after taking into consideration the practices followed by State Government Printers, commercial printers and Government Printers of comparable overseas countries with a view to ensuring that a ‘ user pays ‘ principle is instituted.
Accepted. The basis of rates of charge used by the Government Printer will be reviewed by the Department of Administrative Services.
That the policy of allocating a fixed proportion of printing and publishing work to the public and private sectors be discontinued.
The Government’s long-term objective is to direct as much work as possible to commercial printers, while maintaining the Government Printer’s capacity to carry out urgent and essential parliamentary and government printing. The proportion of printing and publishing directed to either sector is not allocated inflexibly as the recommendation suggests.
That a review of Government Printing Office plant capacity and equipment be undertaken to ensure that capital equipment employed by the Government Printer is not excessive and is basically directed towards meeting the printing requirements of Parliament and the urgent and confidential printing needs of the Government.
Accepted. The Government will arrange for an independent review to be undertaken.
That the equipment employed in the Government Printing Office be examined to ensure that it is the most efficient and economic equipment available to fulfil its intended purpose.
Accepted. An examination will be made in conjunction with the review referred to in the response to Recommendation 7.
That, before the Government Printing Office undertakes any significant expansion of its printing plant, approval be obtained from the responsible Minister after consultation with the Board of Review.
It is current practice each year for the Minister for Administrative Services to approve proposed expenditure on Printing Office plant as part of the annual estimates of his Department. Insofar as the Board of Review is concerned see the response to Recommendation 94-97.
That the Government Printing Office, wherever possible, operate its plant and associated personnel in such a way as to achieve the most effective utilisation of these resources.
Accepted. Difficulties can be expected to arise from time to time, however, through changes in Government policies, workloads and priorities.
That responsibility for print procurement of general printing needs of departments estimated to cost more than $300 become the responsibility of the Government Printer (responsibility for arranging the printing of items estimated to cost less than $500 to remain with the originating department).
The Government intends to continue the present practice whereby departments are required to offer all general printing jobs valued at between $500 and $5,000 to the Government Printing Office. Above this threshold they must continue to approach the Publishing Branch of AGPS. The Department of Administrative Services will, however, be examining means of ensuring adequate utilisation of Printing Office plant and manpower, once the independent review referred to in the response to Recommendation 7 is completed. These may include allowing the Printing Office to compete on an appropriate commercial basis for such additional work as is necessary to maintain an even flow of production.
That officers from the Publishing Branch, AGPS, the Government Printing Office, and the Department of Finance review the procedures by which procurement of government printing is achieved, including the possibility of reducing the rime taken to allocate printing contracts: such review should include consultations with the Auditor-General and give consideration to the practices of the States and comparable overseas contries
That, where a department lodges a general printing job with the Government Printer to arrange printing, and which job is subsequently completed by a commercial printer, the account be settled direct to the commercial printer from the Government Printer’s Trust Account and that the Government Printer subsequently recoup that amount, together with any handling charge considered appropriate, from the author department.
That the Department of Finance determine an appropriate handling charge for print procurement services provided by the Government Printer.
These recommendations are not accepted, in line with the Government’s response to Recommendation 1 1.
That the remuneration paid to the Government Printer in relation to his responsibilities be reviewed as a matter of urgency.
Accepted. The Department of Administrative Services will ask the Public Service Board to review the salaries of both the Government Printer and the Director (Publishing) when responsibilities have been re-determined as outlined in the response to Recommendation 4.
That urgent consideration be given to the creation of the position of Deputy Government Printer.
Accepted. The Department of Administrative Service will refer this matter to the Public Service Board, following the re-determination of both the printing and publishing functions as outlined in the response to Recommendation 4.
That the Government Printer prepare guidelines:
Accepted. Appropriate guidelines will be prepared by the Government Printer for approval by the responsible Minister (see also the response to Recommendations 94/97).
That departmental submissions requesting the purchase of in-house printing equipment be examined by the Government Printer prior to their consideration by the Australian Government Stores and Tender Board to ensure that such requests are consistent with the in-house printing equipment guidelines; and that within any such examination the Government Printer ensure that existing departmental facilities are in accordance with the in-house printing equipment guidelines.
This has been standard practice for some years in accordance with Finance Direction 31/53. The Government agrees that the guidelines prepared in accordance with Recommendation 17 be used, when available in the examination of such departmental submissions by AGPS as required by the Finance Direction.
That, wherever statutory provisions permit, prior to purchase of printing equipment, statutory authorities consult with the Government Printer to determine appropriate equipment which would meet their printing requirements.
Accepted. Ministers will be asked to arrange for those statutory authorities financed substantially from the Budget to do this.
That, in the event of the Government Printer and a department or statutory authority failing to reach agreement on in-house printing requirements, the matter be forwarded to the Board of Review for its consideration and appropriate action.
The Government does not accept this recommendation; any such disputes will be resolved by Ministers (see also the response to Recommendations 94/97).
That consideration be given to assigning the responsibility for the Department of Defence printing establishments at Brunswick and Bendigo in Victoria to the Government Printer.
Accepted. A review of the operations of these establishments will be undertaken by a working party comprising representatives of the Departments of Defence and Administrative Services, chaired by a representative of the Public Service Board, and a report prepared for Government consideration.
That the position of Controller (AGPS) be re-established and be directly responsible to the Secretary of the Department which is under the administrative control of the responsible Minister.
In determining appropriate organisational arrangements for printing and publishing, as discussed in the response to
Recommendation 4, the Government agrees that the need for the position of Controller and the question of lines of control be considered.
That the procedures by which printing is procured be reviewed to reduce the time taken to allocate printing contracts.
That AGPS consult with the client department in relation to the print procurement process prior to the selection of a printer, and where practicable permit direct contact between the client department and that printer, but that AGPS retain final authority in these matters.
The Government considers that selection of printer and supervision of print contracts are essential functions of the publisher. It believes that AGPS must retain control of these tasks, but accepts that circumstances may sometimes require client/printer liaison.
That on appropriate occasions, as determined by the Board of Review, departments may arrange print procurement of their publications.
The Government does not accept this recommendation in full. AGPS as the responsible publisher must continue to have complete control over the letting and supervision of print contracts, although exemptions will continue to be allowed in legitimate circumstances. See also the response to Recommendations 94/97.
That the AGPS prepare circulars which contain instructions appropriate to the standards and procedures necessary to undertake the publication of Commonwealth publications and that such circulars and alterations thereto be submitted to the Committee for its consideration.
Future circulars will be prepared by AGPS and submitted to the Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Government Printing and Publishing, (see response to Recommendations 94/97), for consideration. The Government agrees, however, that those AGPS Circulars whose subject matter touches on the responsibilities of Parliament will be referred either to the Joint Committee or the Presiding Officers as appropriate, for clearance before issue.
That a consolidation of AGPS circulars be undertaken in a style similar to the Treasury Manual, and that, when amendments are made to a circular, these be forwarded to departments and appropriate statutory authorities in the form of replacement or additional sheets.
That the AGPS advise departments and, where appropriate, statutory authorities of the requirement to adhere to AGPS circulars.
That significant or consistent departures from AGPS circulars by departments and, where relevant, statutory authorities be referred by the AGPS to the Board of Review for its consideration and appropriate action.
That in the event of a disagreement between the AGPS and a client department over the application of AGPS circulars, the view of the depanment shall prevail, but the AGPS shall refer the matter to the Board of Review for its consideration and appropriate action.
The Government does not accept these recommendations. It considers that serious disagreements between AGPS and client departments should continue to be resolved by Ministers. See also the response to Recommendations 94/97.
That when accounts for printing services are received by the AGPS from a contract printer, these be met directly from the Publications Trust Account.
That the AGPS recover contract printers ‘ charges from the client depanment, together with any charges considered appropriate for arranging print procurement, design and other AGPS services.
That the Department of Finance determine appropriate handling charges for print procurement, design and other services provided by AGPS to its clients.
These recommendations propose fundamental changes to the way in which AGPS and departments arrange for the payment of printing accounts. The Government envisages that the present arrangement whereby accounts are checked by AGPS and paid by departments will continue; however, the Departments of Finance and Administrative Services will be consulting with a view to determining whether any improvement in these arrangements is possible.
That design responsibilities for departmental publishing programs be transferred progressively from departments to the AGPS.
That following receipt of departmental requests for additional design staff and prior to the consideration of such requests, the Public Service Board consult with the Board of Review.
That the Board of Review progressively review departmental design requirements to ensure that, wherever possible, the responsibility for these functions are transferred to the AGPS.
The Public Service Board has agreed to review the design staffing arrangements of departments. The Government has consequently decided to defer consideration of these recommendations until the Board’s review is completed. (See also the response to Recommendations 94/97).
That the decision to print a publication and its content, including the possibility of a publication containing libellous or defamatory material, be the responsibility of the author department.
The Government accepts that primary responsibility for ensuring that official publications do not breach the law rests with author departments. Nevertheless the Government would expect its publisher to bring under notice any doubtful material submitted for publication.
That either the AGPS Bookshop be re-established in Darwin or one of the recommendations relating to paragraph 13.24 be implemented, namely a joint selling facility or the establishment of an agency.
Agency arrangements were completed last year under which Commonwealth Government publications have been placed on sale in the Northern Territory Government Information Centre, Darwin.
That the method of calculating Bookshop notional profit and loss accounts and items appearing in the Publications Trust Account be reviewed by the AGPS and the Department of Finance with a view to making their accounting procedures more in line with commercial practice and thereby reflecting a more accurate picture of AGPS financial operations.
The form of AGPS accounts is currently being reviewed by AGPS and the Department of Finance. The basis on which notional profit and loss accounts for the Bookshops are prepared will be examined during the review.
That the Department of Finance and the AGPS, in consultation with the Auditor-General’s Office, examine Finance Directions governing the operation of AGPS Bookshops with a view to introducing procedures more in keeping with the operations of a commercial outlet.
Accepted. The Department of Administrative Services will pursue this matter with the Department of Finance.
That a small pool of officers be established within AGPS which can be drawn upon, when necessary, to alleviate staff shortages in Bookshops.
The Government acknowledges the need to make arrangements to alleviate the periodic staff shortages in Bookshops. The Department of Administrative Services is examining ways in which this might be accomplished.
That a mail order service for Members of Parliament be introduced and operated by AGPS Bookshops, excluding Canberra.
The Department of Administrative Services is examining the possibility of providing the staff required for such a service from other areas within the Department. The recommendation will be implemented when staff are available. (Commenced June 1979).
That urgent consideration be given to the feasibility of introducing a mail order service for account customers, operated locally by the staff of AGPS Bookshops.
While the Government accepts that this is a desirable long-term objective, it cannot provide the required resources at the present time.
That negotiations directed towards establishing shared Bookshop facilities between the States and the Commonwealth be undertaken where it is considered that such arrangements would be economically and administratively viable.
The Government does not accept this recommendation; past experience has shown that shared facilities are not administratively viable.
That where it is not possible for the AGPS to combine its selling facilities with those of the relevant State bookshops, future decisions on re-location of bookshops should take into account the possibility of establishing Commonwealth and State selling facilities within the same building, or within close proximity to one another.
Wherever possible, AGPS bookshops will be sited close to State bookshops. Efforts to improve liaison and exchange of information will continue.
That a task force of officers be formed to reduce to approximately ten working days:
The Government does not accept this recommendation, noting that a ten day turnround is not in line with normal commercial and government practice. However, the Department of Administrative Services is exploring means of redeploying staff to this area in an effort to reduce the present turnround to a more satisfactory level.
That the Public Service Board investigate AGPS procedures (taking cognisance of recent reviews which have been made in this area) with a view to recommending an adequate staffing structure to fulfil a ten working day turnround for mail order sales.
Not accepted, in the light of the response to Recommendation 46, the Government does not believe a review to be appropriate at this time.
That consultations take place between the AGPS, the Department of Finance and, where appropriate, the AuditorGeneral’s office, to vary Finance Directions to place mail order sales on a basis more in keeping with a commercial operation, wherever possible.
Accepted. The Department of Administrative Services will pursue this matter with the Department of Finance.
That the AGPS devote greater attention to increasing wholesale sales to retail outlets, in particular by:
Official publications are available for purchase and resale by interested commercial booksellers. Special promotional efforts to increase such sales could, however, cause operational difficulties with present levels of staffing.
That, wherever possible, the AGPS follow commercial practices when undertaking wholesale selling activities.
This is current practice.
That departments which carry out sales of their departmental publications to the public be authorised by the Board of Review, wherever appropriate, to act as a selling agent of the AGPS.
The Government believes that it is neither desirable nor practicable for departments to act as a general selling agent for AGPS. As a rule, sales by departments are limited to their own publications and others which are essential for user convenience. (See also the response to Recommendations 94/97).
That where the Board of Review considers that the retail activities of a department are inappropriate and could be more effectively and economically carried out by the AGPS, the Board of Review shall recommend to the responsible Minister and the Minister concerned that the responsibility for such activities should be transferred to the AGPS.
Not accepted. See the responses to Recommendations 5 1 and 94/97.
That departmental selling agents provide the AGPS with all necessary bibliographical information on their publications, including whether they are available for free issue or sale:
Accepted. Departments and authorities will be instructed to advise AGPS of all publications available to the public.
That the AGPS draw up guidelines to be approved by the Board of Review and the responsible Minister, for the setting of prices for internally produced departmental publications, and the basis upon which free issue of such publications should take place.
The Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Government Printing and Publishing, in consultation with relevant departments, will be asked to endorse AGPS guidelines for the setting of prices. The question of free issue of publications is dealt with in the response to Recommendation 67. See also the response to Recommendations 94/97.
That retail prices for AGPS publications be set at a rate which will recover all costs associated with the selling function.
That, while recognising that the price of publications should be kept within reasonable limits to enable wide availability and circulation of documents, the AGPS be permitted to vary its pricing formula after agreement is reached with the Board of Review.
The Government has a review of the AGPS publications pricing policy in hand. See also the response to Recommendations 94/97.
That departments be permitted to subsidise the selling price of a publication from their departmental appropriations.
That the AGPS draw up guidelines governing the application of selling price subsidies for departmental publications and that such guidelines be submitted to the Board of Review for its consideration and approval.
That if departments wish to subsidise the selling price of a publication by more than 20 per cent of the AGPS retail price, agreement must be obtained from the Board of Review; provided that if insufficient time is available for the Board of Review to consider the departmental request, the department be permitted to subsidise the publication to an extent deemed necessary.
That wherever a department subsidises a publication, the instance shall be reported by the AGPS to the Board of Review for its consideration and appropriate action.
The Government accepts that subsidies will on occasion be required. Guidelines will be drawn up by AGPS, but the Government sees no need for the detailed procedures proposed by the Joint Committee (see also the response to Recommendations 94/97).
That the AGPS retail discount rate and its application be revised and made more in keeping with commercial practice.
See the response to Recommendations 33/36.
That the AGPS undertake negotiations with departments and statutory authorities with a view to assuming a greater AGPS responsibility for the distribution of departmental publications
The Government accepts this recommendation in principle but considers that further rationalisation of departmental distribution arrangements should be undertaken only where it is practical, economical and efficient to do so.
That the Board of Review regularly review the distribution activities of departments and, where appropriate, recommend that elements of departmental distribution be undertaken by the AGPS.
That, where a department is unwilling to relinquish distribution responsibility following a recommendation of the Board of Review, the matter be referred to the Committee for its consideration.
The Government does not accept these recommendations and considers that these are matters for AGPS to resolve in consultation with departments. Where disputes arise, the issues will be decided by Ministers (see also the response to Recommendations 94/97).
That the Public Service Board investigate the equipment needs of the distribution sub-section of the AGPS with a view to recommending the replacement of unsuitable equipment or providing new suitable equipment, where necessary.
Accepted. The equipment needs of this sub-section will be examined by the Public Service Board with a view to providing appropriate capacity.
That the AGPS remain the authority responsible for preparing guidelines governing the official and free issue of departmental publications in accordance with government policy.
That official and free issue guidelines drawn up by the AGPS be revised to draw on the experience gained in the two years since free issue guidelines were introduced and that these be submitted to the Board of Review for its consideration and appropriate recommendations to the Government, and that this Committee be notified of such recommendations.
Accepted. Guidelines governing the official and free issue of departmental publications will be prepared by AGPS and submitted to the Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Government Printing and Publishing for consideration (see the response to Recommendations 94/97). In accordance with established practice, the Joint Committee on Publications will be provided with copies.
That where a department wishes to undertake a distribution of one of its publications which is in excess of the guidelines, such distribution be permitted, but the additional copies required to meet the excess distribution be acquired from the AGPS at the recommended retail price less 40 per cent.
In the interests of economy, the Government has required AGPS to decide the level of official and free distribution. It does not intend to vary this arrangement at present. The Government accepts, however that departments may on occasion wish to undertake a distribution in excess of the guidelines. Each case will be decided on its merits by AGPS in consultation with the client department and charges arrived at accordingly. Disputes will be resolved by Ministers.
That where official and free issue distribution of departmental publications is in excess of AGPS guidelines, the matter be reported by the AGPS to the Board of Review for its consideration and appropriate action.
Not accepted; see responses to Recommendations 67/68.
That the Parliament undertake an investigation into the requirements of a complete inquiry and information service for the general public and that the results of such an inquiry be laid before the Parliament as soon as possible.
The Government considers this to be a matter for Parliament to determine, but notes that the Task Force on Departmental Information Activities is considering such issues.
That steps be taken by the appropriate authorities to revise and improve the information section on government services provided in the front of telephone directories.
That Government accepts that this should be examined, but notes that it is difficult to incorporate much additional information in telephone directories. The Government will refer the matter to the Task Force on Departmental Information Activities.
That the AGPS compile a directory containing information on the services provided by government departments and statutory authorities; such directory to be complete, simple to read and understand and updated on an annual basis.
A directory of Commonwealth Government services, titled Service Guide will be published shortly, following a direction by the Government in 1977.
That AGPS thoroughly investigate the methods it uses to assess likely public demand of publications.
That any proposals which might arise from the AGPS examination of its methods employed in assessing marketing requirements be approved by the Board of Review.
Not accepted. See the response to Recommendations 94/97.
That the Board of Review ensure that departments provide suitable information to the AGPS upon which a satisfactory marketing assessment can be carried out.
Accepted. AGPS will request departments to provide the additional information necessary to enable a satisfactory market assessment to be made. See also the response to Recommendations 94/97.
That, within normal commercial business constraints, the AGPS advertise the existence of its Bookshops, mail order services and the range of publications which are available through these sources by consistent advertising campaigns in newspapers, journals, and, where appropriate, the broadcasting media.
That AGPS encourage the reviewing of its publications in suitable news media.
Accepted; however, it must be borne in mind that only a small proportion of government publications lend themselves to review.
That computer lists of relevant and topical publications be prepared and issued to target user groups.
Accepted. Lists will be prepared by the most appropriate means for distribution to relevant target groups.
That attention be directed towards advertising titles of interest in a particular State in that State ‘s media.
That regular evaluations of AGPS promotion methods be undertaken to ensure that the most effective and economic means are employed.
That AGPS surplus sales stocks be disposed of only after first offering copies to the National Librarian, the Australian Archives and the author body.
The Government agrees that wherever administratively practicable AGPS will attempt to re-deploy surplus stocks along the lines suggested by the Committee.
That two copies of each AGPS publication be retained by the AGPS within its records.
This is normal practice.
That with the approval of the Board of Review, AGPS be permitted to undertake its own publishing program either singly or in conjunction with other departments or statutory authorities.
Accepted. AGPS, with the approval of its Minister will undertake its own publishing program. See also the response to Recommendations 94/97.
That whenever the AGPS seeks authority from an author body to reprint a publication the author body advise the AGPS of its decision, without delay, with regard to the request
Accepted. AGPS will remind departments of the need to give prompt responses to AGPS requests for reprinting action.
The Government accepts in principle the arrangements suggested in (a), (b) and (c) which reflect existing practice. It does not accept the mechanism proposed in (d) as it believes that resolution of disputes of this nature is more properly a matter for Ministers. (See also the response to Recommendations 94/97).
That responsibility for the Gazette Office be transferred to the Government Printer.
The Government does not accept this recommendation. It believes that there is a need to retain the existing arrangements to enable the Government to be provided with advice on the broader policy issues involved in the publishing, editorial and distribution aspects of government information publications, of which the Gazette is one of the most important.
That any losses to the Government Printer Trust Account arising out of the publication and distribution of the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette be met from Consolidated Revenue.
This is present practice.
That this Committee continue to have an oversight of the Ministerial Document Service to ensure that it continues to be an information source and does not develop into a propaganda instrument.
This is a matter for the Committee to determine.
That any losses to the Publications Trust Account arising from the operations of the Ministerial Document Service be met from Consolidated Revenue.
This is present practice.
That a management services section be re-established within the AGPS to support its activities.
The Government considers that centralisation of management services functions within the Department of Administrative Services has not substantially altered the arrangements for the provision of or control over day-to-day support services for AGPS and the Government Printing Office. Nevertheless, the adequacy of support services for both printing and publishing operations will be considered when the examination of these functions, referred to in response to Recommendation 4, is completed.
That a specialist in the field of printing and publishing be appointed on a limited period contract to the position of Controller.
The Government believes AGPS to be well served by officers at both senior and middle management levels who have commercial and technical experience and have developed considerable parliamentary and government publishing expertise. Consideration will be given to the need for and choice of an appropriate person to lead AGPS when the review of its functions and responsibilities is completed.
That a Charter of Responsibilities be established by way of Cabinet decision to cover the responsibilities and functions of the Parliament (after consultation with the Presiding Officers), the AGPS, departments and statutory authorities in the printing and publishing of Commonwealth material.
Accepted. An appropriate Chaner will be prepared for approval by the Government, as a priority task of the Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Government Printing and Publishing (see the response to Recommendations 94/97).
That the responsibilities of the various printing and publishing agents be as set out in Chapter 1 8 of this Report.
The Government cannot accept this recommendation in its entirety but the views of the Joint Committee as expressed in its Report will be taken into account in framing the Chaner.
That a Board of Review be established on an interdepartmental basis to meet as often as may be deemed necessary to undertake a supervisory role over Commonwealth printing and publishing as described in the Chaner of Responsibilities and as has been referred to from time to time in this Report.
That the Board of Review comprise an officer from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet or the Department of Administrative Services, the Public Service Board, the Australian Government Publishing Service, the Government Printing Office and such other members as may be determined from time to time by the Government.
That a position of permanent secretary to the Board of Review be established and that this position and such other support staff as may be deemed necessary be provided by the AGPS.
That the proposed Board of Review report to the Joint Committee on Publications annually, and on such additional occasions as the Board of Review may deem appropriate, on:
Not accepted. The Government believes that a Board of Review with executive powers as proposed by the Committee would cut across the responsibilities of Ministers. The need for policy participation by client departments and central agencies is, however, recognised. The Government will set up a Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Government Printing and Publishing, chaired by the Department of Administrative Services. This Committee will have no executive, enforcement or arbitral role and therefore the Government does not see it taking the place of the proposed Board of Review in Recommendations 9, 17, 25, 34/6, 51, 55/6 and 75. It will instead provide a central point of reference for AGPS and will advise its Minister. It priority task will be to frame a Charter covering the responsibilities and functions of Parliament, departments and statutory authorities, which will be established by way of Cabinet Decision.
That each publication produced by departments and statutory authorities be notified to AGPS upon its release, together with details as to the status of the document, whether it is for sale or free, and from where it can be obtained.
The Government accepts this recommendation in principle, but notes that with certain categories of publication, difficulties may arise and it will be necessary for exemptions to be provided.
That the AGPS initiate discussions with representatives of the Australian Advisory Council on Bibliographical Services and the State Library Boards on the desirability of establishing an advisory board similar to the HMSO Services Working Party.
The Government has reservations as to the need for an advisory body representing only one group interested in official publications. Nevertheless discussions will be held with AACOBS to explore the matter further.
That steps be taken to ensure that departments and statutory authorities comply with the requirements of the Copyright Act 1 968 in relation to library deposit.
Accepted. AGPS will remind departments and statutory authorities of the requirements of the Copyright Act 1968 in relation to library deposit.
That all government departments and statutory authorities provide to the AGPS sufficient copies of each of their publications (which are not published through the AGPS) to meet authorised overseas exchange commitments.
That the AGPS, in conjunction with the National Library, meet authorised overseas exchange commitments from its own stocks of publications or from those forwarded by departments and statutory authorities.
These recommendations raise issues which the Government wishes to put to further study. It is asking the National Library to convene a working party and report to the Government on these matters.
That where departments or statutory authorities fail to meet bibliographic, copyright, deposit or exchange requirements, such failure be reported to the Board of Review by the AGPS.
Not accepted. See also the response to Recommendations 94/97.
That as a matter of urgency the Government resolve outstanding questions of copyright of Commonwealth government publications.
That when the questions concerning the copyright have been resolved by the government, all necessary information be printed in the appropriate position in each government publication.
The Government agrees in principle that a statement should be made describing the nature of Crown Copyright in order to clarify understanding of it among the community generally and to indicate where inquiries concerning Copyright can be made. The Government also agrees in principle to an appropriate imprint being placed on Commonwealth publications setting out necessary information concerning Crown Copyright. The Government is not aware of any other outstanding questions of copyright in Commonwealth publications. As has been announced, the Government proposes to introduce legislation to give effect to the recommendations of the Copyright Law Committee on Reprographic Reproduction. Two of these recommendations touch on the question of Crown Copyright.
That the Presiding Officers continue their examination of the most suitable computer information retrieval system for introduction into the Commonwealth Parliament.
This is a matter for Parliament to consider.
That all necessary resources be provided to ensure that the introduction of a suitable computer information retrieval system is introduced into the Parliament at the earliest practical time.
The Government will consider the proposals arising from the Presiding Officers’ examination of this matter when they are put forward.
That the Standing Orders of both Houses of Parliament be amended to enable the Joint Committee on Publications to:
move from place to place; and
It is a matter for the Parliament to determine the powers of Parliamentary Committees to form themselves into subcommittees or to move from place to place. The Government, however, sees little justification for the Joint Committee on Publications to sit outside Canberra. Other Standing Committees of this type are not so empowered.
-by leave-My skills at speed reading have been put to extreme test because I have just seen the ministerial statement in the last few minutes. I have also been reading the 108 recommendations made by the Joint Committee on Publications. On general principles there are some elements of the statement of the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) to be commended and with which we would agree. But there are some criticisms which need to be made. The first is in relation to the recommendation No. 1, on which I think the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) might care to comment, which provides as follows:
That at the commencement of each session of Parliament, a resolution be agreed to by both Houses of Parliament similar to the following:
That the Government Printer be responsible to the Presiding Officers for the printing of all Parliamentary publications and be provided with the necessary resources to meet Parliamentary printing requirements. That at all times the Government Printer give priority > Parliamentary work.
The Government’s response, which was incorporated in the Minister’s statement, says as follows:
The Government believes that the Government Printer is an agency of the Government, not the Parliament. It observes that the long standing arrangements with the Presiding Officers for the printing of parliamentary publications have proved satisfactory. The Government Printer allocates priorities during parliamentary sittings to ensure that the documents required for Parliament are produced within the required times. The Parliament will appreciate, however -
Here is the rub- that there will be circumstances when the Government Printer would need to give priority to urgent Government printing. The Government also believes that it would be preferable for parliamentary as well as departmental publications to continue to be arranged through the AGPS Publishing Branch.
Once we accept the principle that Parliament can be demoted on the fiat of a Minister or gaggle of Ministers then we are consenting to our own destruction. I believe that there is a responsibility that priority No. 1 be given to the work of the Parliament because ultimately the democratic system cannot work without the Parliament. There are Government departments which can work, no matter how inconvenient it is for them, by delays in publications, but this House cannot work unless its requirements are given absolutely No. 1 priority. There are few enough opportunities when the Parliament has a chance to get up on its collective hind legs and assert priority for itself. I believe that this is one opportunity when we ought to be doing that. It is a great pity that the Government has not accepted this recommendation. I do not believe that its adoption would lead to a massive inconvenience for Government departments, but the principle is very important. It is somewhat to be regretted that the Government has not accepted the principle of the establishment of a board of review which could have some kind of broad oversight.
– There is a standing interdepartmental committee.
-That is true, but I think that the recommendation made by the Joint Committee on Publications, presided over so capably by the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges), should have been adopted. The response to that recommendation is one of the points with which we would disagree. On the other hand, to be fair to the Minister, I think that broadly speaking the Opposition agrees with the
Minister’s statement that the recommendation that AGPS operations be placed on a more commercial footing does not really meet the circumstances of the case. I agree with what the Minister said about the Publishing Service not operating in a completely commercial environment. Many publications which have to be produced and which are necessary for matters of public record are not exactly going to sell like Gone with the Wind. One could hardly expect the AGPS to operate on a commercial basis. I think we have to concede that a number of information services simply cannot be operated on a commercial basis, any more than the Australian Broadcasting Commission could be put on a strictly commercial basis. However, there is one recommendation from the Publications Committee which I hope will be brought up. Recommendation 106 is not covered in the ministerial statement, but I think that it is related to the point I have just made. It states:
That the Presiding Officers continue their examination of the most suitable computer information retrieval system for introduction into the Commonwealth Parliament.
The response reads:
This is a matter for Parliament to consider.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I put it to you to take up with Mr Speaker and the President of the Senate that this is absolutely correct. The development and survival of this Parliament in a period of increasing technological complexity demands that this Parliament have the greatest fight-back capacity that it possibly can so that we are aware of the enormous and complex issues which are proliferating around us and that this Parliament can no longer operate with the same kind of information services that parliaments had 50 years ago and 100 years ago. We must strengthen ourselves particularly against the resources that the bureaucracy has. As a result I hope that something can be done. I would like to think that the Government would reconsider recommendation No. 1 made by the Joint Committee on Publications.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek your indulgence to comment on one small matter.
-The Minister may proceed.
-I respond briefly on a matter, not directly associated with the report, which was mentioned by the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) who responded on behalf of the Opposition. The Opposition was given copies of” the statement at quarter past nine this morning in accordance with the normal practice. The Government has not broken down on this practice. The fact that the honourable member did not receive a copy of the statement was really a problem with the Opposition, not the Government.
– by leave- I wish to inform the House of new arrangements for consultation with the building and construction industry. The Government wants to ensure that decisions made take into account the needs of the building industry, the aspirations of the people working within it and the requirements of the general community it serves. By working closely with industry representatives through consultation government is brought closer to the people on whose behalf decisions are made. With these principles and goals in mind two new councilsthe Housing Advisory Council and the Construction Industry Council- are to be established. They will provide the means for effective exchange of information and ideas between the Government and community and industry groups. Both bodies will be chaired by the responsible Minister of the day and will replace the Housing Advisory Committee and the National Building and Construction Council Government Consultative Committee. It is proposed that the new councils will meet twice a year but may meet more frequently if special issues arise requiring consultation.
The decisions to establish these important bodies have been taken after very careful review of existing arrangements extending over a period of some nine months and following full and detailed consultation with the relevant industry groups. The Housing Advisory Council will be chaired by the Minister for Housing and Construction with the Secretary of that Department holding the position of Deputy Chairman. The other members of the Council will be the elected office holders of: The Australian Association of Permanent Building Societies, the Australian Bankers’ Association, the Housing Industry Association, the Master Builders’ Federation of Australia, the Real Estate Institute of Australia, and the Urban Development Institute of Australia. In addition, the Chairman of the Indicative Planning Council for the Housing Industry will be an ex officio member of the Council. This confirms the important role of the Indicative
Planning Council in providing advice to the Government and ensures an appropriate coordination of activities between the bodies. The Minister will also appoint up to two nominees to sit on the Council. It is intended that they should be people with a broad background in housing policy issues.
The nature and qualifications of the Housing Advisory Council indicate the Government’s keen desire to liaise with experienced practical people who work within one or other of the key sections of the housing industry. Observers from the Department of Treasury and other relevant government departments will also attend meetings of the Council when appropriate. The terms of reference of the Council are to ‘advise the Minister for Housing and Construction on matters relating to access to housing, Commonwealth housing programs, the efficiency of housing markets and the efficiency and health of the housing industry’.
In the review of the consultative arrangements it became evident that there was widespread support from people within the industry, State governments and other interested parties for the Housing Industry Indicative Planning Council. The Commonwealth Government endorses this support and at the same time acknowledges the excellent contribution made by the chairmen and members, past and present, of the Indicative Planning Council. No major changes in the Council’s membership or structure are therefore contemplated; however, I shall be asking it to streamline its working methods which I believe will be in the interests of the service it provides both to the Government and the industry. In order to meet the objectives of keeping the Government properly informed on aspects of housing and the housing industry, the terms of reference of the Indicative Planning Council are to be extended. This will allow the Council to provide the responsible Minister of the day with a greater range of advice especially concerning housing demand, industry activity levels and capacity.
The Construction Industry Council is the other body to be established. It will also have broad terms of reference dealing with the nonresidential building and construction sector. It will advise the Minister for Housing and Construction on matters relating to the efficiency and levels of activity of the non-residential building and construction industry. In doing so it will play an important role in ensuring that the Government is fully aware of the broad problems and needs of the non-residential building and construction industry. The membership of that
Council will comprise the Minister as Chairman, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Construction as Deputy Chairman, four industry representatives chosen from panels of names provided to the Minister by the industry organisations which constitute the National Building and Construction Council and three nominees of the Minister. In appointing nominees to this body the Government intends that there should be a broad representation from the industry as a whole. As with the Housing Advisory Council, the Construction Industry Council will therefore be comprised of experienced practical people well qualified to keep the Government in touch with the industry and informed about its problems. I expect to announce the names of the members of these councils within the next month and anticipate that the inaugural meetings of both bodies will take place early in the new year. These revised arrangements are a significant step forward in relations between the industry and the Government and I know they will be welcomed by the industry and the community at large.
– by leave- It is good to see that the Government acknowledges the need to look seriously at the housing and construction industry. One might ask why the Government has taken so long to initiate this action. The statement delivered by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom) clearly identifies the character of this Government. It represents the wealthy and the privileged sectors of our community. It also represents the corporate sector.
May I illustrate my argument by mentioning the organisations which the Government proposes to have represented on the Housing Advisory Council. Among the representatives will be elected office holders of the Australian Association of Permanent Building Societies and the Australian Bankers’ Association. Those two bodies are the major controllers of housing finance. The Housing Industry Association also will be represented. It represents one sector of the building and housing industry business section. A balance is struck from the employers’ point of view by also including the Master Builders’ Federation of Australia on the Council. So, both the two financial institutions and the two employer sections are to be represented on that housing body.
The remaining members of the Council will come, first, from the Real Estate Institute of Australia, the body representing those responsible for the majority of sales of real estate throughout Australia, and, secondly- again to achieve the balance between the ruling business elite- the Urban Development Institute of Australia, the land developers, will be represented also. Those organisations are listed as having representatives on the Australian Advisory Council. Not one trade union representative will be a member of that body.
– No consumers.
– No mention is made of representation being accorded to organisations which are involved in the social problems associated with housing, such as the Shelter organisation.
– No consumers.
-The Australian Council of Social Service has not been considered for representation, yet it is involved in the social problems related to the ordinary people and to housing. The failure to involve such bodies demonstrates the shallowness of the thinking of this Government which does not understand the real social problems of the people involved. My colleague, the honourable member for Capricornia, (Dr Everingham) who is the Opposition spokesman on Aboriginal Affairs has been interjecting to ask: ‘What about consumers?’. I ask: Why are not consumer organisations represented on the two bodies? That is the sad situation that we face. I am pleased to see that the chairman of the Indicative Planning Council for the Housing Industry will be an ex officio member of the Housing Advisory Council. The Indicative Planning Council has done a fine job although one can be critical of some of its findings. Probably one reason for criticism of its findings is that it does not have the necessary back-up and research staff. I have been informed that the number of staff of the Indicative Planning Council has been cut. I believe that, instead of such a reduction, the staff of such a body should be increased.
Dealing with the back-up staff to be provided for the Housing Advisory Council, I question what staff- what public servants and others- will be available to carry out the detailed research required to provide the Minister and the Government with the necessary information. In the course of a House of Representatives estimates committee hearing last week, we discussed future housing patterns and how many new dwellings will be needed in Australia each year. A consideration of Australia’s housing needs to the middle 1980s, based on the projections contained in the Borrie report on people reaching marriageable age has led to a prediction that some 1 50,000 new housing units will be required each year. The economic and other policies adopted by this Government have led to a cutback in expenditure in many areas and has had an effect on the overall economic cutback. The annual report of the Department of Housing and Construction which was tabled only yesterday reveals that only 119,000 new dwellings have been constructed in each of the last two years and that 125,000 are likely to be built this year. Only a couple of years ago, the Indicative Planning Council estimated that we would need 150,000 new housing units a year. But for certain reasons not specified in any of the government reports the estimate clearly dropped from 150,000 to about 135,000. The Department itself has reviewed its position, and I think that it sees the ultimate need in the long term to be about 130,000 units a year. Eminent urban economists such as John Paterson state that we need at the bottom about 80,000 units and at the top about 120,000 units. I argue that at this stage no clear demographic evidence has been brought forward to show why we still do not need 150,000 housing units a year.
There may be other reasons, changing life style. Some people are not marrying or are delaying child bearing. We know that because of the activities of this Government and because of the economic situation in the whole of the Western world, there is an economic depression in Australia. Consequently the housing sector is affected by these economic conditions. But those people who normally would want to build a house do not have faith in the future and they are hesitant to go into the greatest commitment in a person’s life, that is, to build or buy a home. Not only that, but I will bring forward evidence to show that for the greater part of our population it is not possible for members of a single income family to get their feet on the first rung of the ladder, that is, getting a loan to build or buy their own home. These are the economic conditions prevailing.
That is why I believe that we should have on a council such as this representatives who have a social conscience, who really understand the social problems within our community. They can give us the reasons why, even though the demographic evidence in the Borrie report was that we need 150,000 units a year, we do not need them now. For instance, we know that in New South Wales alone- and again research has not been done sufficiently; social bodies need to collect this information- there are 50,000 people homeless. They sleep in lavatories at night. They sleep in old cars and wherever they can get shelter to sleep the night through. We know, because the shelter organisations have given us the information, that 1 5,000 youth in Victoria are homeless. We know that at least a quarter of a million people in Australia are living in caravans or in other temporary accommodation. We know that over 70,000 families are on the housing commission lists waiting for homes in this country. We know all those facts. But the situation is that we have to overcome the problems to be able to make housing available and to give these people proper shelter. We know of this Government’s priorities in making available money for social problems. For instance, in the 1974-75 income year, the Budget expenditure -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. The honourable member for Reid is speaking by leave of the House. I submit to you that he should remain relevant to the subject matter of the statement that I made.
– What about the grievance debate?
– What about the rights of honourable members to speak in the grievance debate?
Order! Honourable members on my right will remain silent. I draw the attention of the honourable member for Reid to the fact that he has been granted leave of the House to respond to the statement made by the Minister. I have extended some licence to him but I ask him to remain more pointedly relevant to the Minister’s statement.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take exception to your comment that you have given me licence. I will explain my position. We are now dealing with the establishment of councils which will advise the Government on all aspects of housing and the construction industry. One sector of housing cannot be divorced from another. In dealing with the setting up of these councils we are dealing with the whole basis of housing across the board. There can be no exception. The Minister, in this statement, does not delineate in any way one section of housing from another. We are looking at the question of housing for the Australian people and it is the Government’s responsibility to make sure that it provides proper shelter. We are dealing also with the whole question of housing construction and, as we all know, two-thirds of all construction in the housing industry is instigated by the national government. The Minister is sensitive about the negative policies this Government carries out and does not want me to speak broadly about housing. He gave me leave to speak on this matter. I would not have minded if he had moved that the House take note of the paper. Then I would have been restricted to 15 minutes and other colleagues would have been able to speak at another time.
But because the Minister did not move that the House will take note of the paper, the House has given me the right to express my views on this important matter.
This Government does not now even bring in a Bill each year for the allocation of housing funds to the States so that the question of housing can be discussed in this Parliament. At the time when umbrella legislation was going through the Parliament, I asked the Minister whether the Government would allow a debate on housing at the time when the Minister tabled his annual report each year. The Minister said that he would give consideration to it, but yesterday he tabled his report with not the slightest indication that he would grant me leave to make any comment on matters associated with the annual report. So I am now taking my right as a member and as the Federal Opposition spokesman for housing and construction to express how inadequate this Government is in the housing area and in relation to the construction industry as a whole.
I come back to the situation of welfare housing. This Government has cut drastically the value of funds which have been transferred from the Commonwealth to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The funds have been cut to such an extent that in 1974-75, 3.9 per cent of all government expenditure through the Federal Budget was allocated to States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. This year, total expenditure is about 1.1 per cent. In real terms, this is less than one-third of the total money being made available. In 1974-75, when Labor was in government, we made available to the States public housing funds for over 12,000 commencements. Houses were commenced in your State of Queensland, Mr Deputy Speaker, as in all other states.
This year we will be lucky if there are 4,000 commencements because the housing situation is so bad. Housing prices are rising at a rapid rate. I will cite the median levels of cost for housing and land across Australia. As at 1 June of last year, the cost of house and land in Sydney was $58,900; in Melbourne, $47,500; in Brisbane, $33,000; in Adelaide, $32,400; in Perth, $41,300; and in Canberra, $37,200. I gave a figure of $58,900 for Sydney. In fact the figure has now risen to $62,200. Last year that figure was only $47,800. It has gone up by that much in one year alone. Those figures indicate the enormous rise in the prices of land and housing.
I will cite the average cost of dwellings in some of the suburbs in Sydney to give some idea of how the prices of land and housing have risen under this Government. In Ashfield a cottage cost $40,000 in June 1978. In June of this year it cost $56,000. In other words, there was an increase of about 25 per cent in one year. In Gordon a cottage cost $70,000 last year. It cost $95,000 this year, an increase of 35 per cent. In Leichhardt, an inner city suburb, a cottage cost $31,000 last year and $38,000 this year, an increase of 23 per cent. There has been an enormous increase in the prices of land and housing. I now refer to housing loans. I said that in Sydney the median price for a house in June this year was nearly $59,000. If a person gets a loan of even $30,000 at 10.5 per cent repayed over 25 years he has to repay about $283 a month. That is one of the problems with regard to housing. It is an impossible position for most single income earners. It has been pointed out to me by my colleague, the Whip, on this side of the House that the grievance debate will follow; so I will conclude my remarks.
Government members- Hear, hear!
– It is sad that this Government does not make time available in this place for discussions on housing.
– I take a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like some guidance from you. The Minister has made a fairly narrow statement in regard to two councils. We had a debate last week on the housing industry. Many of the facts being presented now were presented then by the same honourable member. I wonder whether his comments on the ministerial statement should proceed in this way.
-The honourable member for Mitchell should not seek to be educated through the device of a point of order but I accept his sincere inquiry. The honourable member for Reid in truth is making a statement by leave of the House. Whilst it may be argued that in spirit the leave to respond is related to the Minister’s statement, that is not specifically stated. The Chair has no authority to require the honourable member for Reid to be any more relevant than he sees fit. As he is speaking by leave of the House, it is in the hands of the House through the Standing Orders to take the steps necessary to bring the honourable member’s remarks to a conclusion.
– In conclusion, so that my colleagues can get on with the grievance debate, I deal briefly with the Construction Industry
Council. I make the same criticism to the Minister with regard to the people who will be members of that Council. It seems to me that its members will be representatives of the rulers or the employers and not of those people who work in the industry. The last point I make is this: The sad situation is that if there is any upturn in the housing and construction industries we will not have the skilled personnel to be absorbed in those industries. The economic policies of this Government have driven many tradesmen out of those construction and housing industries. We are not training the apprentices who will be required to work, particularly in the housing industry, if there is any upturn in those industries. Nor are we retraining unemployed people to work efficiently in the housing and construction industries, particularly the housing field. Therefore, I ask the Government and particularly the two new councils to consider at least that aspect of the problem.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr Garland) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at 2.45 p.m., or such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the Chair.
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development- Oil Prices- Industrial Action: Public Comment -Australian Airline Industry
That grievances be noted.
-Earlier this year, in May, the Fifth United Nations Conference on Trade and Development was held in Manila. It followed earlier conferences held in Geneva, New Delhi and Santiago and a conference in Nairobi in 1976. The Fifth Conference was attended by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland). This suggested that the Conference was regarded as of considerable importance by the Australian Government. Idealists might be prepared to believe that the Conference was important to Australian leaders because of its relevance to the movement towards the new international economic order to which the Australian Prime Minister and the Australian Minister for Foreign
Affairs (Mr Peacock) have given frequent lip service.
This concept was firmly placed on the agenda of international politics at the Sixth Special Session of the General Assembly held in 1974. Briefly, it was argued at that Conference, that the previously existing rules of the international economic game tended to be devised by those with economic power and to benefit those with economic power. Thus, a demand was made by the less developed countries for reform covering the following areas: Improved access to markets in the industrial countries for manufactured exports from the developing countries; revisions to marketing structures and pricing mechanisms for primary commodities; changes in the international financial and monetary systems; access for developing countries to the technology of the developed countries; an increase in foreign aid or other resource transfers to the developing countries; and a restructuring of developing countries relationships with multinational corporations. In a sense, none of these demands were new, they are rather a summary of demands, advanced in the post-war period by less developed countries, upon the more industrialised countries, which it is still hoped might one day be met.
Since 1974, discussions concerning these demands have been held at a variety of international conferences. It is within this context that this Parliament should seek to evaluate the UNCTAD conference because of its scale and potential importance to the developing worldmore than 5,000 delegates representing 159 nations attended- and its potential to mark significant progress towards achieving the objective of a new international economic order.
So far there has been no real attempt to provide the Parliament with any kind of evaluation of the Conference. However, from the evidence which is available, it would seem that the Conference did not represent any kind of a resounding success. It would seem that little or no progress was made at the Conference on any of the principal issues which appear to be central to the achievement of any kind of new international economic order. It was generally agreed that this failure was due to the adamant refusal of developed countries to make any worthwhile concessions or engage in fruitful dialogue.
I refer briefly to each of the objectives set out at the Sixth Special Session of the United Nations in 1974 as they relate to UNCTAD. The first concerned improved access to markets in industrial countries. At the Sixth Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly, less developed countries emphasised their need for improved access to markets in developed countries through the progressive removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers and restrictive business practices. Developed economies were to make appropriate adjustments in their economies so as to facilitate the expansion and diversification of imports from developing countries and thereby permit a rational, just and equitable international division of labour. In fact the tendency during the period between 1974 and 1979 has been one of increasing restrictions by developed countries on many of the products of the less developed nations. As a 1978 report by the UNCTAD Secretariat stated:
Restrictions on trade have proliferated. Starting in a clandestine way, they now tend to form an alarming pattern of protectionism . . . covering almost every area of manufacturing industry.
At the Conference the Prime Minister, recognising this trend, spoke out strongly against the use of protectionist devices by developed countries. He stated:
These protectionist measures must be resisted. If they are not they will put the future growth of developing countries into jeopardy. They will make a mockery of talk of interdependence . . .
In the face of such strong words, the criticism of Australia and other countries by the President of the World Bank would have been shattering if the Prime Minister had stayed to hear him. Mr McNamara, commenting on the new protectionism which has emerged since 1976, condemned the recent multifibre arrangements which call for quotas on textiles and clothing to grow at a rate of 6 per cent or more. Apart from the European Economic Community, he singled out for criticism Australia, Canada, Norway and Sweden which have tightened their quotas or imposed new ones to limit developing country exports of textiles and clothing. He also noted that new quotas and orderly marketing agreements limiting developing country exports of footwear have been imposed by Australia, Canada, and a number of other countries. The reality was that at UNCTAD the rhetoric of Prime Minister Fraser was not and is not reconcilable with the Government’s domestic policies and that on the whole, the other developed countries were at least more honest in failing to support measures to ensure that greater access was provided for the exports of developing countries to the developed world. Protectionism was in fact a non-issue at the conference because of the failure of the developed world to agree to any of the substantive proposals placed before them.
Secondly, I refer to the terms of trade and international commodity prices. One important set of demands made by less developed countries in 1974 concerned the prices of their exports and their export earnings. Less developed countries sought to raise the prices of their commodities, manufactures and services which they exported, prevent marked fluctuations in the prices of their products, and establish a link between the prices of exports of developing countries and the prices of the imports that they took from the developed countries. To this end the sixth special session recommended an integrated program of commodity agreements covering products of an export interest to less developed countries.
Buffer stocks were to be created within the framework of commodity arrangements to control prices. We are aware, I think, that at least one of the minor achievements of the conference was that it did agree to the creation of the common fund with two windows, one dealing with the question of buffer stocks and the other dealing with questions of market research and the boosting of exports. But while some progress has been achieved in this area, for which the Prime Minister has claimed some credit for Australia, the reality is that it is generally agreed that it will still be some years before it comes into operation. The scale of funding is considerably less than that originally envisaged, and many countries, including Australia, have not yet announced a contribution. Progress has been extremely slow in relation to achievement with respect to individual commodities. The developed countries will still be in control of the overall direction of the fund and with the onset of international recession during the years in which negotiations have been taking place, support for the concept of buffer stocks has been receding in interest in the developed countries. Sir Arthur Lewis has pointed out:
Producers want agreements when prices are low in order to raise them, when prices are high, consumers in the industrial world want agreements, buffer stocks, and increased production in order to hold them down.
It would seem that the clear lack of sympathy shown at UNCTAD by the developed countries reflected that problem. Australia as a ‘primary commodity’ exporter was in a more sympathetic position because we share that characteristic with the developed world. It is not surprising then that we support the concept.
I move very briefly to other areas of the conference. Very little progress in fact was made. In 1975, service on debts to developing countries amounted to nearly $26,000m, while official assistance constituted only $ 1,890m. This massive debt, which in the current recession has often been refinanced by various developing countries, represents a massive burden. The conference failed to do anything about that. It failed to do anything about the structure of the International Monetary Fund, the World Development Bank and other bodies which control the flow of finance and interest rates to developed countries.
On the question of access to science and technology, again the conference made almost no progress. There have been two major conferences on this issue this year. There was UNCTAD in May which made only a general declaratory statement. There was the conference in Austria in August which offered $2 50m to countries which together represent the Third World and which control only 2 per cent of the funding for research and development in the entire world. On the question of aid, the conference was able to offer no substantial comfort to the developing countries. Indeed we must note that since 1975, Australia, which makes so much of what it is doing for the developed world, has dropped its aid from 0.6 per cent of the gross national product to less than 0.45 per cent of the gross national product, a remarkable position. At the conference the Prime Minister said that there was a link between aid performance and economic growth. Clearly, in Australia, under the Fraser Government, our aid performance has declined substantially, as has the overall health of the economy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Some disconcerting news has been received in Australia this week with regard to oil pricing by some of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Indeed, the Saudi Arabian Oil Minister, Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani has said that the world oil market is getting out of control; consuming nations must do something about it before it is too late. Of course, much of what he said applies to Australia. He said that the consuming nations are losing control, due to the high consumption of petroleum products. This week Libya and Iran increased their prices for petroleum by $2.50 per barrel. Kuwait and Mexico have also announced increases for their petroleum products. In the past four months the price of oil has risen by 38 per cent.
Australia must do all it can by exploration to find more petroleum. At present in Australia, we have 18 rigs drilling for oil, nine off-shore and nine on shore. Since this Government came to office there has been an improvement in the drilling situation. When this Government took office in 1976, 11 drilling wells were completed. In 1977, 20 drilling wells were completed. In 1978, 36 drilling well were completed. To date this year, 32 drilling wells have been completed. When we compare these figures with figures for the Labor years 1973 to 1975 we find that 12 wells were completed in 1973, eight in 1974 and four in 1 975. The number was going down all the time. That was the situation which faced this Government when it took office from the Labor Government. But we have to do all we can to speed up drilling in this country. We have to make it possible for expertise, and capital to help us find more petroleum products.
There have been many shortages of petroleum on the eastern seaboard. This is giving industry and the farming community great concern, particularly in the States of New South Wales and Queensland. If there is not a strike or go-slow activity at Australian Oil Refining Pty Ltd at Kurnell in New South Wales- which supplies 60 per cent of the petroleum needs of that State- there are problems in Bass Strait with go-slow activities on the oil drilling rigs and in the pumping of petrol on shore. This is terribly important because tankers which are filled in Bass Strait take petroleum to other parts of Australia. When there is a go-slow at Bass Strait the eastern seaboard suffers. Our supply position is such that increased shipments of petroleum from overseas have to be arranged to fill our needs. When this happens a great amount of funding is sent overseas to pay for the imports. In July this year there was a record import of petroleum products into Australia to the order of $155,744,000. If Australia is still plagued by go-slow tactics in the producing industry, this state of affairs will prevail. Although Australia could produce 70 per cent of its petroleum needs, overseas purchases from Saudi Arabia could seriously cut into this local figure.
Members of the Opposition are suggesting that farmers should not be stockpiling fuel. What rubbish! Farmers should be keeping their tanks full because there is a big harvest to be taken off in southern Queensland and in northern New South Wales. The advice that should be given to the farming community is to keep its tanks full all the time. That is not stockpiling; it is protecting farmers’ livelihood and also providing valuable export income to this country, because wheat is one of our biggest export earners.
On the other hand, we have to educate our primary producers to conserve fuel and to use electricity where possible. I refer to irrigation systems. Over the years many farmers have been using distillate in diesel engines to irrigate their crops including their wheat, their sorghum, their sunflower- in fact, any grain crop at all. We have to educate these farmers now to use electric power. We have ample supplies of coal in this country to provide electricity. When we look at costs we find that today electric power compares more than favourably with petroleum products for irrigation purposes. We have had fairly good rains in the wheat area and there will be an excellent wheat crop. We do not want to be held to ransom because there are inadequate supplies of fuel to take this crop off. We must see that fuel is provided at all times.
The Minister for National Development and the Government must see that supplies of heating oil are kept up also. Rumours are current that in the next two years supplies of heating oil for domestic purposes are to be phased out. Many people in towns and cities in Australia have spent considerable sums of money to provide inside heating by the use of heating oil. The refineries refine this heating oil in the off-period when they are not refining motor spirit or distillate. I hope that the Minister will keep in touch with the oil companies to see that adequate supplies of heating oil are maintained until arrangements can be made by the users of heating oil to use other forms of heating, such as solar heating and electricity. We have had far too much industrial trouble at our refinery at Kurnell. Let us hope that the men employed in that refinery adopt a national outlook. Every time they cause industrial disruption it upsets the whole of our eastern States and creates chaos. Why do they not adopt a national attitude and say: ‘We are going to continue to produce fuel ‘? When we go overseas and visit Asian countries we see people working like eager beavers. They are producing all sorts of things and there are no strikes. They have a national outlook; their work is for the country. Why can the people who are employed in our refineries producing petroleum products not adopt this outlook, go to arbitration and let us have some productivity?
It is good to know that the situation concerning aviation gasoline is on the mend and that we have adequate supplies in this country, it is understood, until the end of this year. This is a necessity for not only the farming community but also for our commuter services. Of course, the farming community requires avgas for aircraft to spray its crops and to spread its superphosphate so that we have increased agricultural production in this country. Mr Deputy Speaker, I hope that some of my remarks will bear fruit because they are very important to Australia’s economy.
-My grievance today concerns the return to the public air waves of the ubiquitous John Laws. Attracted by a huge salary, he has come back to the radio in Sydney. I would have thought that this man, thoroughly disgraced over the St George Permanent Building Society rumour, may well have disappeared forever but he has come back and I daresay he will be using his stop button to destroy the arguments of innocent people who ring into his talk-back session with vituperation, denigration and ridicule.
I really want to grieve about his recently much-trumpeted petition. A significant amount of publicity was given to the petition condemning strikes and strikers, which was widely circulated in the community by this erstwhile disc jockey. This petition raised a number of questions which reflected upon the credibility of its author. To the best of my knowledge, these questions, particularly those concerning the financing of Mr Laws’ petition, are still to be answered. The issue of Mr Laws’ credibility aside, the petition can only be regarded in a highly ironic light. It appears that people have very short memories indeed. I wonder how many of those who signed that petition thought to question the ethics of John Laws’ much publicised support for truck drivers who brought the country to a virtual standstill through their strike action earlier this year? These truck drivers, it might be stressed, were suffering the consequences of their own staunch refusal to join a trade union, a refusal which brought about their oppression at the hands of big contractors. In recent months we have witnessed also the unusual occurrence of groups such as farmers taking industrial action by withdrawing their stock from the market in protest at the Government’s trebling of the stock levy. Mr Laws, I might note, was noticeably silent in his opposition to this strike.
It is fairly obvious that for people like Mr Laws a dual set of standards prevails. They think that industrial action is justified if it is taken by the representatives of private enterprise. If, on the other hand, a strike is called by members of a trade union, it is immediately labelled as unwarranted and extreme. Had Mr Laws really looked at the situation behind the large number of strikes which occurred in July, he would have realised that the real cause of the unrest was frustration with the compression of living standards which had been forced on average Australians by the economic policies of this Government. The Telecom dispute, one of the disputes which no doubt prompted the petition, exemplifies this point. Members of the Australian Telecommunications Employees Association sought their first general increase since 1974. The need for this increase was brought about by the Government’s policy of encouraging only partial indexation of wages, despite its much vaunted protests about supporting wage indexation. This government’s partial indexation system resulted in a loss of $ 1 5 a week for technicians and $40 a week for grade 3 technical officers. It might be fair to say that during the same period Telecom Australia has become one of the most profitable business operations in Australia.
The four main strikes which occurred at about the time of this petition were in fact solved in favour of the employees and in every case the court made statements which were critical of the employers’ actions in these strikes and of their behaviour towards employees. This example demonstrates another inconsistency in Mr Laws’ judgment. While actively opposing the wage demands of workers such as those employed by Telecom, Mr Laws did not see fit to raise any opposition at all to the 12.9 per cent rise that was recently given to the overpaid doctors in Australia. Mr Laws, until his recent resignation, was one of the highest paid announcers in Sydney radio and, in fact, in Australian radio. He, of all people, has not the right to sit in judgment upon the wage claims of many of the less extravagantly paid individuals who are trying to eke out an existence for themselves and their families. It would be interesting to know what Mr Laws considers to be an adequate minimum income for a worker with dependants, and whether he himself could adequately live on the wages of many of those he condemned in his position. Quite obviously, Mr Laws was exploiting the genuine concern of a large number of workers at the erosion of their living standards to boost his own ego and perhaps his ratings.
I refer to the truckies’ strike. I really think that the truckies’ strike should have been a total anathema to someone with John Laws’ quaint, if very dangerous, right-wing views regarding unionism, if only he had had the wit to investigate the underlying rationale of this so-called strike. Truckies are a group of hard working Australians who have for some misguided reason, consistently eschewed unionism. They had a fixation with the alleged benefits and the alleged qualities of justice associated with the free enterprise system and the so-called free market forces. Encouraged by this misunderstanding of the free enterprise system and deluded by the belief that as individuals- I might say they are a rugged group of individuals- they could survive in the savage world of big business, they plunged headlong into that business world with large investment in trucks and cartage contracts. How cruelly they learned the fact of life. The alleged benefactors of the free market system had their guts for gaiters. Tied up to harsh and totally unprofitable contracts with the large trucking companies, they were rapidly going broke.
The flamboyant Mr Laws, ever conscious of a headline and anxious to promote his selfadopted role as a folk hero charged to the rescue of the beleaguered truckies- the white knight of the air waves. Little did Laws realise that he was helping to highlight the defencelessness of individuals who try to buck the system. He became the truckies hero, appealing to the New South Wales Labor Government to rescue them from the big baddies, the bosses whom they had trusted as the guardians of the free enterprise system. Suddenly the dreaded spectre of the much despised unionism, the act of banding together to survive the system and to eke out a fair return on their investment became the panacea to save them from their plight. The hapless Mr Laws, without even realising what he was doing, was in fact emphasising the absolute necessity for people like the truckies and every other group of workers to be united in a union if ever they were to survive in the jungle of big business. They have no hope of surviving the extreme forces of the free enterprise system if they are not unionised and united and, most importantly, do not have the hard-won right, as the truckies did not, to withdraw their labour as their only weapon against harsh oppressive employers. I hasten to add that not all employers are in this category.
I would like, in the concluding moments of my speech, to refer to an opinion of the Laws petition which appeared in the New Journalist, which is the magazine which the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) would know about. As Mr Laws considers himself a journalist, I suppose that this is a judgment of his peers. They talk about it in this light. The article stated:
For Laws it was undoubtedly a ratings booster and an episode that would leave a lasting Quixotic impression in the minds of his faithful while he was off raising deer, driving his collection of expensive cars, or popping up at the right restaurants and first nights.
For Fraser, beset by an increasingly cheeky opposition and falling personal popularity it was all grist for the union bashing mill.
The petition was no more than a grand con-job, which like most other jingoistic manipulations, said nothing, achieved less and wasted a lot of paper in the process.
Finally, they talk about the petition in these words: . . we . . . still hope the petition will be treated in parliament with as much respect as other signed public expressions, dealing with everything from the murder of five journalists in Timor to abortion reform- mechanically tabled and forgotten just as quickly.
If the petition turns out to be another cudgel in Fraser ‘s anti-union arsenal we might also reflect . . about the abuse of privilege, and the power to sway people by tugging at nothing more than their emotions and their inconveniences.
I would hope that now that Mr Laws has returned to Sydney, attracted no doubt by a huge salary, he might adopt a more responsible attitude to the privilege that he is given by the people of Australia to use the public air waves by putting his time to better use than bashing unionists. The union people of Australia, the workers of Australia, are the backbone of this nation. I think that people like Laws have a responsibility to treat them as responsible, decent citizens and not merely as people to be ridiculed at his whim.
– Whilst in no way do I necessarily condone the attack on John Laws by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown) I do agree with the points that he has raised in that I think there has to be a greater sense of responsibility by many of the talk-back radio communicators on Australian radio.
– I was the first one in Australia.
– I was one of the early ones in Australia, too.
– And you are both very responsible.
– We were both very responsible. But the point is that a number of these people do not, in fact, research the subjects on which they sound forth day after day. It does cause a great deal of concern among many sections of the population when these people go off on a tangent on matters that they know nothing about. The only thing is that I should remind the honourable member for Parramatta that Mr Laws, no doubt, is getting much better ratings than we are in this place and probably earns the salary that he does get. I am here today not to speak about the pros and cons of talk-back radio personalities, but rather to look at the subject of aviation.
Aviation throughout the world has undergone very great changes during the 1970s. Australia, to a great degree, has protected itself from many of these changes until the last few years, when it was forced by a number of events to review its attitudes to aviation as well. We have had our international civil aviation policy review and our domestic air transport policy review, and some changes have been made. Certainly, in the case of ICAP a very radical approach has been taken. I do not intend to debate the pros and cons of ICAP today, but to bring before the Parliament the proposition that more than ever before we need a continuing review to be made of aviation right into the 1980s. There are vast changes under way throughout the world. We must be ready to adapt.
There is no doubt that the comparatively cheap air fares are here to stay. Deregulations of the airlines in the United States have shown that more people than ever before are using aircraft as a primary means of transport. Passenger numbers following deregulation in the United States increased in some airlines by up to 84 per cent. The cheaper air fares to Australia in the first six months of this year have increased the numbers of foreign visitors by 27.9 per cent compared with the same period last year, with 351,500 people coming to Australia between January and June this year. The numbers of Australians going overseas have increased in the same period admittedly, by 12.5 per cent, 564,200 Australians having journeyed by air out of Australia. The tourist drain, however, has been decreased from three to one outbound to inbound to those figures I have just quoted. The best increases have come from the United Kingdom, West Germany and Northern Europe. This leads to a point that I am making about for the need for a continuing review.
The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in answer to a question on notice on Tuesday gave me figures that showed that Qantas Airways Ltd carried 146,559 passengers on the kangaroo route from 1 February to 2 1 July this year. This was a load factor of 80 percent, virtually full aircraft on all services. The interesting point is that 64.3 per cent of these passengers were on advance purchase excursion fares and 29 per cent on excursion economy fares. The demand for cheap fares is certainly there, with only 2.5 per cent on full first class fares and just 1.4 per cent on full economy fares. Under the terms of the new cheap fare regime on point-to-point fares other international airlines are excluded from offering APEX fares on the kangaroo route, although most international airlines are offering substantially discounted fares and getting good loads out of Australia.
A semi-public document being circulated in Melbourne amongst travel agents shows that since 1 August a number of carriers are offering fares to London and other points in Europe at most competitive rates, including return Melbourne-London fares in high seasons of only $1,118 and Melbourne-Paris return fares for $1,100 complete with stopovers. Free stopovers are being offered by some carriers on the route. One-way fares of $550 are also being sold. These fares are not in line with what the Government and Qantas intended with ICAP. They are illegal, perhaps, but they are selling like hot cakes. There is therefore room for us to be more flexible in providing cheap fares, especially when we consider that 93.3 per cent of all passengers travelling on Qantas services between Australia and London in the first six months of this year were travelling on the cheaper fares. The Minister has said he will review the question of charters next April. To capture the market for Australia, I believe we should be looking at it even now. Full aircraft are the most profitable operation. If predictions of massive aviation fuel price increases for later next year do, in fact, come to fruition- I am sure they will- let us start getting the people moving as soon as possible. When those predicted fuel price rises in aviation spirit of 30 per cent to 40 per cent do hit next year, we will not be able to compete as well unless we can offer the optimum in the cheap fare packages to Australia.
The low usage of full first and full economy fares on those Qantas flights is interesting. There is evidence that traffic, mostly business traffic, is being bled off especially from full economy fares. No fewer than six carriers are offering a deal to full economy passengers in Melbourne. That deal is that they can pay the full first class fare and receive a refund of the difference between the economy and first class fares eight weeks after they return to Australia. This is a good deal indeed. This is happening when we in Australia are in fact talking of increasing full first class and full economy fares officially on Australian services. Even if we do not want deregulation in the Australian airline industry- personally I believe there is room for some official deregulation- we are gradually getting to it. It seems to be virtually impossible to control except in cancelling landing rights of an international airline coming into Australia. The diplomatic implications of that could be severe. Or do we just forget that full f are market and concentrate on our own services with their providing all economy charter, or charter type operations, and leaving the small full fare passenger markets to other carriers? This may even be the right attitude if Qantas is hell bent on an all Boeing 747 aircraft long range fleet, although it has been reported that the 747SP aircraft may be purchased for specialised routes such as those to Wellington, New Zealand, and Noumea. To me that would seem to be an amazing decision especially since the SP aircraft are designed for long non-stop flights such as Sydney to the United States west coast, and Tokyo to New York. Once again the answer could well be the introduction of Australian domestic carriers on the New Zealand and other regional routes such as Bali, New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, even under charter to Qantas, rather than the investment in an aircraft such as the 747SP which has not been proven on the short haul routes. It is interesting to see that already Pan-American Airways is thinking of pulling the 747SP aircraft out of the Australian operation.
Domestically, there are some encouraging signs in an experiment in ending parallel schedules on the Sydney to Canberra and Melbourne to Canberra routes. I understand that is about to begin with Ansett Airlines of Australia. There has also been a relaxation of fare types by the domestic airlines. However, we must be able to give the domestic airlines, whether the two major carriers, or a third level carrier, such as EastWest Airlines Ltd, and Bush Pilots Airways Ltd, the opportunity to experiment with routes which may need to be developed to accommodate the ever expanding tourist market, or indeed the domestic market. This again could well involve some short haul domestic routes. However, there does need to be a flexibility as well for airlines to develop their own equipment. Certainly, as far as Ansett and Trans-Australia Airlines are concerned we need to acknowledge that their heavy equipment is a most costly investment. There is a need for rationalisation as to just what they use.
I was surprised to see that TAA had tentative deposits with the Airbus manufacturer for its wide-bodied Airbus aircraft while Ansett was considering Boeing equipment. In the heavy jet equipment areas, there are great economic advantages for the two major carriers to have similar equipment and the cost savings can also be passed on to the consumer, that is the travelling public. I believe that new equipment needs to be introduced to the major carriers in the next few years. There is no doubt that the Airbus is a magnificent aircraft. There has been some discussion to the effect that perhaps it is even too big for the Australian services. However, the cost savings advantages of an Airbus operation are very great indeed. It is fuel efficient; it has a tremendous record in its short history for reliability, and mechanical excellence, and it is achieving an incredible record in its European, South East Asian and other operations in the United States of America. The opportunity for the introduction of wide-bodied equipment on the Australian domestic runs means even more and more flexibility in the introduction of cheaper air fares. I am sure that every honourable member of this House is committed to developing the Australian tourist industry. We can only do that with this flexibility that I have just outlined in our aviation policies.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-On behalf of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, I present the report of the Committee entitled ‘Environmental Protection, Adequacy of Legislative and Administrative Arrangements, First Report’.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-by leave-The report which has just been tabled is the fourth report of the Committee established in the 31st Parliament. The report deals with the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act and the Australian Heritage Commission Act. Originally, the Committee had hoped to examine the overall needs for environmental protection in Australia. However, given that the Government has the present legislation under review and in order that the Committee’s recommendations were available to assist the Government in the finalisation of its review, the Committee chose to defer its examination of the wider issues until a later date. I am pleased to inform the House that the Government has agreed to delay any decision on this legislation until it has given consideration to the Committee’s recommendations. The Committee believes that this is the proper course for the Government to be taking.
We do not question the competence of the advice the Government is receiving on possible amendments. However, no matter how well informed Canberra public servants may be, there is a real danger that isolation in the national capital can lead to a lack of understanding of the problems and views of the people in the States. During this inquiry the Committee travelled widely speaking to State Government officials, conservation groups, industry associations and individuals with a wide diversity of views. I believe that the evidence gained together with the various experience of the members of the Committee means that the Committee has reached sound conclusions and recommendations that are worthy of close and careful consideration by the Government. To my mind these conclusions and recommendations must be reflected in the final amendments proposed by the Government.
At the outset I point out that the report should be read in the light of the Committee’s belief that within a federal system there are areas that are clearly the national responsibility of the Commonwealth, areas where there are shared responsibilities, and areas that are the responsibility of State and local government. I now turn to the specific discussions of the two Acts. The Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act is a major mechanism available to the Commonwealth to identify, evaluate and co-ordinate direct and indirect impacts of Commonwealth decisions on the Australian environment. The purpose of the Act is to ensure that those responsible for developing proposals and those responsible for taking decisions on those proposals think about and take account of environmental factors.
The Committee noted in its report on the urban environment that the Act places proposals under scrutiny to a much greater degree and this has led to tensions. It is apparent from the evidence that we received during this inquiry that these tensions still exist in some areas. Although the Committee did not have the opportunity to speak to all Government departments and authorities, it believes those that did give evidence represent a reasonable cross-section of attitudes. The evidence suggests that the Act is operating effectively in the project area. Departments responsible for these activities have a good working relationship with the Department of Science and the Environment and appear to fulfil the obligations placed upon them by the legislation. On the other hand, there are a number of departments which are not happy with the legislation and it is apparent that, while some of these departments co-operate reluctantly with the Department of Science and the Environment, others use the discretion allowed under the Act to avoid referring any proposals to the Department.
To help overcome these tensions and administrative inefficiencies and to ensure departments observe the spirit of the legislation, the Committee has recommended that memoranda of understanding be agreed to between the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator
Webster) and other Ministers which would provide broad guidelines on the question of environmental significance and matters which should be referred for advice. This would give departments greater autonomy and would ensure that a multitude of minor matters were not unnecessarily referred. As a balance to the greater autonomy of departments provided by memoranda, the Committee has recommended that the Act be amended to allow the Minister for Science and the Environment to request and be provided with information on proposals.
One matter which the Committee closely examined was the scope of the Act. The report notes that the current scope of the Act is very wide, potentially covering any matter embraced by a Commonwealth decision. It could be applied to areas not suitable to the environmental impact statement technique. The Committee believes that there should be a mechanism by which some items can be exempted from the provisions of the Act. We have recommended that the Act be amended to allow for a schedule of items to be exempted from its provisions. While recognising that for the Act to operate effectively some matters should be excluded from its coverage, the Committee is concerned that the schedule could be used to limit its application severely. I emphasise that the schedule should include only those matters that are unsuitable for the impact statement technique and for those matters for which it is administratively impossible to apply the Act. I further emphasise that the schedule should contain only specific proposals and not broad areas of Government responsibility.
I turn now to the arrangements with the States. There is considerable potential for overlap between the Commonwealth and the States in environmental assessment. Arrangements have been reached with Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania and will soon be reached with New South Wales. Informal arrangements have been agreed to with Queensland. The objectives of these arrangements are to ensure co-ordination of environmental assessment and to avoid duplication of State and Commonwealth requirements. While the attitudes of the various States to Commonwealth involvement in environmental protection varies, all State Governments, except Queensland, stated that the arrangements are working well. The Committee is not in the position to comment on the attitude of the Queensland Government as that Government refused either to provide a written submission or to make Government officials available to speak to the Committee.
Some industry organisations and in particular the mining industry believe that even with these arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States, co-operation has not eventuated and expensive and time-consuming duplication is now taking place. Information received from individual mining companies indicated that arrangements in most instances were working well. The conservation movement also was critical of the arrangements on the grounds that the development of administrative arrangements which rely on State assessments before the States have adopted proper procedures is a retrograde step. Despite the comments of the mining industry and conservation groups, the Committee concludes that the arrangements represent a desirable streamlining of procedures and leave the respective powers of the Commonwealth and the States unchanged.
The Committee recognises the responsibility of the States in environmental protection and believes that the Act should be amended to acknowledge the States’ role. One method would be to amend the Act to give the Minister for Science and the Environment discretion in the application of the Act if proposals have been subject to State procedures and that the State procedures are considered to satisfy the provisions of the Commonwealth legislation. The Committee has recommended accordingly. The Committee notes that Victoria is the only State which, at present, has comprehensive environment legislation.
We believe that the Commonwealth should encourage other States to adopt legislation similar to the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. Accordingly, the Committee has recommended that the Australian Environment Council consider the need to introduce in each State legislation similar to the Commonwealth legislation. The Committee believes that until comprehensive legislation exists in each State the Act, its procedures and the administrative arrangements with the States should not be drafted or amended in a manner which would preclude an independent assessment by the Commonwealth of proposals being undertaken. The report emphasises that there is a need for the Commonwealth to maintain powers that would enable it to intervene in environmental matters of national concern. Even if the States do adopt legislation similar to the Commonwealth’s the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act must remain to allow in some instances independent Commonwealth assessment.
Finally, the Committee examined the public participation provisions of the Act. Public input is provided for by allowing comment on draft impact statements and by giving the public the opportunity to appear at public hearings directed under the Act. The Committee has made two recommendations in this area. One requires the Minister to give reasons for not directing an environmental impact statement and the other recommends an amendment to the Act to allow for round-table discussions between interested parties.
The second piece of legislation which the Committee examined was the Australian Heritage Commission Act. The principal role of the Heritage Commission at present is the compilation of a register of the National Estate. The register serves three basic yet essential purposes:
It is the foundation of the National Estate and as such is an important educational and cultural device;
By identifying important sites, the register helps government agencies, private corporations and individuals to act effectively and in a way that will serve to conserve as far as possible the National Estate; and
It leads to a much clearer identification of what is significant and ensures an objective measure for assessment and comparison.
By formal recognition of those components forming the National Estate, the legislation attempts to ensure that cultural and conservation considerations are adequately accounted for in the development of projects for which the Commonwealth acts as an approving authority. Despite the views of some sections of the community, the Heritage Commission has a purely advisory role and has no direct authority to do anything in relation to a listed place. Listing of a place does not constitute a preservation order. The listing does not prevent a place being used for many different activities which might include mining, forestry, recreation or other activities. The major criticisms of the legislation which the committee received came from the mining industry. Of major concern to the industry were the delays incurred in the hearing of objections to listings.
The Committee supports the proposition that a time limit be introduced in which objections to a proposed listing must be considered to ensure that parties are not affected by lengthy delays. The Committee believes a time limit of 12 months would be appropriate and has recommended accordingly. Should objections not be heard within 12 months the Committee believes that the proposals to list would lapse. In addition, the Committee believes that it should be mandatory for those persons or organisations likely to be affected by a listing to be notified in writing.
The mining industry was critical of the practice of the Commission to list large tracts of land to protect the specific location of secret Aboriginal sites. As the Act requires all listings to be made public, the Heritage Commission lists large areas which act as buffer zones. We believe that the Act should be amended to allow for the establishment of a confidential register on which secret Aboriginal sites could be listed. With the consent of the commissioners and upon written application, detailed information on the location and the nature of the place listed would be made available to interested persons.
The Committee received no evidence to suggest that any Government department is experiencing difficulties with the legislation. The only criticism the Committee received from Commonwealth departments was the cost associated with maintaining buildings which are listed on the register. A number of departments commented that maintenance of historic buildings should be from a special Heritage Fund. The Committee has recommended that the Heritage Commission and the Departments of Administrative Services and Finance examine the desirability of introducing a separate item into departmental appropriations for the maintenance of Commonwealth properties listed on the register.
The Committee sought the views of the States to the legislation. The legislation was described variously by the States as vital, essential and of importance. No State government put to the Committee any suggested amendments to the Act. In conclusion, I would like to say as Chairman of the Committee that I am extremely pleased that the Committee was able to reach a unanimous decision on the many diverse and complex matters which were raised during the course of this inquiry. On behalf of the Committee I take this opportunity to thank the staffthat is the clerk to the Committee and the other staff members- for their co-operation and diligence during the conducting of this inquiry. I commend the report to the House.
-by leave-I commend the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation for his report and say that I was proud to have worked with this Committee. There were members from both sides of the House on the Committee, including the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon), the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu), the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter), the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe), the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) and me. As so often happens in the committee system, once the facts are placed before members of parliament there is a considerable degree of unanimity. In fact we were able to come up with a unanimous report. There were one or two minor altercations and differences of opinion and philosophy but the report just tabled shows that the committee system can work extremely effectively. Unfortunately, I was not able to give as much time to the Committee as I would have liked because of other responsibilities. I think the Committee can be very proud of the fact that it has come up with this report.
I will be brief in my remarks because I know that a number of honourable members wish to speak. The legislation that has been confirmedthe Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 and the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975- has been given a great deal of publicity, particularly in economic journals, because it has been anticipated that pressures particularly from mining companies would lead to a watering down, if not the complete abolition, of legislation of this type. When we received evidence from some of the mining companies- they put the view forward that all environmental matters ought to be the responsibility of the States- I think we were all suspicious of the fact that their enthusiasm for ending Commonwealth involvement in environmental matters was because one or two of the States in particular seemed to give the Australian mining companies almost a totally free go. So I think that it is to the credit of the Committee that it has come up with a report which says that this legislation is fundamentally sound and ought to be maintained with some minor alterations.
I think that I speak for the Australian Labor Party when I say that we do not wish to be a party or a government that wants to interfere in everything that is going on in all the States. The last thing that we would want to do as a Commonwealth government is to fiddle around with every drainage scheme and every minor building application going on in every State. Of course we would not want to be involved in those matters. But everybody would recognise that there are matters which arise that are of national importance. It is difficult to put into legislation what is of national significance and what is not. In recent years it has been the community’s consensus that issues such as the Great Barrier Reef, Fraser
Island, possibly even Lake Pedder, the question of bauxite mining in Perth, Kakadu National Park and Ayers Rock- one can go on and on- are matters of national significance. For reasons that are probably self-evident there is a consensus that they are national issues. We believe that if those national assets were threatened the Commonwealth ought not to say: ‘Well, look, we are sorry but this is a matter for Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory’. If Ayers Rock were threatened then that would be a national question. If the Great Barrier Reef were threatened- it has been threatened- then that would be a matter for the national government.
I wind up my remarks by saying that I commend this report to the House. I hope that the Government realises that it was considered by eight members from different parties who came up with very sensible solutions to some of the problems, and that there will not be any diminution- other than what is recommended in this report- of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 and the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-by leave-I thank the House for giving me the opportunity to make a few short comments. It is a pity that on a matter which is of significance to the environment and conservation in Australia that those who have been involved in an extensive survey of existing legislation are given such limited time to speak on this matter. It is no excuse to say that the matter will be listed for discussion at a later date when ministerial statements are made because the practice appears to be that that opportunity is never given.
I take up the point made by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen). He emphasised that the report came from a group of members of this House from all parties and that it was a unanimous report. I think that is significant and should be noted by the Government when it undertakes its review of this legislation. I turn now to some of the recommendations in the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. They emphasise the intent of the Committee that environmental and conservation considerations be discussed openly and without the privacy of government inquiries and government departmental actions. For example, I refer to recommendation No. 5 which states that a memorandum of understanding should be made public. Recommendation No. 12 states that the Minister should provide details of the reasons why a direction on an environmental impact statement on particular proposals is not given. Recommendation No. 13 suggests that the Minister should respond to requests for information within a period of three months. Recommendation No. 17 relates to the Australian Heritage Commission Act. It states that property owners, persons and organisations with identifiable interests and local authorities should be notified in writing of a decision to proceed with the listing of a nominated place. Those recommendations show just where the Committee believes amendments should be made to allow greater public participation and discussion on matters affecting the environment and conservation.
I turn now to the matter of witnesses appearing before the committee. There were many witnesses. I think over 70 gave evidence to the Committee. Of course many were very co-operative and of great assistance to the Committee. But I would like to mention just a couple. The Australian Conservation Foundation was extremely helpful, as it always is in inquiries by the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. I get a little tired of those who seek to use the ACF as a whipping-boy for anti-conservation and anti-environmental outbursts. The ACF has always demonstrated a willingness to work with the Committee, and therefore this Parliament. It should be encouraged instead of denigrated at every opportunity, as it is by some members on this side of the House.
I mention also the failure of some Government departments to co-operate with the Committee. For example, the Department of the Treasury- I refer to paragraph 56 of the report- refused to supply any information to the Committee. I think that that is getting very close to being a contempt of this Parliament; the House of Representatives Standing Committee is being ignored in its work and in its inquiry. Another Government department failed to co-operate. Indeed, only after a great deal of pressure was applied did it indicate that it would give information informally. It should be noted that the Committee gave serious consideration to subpoenaing the necessary people from that department to appear before it to give evidence. I want to record that that is a very serious defect of some Government departments which affects the proper workings of this House.
I again emphasise the lack of time available. One could deal with many points. The Australian Heritage Commission is one of those organisations which is greatly misunderstood- perhaps deliberately misunderstood- by some who are seeking to have conservation legislation amended. I believe that this misunderstanding, to a great extent, would be removed if people read this report. Many of the red herrings which have been introduced into this subject could be removed with a proper reading and interpretation of this report.
I conclude by saying that we will be spending much time and hundreds of thousands of dollars in preparing for a bicentenary celebration of occupation of this country by white people. The bicentenary is on 26 January 1988. I hope that then we will be able to say that at least in the decade leading up to that 200th anniversary the Australian Government and the Australian Parliament have done something to protect the environment and to conserve this country.
-by leave-I too would like to comment on the role of the Chairman and the staff of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. It is a joint party committee. It provided its members with the opportunity to express their differing views and to take account of numerous amendments to legislation that sometimes involved substantial rewriting. I am thankful for the opportunity that I was given as a member of the Committee. While working on the Committee we were constantly aware of the pressures that existed in terms of the Government. There were pressures on the Government, particularly from the Australian Mining Industry Council and its affiliates, for quite drastic changes in relation to environmental legislation. As the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) suggested, those pressures were not restricted to industry groups outside the Government. Within the Government itself there were signs of considerable pressures to the extent that extremely important departments such as the Department of the Treasury and the Department of National Development- critical departments in terms of their interests in and their management of the environment- were extremely reluctant to appear before the Committee. That contrasted somewhat with the joint party atmosphere which prevailed within the Committee. The Committee was not able to get the fullest co-operation from departments of the Government.
Whilst the Committee received considerable evidence from the Mining Industry Council, the Council and its various State affiliates were not able to come up with a single example of a major mining project in Australia that has failed to go ahead because of environmental legislation, except for Fraser Island. I am not sure whether that reflects well on governments, environmentalists or what, but the reality is that despite all the evidence we received it did not appear to us that the Mining Industry Council really had a substantial case for major changes in legislation.
I refer briefly to a further agreement by Committee members that the Commonwealth has a direct and continuing responsibility in relation to preserving the environment across Australia. Certainly within the Committee it was recognised that that responsibility cannot be exercised by the Commonwealth Government alone. There was considerable emphasis on the work done by various States. Nevertheless, the Committee agreed- this is stated within two of the recommendations- that when it comes to matters of national significance the Commonwealth has an important role. Chapter 2 of the report sets out the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth. Certainly it is the view of the Committee, as expressed in the report, that those powers are considerable. On the other hand the Committee recognised that the States properly have a responsibility and it recognised agreements with the various States. But one has to express some concern that of all the States only Victoria so far has comprehensive comparable legislation to that of the Commonwealth on its books. I believe that such legislation is in the process of consideration in New South Wales, but in no other States is there comparable legislation to that which exists at the Commonwealth level, and that is to be regretted.
I would like to refer to a number of other issues but in the few minutes available to me in this discussion I will refer to what I believe is perhaps one of the most important issues to come out of the inquiry. We received evidence and were aware of the fact that in Australia at the present time a number of major projects which are of very great environmental significance are being developed. Paragraph 133 of the Committee’s report refers to the development of petro-chemical complexes, aluminium smelters and natural gas projects. Quite clearly those projects which are capital intensive and energy intensive must have a massive effect on the environment in the broadest sense.
The Committee received evidence from the Conservation Council of Western Australia on mining projects in the Darling Ranges and alumina projects which are being developed by Alcoa of Australia Ltd in that State. The evidence suggested that the effects of the projects are of major significance. Those mining projects are important environmentally for several reasons. I emphasise this point because it illustrates the development of our understanding of the environment and for that reason it is important to refer to it. We received evidence on the Alcoa mining projects in terms of their impact on the jarrah forests in Western Australia which are concentrated in the Darling Ranges. We received evidence on the possible impact of that mining development on Perth’s water supply. Obviously the Committee was aware of the enormous energy requirements to develop the projects. Although the report does not make a specific recommendation in relation to those developments that Alcoa is pursuing, it does in paragraph 141 say:
Given the significance of these proposals in terms of national energy considerations as well as local impacts the Committee believes that a public inquiry into these proposals under the terms of the Impact of Proposals Act may have be justified
I wanted to emphasise and draw attention to that section of the report because I believe that this Parliament will have to consider the long-term effects of many of these projects. We will have to understand that the environment concerns not simply the matter of protecting trees and rare species but it involves the survival of the country. The Australian environment is fragile. Never before has there been a scale of population and development as exists at present, let alone what is proposed. We need to proceed with very great care. I believe that the Committee’s report drawing attention to those issues opens up an area of environment inquiry that ought to be pursued. It is regrettable that this Government in the time that it has been in office has not initiated a single public inquiry despite the scale of these developments. This Government has not in the last two Budgets allocated a dollar for holding such inquiries.
I have enjoyed being a member of the Committee and working on producing what I believe is an extremely important report of the Committee. It is the first with which I have been concerned. The Committee will need to give further consideration to many issues. I commend the report to the House. I think it is an important report. I commend it to the Government. I hope that the Government will fully take the report into consideration before it makes any decisions in relation to changes to environmental legislation.
-by leave-The report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation is significant for three major reasons. Firstly, it is significant because the Government is presently reviewing this legislation that is considered in this report. The two pieces of legislation under consideration are the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 and the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975. Secondly, the report is significant because for the first time a forum has been provided through this inquiry by our Committee for widespread comment and assessment. Thirdly, the report is significant because although political representatives of the three parties were members of the Committee the recommendations were agreed on with unanimity.
I do not intend to delay the business of this Parliament. I will make few comments on the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act except to say that the Committee fully recognises the role of the State governments and their environmental responsibilities. However, it also recognises the contribution that this Act has had in developing industry awareness, government awareness at the three levels of government and a public awareness of this nation’s resources and the need for their exploitation under conditions that ensure adequate environmental protection. I firmly believe that the Commonwealth while not impinging upon States rights and, I emphasise, State responsibilities must ensure that we as a Commonwealth retain the right to investigate and the ability to assess any proposals being undertaken which are of national significance.
This report makes several recommendations on amendment of the Australian Heritage Commission Act. I wish to record the most important of these amendments in Hansard. Recommendation 16 suggests that the Act be amended to provide that only nominated places be included on the interim list of the Australian Heritage Commission register. Recommendation 17 suggests that an amendment should provide ‘that property owners, and persons and organisations with identifiable interests, and local authorities be notified in writing by the Commission of a decision to proceed with the listing of a nominated place’ and ‘that notification of a decision by the Commission should be made no later than the time at which the Commission advertises its intention to take action in relation to a nominated place’. Recommendation 18 suggests that an amendment should be made ‘to provide for the establishment of a confidential register on which secret Aboriginal sites are to be listed ‘. The other recommendation I would like recorded is No. 1 9 that suggests that amendment should be made to include provisions which require the hearing of objections and a determination of the need to list a site within 12 months of the receipt of that objection. If a determination has not been made at the end of that period the proposal to list the nominated place shall lapse.
The Australian Heritage Commission Act has found acceptance in the Australian community despite earlier misunderstandings of its intent. It is seen as a vital legislative force in conserving, improving and presenting the National Estate. The Committee believes that the recommendations included in this report will improve the adequacy of the existing legislative and administrative arrangements. I urge the Government to take full consideration of this report and the implications if any major decisions that would not result in the effective management of Australia ‘s natural resources or of our environment were implemented. I join with the Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges), in paying tribute to the Clerk to the Committee and the many staff members who served during the time of this inquiry.
-by leave-I, too, was quite surprised at the degree of unanimity that we were able to achieve on this Committee because initially some of the members of the Committee were divided in their views. I think it is a great tribute to the Chairman and the staff of the Committee that we were able to sort out the various areas of difficulty and produce a report on which we were reasonably unanimous. In relation to the report, I mention a couple of the points that were touched on by the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe). Much emphasis was placed by some witnesses on the damage by the mining industry to the environment, particularly the damage in the Darling Ranges of Western Australia by the mining industry and the bauxite industry and the general damage to forest areas surrounding such mining areas. The point I bring forward is that one of the chief spokesmen for the Conservation Council of Western Australia who gave some very strong evidence along this line has since publicly changed his stance on the issue following his recent endorsement by a political party in that area. He has been made to toe the party line. So I just mention that possibly his evidence was somewhat suspect in that area.
Somewhat less emphasis was placed on the damage to the environment in that area by the effects of farming and urban development. It is demonstrable that many more times the area of the forest in Western Australia is damaged by both clearing for farming and farming activities and by urban development on the Darling scarp. I draw the attention of honourable members to recommendation No. 3 in the report that: . . Commonwealth involvement in environmental protection be restricted to geographic areas under the direct control of the Commonwealth (e.g., Commonwealth Territories), Commonwealth works and activities, activities which the States have referred to the Commonwealth and matters considered by the Commonwealth Government to be of national significance-,
I believe that the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act should be implemented with common sense and reason. I believe that there are matters of national importance for which this Act should be implemented. But I also believe that it should be up to the Commonwealth Government to decide what is of national significance.
In the matter of the effects of the mining industry- and in particular the bauxite industrythroughout Australia and the counter-effects of farming and development, I think a much more specific item for investigation under this Act would be the total use of energy. So whilst I do not believe that we should be singling out any particular mining operation or any particular industry, I think that energy would be of national significance and the bauxite industry, being a big user of energy, would be able to play a part in any possible inquiry in that area. Finally, I believe that local government and the State governments today have a much greater awareness of environmental issues than they had a few years ago. I believe that this has been largely brought about by the sensible use of the Commonwealth Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act.
R;/ BAILLIEU (La Trobe)-by leave-Being a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, I appreciate the opportunity of having a couple of minutes in which to make some comments on the Committee’s report and its inquiry into the environmental protection legislation of the Commonwealth. At the outset, I would like to quote from the Chairman’s report wherein he says:
The report should be read in the light of the Committee’s belief that within a Federal system there are areas that are clearly the national responsibility of the Commonwealth, areas where there are shared responsibilities and areas that are the responsibility of State and local government.
I think the point which has to be borne in mind and which came through in the course of the hearings and the investigations that the Committee made was that the whole question of environmental protection is not the sole province of any one tier of government in this country.
– Did the Newport power station cause any devastation?
-I think the report acknowledges that the Federal Government has an enormous responsibility in the area of environmental protection, and it must be borne in mind that the whole question of environmental protection is probably one of the main responsibilities of any elected representatives. I would be disappointed if Opposition members who are interjecting so determinedly at the moment could not associate themselves with those remarks. But it also has to be borne in mind that whereas the Federal legislation for environmental protection refers primarily to the impact proposals, it is the State governments and local authorities which have the on-going responsibility to administer and to monitor any development that is approved. It must be remembered that the whole question of environmental protection does not finish after there has been an inquiry, under the auspices of either this Act or any State legislation.
The second point I make is that I recommend chapter 2 of the report to the honourable members because I think it is the best explanation I have yet seen of the constitutional and legal position regarding the involvement of the Commonwealth in these areas. Whenever these matters are discussed, inevitably a lot of what might be called grey area arises as to where the actual role of the Commonwealth starts and finishes. In conclusion 33 the Committee states its belief that the application of any Commonwealth powers should occur only in certain circumstances. The Committee recommends:
As a general rule Commonwealth involvement in environmental protection be restricted to geographic areas under the direct control of the Commonwealth (e.g. Commonwealth Territories), Commonwealth works and activities, activities which the States have referred to the Commonwealth and matters considered by the Commonwealth Government to be of national significance.
The threat to the environment of this country is not only of an industrial nature. The urban and recreational interests of man have a huge impact on the most precious physical assets of this country. Nowhere has that been more exemplified than in the Federal electorate of La Trobe, which, for the benefit of some honourable members who may not be aware, includes a very great deal of the Dandenong Ranges adjacent to Melbourne, and until the recent tragic redistribution of Federal electorates it also included a great deal of the Upper Yarra Valley and areas which were subsequently seconded by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon), who I know is doing an admirable job in representing that area. In the shire of Lilydale and the shire of Sherbrooke within the electorate of La Trobe, we see a typical conflict between the urban and recreational interests of people and some of the most valuable scenic country in this Commonwealth. In fact, I would go so far as to say- and I do not think this would be disputed by any other member in this House- that the electorate of La Trobe has the most attractive country of any electorate in the Commonwealth. I am glad that it is not contested by any other member.
It has been a pleasure to have been associated with a most interesting inquiry. I hope this report will be read by people who take an interest in environmental matters, particularly some of the people who came before the Committee with what I might call some of the more far-out evidence that was brought to our attention. It has been an interesting exercise for both Government and Opposition members to co-operate, as we have, to come out with a unanimous report.
-Mr Speaker has received a letter from the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of NUMAS to recognise Australia’s saturated labour market.
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-
-It is scandalous that the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs now plays a secondary role to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in the make-up of Australia’s labour force. At the moment this Government is encouraging people to migrate to Australia, some of whom it is possible will be unemployed in this country for the rest of their lives. We already have substantially high unemployment in this country and many of those people who are coming to Australia today under the present system of immigration will also be unemployed. Figures that I will give later will show that the unemployment rate among the most recent arrivals over the last 18 months is up to three times higher than the unemployment rate for those people who were born here.
There are two Ministers and two departments on trial in this House today. A charge of misleading the Parliament and the Australian electorate is not one taken lightly by the Opposition, but departmental documents prove conclusively that the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) have deliberately attempted to mislead the Australian Parliament.
-Order! I must call the honourable member for Port Adelaide to order. A reflection of that nature can only be made by way of a substantive motion. I ask him to withdraw the expression.
-I withdraw. They have deliberately told untruths to the Parliament.
-Order! The honourable member is guilty of a similar offence. He must withdraw that expression.
-I withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker. Obviously, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs have told the Australian public, the migrant population and the Parliament things about immigration in this country which are not true. The Government, through the introduction of the Numerical Multifactor Assessment System, or NUMAS as it is called, has made a deliberate policy decision to ignore completely the approved list of occupations for those migrants seeking to enter Australia independent of family reunion and refugee categories. Both Ministers have denied this in the Parliament.
This decision not only discriminates against resident migrants seeking to bring additional family members to Australia, but ensures that many people approved under NUMAS for settlement in Australia as independent migrants will be pushed to the end of the ever growing dole queues.
Under the system which operated prior to the introduction of NUMAS settlement of migrants classified in the labour market category was only allowed where the potential migrant’s occupation was in demand. Demand was based upon an approved list of 200 occupations compiled by the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs. In addition, employers could nominate individuals for entry based on a specific job offer. In essence, eligibility was based entirely on labour market requirements. Since the introduction of NUMAS the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs have consistently claimed that this situation has not altered. For example, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in the Parliament on 11 October stated:
In relation to the selection of people in the independent classification, under the Numerical Multifactor Assessment System, attention is paid to occupation and the skills and qualifications that people have and the relationship which that has to demand in Australia.
Some months before on 30 August in a interview the Minister was more adventurous in claims for NUMAS. He said:
Persons who are selected because of their occupational skills are selected in areas where there is a strong and continuing demand for labour in Australia.
In the House Estimates Committee last week he said:
We must not bring them into a situation where because of their background or occupational skills they are going to have great difficulty in getting work.
These statements mean that the Minister is prepared to play politics with the lives of 87,000 migrants this financial year by pretending that independent migrants selected under NUMAS will easily find jobs. The fact is that large numbers of independent migrants will enter Australia during 1979-80 with jobs skills already oversupplied in a domestically saturated employment market. The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs is well aware of the situation, although he denied it before the House Estimates Committee which was considering the estimates for the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs. I quote from a memo written to Mr Viner by a senior official in his Department. It stated:
The greatest concern the Department had was that NUMAS was not governed by the approved list. This meant clearly that NUMAS would both relegate and diffuse the former labour market criteria for selection . . .
Under NUMAS every potential migrant received a rating. The necessity to give any sort of priority to those with skills in demand in order to reach the target had gone. I met with my equivalent in the Immigration Department . . .
I raised my concern and to my surprise he acknowledged that my view was correct . . . The officer informed me that the decision to downgrade labour demand as a factor in selection . . . was a deliberate Government action.
Perhaps the Minister would now be prepared to inform the House of the true position. The fact is that NUMAS was adopted to boost the immigration program which had been cut back severely by an absolute lack of job vacancies in Australia for the Australian born and the overseas born.
Any person with a skerrick of intelligence who reads the publication entitled ‘Employment Prospects by Industry and Occupation’ knows that there are very few shortages of labour in Australia and that the labour market for semiskilled labour is completely saturated. For example in August 1979, 106 unskilled, unemployed junior workers were registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service for every job vacancy. For adults the ratio was 7 1 : 1 . In the semi-skilled category the respective vacancy ratios were 30:1 and 26:1. ‘Employment Prospects by Industry and Occupation’ shows that out of a total of 58 industries, the Department can confidently predict an employment increase in only six industries.
An examination of the approved list of occupations published by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and based on the predictions of ‘Employment Prospects by Industry and Occupation ‘ shows that while there are some localised shortages of labour in some States, there are very few shortages of labour Australiawide. As an official from the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs has said, a lack of work opportunities in Australia prompted the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to introduce NUMAS. The Department of Immigration wants a larger migrant intake and it will go to any lengths to achieve it, no matter what the employment consequences. One would have thought that as we moved into the 1980s the populate or perish syndrome would not have been implemented in such a crude and economically irresponsible manner.
Rather than admit this, the Minister has made a series of statements which are not true to avoid the allegations that NUMAS undermines the labour market prospects of Australian residents and potential migrants. But, worse than this, he is attempting to disguise the racial bias of the NUMAS selection procedure. Evidence in our possession shows that NUMAS is biased in favour of rich, white English-speaking middle class immigrants from Rhodesia and the USA, while at the same time significantly weakening the family reunion aspect of the immigration program. The Government’s policy is a fraud. It spends massive amounts of money advertising to attract settlers for jobs that do not exist.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Surely the Chair does not approve of a racist remark of that sort being made in this House?
-There is no point of order.
-The locally born and former settlers and their children are denied jobs, training opportunities and work experience. Migrants already bear a disproportionate share of unemployment in all age groups. The August labour force figures standardised by age give an unemployment rate of 7.9 per cent for the overseas born workforce- 6.7 per cent for males and 9.9 per cent for females- compared to 5.3 per cent for the Australian born work force- 4.3 per cent for males and 7. 1 per cent for females. That is a difference of 50 per cent.
The migrant contribution to Australia’s postwar growth is indisputable. But now many of the older generation who have given a life time of toil to the Australian community are victims of this Government’s indifference to unemployment. By far the highest unemployment is found among those who arrived in the last 1 8 months. In August 1979 their unemployment rate was 16.9 per cent compared to 6.6 per cent in August 1975. That is an increase of 156 per cent. As usual the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs could not care less.
When questioned about NUMAS in the Estimates Committee some weeks ago he said:
There are no fundamental problems . . .
I have had discussions with the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and senior officers of my Department have also had discussions to keep the operation of NUMAS under close review in this field of supplying the labour market.
Well this is what a senior officer responsible for the negotiations in Mr Viner ‘s Department had to say:
NUMAS is designed and operated to select migrants on the basis of their settlement potential. Immigration is no longer a program where, except for the refugee and family reunion categories, labour market considerations are the prime considerations in determining entry. Of course, no matter what an applicant’s potential for settlement, if he or she cannot secure employment (or can only secure it at the expense of others already here) settlement will not be satisfactory in terms of Australia ‘s interests.
There is no doubt that this Department would favour a situation where the labour market considerations assume their former importance in deciding eligibility. However, while that is not the situation, representations you receive alleging conflicts between the immigration policy and Australia’s labour market situation are best answered by the Minister for Immigration. We have in any case tended more and more to seek to transfer those kinds of representations (previously answered by this Department) to Immigration as NUMAS has developed.
What troubles me is that representations of that kind are being answered by your colleague and officers of his Department as though nothing had changed with regard to the labour market influence on selection decisions. Either the policy is not being implemented as the Government intended or the advice on its effect is misleading.
When is the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs ever going to tell the Parliament the truth about the labour market situation in this country? He compounds his answers in the Parliament by his deliberate misrepresentation of government training programs. We acknowledge that there are some shortages of skilled tradesmen in Australia. But to argue as the Minister does that these shortages must be forever filled by importing skilled tradesmen is a denial of justice to every unemployed young Australian. According to another submission prepared by the Minister’s department between 1979 and 1985 Australia will import between 50,000 and 60,000 skilled tradesmen. A further report, commenting on the Government’s proposed immigration intake of 210,000 in the triennium 1978-81, says:
It is ‘rather perplexed’ at the formula- ‘growing unemployment, therefore increased immigration’. The paper says that the Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Street, himself has officially stated that the employment situation up to 1 983 will be ‘grim ‘ and therefore, ‘it is absurd to import specialists and technologists when it would be far better to train our young unemployed’. It asks: ‘What is the point of increasing immigration when in Australia and throughout the world recession is on the increase?’.
Yet the Minister openly admits that the intake of apprentices is down by 4. 1 per cent on last year and that there will be no increase in apprenticeship intakes this year. The Minister will never concede that the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training Scheme is a failure. Overreliance on migration as a source of skilled tradesmen denies training opportunities to thousands of unemployed but well qualified young people already in this country. We should aim to scale down progressively the intake of skilled tradesmen and boost our own current apprenticeship intakes. This phasing out of skilled immigration, 8,000 to 10,000 a year, and the projected increase in the demand for skilled labour, 10,000 a year, would require an increase of 20,000 a year on current apprenticeship intakes. As you can see, Mr Deputy Speaker, and as I said at the outset, the charge stands. It is a scandalous situation we have reached in Australia and it is about time that the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Department of Employment were either merged or the Ministers were forced by the Executive to meet regularly to see what the demands of the labour market are in Australia and to see that people are not just brought here to boost the ranks of the unemployed.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, what we have just heard from the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) is one of the most damaging indictments of Australian Labor Party policy on immigration that I have ever heard. What he is saying is that at present in Australia there is unacceptably high unemployment and that the semi-skilled labour market is completely saturated. Yet the policies that the Labor Party adopted at its conference in Adelaide just recently do nothing more than increase the entry to Australia of semi-skilled and unskilled people-not decrease, but increase.
It is interesting that the honourable member for Port Adelaide raises this matter of public importance because I see his colleague the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) sitting beside him. I would have thought that if we were going to talk about immigration it would have been the shadow Minister for Immigration who would have raised the matter. Perhaps the honourable member for Port Adelaide has recognised his leader’s statement relating to the entry into this Parliament of the up-coming member for Wills and is looking for a new slot. Perhaps he is going to take over the immigration portfolio. But I would have thought that the honourable member for Maribyrnong would have raised this matter of public importance. That he is not even speaking in the debate I think places the concern of the Opposition squarely in focus. Obviously he knows more about the situation than the honourable member for Port Adelaide does.
Let us look at this total immigration intake because it bears close scrutiny if we are to analyse just exactly what goes on. The intake of migrants to Australia is made up of four broad categories, namely, refugees, family reunion cases, the free flow from New Zealand and the admission of migrants with skills currently in short supply or with proved entrepreneurial capacity. In this year the Government plans to admit about 16,000 refugees of whom about 14,000 will come from the Indo-Chinese area. The Labor Party plans to admit more refugees. Of course the Numerical Multi-factor Assessment System does not apply to the selection of refugees. Therefore, there is no testing of refugees in relation to their work skills or their capacity to find jobs in Australia. If we are worried about the possibilities of unemployment amongst migrants it is strange that the Labor Party has a policy which would create further difficulties for people coming here and attempting to find jobs.
The next category is the family reunion category. Only half of NUMAS applies to this category. In this category we have the largest entry of semi-skilled and unskilled migrants to Australia. As the honourable member for Port Adelaide has pointed out to the House, the semiskilled and unskilled area is the most difficult one in relation to employment possibilities in Australia. But what does the Labor Party say about that? It says that it is going to increase the numbers coming in under the family reunion category. It does not say exactly how. It has not delineated that matter, but it has made the broad statement that it is going to increase the entry under the family reunion category. We know from experience over a great number of years that in so doing that would increase the number of semi-skilled and unskilled people coming into this country looking for jobs in that most difficult employment area. Yet this is the policy of the Labor Party.
One of the other areas of entry to Australia concerns the free flow travel arrangements across the Tasman. It is a fact that unemployment amongst New Zealanders in Australia is high. From memory, about 10.3 per cent was the last figure I have seen. There is no assessment of migrants from across the Tasman- New Zealand citizens- under the arrangements presently in place, which have been in place for a number of years and which were kept in place by the previous Labor Government. Is the honourable member for Port Adelaide suggesting that we are going to introduce barriers to the free movement of people across the Tasman? Is he suggesting that before we allow New Zealand citizens to come to Australia occupational tests are going to be applied? This is one of the largest intakes of migrants into Australia, yet it does not come under NUMAS. It is one of the reasons why we have an unemployment rate- in new arrivalsabove the total market area. What is the Labor Party saying in relation to this? If it is going to bring in a barrier to movement across the Tasman why does it not come out publicly and say so? I do not think the honourable member is game to do so. I do not think that it is the Labor Party’s policy. It is just another demonstration of the sheer incompetence and lack of understanding of the honourable member for Port Adelaide in relation to the total intake of migrants into this country.
The last broad category of entry into Australia applies to those independent migrants with skills currently in short supply or with proved entrepreneurial capacity. I have been accused in this House this afternoon of misleading the Parliament. I take that charge very seriously. I am supposed to have misled the Parliament by saying that occupational demands or the skills possessed by independent migrants are taken into account. The honourable member for Port Adelaide says they are not. I draw to the attention of the honourable member and the House Part A of NUMAS which states:
Factor A1: Skills recognised in Australia- maximum points 6.
A2: Occupational demand- maximum points 14.
A3: Pre-arranged employment- maximum points 5.
The total number of points available under economic factors in NUMAS is 50. If one adds those figures I have just read out one will find that half the number of points allocated under economic factors relate to occupational demand, skills and employment possibilities in Australia. So it is absolute nonsense and entirely misleading to tell this House that skills possessed by migrants are not taken into account when they make an application under the independent applicants category to come to this country.
I am not sure whether the honourable member for Port Adelaide would be anxious to increase the total number of points available under NUMAS in relation to occupational demand or skills above the 50 per cent category. If somebody does not score well in those three areasthat is, skills recognised in Australia, occupational demand and pre-arranged employment- there is very little chance that that applicant will be successful in migrating to Australia because he or she will not be able to get the required number of 30 points under Part A of NUMAS. If they do succeed, it shows that they are absolutely outstanding under other factors which are taken into account. I would hope that honourable members would like to see a selection system operating in relation to the entry of people into Australia which gives flexibility and allows outstanding people to migrate to this country.
Many statements have been made by the honourable member, not only today but over a period, in relation to the entry of people to Australia and unemployment. The simplistic suggestion has been made that there is unacceptably high unemployment and, therefore, we should cut down on the number of migrants coming to Australia. If he does not want to take my word for it, I refer him to an article in the Australian Financial Review of Wednesday 17 October by Professor W. M. Corden, Professor of Economics at the Australian National University. The article states:
On the other hand, the immediate effects of immigration might be to raise the unemployment numbers in particular categories of labor.
The matter is complex.
The general evidence from Australia ‘s own history as well as the post-war histories of European countries which absorbed vast numbers of guest workers and immigrants, is that immigration does not -
I repeat ‘does not’: increase unemployment.
In practice, high immigration has been associated with booming economies. It can be argued that the economic booms cause the immigration, not vice versa, But, it is clear that the migrant flows did not destroy the booms. My own view is that increased immigration at this time would probably act as a valuable stimulus to the economy, yielding widespread benefits. This view could be disputed.
There it is, in plain English, from a person who has done a little bit of study in this area rather than make a superficial examination which is characteristic of the honourable member for Port Adelaide.
What we are talking about is the movement of people to Australia and the method of selection. NUMAS is not a policy; it is a selection process. I was very disturbed to hear the allegation of the honourable member for Port Adelaide that it is somehow racist in its application. It is certainly not. It was designed to ensure consistency, fairness and responsibility throughout the world. It is applied equally no matter to which country the citizen applying to come to Australia belongs. What we are doing under NUMAS is selecting people and matching their capacities against factors which have been shown to be important in successful settlement into the Australian situation. The previous system was demonstrated on a number of occasions to be inflexible, especially in terms of the criteria for eligibility under occupations.
What we are looking at particularly in this debate today are the independent categories. The Opposition is suggesting that we should cut out entirely independent applicants to this country. Let us look at some of the great benefits that flow from the present system. There is no doubt that production bottlenecks in some areas of industry in Australia can be overcome by selective recruitment of people overseas. For example, at present hardrock miners are needed in Western Australia. It is very difficult to train people to be hardrock miners and it is very difficult to find them. They are in short supply. If we can recruit hardrock miners from overseas this will lead to the further employment in this industry alone, it is estimated, from six to eight other people in Australia. Those six to eight people are the semiskilled and unskilled people in the community. We all know that that is the area of greatest need for employment opportunities. In addition to that such recruitment allows the importation of needed skills and techniques.
We are looking for productivity growth and we will get productivity growth if we import skills and new techniques into this country. If we confine the migrant intake to semi-skilled and unskilled people rather than develop the total amount of resources available to Australian people through productivity increases we will diminish the growth. The Labor Party is effectively espousing a slowing of the growth of the standard of living in Australia. We are looking for an increase in productivity rather than a slowing down of the increase in productivity. In addition, of course, by selective recruitment we can increase the geographic mobility of the Australian work force. It has been demonstrated time and time again that migrants are more geographically mobile within any one nation than are the people who are born and settled in Australia. We can look at the age and skill mixes, which are so necessary in the development of the Australian economy. We can look at capital inflow and entrepreneurial skills. For example, the Labor Government of Tasmania is at present very interested in bringing to Australia people with entrepreneurial skills who are prepared to invest their money here and to provide employment opportunities for Australians by risking capital. The people can do that by coming to this country and making their futures here.
The sheer fact of the situation is this: What the Labor Party is proposing is a recipe for disaster. I put it as strongly as that. The Opposition’s immigration policies are unclear. I say that they are unclear because I, and also the ethnic communities, have been trying to get some definition out of spokesmen from the Opposition in relation to these policies. It is impossible to get that definition. What we would have under the Labor Party policies is a marked increase in semi-skilled and unskilled people. This by no stretch of the imagination can be said to be in the best interests of the Australian people.
– It is perfectly obvious from listening to the lame speech of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) that he has at least found his own level of incompetence in this place. He is obviously determined to brazen out the serious charges outlined against him and his colleague, the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner), by my colleague, the shadow minister for employment. There is no question that there has been a huge cover-up in this Parliament involving the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to obscure differences of opinion between the departments and their Ministers as to the effects of independent immigration under the Numerical Multifactor Assessment System. These Ministers stand condemned by the words of the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs. It has been stated: ‘Either the policy is not being implemented as the Government intended, or the advice on its effect is misleading.’ Those words come from the highest possible administrative level of the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs. Those words are a damning indictment of these two Ministers. They have misled the Parliament and the Australian people in a web of duplicity. The document from which I have quoted, which is available, spells out the mish mash of incompetent strategies that the Government has perpetrated upon the Australian work force, including migrants.
Let me trace the history of this massive con job that the Ministers have tried to pull. We all know that until 1 January immigration policy covered these categories: Family reunion, special family reunion, refugees, persons freely granted residence because of the Tasman agreement, and the general eligibility provision wherein independent new migrants were selected mainly by relating their skills to the Australian 1 mainly abour market. The last category involved approximately 44 per cent of migrants before NUMAS commenced on 1 January this year. Before then this category was controlled through an approved list of occupations and an employer nomination system. The category of firm job offers, although given five points on the NUMAS system, has, I understand, been surreptitiously eliminated. The approval list was the real criterion for entry in the independent category. It covered about 200 occupations and was compiled and updated quarterly. It seemed that the policy for independent arrivals was that entry be granted when potential migrant skills were in demand. That was prior to the introduction of NUMAS on 1 January.
We then moved to a system of determination of independent arrivals. They were assessed under two tables: Firstly, economic factors, totalling SO points, and, secondly, personal and settlement factors, totalling 50 points. I note that the two categories- transferable assets to assist in settlement and economic viability- totalled 1 1 points between them. That simply means that how much money they had accounted for 1 1 points out of 50. Yet occupational demand attracted only 14 points. That is how much it has been downgraded as compared with the situation before 1 January. Given that there has been a significant change, it is proper to ask what the attitude of the other department involved was, the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs, and whether the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs worked in unity to implement this new program. Did the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs offer advice to both Ministers, for instance?
Let me tell honourable members of some of the advice that was offered to those two Ministers, particularly the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. We challenge him to come into the chamber and listen to what we had to say and answer the criticisms. This is what the Department was saying:
This points system, to be called NUMAS, was developed and then tested overseas during 1978. We were consulted about its development, but I believe it is not unfair to say that almost all our large number of suggestions about NUMAS were rejected -
This comes from the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs:
The critical issue for us was the weight to be given to the various factors determining eligbility for entry under NUMAS, and particularly to labour market demand, and also to the final score which would qualify for entry. We were far from satisfied with the final decisions and the former Secretary wrote to the Secretary of Immigration in August 1978 setting out our objections.
It seemed to us at that time (and it has become apparent) that the labour market priority for entry was weakened by mixing non-occupational characteristics (eg age, assets, language) with occupational factors.
As to the Cabinet decision on NUMAS- this is particularly important because it goes to the very highest Cabinet level- the Department says:
Before we received any response to our problems on NUMAS, Cabinet decided that NUMAS should go ahead. The Cabinet Decision approving NUMAS is, to say the least, unclear on the Government’s intentions in regard to the influence which labour market factors are to have on selection.
I with my equivalent in the Immigration Department following the Cabinet Decision to clarify the procedure for operation of NUMAS. I raised our concern about the relegation and diffusion of the labour market criteria for selection and, to my surprise, he acknowledged that my view was correct.
On becoming aware of the bickering, disagreements and apparent inability of the two departments to work together I decided actively to seek further information and question the Ministers involved. I examined documents previously made public by the Ministers and the opinion of the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs, and questioned the Ministers in the Estimates Committee and in the House. The sum total of this exercise explains attempts by these two Ministers to mislead the Estimates Committee and the House of Representatives in attempts to cover up the differences in their departments over NUMAS and the way it has exacerbated unemployment and confused the general labour market situation. One certain result of this has been the obvious disruption of any meagre manpower planning that might be attempted by the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs. First of all, this is what the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs thinks about the activities of the Minister for Immigration. That Department said to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs:
What troubles us is that representations of that kind are being answered by your colleague and officers of his Department as though nothing had changed with regard to the labour market influence on selection decisions. Either the policy is not being implemented as the Government intended or the advice on its effect is misleading.
That is what that Department said to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. My colleague, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), has informed the House what the Minister said on the ABC program PM. It is the same old story. The Minister was misleading the nation by saying that nothing had really changed in this regard. I questioned him in the House on 1 1 October as to whether anything had changed. The Minister said:
What we are seeking to do is to have a selection system which brings to Australia migrants who are most capable of settling in successfully and playing a real role in the development of this country. We need to have flexibility in the assessment -
All the Minister was saying was a deliberate attempt to obscure the situation. He would not give us a precise answer- and he talks about flexibility while there is economic disaster abroad in the country. There will be 60,000 extra unemployed next year, according to the Budget. There will be at least 550,000 unemployed by February. Inflation is running at a rate of 10 per cent. Migrant unemployment among new arrivals in August 1973 was 4.5 per cent and in August 1 979 it was over 1 7 per cent.
Let me in the limited time available to me quickly show how the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has misled the House also. I asked him in the Estimates Committee on 27 September:
Has there been any improvement in matching migrants with jobs under the NUMAS system?
You would need to ask the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs that question.
But why? Surely it is a matter for Employment?
There is a reason for his saying that. As my colleague pointed out, the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs had actually instructed the Minister to refer all these types of questions to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. He surely did not waste any time about it. He did so immediately. At the Estimates Committee hearing on that day I also asked the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs:
Are there any problems between the Departments of Immigration and Employment with regard to the operation of NUMAS in this regard?
The Minister replied:
There are no fundamental problems.
The Opposition believes in expanding the family reunion criteria and for the accepting of genuine refugees. But at the moment there is an absence of meaningful retraining programs to provide employment for unemployed migrants who are already here- indeed, for the whole army of the unemployed. What we need is manpower programs not thousands of new independent migrant arrivals.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am very pleased that this question has been raised today because it gives me the opportunity to explain away some of the misconceptions which presently exist regarding the Government’s immigration policy- misconceptions which seem to be shared by honourable members opposite. I would like to start by saying that last week when the Estimates Committee was looking into the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs it was made clear that it is too early to make the kind of judgment on the Numerical Multifactor Assessment System which the honourable members opposite are presently trying to do. I quote from the transcript of that committee. The Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs said:
I think it is operating under a misconception to see any effects of the new policy, which really dates from 1 January this year, in the intake figures for the financial year 1978-79 . . . At this stage we do not have any clear indication from the settler arrival statistics of what the precise impact of the various categories of the new immigration policy . . . will be.
We do have a reasonable indication . . . that the policy is operating in the ways it was intended to operate.
So in many respects the Opposition has jumped the gun in coming forward with its allegations. I think honourable members opposite would do well to examine the NUMAS points system in detail, as the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) has outlined it. Quite obviously, within the economic factor component, the highest points are scored by applicants who have skills and whose skills are in occupations for which there is an unsatisfied demand in Australia. In fact, for an independent applicant, there is almost no scope at all for his being accepted into Australia on a permanent basis if he will be competing with Australians for jobs or cannot make a viable economic contribution in his own right.
This Government certainly believes that in the longer term we should seek to fill gaps in the labour market from within Australia. The fact is however that there are long lead times, and the Government has placed the great emphasis of its retraining programs and its education funding in those vocational areas for which it is perceived that there will be a long term demand. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) should also examine the principles of immigration which are followed by this Government and which were presented to the House by the Minister last year. The second of these principles states:
Apart from people admitted as refugees and for family reunion, migrant entry criteria should be developed on the basis of benefit to the Australian community, and the social, economic and related requirements within Australia. As a general rule, Australia will not admit for settlement people who would represent an economic burden to Australia . . .
This clearly is the basis of NUMAS and the basis for the administration of our immigration program. The present policy is therefore being administered in a way which is sensitive to Australia’s domestic labour market problems. If honourable members opposite are concerned about relationships between immigration and unemployment, they should have a close look at their own party’s policy in this area. It is the Australian Labor Party’s policy which will have a negative rather than a positive effect on employment levels in Australia. The Opposition policy to give family reunion a high priority and to extend it to brothers, sisters and generally to non-dependent relatives has very serious repercussions for the labour market and shows a great disregard for the unemployed in this country.
What will happen if the Australian Labor Party’s policy is ever implemented? I again refer to the question I asked at last week’s Estimates Committee on this subject. The best guide as to what would happen can be gauged from the experience of 1973-74. In referring to what were then known as Bl and B2 categories of applicants, the spokesman for the Department said:
A total of 99,000 persons were included in personal nominations in 1 973-74, when people in category B 1 -that is close non-dependent relatives, non-dependent parents, and nondependent children, brothers and sisters, including in-law relationships- were eligible. Seventy per cent of that total of just on 100,000 were in that category Bl.
In other words, the bulk of the Opposition’s immigration intake would not be related to labour market considerations at all. It is strange that the Opposition, when in office, brought immigration levels to the lowest point on record and did away with a separate Department of Immigration, incorporating that Department with the Department of Labour. Now it would promise an immigration intake comprised mainly of those people who would be competing for jobs at the most competitive end of the labour market, that is the unskilled area, or the area where there is no specific occupational demand.
On available indications this would mean an annual intake of up to 40,000 people in the first year of the scheme, and in subsequent years there would be a geometric progression upwards. This would lead to an uncontrolled intake, both in numbers and in composition, which is likely to place unbearable burdens on the labour market. It is by no means impossible that within three years of the introduction of an open door policy for brothers and sisters, as many as 100,000 brothers and sisters would be coming to Australia as migrants. Regardless of the numbers, it is significant that most nominations for brothers and sisters would be for persons from countries which have not been our traditional source of migrants. The nominations would be for people who are unskilled or who have the bare minimum of education and training.
If, in government, the Labor Party decides to limit these numbers, then it will have to adopt a selection procedure and move towards the categories contained in the NUMAS system. But on this issue the Labor Party cannot have it both ways. On the other hand, in the administration of a sensibly controlled intake this Government has been able to accommodate the basic domestic constraints of the Australian economy, and at the same time sensibly meet the immediate family reunion requirements of our migrant population. An examination of the NUMAS scheme and our overall guidelines make that quite obvious.
The Labor Party never seems to accept that there are positive employment aspects to a sensibly controlled immigration program. It seems to ignore the fact that in Australia there has been a long-term correlation between population growth, economic development and rising living standards. Immigration provides us with a labour force mobility which would not otherwise exist. This is important in Australia with a sparse population distribution such as we have. It is particularly important in a State like Western Australia where we are going to require a massive increase in skilled workers in the next decade of growth in the North West.
Immigration also overcomes leads and lags in our domestic retraining schemes, which we do not underestimate. It certainly helps to overcome occupational immobility. As the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) has already pointed out, for skilled workers entering employment, additional jobs are created for semi-skilled and unskilled workers. Of course, immigration means a greater demand for housing, consumer durables and other goods and services produced in Australia. I shall quote from Kenneth Rivett, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of New South Wales, who when commenting on the Green Paper stated:
The Green Paper . . . rightly points out that it is illogical to concentrate attention on the effects of migration on the supply of labour, especially during recession, without admitting the demand-creating features of our immigration program.
Professor Rivett says that the migrant who gets a job spends his wages on goods and services that for the most part are made or rendered by Australians. This, in turn, sustains additional employment. This is particularly important when the independent migrants are accepted on the basis that they will not be competing against other Australians for certain skilled employment when they enter Australia. Quite clearly, the social infrastructure and the basic tertiary industry infrastructure of Australia will be more optimally and more efficiently used by a larger population. This would have beneficial effects for all Australians. I would suggest that this matter of public importance is a nonsense and I conclude by quoting from the article of Professor Corden which appeared in the Australian Financial Review yesterday. I think it bears repeating. Professor Corden is the Professor of Economics at the Australian National University. He said:
The general evidence from Australia’s own history as well as the post-war histories of European countries which absorbed vast numbers of guest workers and immigrants, is that immigration does not increase unemployment.
My own view is that increased immigration at this time would probably act as a valuable stimulus to the economy, yielding widespread benefits.
So clearly, with the responsible controls administered by this Government, under the NUMAS scheme, we have positive employment effects through our policy, whereas the policy alternative of the Opposition is disastrous. It would lose control of our intake, the size and the composition of that intake, and the people coming in under the scheme of the Opposition would be competing for jobs at the unskilled end of the market which will add further to the unemployment levels in this country.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is now concluded.
– I table the report of the working group of officials who were appointed to consider the report and recommendations of the National Communications Satellite Task Force and seek leave to make a statement arising from the Government’s consideration of both reports. Printed copies of the reports will be available in a few weeks. In the meantime, a small number of advance copies have been lodged with the Parliamentary Library and the Table Office and are available to honourable members.
– Before getting into the substance of the statement, I simply want to give credit to those honourable members of my Communications Committee who have done so much to assist and inspire in this matter, namely, the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter), the Chairman, the honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie) and many other honourable members, in particular from the remoter parts of Australia, who have had such an inspiring role in this matter. I would like also to briefly recount the actions that have been taken since the then Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Mr Eric Robinson, announced in late 1977 the establishment of a National Communications Satellite Task Force.
Since then, the Government has moved responsibly through a series of steps designed to ensure thorough consideration of the issues involved in proposals for the establishment of a domestic communications satellite system for Australia. These steps have involved two series of detailed investigations by two groups of senior officials. The investigations, undertaken both within Australia and overseas, have been structured to elicit community views on the major questions arising from the satellite proposals.
The first series of investigations took the form of a wide ranging inquiry conducted by the Commonwealth Government Task Force. Launched in December 1977, the Task Force inquiry embraced public hearings in most capital cities and analysis of some 159 submissions from organisations and individuals throughout Australia. Task Force inquiry activity culminated in a report and recommendation to Government presented to this Parliament in September 1 978.
From the outset, the Government recognised the importance of public participation in consideration of the satellite proposals. The terms of reference for the working group formed to evaluate the Task Force report and recommendations reflected the Government’s commitment to the public participation process. Not only was the working group required to undertake further investigations of issues which had been the subject of inquiry by the Task Force but also it was required to encourage public discussion and debate by actively seeking submissions from individuals, community and other interested organisations on those issues.
The working group entered wholeheartedly into the spirit of commitment to public consultation and debate. During their 10 month consideration of the Task Force report, members of the working group attended three major public conferences on domestic communications satellites. At those conferences papers were presented on all aspects of communications satellites. Discussion themes ranged from expositions on technology to possible effects on employment in fields on which the establishment of a satellite would be likely to impact. All papers were studied closely by the working group. The report of the working group was submitted to me in August this year. It has made a valuable contribution to the range of advice and information available to the Government on proposals for a domestic communications satellite system.
On the basis of the range of advice and information available to it, the Government has decided in principle that it is in the national interest to establish a national communications satellite system in Australia. In reaching this decision, the potential benefits to Australia of a national communications satellite system have been weighed objectively against the extent and effectiveness of services now available through the terrestrial communications system. The Government has also given very careful consideration to the needs of the community generally; our national, social, economic and security aspirations, and the financial implications of the development of a satellite communications system.
I need not dwell on the problems of providing communications and associated services in Australia- be they land, sea, air or telecommunications services. Suffice to say that these problems are compounded by the size, distance and population distribution characteristics of this country. It must be conceded that residents of major metropolitan centres are well served by various telecommunications links in and between these centres. It is all too easy for those of us who live in well-serviced, densely populated areas to forget that a significant part of the Australian community lives outside metropolitan centres. Similarly, it is all too easy to overlook, or to remain blissfully oblivious to, the plight of these of our fellow countrymen who are seriously disadvantaged by a lack of communications services and communications-dependent services. We can no longer ignore the rights of our fellow Australians to equitable access to communications facilities and to those services which cannot be adequately provided without such facilities. No longer can a very substantial group of Australians, who have contributed so much to this nation- and particularly to the development of its resources- be treated as second class citizens.
There are some sobering facts on existing telecommunications and broadcasting services which should be the concern of all honourable members. With regard to telephones: There are at least 40,000 people scattered across our vast continent in small, isolated communities and individual homesteads who have no prospects of being connected to telephone in the faintly foreseeable future. In the case of television: There are about 500,000 people in Australia who do not have a television service at all. Of these, some 120,000 people have little hope of ever gaining a service via terrestrial or conventional means. Another 220,000 people have an Australian Broadcasting Commission service only. Nearly four million Australians have only one national and one commercial service, compared with the three commercial services and one national service accepted as the norm for the majority of the population in the great capitals of this country.
Almost one million people have a much less than ideal service. It might surprise honourable members to know just how many of these live near major population centres. For these people, the problems are caused either by peculiarities of terrain or by the fact that they happen to live in what are effectively metropolitan fringe viewing areas; in some cases a virtual no-man’s-land at the outer perimeters of otherwise overlapping television signals. The situation with radio is little better: 375,000 people live beyond the normal reach of medium frequency ABC stations. Some four million Australians receive only the third ABC network. Even with present plans to extend the ABC’s FM service over the next three years, there are no plans for this service to be extended to the Northern Territory or most regional areas in Australia and millions of people are still left out of that service.
I do not cite these figures with any sense of criticism of our terrestrial communications system. Telecom has developed a system of which we can be justly proud. It compares favourably with that enjoyed by most developed countries. It is a rugged system designed to cope with the vagaries of the climatic extremes and the harshness of terrain experienced in this country. Our terrestrial communications system has developed to its present stage through the wisdom of successive governments and their preparedness to commit a significant proportion of national resources to the provision of essential communications links for commercial and personal purposes. The traditional system does, however, have its limitations. These limitations will not be quickly overcome simply through the allocation of greater financial and physical resources; even assuming the capacity to give higher national priority to the extension or upgrading of communications services. In considering the question of new, and upgrading of existing, services the question of timing is significant. For many Australians, satellite communications offer the only practicable solution to the problems of how to provide any services at all within a reasonable time scale. Similarly, for others, satellite communications hold out the only hope for the improvement of poor services, or for enabling access to wider choice of services.
A satellite system has some unique characteristics which would enable it to overcome the tyranny of distance and to introduce services which would not otherwise be available. I must emphasise that a satellite system has the capacity to do much more than to overcome some of the more glaring communications difficulties faced by Australians in remote and isolated areas. Recent developments which make it feasible to broadcast direct from satellite to individual homes via small earth stations make it possible to provide:
A good range of services for those who have none at present;
Improvements for those who have a poor service; and
A wider range of services for those who have only a few.
Besides its potential to meet television, radio broadcasting and telephony needs already referred to, a satellite system would facilitate:
Additional diversity and resilience to the terrestrial network;
Quick establishment of essential communications in emergency situations regardless of location; and
A wider and more flexible network for a range of uses such as transport safety communications services, meteorological and scientific data.
It would also enable:
Significantly increased capacity for distribution of bulk high speed data communications, which is of great importance to the growth of business activities in Australia;
Improved delivery of health and education services to all people away from the main population centres;
The opportunity for greatly improved communications to Australia’s bases in Antarctica; and, finally,
It would encourage people to live and work in remote areas.
It is therefore quite misleading to suppose, as is the view in some quarters, that a satellite communications system would benefit only a few people in remote areas. The fact is that a satellite system would bring major benefits to millions of Australians. This assertion is also borne out by the growing demand for an increasing range of telecommunications services between our capital cities and major regional population centres. There is an increasingly unsatisfied demand for broadband channels to facilitate distribution of television programs and high speed data over the existing trunk routes to and from the major metropolitan cities to Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, Hobart and many towns which are effective focal points for access to services for surrounding regional communities. A satellite system would offer particular advantages for these types of services. The same is true for a range of transport, meteorological and scientific applications. Earth stations for the latter would be typically located in remote locations. Clearly such services would benefit all Australians.
– All Australians.
– That is recognised by my friend, the honourable member for Bowman. Also the effect of the involvement of Australian industry in a domestic satellite system would be most readily felt and apparent in the more heavily populated areas.
The Government has made a very full examination of the issues which have had to be taken into account in deciding whether Australia should have its own domestic satellite system. We have searched the world to glean the latest knowledge on space communications systems technology. We have scrutinised overseas experience in adapting satellite technology to meet the burgeoning demand for communications services. We have critically evaluated the real costs involved in a decision to establish a system to meet the particular needs and circumstances of this country. After detailed assessment of information so gained, together with analysis of these and other issues, the majority of members of both the task force and the working group has recommended the introduction of a satellite communications system as early as practicable. Nothing could be gained by now delaying a decision in principle.
Overseas experience has demonstrated that potential users will be reluctant to commit themselves to a firm indication of their requirements until and unless the Government has made some commitment, at least in principle, to the establishment of a system. The Government is satisfied that the broad requirements for a national satellite system have been adequately identified. Finalisation of the detailed specification of the precise model to meet these requirements requires confirmation of a number of factors- for example, user requirements and the availability of specific technical options. Firm system costings are dependent on resolution of the overall system design.
The Government believes, therefore, that it is timely to start detailed planning for requirements for our own national communications satellite system. The Government has decided to invite registrations of interest in tendering for such a system from selected organisations with demonstrated capacity in the design and manufacture of communications satellite systems. A satellite project office is to be established with all speed within my Department to set in train the wide range of planning activities necessary. Specialist officers will be seconded from other Government departments and authorities to serve in this office and they will be supported as required by expert private consultancy services.
In developing a proposal and program for a domestic communications satellite system to meet the particular needs and conditions of Australia, the satellite project office will keep under constant review all relevant aspects such as user requirements, financial implications, social impact, private industry involvement and technological developments. The Government has sought further advice on options for the final body to manage and control the satellite system, the powers and functions which that body should exercise or be responsible for, the options for funding the capital expenditure involved and arrangements to ensure continuity between the activities of the satellite project office and the final management body. It is the Government’s wish that private industry will be fully involved in the planning activities carried out by the satellite project office. Also, in any agreement for the supply of a satellite system, the Government will require the greatest possible Australian participation in the program.
The Canadian Government, through its Department of Communications, will be one of the organisations invited to register its interest. I should express at this stage the gratitude of the Government to the Government of Canada for the co-operation and assistance which it has given through the Department of Communications of Canada to the original task force and subsequently to the working group of officials. I note that Dr Chapman, the Assistant Minister responsible for space in Canada, died recently. I pay tribute to him as one of the world’s leaders, one of the people who have done a great deal to enhance the knowledge and understanding of communications systems throughout the world. The recent experiments in Australia using the Hermes satellite could not have been contemplated without his work and the facilities made available by the Department of Communications and the technological support of its senior officials. I am told that the Canadian Government is a world leader in the development of domestic satellite systems using relatively low power output from the satellite transponders- devices which amplify signals sent up to the satellite for re-transmission back to earth receiving stations- in conjunction with relatively small and inexpensive earth stations.
One of the complexities in specifying a system for Australian circumstances will be obtaining a proper correlation between the cost of the satellite and the cost of the earth stations. I should perhaps point out here that the size, weight and cost of a satellite, and the range of services which it might provide, are heavily influenced by the power output of the transponders in the satellite. To put this in non-technical terms, the higher the transponder power output is, the greater is the weight of the satellite and its costs, both to manufacture and to launch into orbit. On the other hand, the higher the transponder power output is, the smaller and less costly the earth stations are although of course in this area technology is constantly changing, as I noticed when I had a look around the world recently. These are not matters on which the Government or I would wish to make any judgment at this stage. By seeking expressions of interest from organisations with world-wide reputations in satellite systems, we will be guaranteeing that we will have the best system that money can buy for our own needs and conditions.
The cost and the financial impact of a satellite system are, of course, vital matters of concern to us all. The working group estimated that the total capital cost to the government sector of a typical satellite system with a capability of providing telephony and broadcasting services to remote areas would be approximately $2 10m. This figure is premised on assumptions of the need for: Firstly, a space segment of three satellites with two in orbit and one spare on the ground, and two tracking and control stations at a cost of $ 1 14m; and secondly, an earth segment comprising major city earth stations at a cost of $2 1 m with earth stations funded by users, costing $75 m. The working group proposed that the satellite authority be responsible for the space segment and the major city earth stations at an assessed capital cost of $ 135m. Users such as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Department of Transport, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission- OTC- and Telecom would own and fund the costs of the other earth stations. Small earth stations at an installed cost of less than $1,000 each for the reception of radio and television broadcasts at individual homesteads in rural areas would presumably be paid for by the householders concerned.
– It could be a lot less.
– As my honourable friend suggests, the cost could be a lot less. I expect that the demand will spread like wildfire throughout the country and there will be hundreds of thousands of these in demand. When that occurs obviously the price will go down dramatically. On this basis the capital funds required by the satellite authority would be approximately $135m. The Government has made no decision at this stage on how these capital costs would be financed. It would, however, be feasible to consider some arrangement whereby the Government would provide, say 35 per cent of the total as equity capital, with the balance of 65 per cent being debtfunded by borrowings. Under this normal and financially responsible mix of equity capital and borrowings- assuming that no return would be expected on invested capital until towards the end of the life of the first generation of satellites-the call on the Budget would be greatly reduced. Assuming a satellite to be launched -for the figuring, I indicate that this is not any firm decision-at the end of 1984, the Budget funding on the basis set out above would be limited to $42m, distributed over three years with funding of $9. lm in 1982, $ 17.1m in 1983, and $ 15.8m in 1984.
This approach would assume a satellite revenue earning capacity sufficient to amortise the borrowings after proper allowance had been made for all operational costs, including depreciation. Assumptions of revenue earning capacity have been made in the light of preliminary indications of full time transponder usage requirements by the following: The Australian Broadcasting Commission would initially want 5V2, rising to 6’/2 during the life of the satellite; the Department of Transport, two; Telecom, an initial use of two, possibly rising to three; OTC, two; commercial broadcasters, three within existing broadcasting policies and practices. Revenue flows based on the above usage indicate that any satellite organisation would be in a position towards the end of the first generation satellites to fund the next generation of satellites with little or no demand on the Budget and to start to pay a dividend on equity capital. An additional demand on the Budget would come from the funding of the national broadcasting and television service, expected to average about $3m a year over the period 1985 to 1992, and from the Department of Transport averaging $4m a year over the period 1985 to 1988 with offset savings in other years.
I would reiterate the indicative nature of these projections on capital and revenue flows. As already pointed out, more definitive projections will be subject to planning activities and assessments of the satellite project office. The figures cited today are based on tested and conservative assumptions on the operational life of a satellite system, charging rates for transponder time, interest rates and capital costs. My advice is that the figures used reflect a cautious approach which is responsible in the circumstances. There are other factors which could significantly influence the present assessment of costs and charges. For example, the reliability of space systems is such now that it is possible to consider the sale of transponder capacity on the second satellite instead of keeping it free for emergencies and as a back-up to possible failures on the primary satellite. It is important to keep in mind the financial impact on the overall public sector. For the years to 1992, it has been estimated that Telecom could incur additional net capital and operating costs of from $70m to $80m to provide telephony services to remote areas by satellite. As this level of additional costs would have an effect on even a large organisation like Telecom, it would be important to decide where these costs should be borne.
I have given the above financial impact figures merely to indicate that a domestic communications satellite would not make the demand on the Budget which has been suggested in some quarters. One view which seems to have obtained a certain amount of public exposure is that there should be a cost-benefit study made relying on the continuing development of the terrestrial system as opposed to establishing a satellite system. I believe there are major weaknesses in this approach. One major flaw is the assumption that a satellite communications system would offer similar services to the terrestrial system now provided by Telecom. The Telecom system is developed around a telephone network which provides each subscriber with- an outlet to all other subscribers through an expensive and diverse switching system. It would not be possible to contemplate any alternative for existing major uses of that switching network system. A satellite communications system should be seen as complementary to the terrestrial system; with each system having its preferred applications. The two systems must, of course, be properly integrated to achieve the most effective communications network for Australia. There is also the misconception that any realistic comparative costing could be undertaken at this stage as between the two possible methods of communication. For example, there are, as I have said above, many people so remote from telephone exchanges who cannot possibly be offered a telephone service- and even in some cases, a television or radio service via the traditional network- within the foreseeable future. Also, it would not be possible to indicate with any degree of confidence the level of costs required to widen existing limited choices of television and radio services in certain areas.
What has to be assessed, or the issue on which a judgment has to be made, is whether the extra capital funds to establish a domestic satellite system are justified to bring services to those who are not receiving services, and to add the dimension of choice to those who have little or no choice at present. This applies also to the introduction of additional transport, safety, health, educational and scientific services which are beyond the capabilities of the present system. I believe that, on the indicative figures I have quoted, any fair-minded Australian would say that the relatively modest expenditures involved, distributed over a number of years, would be justified on a comparison of benefits to costs which takes account of the social benefits involved.
A satellite system has the potential to improve dramatically broadcasting services throughout Australia. Many improvements could be achieved within existing broadcasting policy and practices but there are implications for some policies if the full benefits of a satellite system are to be realised. These implications will be studied carefully in consultation with the broadcasting industry, viewers and listeners. I have repeatedly stressed that the Government will not make decisions which fail to recognise the importance of regional television services. We will certainly not be a party to developments which would allow any one broadcasting interest to control commercial television in this country.
There have been some expressions of concern about possible effects of a domestic satellite on employment in Australia. Both the task force and the working group considered the matter carefully. In the light of overseas experience, reports by both groups of officials concluded that a domestic satellite system would have no net adverse effects on employment. The working group identified the potential for a significant number of employment opportunities given the provision for a level of Australian content in the development of the system. The working group report, of course, cited the manufacture of earth station equipment in Australia, the installation, operation and maintenance of equipment and services such as education and community organisations using satellite links as possible areas where new employment opportunities could arise.
-They most decidedly would, and any suggestion -
– You said ‘could ‘.
-Yes-could arise. Putting in the most modest possible sense, the clear picture from overseas is that this sort of system will create activity and will create jobs. It must also be remembered that connections to the switched Telecom network will continue to be implemented primarily by traditional terrestrial means. Indeed, this House will recall my recent announcement of a major updating program to convert some 90,000 manual telephone subscribers in rural areas to automatic operation over the next decade.
This decision which we are announcing today launches Australia into space age technology, and industry will be able to reap the benefit of the investment which has gone into space research to develop communications satellite technology over the years. Those people who have had experience of natural or man-made disasters will, I am sure, be in no doubt that one of the greatest assets to have in such an emergency is the facility quickly to re-establish broken communication links. The decision to proceed with the planning for a domestic satellite system puts Australia on the threshold of a great new era in communications in this country. It allows us to join in one of the greatest technological innovations in communications history. This decision will free Australia of many of the earthbound constraints upon the development of communications services which have kept so many of our people disadvantaged for so long. It will propel domestic communications in this country into the space age, to give down to earth, every day advantages to millions of Australians.
One of the most moving experiences in my public life has been to see the astonishment and delight of people from remote areas when they realise what a domestic satellite can mean to them and their families. This decision will, in a very real sense, help to dispel the distancemental as well as geographical- between urban and regional dwellers, between the haves and the have nots in a communications society. It gives us the opportunity to make a supreme effort of will to use the latest available communications technology to weld our scattered population into one nation; to foster a sense of unity that will make us a great nation. Mr Deputy Speaker, this decision demonstrates and reinforces the Government’s commitment to provide all Australians with the best possible communications services. We will not renege on this commitment. The Government will not allow this country to be bypassed by progress. We will ensure that the benefits of progress will be passed on to our people for what they can mean to their own lives and to life in Australia. I present the following paper:
National communications satellite system- Ministerial statement, 18 October 1979.
-by leave-The Australian Labor Party is not opposed to a domestic communications satellite per se. It is clear to us that a communications satellite can be a boon to the nation as a whole and to outback people in particular. However, we are far from satisfied with the Government’s thinking on the matter in general and particularly with the statement today by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley). Just to elucidate the Opposition’s viewpoint towards a communications satellite, I will read the policy adopted at the Australian Labor Party Conference held in July of this year in Adelaide. It reads:
In the development and use of a domestic communications satellite in Australia, a Labor Government must be satisfied that Australia’s security would not be endangered and that the following requirements are guaranteed-
maintenance of the terrestrial system of internal communications;
expansion by Telecom of telephone and broadcasting services to the needs of isolated rural communities;
public investment in Telecom facilities is not jeopardised;
maintenance of employment opportunities;
no increase in private ownership monopoly of media and communications;
public ownership and management of the satellite; and
independence of news and cultural content.
It is clear to me that we disagree with the Minister’s statement in many areas. The most important of these is in the maintenance of employment opportunities and the monopoly control of the media. However, I maintain that there is a difference in degree in all the requirements of the Australian Labor Party and the commitment to those requirements by the Fraser Government and by the Minister. At this time the ALP is particularly wary, and so should be the Government, of a policy which will produce a dramatic and continued loss of jobs. The working group report rejects the idea that unemployment will result from the construction of the satellite but the Australian Labor Party, the union movement and many Australians have strong doubts on this subject. The working group gave the matter scant consideration, but I will come to that later.
I must point out that the working group report was not produced with unanimity. Both the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Finance dissent from the report in important paragraphs. The Minister has firmly announced today that the satellite will go ahead. He has invited ‘expressions of interest’ from technology suppliers. However, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet recommends ‘the deferment of an immediate decision’ and the production of a ‘costed planning proposal within one year’. The Department of Finance is even more lukewarm about the whole thing. It has recommended putting off the project for two or three years and then having another look at it. Furthermore, the Department of Finance is critical of any establishment of another statutory authority to run the satellite. But the Minister has had his way in Cabinet, despite the presumed opposition of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson). I hardly think that the axiom ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread ‘ is completely apposite, but at least half of it is.
In examining the worth or otherwise of the project, the question the Opposition must ask itself is: A satellite for Australia- who really benefits? In addressing myself to that question I shall detail the concern of the Opposition regarding the many as yet unanswered questions about satellite use. These centre upon cost, time, utility, dangers of monopoly of the media and possible unemployment resulting from the satellite use in Australia.
The Minister, in the opening remarks of his statement, gave an account of the actions that his Government had taken on satellite use since late 1977. The Minister’s account was not quite as full as it ought to have been. Let me review the real train of events that have led to this Government ‘s commitment to satellite use. Telecom Australia and its predecessor, the Postal Department have constantly reviewed the application of utility of satellites in the Australian telecommunications network. Their work dates back to the mid-1960s and in late 1977, at the very time when the Minister for Post and Telecommunications was commissioning a task force, the Telecom satellite study group reported:
It is not possible at this time to establish a quantitative economic case to justify the provision of a national satellite system.
That remains Telecom ‘s position today. Why did the Minister for Post and Telecommunications in 1977 proceed with the satellite inquiry? Why does the Minister today still refuse to accept the advice and opinion of Telecom on satellite use? Quite simply, the Minister, prefers, as did his predecessor, the advice from other quartersfrom private corporate interests. Had the Minister been intent on giving a full account of his Government’s action on an Australian satellite, he would surely have made some passing reference to the influence of Mr Kerry Packer, to IBM Australia Ltd, to the Ford Aerospace Communications Corporation, et cetera. In late 1 977, Telecom again concluded against satellite use in Australia.
In August 1977 Mr Packer gave to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications a report entitled ‘The Opportunities for the Distribution of Television Programmes by Earth Satellite’. The Minister embraced that report. He took its terms of reference for the task force. He stacked that task force with satellite enthusiasts. He stacked that inquiry against Telecom. Telecom Australia telecommunications experts had only one member out of 12 on that inquiry. But the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, an avowed satellite enthusiast had two members, even though it has no responsibility for telecommunications within Australia. The inquiry was chaired by Mr Harold White- maybe soon to be Sir Harold White; I wonder why- then chairman of OTC and an avowed satellite enthusiast. I do not question Mr White’s or OTC’s satellite competence, but I make this important point: International satellite use in which OTC is engaged is quite different from the use to which the satellite will be put in Australia. There is a quite a difference in using a satellite for trans-oceanic long haul trunk telecommunications and using a satellite for providing individual telephone services to remote homesteads.
There is confusion about what satellites are really capable of, and this Government, in its willingness to meet the demands of corporate users has traded upon that confusion. Confusion over satellites is readily understood. A geostationary satellite 22,000 miles out in space is remote from the experience of most of us. The debate over satellites has been couched in technical jargon which confuses and misleads the prospective users of satellites, especially those in the remote areas who have been promised so much from this satellite proposal.
The task force was a technical inquiry. It delighted in debate about antenna size and transponder power. It was unable to address itself to the most important question of real cost and time needed for satellite services. Its report was largely predictable, except for one important element- the dissenting statement of the Department of Finance. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– I agree only if one matter which has been obscured recently is made clear. They were official departmental views and not the views of Ministers.
– I take it that leave is granted?
– Yes, on that assumption.
The document read as follows-
In this context it is my judgment that, from an economic viewpoint, the establishment of a national communications satellite system in the envisaged time frame would be very difficult to justify. This assessment is reinforced, I suggest by:
-Let us look at the satellite and just who really benefits. The central question in the satellite issue remains: Who will benefit; who will lose from these recommendations? That is a question that all people who are concerned or who are even vaguely interested in the social consequences of major governmental or industrial decisions must ask themselves constantly. The Minister has suggested that a satellite will benefit all Australians and indeed, in a peripheral sense in regard to meteorological information and so on, that is true. He has also stated that people in the outback will benefit a lot and insomuch as services are provided to them, services which some of them do not want and which many want far less than other services such as telephones, that is also true. The Minister has even hinted at groups in the community who will benefit in a big way. It is important that we con- ssider these matters further. He says: i
Industry will be able to reap the benefit of investment 1 which has gone into space research to develop communi-1 cations satellite technology. I
He also refers to a ‘significantly increased ca- 1 pacify for distribution of bulk high speed data 1 communications, and to facilitating distribution of television programs and high-speed data (be- , tween capital cities and regional centres)’. This < final quote really is the crunch:
It is the Government’s wish that private industry will be fully involved in the planning activities carried out by the “ Satellite Project Office. i
I put it to the Minister that other people con- !cerned with employment, for example, the peak i councils and the unions in particular whose , members stand to lose jobs that are now available to them, must surely be included in any j project committee or any body determining what should be recommended in the future. Private in- 1dustries in this country will be the biggest single ‘ winners in a new satellite system. That in itself is j not a bad thing, provided people do not get hurt. However, people will get hurt. Thousands will lose their jobs. The reason companies will take advantage of the new system will be to save money, and while some money will be saved by ( faster data communication, most will be saved because the human element will be largely ‘ eliminated. In other words, wages will not be ( paid and people will not be employed.
The other group in the community who will benefit most are the national television networks. : The Minister is allocating them a transponder i each. They will then be able to blanket the country with their broadcasts, which for outback i people, at least those of them who yearn for the dubious benefit of viewing the adventures of Starsky and Hutchison, is not a bad thing. But it < is a bad thing for the small regional television stations that service many country centres and towns. They are unanimously against the satellite because of their own economic self-interest. I charge the Minister with the responsibility of assuring this House that the assurances that he makes to individuals in that area are worth the paper they are printed on. Maybe the Minister can completely dissociate himself from them at some later time. How can these small regional television stations compete with the buying power of the major networks? They will therefore surely have poorer programs. They will, in all likelihood, receive a smaller share of the audience. They will lose advertising revenue for this reason and also because national advertisers, for convenience, will advertise with national stations. Many stations will have to sack staff and some will go to the wall. The result will be increased economic concentration in the cities, with a concomitant reduction in country based enterprise and an increase in country unemployment. The Minister does little to allay these fears when he states:
We will certainly not be a party to developments which will allow any one broadcasting interest to control commercial television in this country.
What does that mean? Country people who currently have local commercial television may lose it altogether or lose its local character. They may lose their jobs. However, on the credit side there is no doubt that some country people will benefit. The Minister rattled off the statistics showing how many Australians are without a decent telephone, television or radio service. He bore heavily on the lack of television and radio but made only passing reference to the need for telephones. He stated that 40,000 Australians have no prospect of being connected to the national telephone network via terrestrial means. He conveniently forgot to tell us whether a satellite system can rectify this problem.
The first communication need of people in outback Australia is for a high quality telephone system to cater for their health, educational, commercial and social needs. Television is of only secondary importance to people with no telephone service. Yet no country has developed a satellite system that provides a telephone to single locations such as isolated homesteads. Not only will the satellite transponder need to be of much greater power than is currently commercially available but also the design and development of a ground station to suit these particular needs has yet to be commenced, let alone costed on an installed and working basis in remote Australia. A further point to consider is the switching requirements to interconnect the 40,000 Australians with each other, the rest of the nation and the world. If we are to provide the same individually private and secure system to these isolated people as we do to the rest of the community able to afford Telecom’s charges then, unless we blast a telephone exchange into space along with the satellite, we will have to provide 40,000 individual circuits. This will take approximately 40 transponders, yet we note that only two or three transponders are provided for Telecom’s use. No mention is made of their function. In fact, it is not intended to provide a telephone service to these people via satellite. Their plight is being used as an excuse to justify a satellite system which will be used for other purposes.
The winners from this proposal are industry, the national TV networks and, to a smaller and rather unsatisfactory extent, outback people. Who then are the losers? The largest and most obviously group are the people who will lose their livelihood, their jobs, with the satellite’s introduction. Massive numbers of people are involved- those in the newspaper and printing industry, the telecommunications and postal sectors, and people doing clerical work. It may be a matter for yawning to members of the National Country Party. Let us hope that they suffer accordingly. People involved are those doing clerical work in insurance and financial offices, banks and accounting practices, share brokers and those in every major industrial office tied to the satellite communications system. Satellite facsimile transmission will remove the need for many letters and so the people who produce, copy, mail, sort and deliver them will have their jobs threatened. People at present working throughout the telecommunications and postal industries have their employment under deep siege. It cannot be said that the satellite is the only way by which these tens of thousands of jobs are threatened. Technological change menaces these jobs constantly. However, the introduction of a satellite is a quantum leap in this regard. It will also bring about job losses years before they would have otherwise eventuated.
The working group, the Minister and the Government have given insufficient regard to unemployment resulting from a satellite. The working group considers that it has received no firm evidence that a satellite will result in a net loss of jobs. That statement is partially a reflection on the working group itself. It was unable or unwilling to search out the needed information. The unions involved which made submissions to the group have firm estimates of the number of people under threat. The working group blithely states that any job loss from satellite technology will be balanced or even exceeded by new job opportunities resulting from the satellite. It suggests that these jobs will be created in the installation, operation and maintenance of equipment, services such as health, education and community organisations using satellite links and new unspecified types of employment available only if a satellite exists. Many of these jobs will be in the outback. Many will be for highly skilled or academically qualified people. Most of them will not be freely, easily and in some cases remotely available to those urban people in the printing, postal and clerical industries who will be put out of work. The new job opportunities are not likely to be ones favoured by women owing to their outback and /or technological nature. The satellite will bring about a discriminatory employment effect on women with many put out of work and few new attractive opportunities created.
The working group’s report extends to well over 200 pages but the community impact, including employment, received only five pages and employment effects are discussed in great profundity in just three pages. The many problems associated with unemployment and the satellite having been skimmed over in so little space, they are then dismissed with a recommendation that any needed retraining and redeployment activity should be undertaken. Given the difficulties which I have just outlined, redeployment and retraining will be totally ineffective for many people. It is, therefore, questionable in the extreme whether the report gave enough time, thought and research to the impact of a satellite on the community, especially the work force The Opposition remains unconvinced and it has no reason to doubt that this Government’s decision serves corporate interests and not those of the Australian community.
Why does the Opposition still question satellite use in Australia? Why can it not heartily endorse this proposal and exhibit the same small boy, big technology wonderment that has marked the Minister’s enthusiasm for the satellite? One of the most unconvincing areas of the White task force’s examination of the satellite was in regard to its costing. The task force report was simply not good enough but the Minister was not to be deterred. He convened the working group, an interdepartmental committee of which until today we have had no knowledge. The IDC was told to do the White inquiry’s homework again and to come back with a more convincing argument. It has failed to do that. The working group’s report remains as sketchy and lacking in detailed estimates of cost as did the White report. It concludes that it is questionable whether a satellite system would be economically viable. Page 1 86 of the report states:
On the basis of the financial analysis, the working group has concluded that because of the quantum jump in capacity and the heavy pre-operational expenditures, the financial viability of a satellite system over the time space of the analysis is heavily dependent upon an early and substantial take-up in capacity. On current relative costs of terrestrial and satellite systems and on known communications requirements it is not clear that a basic satellite system could attract the required early users:
Put simply, even the basic satellite system, one in which there are economies of scale, will not be viable. It will require a large subsidy that can come only from the pockets of ordinary Australians. That subsidy will make available to corporate users a satellite that will ideally suit their communication needs. If a basic satellite system cannot be viable how then is the model needed to provide telephony and television to remote areas to be made viable? Again, this will be done only by massive public subsidy. As the working group states on page 186 of its report, this would involve outlays in excess of $ 80 m for the provision of telephony and /or television services in remote areas. Even that estimate is guesswork. On page 187 the report states:
In view of the uncertain level of cost involved, it is also suggested that a detailed study be undertaken of potential demand for and costs of provision of services to remote areas.
The working group was unable to identify the costs of remote telephony and television via satellite. Yet the Minister has proceeded with emotive statements about ending the tyranny of distance and the isolation of people in the outback when he does not know the costs or whether it is technically feasible. The working group was, as the Opposition expected as confused as was the task force. Like the satellite task force, the IDC report was not unanimous. Again there has been dissent, as was put neatly at page 187 when it answered the question of whether Australia should have a national communications satellite system. The report stated:
The working group was not unanimous on this issue . . . the majority comes down in favour.
Who dissented? The Department of Finance earlier dissented in the White report. This time it was the representatives of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. So what is the worth of the working group’s confused recommendations? Clearly they are not strong enough for the Minister’s unbridled optimism about the satellite. The views of Telecom, the Government body at present distributing internal telecommunications, have been constantly ignored by the Government. Its own satellite study was still proceeding when the Government announced the White task force into the satellite. We all know the predictions of one formerly esteemed member of that group. Just recently the managing director of Telecom heavily criticised the Government’s stand on the satellite. Once again today we see Telecom being ignored, not consulted and treated with contempt by the Govenment in today’s statement. This is really quite irresponsible. It highlights the fact that the Minister has failed to consult Telecom on this matter. The Telecom study, expected to have its findings by next May, is being undertaken by a Sydney consultancy group. It is investigating the communications needs in the 1980s of Aboriginal communities, pastoralists, mining communities, and agricultural interests. The first stage has already started. This information is not yet available.
– Two minutes.
– The information which this study provides- I have got more than two minutes, I can assure the Minister- would seem essential before any commitment to a satellite can be made. Once again we have the Government ignoring the public facility that is responsible. Again I ask why. I suggest the answer lies at the base of this Government’s philosophy. Do not get excited. Is the Minister frightened of the truth?
The reason the Minister has rushed into this decision is that the satellite and the removal of the telecommunications control from Telecom are the first steps towards removing this high profit area from public hands and turning it over to private enterprise. The beneficiaries of this decision will not be isolated outback homesteads and/or communities. They will be Kerry Packer and the moguls of Australian media control. They will be IBM Australia Ltd, which submitted that ground stations be privately owned so that there can be re-established a monopoly in data transmission. The private control of ground stations is a move away from the traditional control of telecommunications by the public sector. If and when a Labor government decides a satellite is warranted it will retain control by making Telecom the responsible body.
I turn to defence considerations. The working group wholeheartedly endorsed defence use of the satellite. It suggested that the nation’s defences would be more secure because of it; that our defence communications would be impregnable, with ground attack having little effect. All this is said without one word of consideration being given to the development and deployment of hunter-killer satellites- armed satellites that can destroy or make useless most of the sophisticated communications technology buzzing around over our heads. So much for impregnability. There is an old saying about ‘putting all your eggs in one basket’. If the Government is going to rely on satellites for defence communications, that is exactly what it is doing.
I was given an answer by one of the experts from Canada. I put to him this proposition about the defence facility and what would be its effects. I asked: ‘Would it be vulnerable to laser beams or killer satellites?’ The answer was yes. I asked: Have you given any consideration to that?’ He said that if that should happen of course we would be in the midst of a nuclear war and we would have more problems than that on our hands. That was the answer from an individual who came out here and whom the Minister has lauded. As I have indicated, the views of Telecom have been ignored time and time again. I think my colleague the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) will take up this question about the costs of satellites, ignoring really what they are capable of.
The Minister talked glowingly of the Canadian experience but did not tell us what that experience has really been. Telecom has steadfastly maintained its position that a satellite is unnecessary, but Telecom clearly sees the dangers inherent in the working group’s recommendation that there should be a separate satellite authority. That authority subsidised at public cost would be able to cream off the lucrative business traffic which Telecom sees as central to its growth and plans to keep telephone charges down. The Minister detailed the way in which the authority is to be funded, by borrowing on the market, which will compete with Telecom in its demand for sources of capital. The result is duplication. This Government is bowing to corporate interests. A separate authority is warranted, in the working group’s words, because Telecom has indicated its doubts about the need for a satellite system. It would be a minor user. In these circumstances the working group considers that there must be doubts about the desirability of placing responsibility in that organisation. Telecom is not to be trusted because it is a public utility which is anathema to this Government’s private interest philosophy.
In conclusion, let me assure the House that the Federal Opposition is not opposed to satellite technology as such. The Labor Party is aware of the problems and disadvantages experienced by remote communities. It may well be that only satellite technology can bring any improvement in communications. If that is shown to be the case, we would not oppose it. There are dangers in social impacts, which the current satellite proposal might have. The data transmission and the facsimile capabilities would make large in-roads into clerical employment. Satellite use without strict regulation could become the technology of monopoly centralising control of all forms of media. Costs, as with all high technologies, have a tendency to escalate. Because of these as yet unanswered questions we are adopting what might be considered a conservative position. Before the Opposition is convinced of the soundness of this proposal we would want assurances that none of these destructive consequences would result from satellite use. We would wish to be assured that the satellite was in the public interest and that is the case that must be established.
Motion (by Mr Groom) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
– Today is a great day for Australia because one of the most significant government announcements in recent years has been made, one that is going to change the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across the nation. We have just heard from the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) the most unbelievable load of tripe and onions that has been dished up in this House for many a long year. Frankly, I am absolutely amazed and appalled. I get very angry when I hear that sort of attitude expressed from the Opposition benches on a matter as important as this is to all Australians. I was amazed that the honourable member for Melbourne had the hide to say in the House that the Australian Labor Party was not opposed to a national communications satellite, and then went through reams and reams of arguments that could do nothing else but point out that in fact the ALP was opposed to such a satellite.
I just want one guarantee from Government members today- from all those members who represent country electorates around Australiathat they will take a copy of the speech of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) and a copy of the speech of the honourable member for Melbourne and circulate them to all their constituents so that the people in the remote areas of Australia can see the attitude of the Australian Labor Party to this matter. The speech was really the most incredible load of drivel that we have ever had to put up with in this House. Really, it is hardly worth arguing against some of the points he made, but I think that to state that the member for Melbourne must have sat there and been asleep throughout the Minister’s statement would be an understatement. The honourable member reminds me of a koala bear; he could go to sleep in the fork. It was absolutely unbelievable. The Minister in pure, concise terms, pointed out step by step the way the satellite would go. The reply by the honourable member for Melbourne made no reference to the actualities of the matter. There were classic statements such as ‘The Prime Minister is against this’ and ‘The Minister for Finance is against this’. May I remind the honourable member in very strict terms that all of this has been a 100 per cent approved Cabinet decision. The Government is completely behind this method of introducing the national communications satellite.
The honourable member kept mentioning the task force report. I am afraid he just has not upgraded his information one iota since that report was delivered; his information is so far behind the times.
– You have never read it.
– I have read it and have been working on this subject for months and months. Let me point out a few of the situations that he raised. He made very great moment of the allegation that people such as Kerry Packer would benefit from this particular satellite, to the exclusion of all other Australians, it would seem. Yet the Minister stated quite specifically that no vested interest would be allowed to take control of Australia’s communication facilities or television facilities. He spelled out quite clearly that this facility was to be made available to regional channels around Australia.
Then the honourable member went into an incredible tirade about who really would benefit from it. Let us spell it out for him once again. I will tell him who will benefit from this facility by way of television and radio reception. In the case of television, 500,000 Australian people are going to benefit- 500,000 Australians who have no television reception at all. Some 120,000 of these people have little hope of ever gaining a service by the present system. Five hundred thousand Australians are going to benefit from this facility. There are 220,000 Australian people who get only an Australian Broadcasting Commission service and who have no access whatsoever to any other type of television program. There are four million Australians who have only one national service and one commercial service compared with the people who are lucky enough to live in the cities and have the ABC service, three commercial services and probably more services on the way. Almost one million people have less than an ideal service. As the Minister said, it is amazing just how many of these people are in nearby proximity to capital cities.
– They would deny it to those people.
– When we listen to the honourable member for Melbourne, I think the honourable member for Phillip makes his point very well indeed. Members of the Opposition sit there and, if they are not going to deny the facility outright, say: ‘Stop, hold back. We want another three or four years of inquiries’. While the rest of the world is moving into these national space communications, do we have to sit here behind the times? Are we going to take this attitude? No, we are not. This is the advance of Australia into the 1980s. It is the advance of Australia into that incredible world of space communications. We should be in that development. The honourable member for Melbourne also mentioned that situation regarding telephones. He made that incredible statement about all these poor people who are going to lose out on this facility. He said that 40,000 people were going to wreck the whole of the telecommunications system. If he had read the Minister’s statement he would know that the Minister pointed out that there will not be any opposition from Telecom Australia because its programs are going to continue. He also pointed out that only about 5,000 services in remote locations will not have any opportunity whatsoever to get a telephone system by the present means.
I was very fortunate to serve with such gentlemen as the honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie) and the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) on the Government members communications committee which has been dealing with this matter for the past two years. We were very lucky to be well briefed by a number of people who have been involved with this satellite program. With our Canadian counterparts, we spent many hours learning just what this system has done for Canada. I believe that a great number of comparisons can be made between the nature of Canada and the nature of Australia. Australia’s population is spread around the coastline. In Canada, the bulk of the population is in the southern areas. There are these huge remote areas that contain very little in the way of population. What has the satellite done for those areas? When we see the incredible demonstrations how medical services can be upgraded and how medical treatment can be relayed by means of satellite, we realise the tremendous implications that this facility will have for the people of outback Australia. If we can bring in that system alone, it will justify so much of the cost. We see the tremendous advances that have been made in Canada in the field of education, in being able to set up special educational channels and to bring programs to the people in the far flung areas. We can adapt that system to our needs here too, to provide people in the remote areas with the best possible educational facilities.
There are so many areas that will benefit. Quite often in this House we hear the argument about Australia’s involvement in the Antarctic.
What a tremendous benefit it will be when we can switch into the satellite communications to remain in control of a situation down there. Let us take our minds back to some great disasters that have occurred in the last few years. Let us look at the problems that we had with the Brisbane floods, the Darwin cyclone and the bushfires of Tasmania. For some hours communications were completely shut off, and for days and weeks at a time only very limited communications were available. This system will overcome all of that. We will have the capacity to service the people in any particular area that might be affected by a national disaster. Yet the honourable member for Melbourne had the hide to stand up in this Parliament today and say: No, stay off. Delay it’. We cannot have that situation at all.
All Australians are going to benefit. Tremendous job opportunities will be offered in the technological field. The satellite authority itself will be a tremendous employer. I state quite categorically here and now that the present Telecom expansion plans for telephone services throughout Australia are to continue. The Government has already announced its plan to upgrade the remote services facilities, which will continue also. The new satellite system is not going to take over any of the terrestrial activity which takes place at present.
– He has left the chamber.
– I am sorry that the honourable member for Melbourne has left the chamber. Obviously, he cannot really face up to just what this system is going to be. As for the talk of people in television stations losing their employment, I have never heard anything like it, especially as the Minister has already stated that this system is going to be made available to regional stations and that there will not be an opportunity for major networks to take over the whole of the country. If I were living in a country town and I were denied access to such programs as test cricket- and that could be on the books at the moment- events of major national importance, other sporting events and world events, I would be very angry indeed. This satellite will provide the opportunity for country people to observe such programs along with the rest of Australia. Obviously, we just cannot afford to delay this decision any further.
In the words of the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) I think we should congratulate the Minister and commend the Government for this tremendous advance that they have announced today. It is an advance which will benefit each and every Australian, no matter to what walk of life he or she belongs. For the cost involved- I suggest that on the figures that were released by the Minister today those costs are very reasonable indeed; three satellites and two ground tracking stations for only $ 1 1 4m and eight major city earth stations for $21m- I think it is an investment that will be welcomed by all Australians. Spread over the life of the satellite, that is very small money indeed to pay to have this sort of facility serving the whole of the nation. I am sure that all members of the Government and every fair and thinking Australian will rejoice today in the decision which has been made, and which we are going to go ahead with, to take Australia well and truly into the space age.
-The speech of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) reminded me of Sherlock Holmes’ remark about the curious incident of the dog in the night time. ‘But’, said Dr Watson, ‘the dog did nothing in the night time’. That’, said Holmes, ‘was the curious incident’. The most interesting thing about the Minister’s speech was what he did not say. I have re-read the speech three or four times now. There is not one sentence on the media context in which this satellite is to be introduced. There is not one sentence, not one phrase, on the pattern of media ownership in this country, which has the greatest concentration of media power of any in the Western world. We would have to go to the Soviet Union or China to see a comparable concentration of media control.
The speech itself was essentially a ‘motherhood’ statement, so dripping with the milk of human kindness that we instinctively felt uneasy about it. In the few minutes that are available, let us look at the context of the statement. The Minister cited the Canadian example several times. Let us look at the reality of what is happening in Canada. As the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) said, the Canadian population is stretched out in a very long, reasonably densely populated strip. Ninety-five per cent of the population of Canada is concentrated within 200 kilometres of the United States border.
The effect of the satellite has not been to stimulate and create more employment in Canadian television. What it has meant, of course, is that it has provided direct access to the American networks for the people of Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver and the other cities right along the line. It is true that it gives them a much greater diversity. That perhaps, might be welcomed. But this is not exactly the situation in Australia. Because of the nature of our country, geographically isolated from the nearest television transmitting neighbour, people will most likely have the choice of the city programs beamed into their local areas, with the very great probability, I would think, of destroying the regional television industry, such as it is. But Canada, of course, does not have our pattern of media monopoly either. We know that the apparent viability of the Canadian ANIK satellites is achieved only by a price fixing agreement, the Telesat agreement, among the private telephone companies and by heavy use of networking of radio and television by the Canadian broadcasting network. My colleague, Senator Ryan, asked the Minister a question on notice on 2 1 August 1979. The question stated:
How many individual subscriber telephony circuits operating through satellite are there: (a) world wide; (b) in Canada; (c) in the United States.
No answer has been forthcoming because, quite simply, the answer is, presumably, none. Australia is to be the first country in which this technology is tried as we are very often the test market for new technology. It is quite unproven and quite uncosted. In the Australian Financial Review of 25 September the Minister is reported as saying:
Yet direct broadcasting is the technique central to providing remote areas with telephones. But the Minister steamrollers and his Government has promised effectively to provide telephone and television by satellite to those living in Australia’s remote areas. The Minister has spoken of a small satellite dish which he described as ‘huggable’ and a black box that will enable low cost telephony and television to be provided in remote areas. The very nature of satellite technology, the idea of placing half a tonne of advanced electronic circuitry into orbit 22,300 miles above the earth, is quite astounding to many people. The complexity and remoteness of the satellites from our immediate experience severely limits understanding of their real capabilities and true utility.
The Minister’s statement and, indeed, the report that has just been tabled today entitled National Communications Satellite System: Working Group Report’ is very careful to avoid the media implications in terms of media control in this country. The 205 pages of this report are written in language which is almost impenetrable and that quality of its writing will assure that, as usual, it will have very few readers. The fewer the readers the more likely that its conclusions will be adopted virtually without analysis and virtually without debate. What we do not have in the Minister’s statement is the reality of who the big users are to be and how the system is to be funded. Of course there are good elements in this scheme. Of course, we all welcome the idea that additional services will be provided for people who are outside the present range. But when we examine what the Australian Broadcasting Commission and what Telecom have told the task force and later the working group we find that the total number of people who are excluded within the foreseeable future is not half a million or more but about 40,000. Telecom says that by 1985 the terrestrial network in Australia will be of such a density that only 40,000 people will be excluded. We then have to ask ourselves the question: Is the satellite being put into the sky purely to benefit those 40,000 people? I do not really believe that anyone can accept that reason as correct.
We can see some good to this system. One is that it provides a ‘fail safe’ system. If anything goes wrong with the terrestrial network the satellite system is able to provide a complementary service. But it is also possible to identify four bad things in this system. The fact that none of them are really referred to at any length in this the working group paper does cause some concern. The first point is that substantial funds will be transferred from the ABC towards the satellite project. We ask: If such substantial funds are to be transferred for that purpose, what then becomes of the freedom of action of the ABC commissioners to determine what they think is the best programming for Australia? In other words, if money is to be taken away from the ABC it cannot be said at the same time that the ABC has the same degree of freedom as it has had before to produce programs and determine its own priorities. It is quite clear that a priority is being imposed on the ABC. To that extent it interferes with the autonomy of its authority.
The second point is the threat to Telecom Australia. Telecom has made it very clear that it opposes the satellite. Of course, it has very good reasons for doing this. Telecom will be threatened with a completely independent authority which will employ, compared to Telecom, relatively few people. Telecom, of course, has criticised the whole motivation of the satellite system. On page 1959 the report sets out what Telecom has said. The report states:
Telecom has indicated both that it has doubts about the need for a satellite system and that it would be a minor user. The Working Group acknowledges the importance of the considerations, particularly financial, put forward by Telecom in arriving at its position. In these circumstances -
There is a touch of irony in this- the Working Group considers that there must be doubts about the desirability of placing responsibility for development and operating a national communications satellite system with that organisation.
In other words, Telecom has indicated scepticism about the project and it fears that its own position will be weakened. Therefore the working group recommends: ‘Let us keep well away from Telecom. We do not want anything to do with it. Let us put up an independent statutory authority’.
The third point that seems very likely is the destruction of regional television. This has, for all practical purposes, been the effect in much of Canada. I believe it will happen here too. I notice that at page 145 of the report the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union and the Australian Telecommunications Employees Association submissions are quoted as follows:
In the television industry, provincial telecasters have identified 4,000 jobs at stake in country TV stations if the Broadcasting and Television Act is amended … to permit the broadcasting of capital city programs by new competing stations;
Employment in the banking and finance industries is already under serious challenge by the incursion of automatic data processes and associated terminal devices . . .
In the 205 pages of the report- that is not counting the appendices- precisely 2’/4 pages are devoted to the question of employment consequences. This to me seems an almost classic example of a paper that has been put out by technological determinists who make a very flat assertion that while there are identifiable jobs which will be cast aside by adopting new technology, on the other hand these will be compensated for in some unascertainable and unidentifiable way by jobs which they cannot precisely identify at the moment but which they feel quite sure will develop. The tragedy is that the threatened jobs are actual, identifiable and measurable. I was careful to pick up what the Minister said. He referred not to jobs that would’ appear but to jobs that ‘could’ appear. To use his word, the jobs which ‘could’ appear are at this stage only hypothetical, a pious hope, quite incapable of being precisely identified. What the report says vaguely on page 1 46 is this: a significant number of employment opportunities could be opened up in the manufacture of ground equipment in Australia;
Where is the guarantee of that? If because of different wage levels we can buy that equipment in Hong Kong or it could be made in the Philippines or made in Singapore, why would it necessarily be made by Australians? There is no guarantee of that at all. Similarly, the report simply states:
The countries are not identified- indicates that, if anything, the introduction of communication satellites has increased employment.
How much stronger the argument would have been if the report had had a little appendix at the back which could have indicated the figures. That would have bowled us all over. But there is not a word about it. That is the beginning and the end of the statement and nothing more has been added to it. The fourth and most objectionable point to honourable members on this side of the House is that it will lead to a redistribution of wealth towards the people who will be the heavy users of the system, foreign corporations and the present media owners. Effectively the costs of the satellite system will be underwritten by the taxpayer, both through the Australian Broadcasting Commission and by the use of funds from taxation. An amount of 35 per cent will be brought in from taxation and 65 per cent will be brought in by loan funds, of which the interest, no doubt, will ultimately be paid by the taxpayer. The effect of that, of course, is to redistribute wealth away from the poor- taxpayers in generaltowards the wealthiest and the most powerful people in Australia. That is the greatest con game that has ever been put over the Australian people. It could be described as a case of ‘robbing Talbot to pay Rupert’. It is simply transferring money out of the public purse and giving it over to the very wealthy Australian media barons.
Clearly the Government’s intention is to broach Telecom ‘s public monopoly and at public cost set up a satellite system to be used by Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, Western Mining Corporation, Packer, Murdoch, IBM Australia Ltd, and the rest. The working group has absolutely failed to identify firm users of the satellite other than those I have named- but not one word about them appeared in the Minister’s statement. Of course, all of these people will be interested when the price is right. The price will be made right by the massive public subsidy going into the satellite. The subsidy will be generated by making government departments and authorities use the satellite. The ABC is described as requiring between 5!£ and 6lA transponders during the life of the satellite; that is to say, effectively 35 per cent to 40 per cent of the satellite capacity.
Are we to blithely accept that the Fraser Government, which has starved the ABC of funds, should now readily commit hundreds of millions of dollars to a satellite so that the ABC can be the largest user of it? The answer is: Yes, because the input of money from the ABC, if it took up that amount of satellite space, would be sufficient to meet the capital costs of the first generation of satellites. Effectively the cost would be underwritten by the ABC and the cost of use to corporate interests would be marginal.
Television use of the satellite is central to this proposal because as the Minister said in his statement, there was significant demand for broadband television capacity. Where does that demand come from? Most certainly not from the regional television stations which serve over four million people in Australia. When stations were surveyed about their interests in satellites, only two out of 24 stated an interest, and then only if it were at a lower cost than the terrestrial means. Mr Kerry Packer is lobbying for a national television network. He will get it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The opposition is in somewhat of a dilemma on this issue. Whilst it says that in principal it does not oppose the introduction of a national satellite system, nevertheless it spends most of its time- this is true of both the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) and the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones); in fact, in the case of the honourable member for Melbourne, I believe some 90 per cent of the time available to him- in criticising the statement of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley). The honourable member for Melbourne criticised the whole proposal and the manner in which the task force was originally established. He cast aspersions on the associations that various members of that task force had. He cast aspersions on the task force by asking whether it was competent and unbiased in its views. He also criticised the technical jargon that the task force used in its report. He referred to the monopoly of media services by a handful of proprietors and said that the situation would indeed become exacerbated by the use of a satellite. I will quote some of the phrases used. The honourable member for Lalor just finished his speech by saying that this in fact was the greatest con game ever perpetrated or envisaged for the Australian community.
– Redistributing wealth towards Packer and Murdoch.
Mr MacKENZIE Those who would benefit solely from this would be- as the honourable member has just said- IBM Australia Ltd, the Western Mining Corporation, the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and people such as Kerry Packer. We have heard very little from the Opposition about those hundreds of thousands of people who are not a part of IBM- even shareholdersand certainly not a part of WMC or BHP, but those people who are in the remote and isolated areas of this nation and who have had extremely difficult circumstances, as far as communication is concerned, even since those isolated areas were settled. Yet it would seem that the Opposition would wish us to go back to the days of the pony express.
– No. What about Telecom ‘s promise for 1985?
– The Opposition has basically opposed all that was outlined in the Minister’s statement. Hansard will prove that the honourable member for Melbourne in particular was largely antagonistic and in opposition to this whole concept of a national satellite. But to get back to the people in the extremely isolated and remote areas of Australia about whom the Opposition appears not to be very concerned those are the people who have extremely difficult circumstances in regard to health and education services, and the availability of those services for their children. This applies particularly to the social benefits available to those families. I would say that it applies to the women, because in these isolated areas of Australia, if there is one group that has suffered over the years, it has been the women. The mothers and the wives are the ones who have to bear so much of that burden of isolation and so much of that burden of the tyranny of distance. They not only bear that burden in isolation but also many of them have to try to educate their children through correspondence or with the limited services that are provided. I know of many people- particularly wives and mothers- in those isolated areas who find that this is a tremendous burden for the family.
In this context let us look at what the satellite can offer. The whole philosophy of the satellite principle can provide a tremendous medium of communication and contact and not only in television services. Basically, I do not see television services as the most important benefit to come from a satellite. But telephone and telephony services will be of tremendous benefit for those people who at present are not likely to get a telephone service through any terrestrial means. There are some 40,000 people living in these isolated areas. That is not an insignificant number when one realises where these people live in Australia and the contribution that they make to our export income and to our wealth. Other benefits can accrue as have been mentioned by previous speakers, such as tremendous communication facilities that we will be able to have through a satellite system for emergencies.
What about the other groups of people who are affected? It is not only people living in isolated stations and in the pastoral industry. What about the tremendous development of mining industries in, say, the north-west of Western Australia where whole communities are isolated? These communities are completely cut off from the rest of Australia. This satellite system will provide tremendous benefits to all those new towns that are springing up in central Queensland and also in the north-west of Western Australia, in the Pilbara, and wherever else it might be. I understand that the satellite will be able to provide telephony and television services to fishing boats, if they are of a sufficient size to be able to pick up a relayed signal from a ground station on the mainland. That may not appear to be very significant to the Opposition but I believe it would be of great benefit to that industry and perhaps also the benefits of telephony and data transmission would be available. We have people who have been in Antarctica. For many years they have been extremely isolated because of the poor environmental circumstances for radio communications down to the bases in Antarctica.
– They will be able to ring their families at home.
– They can telephone their families at home without the interferences and delays that are currently inherent in the system. Somebody on this side of the House mentioned that there might even be some advantage for the Aboriginal settlements in Australia. I could mention the electorate of Leichhardt in which Aboriginal settlements are spread all over the far north of Australia and the Cape York Peninsula. The people in those areas have very little else, besides a good local member. For most of the year the roads and communications systems are completely cut off. That is not the fault of the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson), but I think the good Lord might be expected perhaps to have some responsibility for those conditions. It seems that the Opposition is not very interested in the benefits that this new satellite system might provide for Aboriginal communities.
– Why do you hate Telecom?
– The honourable member for Lalor interjected about Telecom. I think there is a figure in the Minister’s statement which is rather interesting. From my recollection that figure shows that an outlay of between $70m and $80m will be needed over a period of some seven years between 1985 and 1992 to provide telephone services by terrestrial and conventional means for those people who presently do not have them. The amount of $70m to $80m is not an inconsiderable sum of money and it must be taken into account when we are looking at the costs of this proposed satellite.
Furthermore, I think that the Minister and all those who have been associated with the development of this project should be congratulated. I express my sincere appreciation for the tremendous co-operation received from the Canadian members of the satellite task force and in particular an extraordinary man, Dr John Chapman, who unfortunately is no longer with us as he died quite recently. I pay due credit to Dr Chapman and his colleagues because it was the Canadians who saw fit to assist us with some experimental transmissions and in developing the final format and framework of this proposal.
I believe that this satellite proposal which has been announced to the House this afternoon is one that will have the most far reaching implications and effects for the whole of Australia and not just for the islolated and remote communities. The figures mentioned are really astounding when it is realised that half a million people in Australia have no television service whatsoever. I find that fact incredible. Of those half million people who do not have television services, 120,000 have very few prospects of ever getting a television service. We do not have to talk solely about the remote and isolated areas of Australia when discussing the lack of television services. There are people in my electorate, which is located only a few hundred kilometres from Sydney, who have very poor television reception. I think that there was some mention today of poor television reception on the Gold Coast, which is hardly a remote and isolated area of Australia. So this facility will not only provide communications services right throughout Australia but also education services. It may well be that educational programs transmitted through the satellite system will be used by people all over Australia. Perhaps even children living in the inner city suburbs will be able to tune into a channel simply by turning on their television sets and watch an educational program that is being transmitted right throughout Australia.
For the sake of the good management of this House I will cut my comments short, much as I am disinclined so do to as this is a most significant statement. I believe that it is perhaps the most significant communications development in this country since the overland telegraph was pushed through last century.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, on behalf of Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The measures proposed in this Bill and the two complementary Bills, the Canned Fruits Levy Bill and the Canned Fruits Levy Collection Bill, are the culmination of arrangements agreed between the Commonwealth, the canned deciduous fruits industry and the State governments of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia involving a statutory marketing scheme for the Australian production of canned apricots, peaches and pears. The arrangements embodied in this Bill and in complementary legislation to be introduced by the four States I have mentioned during their Budget sessions are in conformity with the unanimously expressed wishes of fruit canners and fruitgrowers.
In essence the complementary legislation will enable the Australian Canned Fruits Corporation, which will be constituted under the provisions of the Commonwealth Bill, to be vested with ownership of the production of canned apricots, peaches and pears and manage the selling arrangements for the products both in Australia and overseas. The Corporation will replace the Australian Canned Fruits Board which was originally established in 1 926 and continued in existence under the provisions of the Canned Fruits Export Marketing Act 1963. The Complementary State legislation will enable the Corporation to assume ownership of production and to manage the marketing within the State of production. The Commonwealth Bill empowers the Corporation to manage the marketing of canned fruits in export and interstate markets and in the Territories.
The Western Australian Government has declined to participate in these arrangements as the Manjimup Co-operative Cannery, the small and only cannery in that State, has reservations about the scheme, notwithstanding assurances given by industry leaders in eastern States that its position would be protected. Tasmania does not have a canned deciduous fruit industry. Moreover, some other fruit interests there oppose the scheme. The Tasmanian Government’s position is yet to be determined. While I should like to see all States in the scheme, the non-participation by Western Australia and possibly Tasmania will not provide a barrier to its successful implementation.
The canned fruits industry is an important horticultural industry, wholly located in decentralised areas. It provides the basic economic and social foundation of the population in the Goulburn Valley region of Victoria, and an important component of the economic base of the Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area of New South Wales and the Riverland region of South Australia. The value of Australian production exceeds $70m annually.
The industry has been experiencing serious difficulties for a number of years, resulting from a variety of factors, principally excess capacity, increasing costs and depressed international marketing conditions. The industry has suffered loss of sales in the United Kingdom and Europe, important traditional markets, through the effects of the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Economic Community. Australia, however, must still rely on export markets to dispose of about 60 per cent to 70 per cent of annual production of canned deciduous fruit.
The industry has taken various measures during this period to adjust production to available outlets, and it has been assisted by the Government by way of adjustment schemes, financial assistance and other action. Nevertheless, marketing problems have continued to plague the industry. Whilst in some years voluntary marketing arrangements have operated between canners to stabilise returns from domestic marketing, in other years, however, oversupply and price cutting have severely eroded returns to canners from the Australian market. Some canners have incurred substantial financial losses. Payments to growers have been reduced and delayed. Regional communities have suffered accordingly. The industry is now convinced that a statutory marketing scheme is necessary. As I have noted, the arrangements proposed have the support of both the growing and canning sectors of the industry in the principal producing States.
I turn now to outline the principal features of this Bill and the scheme. The total effect of the Bill and the complementary State Bills will be to empower the Corporation to acquire and sell the total production of Australian canned apricots, peaches and pears, other than Western Australian production. These arrangements will operate for five seasons commencing 1 January 1980. Additionally the Bill empowers the Corporation to promote sales in Australia and overseas and to do such things as it thinks fit to improve the production, storage, transport and marketing of canned fruits. The Corporation will have the responsibility for determining prices and terms and conditions for sales in both Australian and export markets. Such sales would always be made through agents nominated by canners and approved by the Corporation.
In practice, production guidelines will be established before the beginning of each season by the Corporation on the advice of an advisory committee to be created under the terms of the Bill. Selling arrangements will distinguish between equalisation pool and non-pool markets. The returns from sales to the Australian and certain export markets will be equalised, but there will be no equalisation of returns from other markets. The Corporation will determine the quantities, varieties and quotas to apply to equalisation pool markets. The Bill provides for specification of the countries which, together with Australia will form the equalisation market each season to be notified in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette.
The industry- canners and growers- has unanimously agreed that initially the equalisation market will comprise Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scandinavia and Japan. In terms of the Bill, the matter of which countries are to form the equalisation market is one for determination by the Corporation in each season. In this connection, I note that there is some controversy among the canning groups about whether the countries forming the equalisation market should be changed during the lifetime of the scheme except by unanimous decision of the canners. The Government is confident that the Corporation on which the canners will be represented will act responsibly to resolve differences of views which may arise and that good sense will prevail in this and other critical areas.
Quotas for the agreed equalisation market will be allocated by the Corporation to each canner to give a production entitlement for sales to such market for the ensuing season. Each canner ‘s production entitlement will initially be based on historical sales by canneries to countries within the equalisation market for the four years 1 974 to 1977 as a percentage of industry sales by variety and size, but subject to a number of transfers of production among canners. The production entitlement will be expressed as a percentage of fresh fruit required for the equalisation market calculated by applying the historical variety and size percentages to the historical sales quantities and using the traditional industry yield figures of basic cartons per tonne of fruit; namely, apricots, 70; peaches, 58; pears, 54; peaches and pears in two fruits, 50; and peaches and pears in fruit cocktail, 75. Shortfalls by any canner will be offered to other canners proportionately to their quotas with a strict timetable for shortfall advices to the Corporation.
Canners will be free to produce in excess of pool quotas, but such excess production may be sold only to non-pool markets or to pool markets after all quota production has been sold. However, in regard to sales to Canada, it is envisaged that defined percentage shares will be set for each canner. Any stock carry-over at the end of each year will be taken into account in assessing pool quotas for the following season. Transfer of quotas may be arranged between canners with Corporation approval. Net proceeds of sales by the agents of the Corporation, representing gross sales proceeds less charges and commission, will be requited to the Corporation which will distribute cash surpluses after making repayments of bank advances. Returns from pool sales will be equalised by the Corporation at the end of each year and the Corporation will pay the equalised returns to canners. Canners will agree on the rates of commission which the Corporation should allow in appointing canners’ representatives as selling agents, and also on the basis for sharing commission.
As I mentioned earlier, the Corporation will not at any time itself undertake the marketing of canned fruits. As part of the overall arrangements made with the industry, the Corporation as owner of the canned fruits will always appoint agents nominated by canners to sell the fruit on its behalf, at prices and on terms and conditions of sale set by it. The Corporation will be empowered to borrow from the Reserve Bank under Commonwealth guarantee to finance purchases of canned fruits. The guarantee on Reserve Bank advances will be initially limited to 70 per cent of average estimated realisations. It is a major objective of the scheme that with better marketing arrangements and Reserve Bank funding payments by canners to growers for their fruit will show a considerable improvement, both in respect to earlier payments and in increased returns. The governments of the Commonwealth and the participating States share the expectation of the industry that this objective will be met.
The Bill provides for the Corporation members to be appointed by the Minister for Primary Industry and be representative of canners, growers and the Commonwealth, along with two members with special qualifications. One of the latter members is to be chairman of the Corporation and the other, chairman of the advisory committee. Advisory committee members representative of canners shall also be appointed by the Minister. The Bill provides also for the standard administrative, financial and reporting arrangements for the Corporation. The Corporation’s administrative and promotional expenses will be financed by a statutory levy on canned apricot, peach and pear production with a maximum rate of levy equivalent to 15c per basic carton, as provided for in the Canned Fruits Levy Bill. It is highly desirable for the stability of the canned fruits industry that the proposed new marketing arrangements for canned fruits operate for the coming season and the Government therefore proposes that the legislation be passed in the current sittings. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to impose a levy with certain exceptions on canned deciduous fruits produced in Australia on or after 1 January 1 980 to meet the charges and administrative expenses of the Australian Canned Fruits Corporation to be established under the Canned Fruits Marketing Bill 1979. The maximum rates of levy are set out in the Schedule to the Bill. These rates, expressed in metric terms, are equivalent to a rate of 15c per basic carton- two dozen 825 gram, 29 oz, cans- of canned fruit. The canned fruits industry agrees with the rate of levy proposed. The Bill provides that the actual rate of levy for each container size will be set from time to time by regulation after consideration of recommendations from the Australian Canned Fruits Corporation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill sets down the procedural arrangements for the collection of a levy imposed on canned deciduous fruits produced in Australia under the provisions of the Canned Fruits Levy Bill 1 979. Under the Bill, one-half of the levy imposed during the first half of a season becomes due and payable on 15 July in that season; and the remainder of the levy for that period becomes due and payable on 15 January of the following year. At that time the levy for the second half of the season also becomes due and payable. There is provision for imposition of a penalty of 10 per cent per annum on any amount of levy which is overdue for payment.
The Bill also has provisions for recovery of levies as debts due to the Commonwealth, for refund of levy where such levy is paid but not chargeable, and for authorised persons to have access to premises. For these latter purposes there are provisions for appointment of authorised persons, power to call for returns and for penalties where persons fail to furnish returns. Applications may be made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for review of decisions regarding remission of penalties or part of penalties. The Bill also provides for the making of regulations. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, on behalf of Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill introduces amendments to the Canned Fruit (Sales Promotion) Act 1959 that are consequential upon provisions contained in the Canned Fruits Marketing Bill 1979. The opportunity is also taken of providing for appropriate amendments to the administrative arrangements for the Canned Fruit Sales Promotion Committee to bring those provisions into line with standard provisions adopted for such statutory authorities in relation to financial, audit and reporting requirements. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to amend the Excise Tariff Act 1921 to remove from 1 January 1980 the excise duty payable on canned fruit. The excise duty currently payable on canned fruit is used to provide a fund to assist in the promotion of the exportation of canned fruit from Australia. This Bill forms part of a package of measures being introduced by the Government to implement new marketing arrangements for canned fruit and to reconstitute the Australian Canned Fruits Board under the name of the Australian Canned Fruits Corporation.
Legislation brought before the House by my colleague the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and the Minister Assisting the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) will implement the new marketing arrangements and establish the Australian Canned Fruits Corporation. That legislation includes a Bill to impose a levy on canned deciduous fruits produced in a factory in Australia during a season, which will be used to fund the operations of the proposed Australian Canned Fruits Corporation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to amend the Excise Act 1901 to remove from that Act all provisions which relate to canned fruit. The proposal is consequential upon the removal of the excise duty payable on canned fruit and forms part of a package of measures being introduced by the Government to implement new marketing arrangements for canned fruit and to reconstitute the Australian Canned Fruits Board under the name of the Australian Canned Fruits Corporation. Legislation brought before the House by my colleague the Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) will implement the new marketing arrangements and establish the Australian Canned Fruits Corporation. Clause 2 of the Bill provides for the commencement date to be fixed by proclamation so as to enable transitional arrangements to be made following the removal of the excise duty on canned fruit from 1 January 1980. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
– I move:
The Customs Tariffproposals 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 sporting and recreational equipment. The Government’s decision is to implement a long-term rate of 25 per cent for most goods under reference. The Government considers this industry to be worthy of assistance at the moderate level of 25 per cent and considers that this increase above the IAC recommended level of 20 per cent is justified because of some uncertainty about the industry’s ability to compete with imports at general rates lower than 25 per cent.
The Government has also decided that in a number of cases the local industry could be disrupted if the 25 per cent rate were implemented immediately and therefore the duties will be phased down as recommended by the IAC for some goods. The phase down will be over a four year period. Minimum rates of duty will continue to apply to imports of fish hooks. The new duty rates will operate from tomorrow. The Proposals also contain changes of an administrative nature. I have had a comprehensive summary setting out the nature of the duty changes prepared which is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on sporting and recreational equipment.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill contains measures to give legislative effect to three decisions that have been announced by the Government. One set of measures will deny income tax deductions for paper losses created by tax avoidance schemes initiated in a year of income and, because of insufficiency of income in that year to absorb them, carried forward to later years. Another will ease some limits on deductions for income equalisation deposits and the third will change arrangements for the transition from the 40 per cent phase of the investment allowance to the 20 per cent phase.
Carry-forward of tax avoidance losses
I announced this major initiative against tax avoidance on 24 May 1979 in this House. Its implementation will mean that paper losses generated in earlier years by tax avoidance schemes against which the Government has acted, but which were entered into before the operative date of the relevant remedial legislation, will not be allowed as income tax deductions. As I indicated in my original statement, this is necessary to prevent the substantial losses to the revenue in 1979-80 and later years that there would be if claims to carry forward these purely artificial deductions were conceded.
The impact of tax avoidance activity on revenue collections, despite action by the Government to control the problem, is shown in the estimated revenue loss of some $230m in 1978-79 that is attributable to that activity. Of potentially greater significance in the particular context of this Bill, however, is the fact that claims exceeding $ 1,600m have been made to the Commissioner of Taxation for the deduction of paper losses from tax avoidance schemes carried out in 1977-78 and against which the Government has acted. The greater part of this amount- some $ 1,000m- would, if the claims were to succeed and in the absence of the measures proposed in this Bill, be carried forward for deduction against income of the 1 978-79 income year and later years.
The size of the threatened loss is noteworthy in itself, but there is also cause for concern in the fact that a relatively few taxpayers have, to such an extent, sought to manufacture tax deductions of a magnitude that would, if the schemes were effective, shield them from tax liability for many years ahead. As I made plain in my announcement on 24 May, the Government could not accept this position, having regard to the interests of other taxpayers and of the community generally.
I do not think that I need to speak at length about the range of carry-forward losses that the present Bill deals with. An explanatory memorandum contains details of the proposals and it seems enough in this introductory speech to say that the Bill will debar the carry-forward from one year to another of paper losses generated in, to use convenient shorthand terms, Curran-type schemes, trading stock schemes, pre-payment schemes and expenditure recoupment schemes.
The amendments will means that losses generated in such schemes in the 1977-78 or prior income years, and before the applicable operative date of relevant remedial legislation, will not be deductible as carry-forward losses in 1978-79 or any later income year. As the applicable operative date of some of the remedial measures falls in 1978-79, the Bill will also debar carry-forward loss deductions for paper losses created in 1978-79 and before that date. I add that the Bill also contains necessary safeguarding measures to ensure that the denial of carryforward deductions is not circumvented by arrangements designed to give a formally different character to paper losses that have been generated by the particular tax avoidance schemes.
Income Equalisation Deposits
On 14 June 1979, I announced the Government’s decision to change certain terms and conditions applying to income equalisation deposits arrangements for primary producers. Income equalisation deposits are a means of helping primary producers to set aside funds in good years so as to have them available in a year or years when income is significantly lower. For this purpose, income tax deductions are, with certain limitations, available for amounts deposited. Corresponding amounts are included in assessable income in an income year in which deposits are withdrawn.
The present limitations on deductions allowable for deposits are to be eased in two respects. First, the limit on deductions allowable in any one year will be increased from 40 per cent to 60 per cent of the producer’s gross receipts from primary production. Secondly, the present limit of $100,000 on total deductions in respect of holdings of income equalisation deposits and drought bonds at any one time will be increased to $250,000. Both of these changes are to apply in respect of the 1978-79 income year and subsequent years.
The Bill also contains provisions to implement the Government’s decision that I announced jointly with the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) on 3 June last to amend arrangements for the transition from the 40 per cent to the 20 per cent phase of the investment allowance.
As the law stands, the 40 per cent rate applies where plant ordered, or commenced to be constructed by the taxpayer, by 30 June 1978 was completed and in use for income producing purposes by 30 June 1 979. The lower rate applies for plant not brought into use by 30 June 1 979. This means that a delay in installation of even a few days could result in the allowance on the entire cost of new plant being halved. In these circumstances, employees stood to be seriously disadvantaged by unreasonable industrial demands during the latter stages of completion of new plant projects as 30 June 1979 approached. The decision announced on 3 June was designed to ensure that pressure of this kind did not have that result.
The amendment proposes that, where eligible plant was ordered by 30 June 1978 or its construction by the taxpayer commenced by that date, the 40 per cent rate is to apply to the extent to which expenditure incurred on the plant by the date of the announcement- 3 June 1979- is attributable to the part of the plant installed in its operating position by that date. As is the case under the existing law, the deduction will be allowable in the year in which the plant is first used or installed ready for use and held in reserve.
I mention at this point that the Government will, in the Committee stage of the related Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 4) 1979, be proposing certain technical amendments to that Bill. Because of the interrelationship between the two Bills, and as the Government will be proposing that they be dealt with in cognate debate, it is appropriate that I should now foreshadow the amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 4).
When I brought that Bill before the House I invited comment from interested outside groups. Comments received have been valuable and have led the Government to propose several amendments that will clarify certain provisions of the Bill. In this context, I express my particular gratitude to the contributions made by the Taxation Institute of Australia to consideration of this Bill. A number of the proposals made by the Institute in a very constructive and helpful fashion have been accepted by the Government and form the basis of the amendments that will be proposed during the Committee stage.
Foreshadowed amendments are now available to honourable members. They include some others of a technical kind that on review have been found necessary or desirable. One of these is consequential on the general prohibition against the carry-forward of paper losses that is a subject of the present Bill. The explanatory memorandum that I referred to earlier gives detailed explanations of all the provisions of the Bill and there is also available a supplementary explanatory memorandum dealing with the amendments to be proposed to the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 4). I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on the motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence to ask the Treasurer a question. I am just wondering when the details of those proposed amendments will be made available.
-The explanatory memorandum should be circulated by now.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
This Bill is introduced in conjunction with the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 5) 1979 which proposes certain changes to the terms and conditions applying to the income equalisation deposits arrangements for primary producers. As I indicated in introducing the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 5) 1979, the present limit of $100,000 on total deductions in respect of holdings of income equalisation deposits and drought bonds is to be increased to $250,000. Consistent with that, the amount above which any excess deposits may be repaid at any time under the Loan (Income Equalisation Deposits) Act 1976 is, by this Bill, to be increased from $100,000 to $250,000. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
The main purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment to Queensland of $12.4m in 1979-80 as a special grant. The payment of this amount is in accordance with the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission contained in its forty-sixth report on special assistance for the States which was tabled together with the Commission’s first report for 1979 on special assistance for the Northern Territory.
In accordance with normal practice, the Bill also seeks authority for payment of advances to Queensland in the early months of 1980-81, pending receipt of the Commission’s recommendations for that year and enactment of necessary legislation to provide for any special grant that may be payable to the State in that year.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission has also recommended a special grant of $ 10m for the Northern Territory in 1979-80. However, in this regard no amount has been included in the Bill because, under arrangements agreed between the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory governments, the Territory will receive an additional assistance grant of $20m in 1 979-80 in lieu of the special grant of $ 10m. The financial arrangements agreed between the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory are set out in a memorandum of understanding, the main features of which are outlined in Chapter V of Budget Paper No. 7, Payments To or For the States, the Northern Territory and Local Government Authorities 1979-80. The memorandum of understanding provides phase-in arrangements under which the Northern Territory will receive, in addition to other payments, an additional assistance grant or a special grant, whichever is the greater. The level of the additional assistance grant is $20m for each of the three years 1979-80 to 1981-82. It will be phased out over the following three years. Provision for the 1979-80 additional assistance payment of $20m to the Northern Territory is made in Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1979-80.
It has been the practice of the Commonwealth Government from time to time on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission and following applications by States, to make special grants to the less populous States to compensate them for such factors as lower capacity to raise revenue from their own sources and higher costs of providing government services of a standard comparable to that provided by the financially stronger States. The Northern Territory has now also been given access to the Commonwealth Grants Commission on the same basis as a claimant State subject to the arrangements already outlined regarding the additional assistance grant. When such special grants were first paid they constituted the only regular form of general revenue assistance to the financially weaker States for this purpose. However, for many years now, the main way in which special compensatory assistance has been provided to these States has been through the payment of higher per capita amounts of other general revenue funds. This situation is reflected today in the fact that personal income tax sharing entitlements paid to Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania are higher, in per capita terms, than the entitlements paid to New South Wales and Victoria.
Under the personal income tax sharing arrangements, the less populous States continue to be free to apply for special financial assistance on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. This is one of the explicit understandings between the Commonwealth and State governments in relation to the tax sharing arrangements. Such special grants supplement a State’s entitlement under the tax sharing arrangements in the same way as they formerly supplemented the financial assistance grants. Queensland has been the only claimant State in recent years. Tasmania made an application on 30 June 1978 for special assistance in respect of 1977-78, but subsequently withdrew the application. Queensland’s estimated entitlement in respect of 1979-80 under the personal income tax sharing arrangements is $947.8m, representing approximately $431 per head of population compared with an estimated average of approximately $323 per head for New South Wales and Victoria. Accordingly, the assistance provided by way of the special grant should be seen as supplementing the special compensatory assistance of $109 per head, or some $239m, provided to Queensland by way of its tax sharing entitlement.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission, in arriving at its recommendations in relation to claims for special assistance, makes an assessment of the financial needs of a claimant State or the Northern Territory. In making such assessments, the Commission compares in detail the finances of the claimant State or the Northern Territory with those of New South Wales and Victoria, taking into account differences in revenue-raising capacity and differences in the cost of providing comparable services. Normally special grants recommended by the Commission consist of two parts. One part is based on a preliminary estimate of the financial need of the claimant State or the Northern Territory in the current financial year, and is treated as an advance payment subject to adjustment two years later when the Commission has compared in detail the finances of the claimant State or Northern Territory and standard States for that year. The other part represents the final adjustment to the advance payment made two years earlier and is known as the completion payment. This adjustment may be positive or negative and therefore may result in the final grant in respect of the year being higher or lower than the advance payment for that year.
The payment to Queensland in 1979-80 of $ 12.4m provided for by this Bill comprises an advance payment of $1 lm in respect of 1979-80 and a completion payment of $ 1 .4m in respect of 1977-78. The completion payment in respect of 1977-78, when added to the $ 14m advance grant paid to Queensland in that year, brings the final grant in respect of 1977-78 to $ 15.4m, which is $8. 3m below the corresponding figure for 1976-77. The advance grant for 1979-80 will, in accordance with normal practice, be subject to adjustment in two years time. The Commission’s recommendations in relation to the special grants arrangements have been adopted by the Parliament each year since the Commission’s inception and the Government considers that they should be accepted on this occasion. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 10 October, on motion by Mr MacKellar :
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence to suggest that the House have a general debate covering this Bill and the Overseas Students Charge Collection Bill 1979 as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the two measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, on behalf of the Opposition I move the following amendment in relation to the Overseas Students Charge Bill:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: consideration of the Bill be deferred until the Government presents a comprehensive proposal for a program of educational aid for students from developing countries according to defined criteria including priority attention to academic ability, the needs of the developing nations and the needs of particular students ‘.
The explanation for this Bill is not contained in the second reading speech of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar), but rather in the ministerial statement made by him on 22 August 1979- or should I say that in that statement we find the excuse for this Bill. It seems to me that the real justification for this Bill is to raise money to offset increased expenditure on immigration services. This is the practice of this Government. We have been belaboured long and often about the virtues of the Galbally report and the funding for the proposals contained in that report. If one carefully analyses what happened at the time that the Government accepted that report, it is quite clear that whilst the Government offered $50m over a period of three years- a few million dollars in the first year, a few million dollars more in the second year and the bulk of the money in the third year- at the same time that the Government gave with one hand it withdrew with the other hand the allowance which until then migrants had been able to claim for income tax purposes.
The allowance was for funds which they sent overseas. In real terms, as far as the migrant community is concerned, the money which migrants lost in the denial of that allowance for income tax purposes more than paid for the funds to be allocated under the Galbally report.
In the very first year of that disallowance, migrants lost $20m but the amount of money allocated by the Government for migrant services in that first year was about $7m. In the second year- this financial year- the sum allocated has been less than $ 1 6m, but again the migrants have lost over $20m. Of course the amount that they lose will go up because migrants’ incomes will go up. Presumably they will either try to send more funds overseas or, because of the fact that their incomes have gone up with inflation, they will pay more tax. So the migrants have paid well and truly for the services’ given to them. In this Bill we find once again a move to raise funds which will help to offset the apparent payments to the migrant community for the services that have been suggested in the Galbally report. If a new comprehensive program were put forward, as proposed in our amendment, maybe there would be some justification for charging those students who seek to study in Australia outside and independent of that planned offer of real help. At this stage I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Mr Garland) agreed to:
That Government Business, Orders of the Day Nos. 4 to 6, be postponed until the next sitting.
Debate resumed from 1 1 October, on motion by Mr Garland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence to suggest that the House have a general debate covering this Bill, the National Health Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1979, the Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979 and the Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979, as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the four measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
Mr GARLAND (Curtin-Minister for Special Trade Representations)- by leave- In the Committee stage I shall be moving appropriate amendments to the Social Services Amendment Bill to correct a drafting error to ensure that, when the proposed new amendments for payment of pensions to persons in benevolent homes come into effect, pensioners then in benevolent homes will not suffer a reduction in the amount of pension being retained by them at that time. A similar amendment affecting Service pensioners will be moved by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) during the Committee stage of the debate on the Repatriation Act Amendment Bill (No. 2).
-We are debating cognately four measures which are only partly related. I point out to honourable members that the Social Services Amendment Bill is a mixture of a number of measures which were announced in the Budget and a number of measures to tighten up very considerably the payment of the unemployment benefit. The National Health Amendment Bill (No. 3), which is the second measure, deals with the payment of pharmaceutical benefits for persons in addition to those who are presently eligible for pensioner health benefits. Of course, we have no objection to that measure. We support it. The Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No. 2) similarly adds to the persons who are presently eligible to receive the pensioner health benefit. The Department of Health will pay 85 per cent of the medical fees for those persons. Finally, the Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill (No. 2) is partly a consequential measure, bringing into effect some of the provisions of the Social Services Amendment Bill, but principally it introduces a new classification of persons eligible for the Service pension. I refer to persons who would generally be described as allied ex-servicemen.
To try to bring some sort of consistency into the debate, I wish to foreshadow an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Social Services Amendment Bill which I shall move later. The Opposition will be supporting the National Health Amendment Bill (No. 3), the Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No. 2) and the Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill (No. 2). We have one amendment on the second reading. In foreshadowing this amendment, I shall read it now and shall formally move it at the end of my speech. I shall move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House is of the opinion that it should provide for-
twice yearly indexation of benefits for the unemployed without dependants;
an increase in unemployment benefits for those under 18 years;
removal of the provisions relating to the mandatory postponement period for the “voluntary” unemployed and those who fail the work test;
removal of the provision of refusing unemployment and special benefit to those unemployed through the industrial action of others;
the updating of supplementary allowances and allowances for pensioners’ children to compensate for inflation; and
an increase in family allowances to compensate for their erosion by inflation’.
One of the important points to make in discussing this legislation is that the Government accepts the proposition that inflation has again increased quite significantly. That is obviously the reason for the reintroduction of the twiceyearly indexation of a significant proportion of pensioner benefits and Service pensioner benefits. A significant number of pensions is not being indexed. Let me point out to the House that amongst those pensions which are not being indexed are the supplementary allowance, which for some considerable time has been $5 and which now should really be indexed to $8 and the family allowance. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which I have had incorporated on an earlier occasion showing the loss in value of the family allowance because of inflation.
The table read as follows-
-Another benefit that is not indexed is the allowance for pensioners, children which at present is $7.50 and which, had it been indexed, would be $12. Other benefits have not been indexed under this legislation. I refer to the personal care subsidy, the pensioner funeral benefit- even though it has been increased for ex-servicemen- the delivered meal subsidy, the homeless persons meal subsidy and so on.
In discussing the question of six-monthly indexation, I think it would be quite obvious to the House that we have debated this matter on three previous occasions. On 12 October 1978, this Government abolished six-monthly indexation of pensions on the basis that it had control of inflation and that there was no longer any need for the six-monthly indexation. As soon as it said that, inflation got out of control again. We debated the matter again and the Opposition moved amendments on 2 1 February of this year and on 7 March of this year. On all three occasions, Government members supported the abolition of the six-monthly indexation of pensions and the Opposition supported their retention. I think two or three honourable members on the Government side abstained from voting but the vast majority voted with the Government, defeating our proposal to reintroduce sixmonthly indexation at a much earlier time.
The other important point to make is that the restoration of twice-yearly indexation is not complete. At the beginning of next month, starting on the first pay-day which is 8 November, pensioners will receive indexation of their pensions but only up to and including the June quarter, whilst other members of the community, if they receive wages and are covered by wage cases, in many instances will have received a further indexation and, if not, will certainly receive it before next May when this piece of legislation really comes into force. It is important to remember that whilst the Government is legislating for twice-yearly indexation now it will not really come into force until 1 May next year. The increase to be given in November will be a 12- monthly indexation increase.
The second point to remember is that many of the other benefits which were removed last year have not been restored. Specifically I refer to such things as the introduction of a means test upon increased age pensions for those 70 years of age. In other words, those people over 70 will not receive indexation of their pensions unless they can pass the means test. It is quite a stringent means test. That has not been changed; the pension will remain as it was. I reiterate that in introducing this legislation the Government is in some ways admitting defeat. The whole argument in favour of introducting the six-monthly indextion was that it had controlled inflation. The Government is agreeing that inflation has got out of control. In his Budget Speech on 21 August the Treasurer (Mr Howard) said:
Last year when the Government took its decision to introduce annual indexation adjustments of social security and repatriation pensions and benefits, it was with the prospect of a lower rate of inflation than now prevails.
In the event this expectation was not realised. I think that is the important point- that the Treasurer does not pretend that he is pleased to be able to restore those benefits. The Treasurer says that he is forced into it because the Government’s policy has failed.
I have no doubt that the Government members, when replying, will blame overseas conditions, the Arabs and maybe even the Whitlam Government. It depends on who speaks from that side who will be blamed for all the evils that are present in society today. But it is important to remember that much of the inflation in due to arbitrary and conscious decisions by this Government. Very little of the petrol which we use is imported. This Government has made a decision to increase the price of petrol according to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ prices but, as I understand it, 90 per cent of the petrol used in motor cars is not imported into Australia but is, in fact, petrol which is produced in Australia. There is no reason why the price of that overwhelming proportion of petrol should have been increased. It is the increase in the price of petrol and other similar increases which have been imposed by this Government and which make it possible for this Government to have large amounts of money available, probably for election bribes next year, which have caused inflation in this country. We should always remember that.
Let me make a couple more points about the benefits which are not being introduced and which should be introduced. The recipients of unemployment, sickness and special benefits have no entitlement to health benefits, pharmaceutical benefits or other fringe benefits. That is one of the important things that we have to remember. They are particularly disadvantaged since the abolition of Medibank and because of the very large increases in the pharmaceutical charges over the last two years, the latest being that which was brought in from 1 September this year. So, it is very important to realise that this Government is not protecting a large number of people.
The Government is extending pensioner health benefit cards to some new groups, such as supporting parents. We certainly welcome this because it is Labor Party policy. But again, the States will still be responsible for payment in the first six months. This is certainly an anomaly. Persons will of course not be able to have at their disposal the Commonwealth Government’s fringe benefits for the first six months when that pension is being paid by the States.
The raising of the level of the allowable income for fringe benefits recipients means, as I understand what the Minister said, that an extra 25,000 pensioners will be eligible for these benefits. But again, it is important to remember that this is only a small step in providing what was due. The last increase in the fringe benefit income limits was under the Labor Government. Had they been indexed since, as they should have been, the limit now being proposed should be $62.10 for single persons and not the proposed $40. For married couples it should be $108.1 5, but it is being increased to $68 only. So all those single pensioners with, say, a superannuation income of between $40 and $62. 10 or married couples with an income of between $68 and $108.15 a week will, it is hoped, remember that this Government, by not bringing in indexation of fringe benefit income limits, has quite clearly made it impossible for them to obtain the fringe benefits.
Let me deal with some other points in the Social Services Amendment Bill. It introduces new conditions of eligibility for unemployment benefits which will make it much harder for persons to obtain unemployment benefits. Indeed unemployment benefits for a significant number of people will be suspended. I deal firstly with the availability of unemployment benefits to people who are not involved in strike action but who are stood down as a result of industrial action by other members of their union. They may not be involved in strike action and they may even live outside the State in which their union is engaged in an industrial dispute but they are stood down. Because they belong to the same union they will be excluded from receiving unemployment benefits. Yet people who may support that strike, who work in the same factory as the people who are on strike, who are stood down and who could, in fact, exert some pressure on the strikers, will still be eligible for unemployment benefits because they do not belong to the same union.
After paying a lot of lip service to the principle of reducing the number of unions- I have some reservations on this, though I realise I am in a minority, probably on both sides of the Housethe Government is saying to people that they are worse off if they belong to a large union than if they belong to a small union. If a person belongs to the Australian Workers Union, which covers 150,000 or 200,000 people all over Australia, and he is stood down as a result of a strike in which Australian Workers Union members are actively participating, he will no longer be able to obtain unemployment benefits. He may be stood down because AWU members who are oil refinery workers at Kurnell are participating in an industrial dispute which leads to a reduction in petrol supplies in New South Wales. Even though he may be an AWU member working in a completely different industry in a country area in New South Wales, he will automatically be stood down because he belongs to the same union. The situation would be different if the union movement were more fragmented- I point out again that the Government believes this would not be in the interests of industrial peace, therefore the Government does not advocate it-and the refinery workers at Kurnell belonged to a small State union. In fact they want to belong to such a union rather than to the Federal AWU but the Government is objecting to it. If they belonged to a different union other people would not have their eligibility to unemployment benefits affected by a strike at Kurnell.
The next point I emphasise in relation to the reduction in unemployment benefits is the decision by the Government that there should be a mandatory- I emphasise ‘mandatory’- six- week non-availability of unemployment benefits for persons who fail the work test or who have resigned from a job voluntarily. It is important to remember that quite often persons may be in a Catch-22 situation. For good or bad reasons, as far as those persons and their employers are concerned, they can see quite clearly that they are about to lose their jobs. They will be dismissed. If they decide to leave voluntarily then they will not be eligible for unemployment benefits for a minimum of six weeks or a maximum of twelve weeks. On the other hand if they do not leave voluntarily and wait to be dismissed- through no fault of their own- they will have a black mark against their names and it will be very difficult for them to obtain another job. These people are being put into a Catch-22 situation. The Government is making it very difficult for them to make a rational decision which is in their interests and also in the interests of the community at large.
Until now it was left to the discretion of the Department of Social Security to make a decision as to whether a person ought to be suspended from employment benefits for the full six weeks, regardless of whether there were any good reasons. Under the new proposals the six weeks suspension is mandatory. It is only up to the Department and the Director-General to decide whether that should be six weeks or 12 weeks. It is important to remember that the socalled failure of the work test, whilst in some cases it can be justified, may lead to the suspension of unemployment benefits. This obviously cannot be applied to every case. If we look at the rules and regulations which have been produced by the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs, dated September 1979, we find that regulation 15 states:
Failure to respond to call-in message.
Where the OCES is able to speak to a claimant and secure his agreement to report at a specific time, either to an employer for a job interview or to the OCES for referral to a job, there will, on the face of it, be a breach of the work test if he fails to report at that time.
In all other cases, where a telephone, telegram or courier message, or a letter, is used to contact a claimant about a job, a failure to respond within 48 hours of the issue of the message -
Not of the receipt of the message but of the issue of the message-
Is to be treated as an apparent breach of the work test.
If that work test is breached it is now mandatory- I emphasise the word mandatory -to suspend unemployment benefits for six weeks. I will be interested to see how many honourable members from both sides of the House will get massive complaints from their constituents who will lose out on their unemployment benefits because of the mandatory nature provided in the amendments to the legislation. Surely there must be lots of times when there are all kinds of good reasons which may or may not be acceptable to the Department. It should be possible for the Department to accept these reasons as being reasonable points and it should not suspend unemployment benefits completely.
The Social Services Amendment Bill which we are debating gives to the officers of the Department of Social Security the right to deprive citizens of between $347 and $1,158 by withholding unemployment benefits. These are very severe penalties for such minor offences as not responding to a message from the Commonwealth Employment Service within 48 hours; leaving work without good and sufficient reason; and becoming unemployed through misconduct, which is to be denned in the light of information received from employers. Six weeks is the mandatory period and the next six weeks depends upon the whim of the Department.
This legislation sets a mandatory minimum period of postponement of six weeks, representing $347 in lost benefits payments for a single person, and $579 for an unemployed person with dependants. The maximum is for 12 weeks, which is a penalty of $695 for a single unemployed person and $1,158 for the unemployed person with dependants. As I said earlier, the Bill will also have the effect of depriving innocent victims of industrial action, sometimes in another State, of any income support at all if that action has been taken by members of the same union. This, to me, is a crude attempt to use the Social Services Act as an industrial weapon, and it is a perversion of the purposes of that Act.
Similar action was proposed at the time of the Victorian power dispute in 1977 and at that time it was condemned by conservative politicians and newspaper editors. The honourable member for Casey, Mr Falconer, was quoted in the Age newspaper on 13 October 1977. At that stage he was chairman of the Government’s back bench industrial relations committee. He urged the Government to reconsider its proposals. The article states:
Mr Falconer told the Government Parties meeting that a large number of rank and file members who had nothing to do with the strike would find their benefits cut.
The Age of 13 October 1977 also reported:
Senator Hall ;
At that stage he was a Liberal Party senator from South Australia- said the Government was making the innocent do its dirty work for it. He said the proposal was unjust and he had the gravest doubts about it
The Age reports further on the same date:
The State Social Welfare Minister, Mr Dixon, telegrammed two Federal Ministers warning of the possibility of family breakdown if the benefits were not paid.
There is a further report in the Australian on the same day which states:
The State ‘s Minister for Social Welfare, Mr Dixon, -
He is the Victorian Minister- said: ‘It’s stupid to use unemployment benefits as a possible lever in an industrial dispute and such a move would be illadvised and ill-considered.’
On 12 October 1977 the Sun News Pictorial stated:
The Premier, Mr Hamer, also said yesterday that he believed that people stood down through no fault of their own should be paid unemployment benefit.
Editorials to be found in the Melbourne Herald, in the Age and in the Canberra Times newspapers also state that they are opposed to this type of legislation. The Melbourne Herald stated:
It would be outrageous to deny sustenance to stood-down unionists and their families not involved in the dispute. The Government should take care that no substance exists for such stories in future.
As I am pressed for time I will not read from the editorials which were in the Age and Canberra Times newspapers of the same day, 14 October 1977. 1 now formally move:
That all words after ‘that’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:
Whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House is of the opinion that it should provide for-
twice yearly indexation of benefits for the unemployed without dependants;
an increase in unemployment benefits for those under 18 years;
removal of the provisions relating to the mandatory postponement period for the “voluntary” unemployed and those who fail the work test;
removal of the provision of refusing unemployment and special benefit to those unemployed through the industrial action of others;
the updating of supplementary allowances and allowances for pensioners’ children to compensate for inflation, and
an increase in family allowances to compensate for their erosion by inflation’.
For the next few minutes I will deal with the Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill. The Opposition supports the Bill but we believe that the Government will have a lot of trouble and a lot of difficulties with one particular aspect. Honourable members on this side of the House certainly support the aim of the legislation, but it will be extremely difficult to interpret. I think the Government will find difficulty in interpreting the legislation. I am dealing with the question of allied ex-servicemen. I will just quote two clauses of the amendments. Proposed new section 98H reads:
In this division- government in exile ‘, in relation to a country, includes any person, or group of persons, claiming to represent, or administer, the country or a part of the country or the people of that country . . .
It seems to be a very wide definition. This may be the best way of doing it but it certainly strikes me that it will be very difficult to decide. Of course, the other point is that the theatre of war is selfevident as far as Australian ex-servicemen are concerned. We have had plenty of problems in that regard, but the definition in the Act has not been altered for this purpose. We are referring to allied ex-servicemen who served in the theatre of war. The definition there must be different if they were Frenchmen, Yugoslavs, Italians, Greeks or whatever. The other point I make concerns one provision in the Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill (No. 2) which reads:
In this Division, a reference to forces raised by a country -
That includes a government-in-exile-
If we define a government-in-exile as being a minimum of one person representing the people, a group of people or a part of a country, how will we ever get a reference to irregular forces? Surely, since we have widened the definition of a government, we have widened the definition of regular forces. If we say that one person can at any time declare himself to represent a country or part of a country, how can we decide whether the people who fought for that person, or group of persons, were regular or irregular forces?
In conclusion I reiterate that we have quite strong misgivings about the first piece of legislation in the cognate debate, the Social Services Amendment Bill. That is the reason for our moving an amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time. The Opposition supports the second, third and fourth pieces of legislation which are being debated in this cognate debate.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Prospect, and I reserve my right to speak at a later stage.
– I am pleased tonight to speak in the debate on the Social Services Amendment Bill. In doing so I congratulate the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) for the wonderful job that she has been doing in that position. In the four Budgets introduced by the Fraser Government it has significantly re-ordered priorities in the area of income, security and welfare. We have increased assistance to aged persons, the handicapped, lone parents and low income groups. Commonwealth support for welfare services now places greater emphasis on need. The Department of Social Security is being re-organised to ensure it is both more responsive to the needs of those dependent on its services and more responsible in the handling of community resources. Decentralisation of the Department’s offices, increased publicity of rights and entitlements and changes in appeal procedures have meant improved services to the public. We have taken positive steps to minimise fraud and abuse. The Government has started to develop through the federalism policy a process by which more control can be exercised by the States and local communities over their own welfare priorities.
As was pointed out in the recent interim statement of the Department, the overriding objective of the Government is to build up a department which is both efficient and compassionate, with a recognition that these two values, far from being in conflict, are the twin pillars around which a truly effective welfare operation must be designed. I congratulate the Government once again for re-introducing the automatic indexation of pensions. I believe that in doing so many honourable members on this side of the House who helped to bring about the re-introduction of the automatic indexation of pensions, such as the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck), should be congratulated. I congratulate him on the magnificent work that he did in relation to this particular matter.
– Thank you very much.
-That is all right. The honourable member for Franklin does not need to be thanked because we know what a great job he did. Much has been said by the Opposition about what it did as far as pensions are concerned. I would like to bring a few points to the attention of the House. I would like honourable members to know who introduced age and invalid pensions. The Deakin Government introduced them in 1908. When were payments made to hospitals for pensioners? They were introduced in 1 9 1 8 by the Hughes nationalist Government. Who first introduced automatic pension increases? It was the Menzies Liberal-Country Party Government in 1940. Who introduced the pensioner health benefit services? The Menzies Liberal-National Country Party Government did so in 1951. In 1968 who gave the widow or widower of a pensioner extended pension rates? It was the Gorton Liberal-National Country Party Government. It provided that the surviving spouse would receive up to 12 weeks’ payment equivalent to the married rate of pension. What happened to the wife’s allowance in 1972? The McMahon Liberal-National Country Party Government extended the allowance so that where the male partner was over 65 years of age but the wife under 60, she received the rate of pension payable had she been over 60. Who introduced the pensioner health benefit services? It was the Menzies Liberal-National Country Party Government. Who made pensions taxable? The Whitlam Labor Government did that in 1 975.
– Who was the Treasurer then?
-The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). Who introduced the domiciliary care benefit? It was the McMahon Liberal-National Country Party Government in 1972. What happened in 1976? The Fraser Liberal-National Country Party Government introduced automatic increases of pensions according to the consumer price index. So honourable members can see that the Liberal Party has done more for the pensioners than the Labor Party ever did. The only thing that the Labor Party did was in 1975 when the present Leader of the Opposition made pensions taxable.
Once again I thank the Minister for providing an aged hostel in my electorate. Only this week the Minister for Social Security announced a grant of over $310,000 under the Aged Persons Homes Act to Southern Cross Homes Inc., to assist with the cost of purchasing land and constructing 22 self-contained units, known as Kavanagh Court, at 496 Main Street, Mordialloc, Victoria. That is right in the heart of my electorate. The accommodation will be provided on two levels, with 18 units at ground floor level and four units on the first floor. Each unit is compact and comfortable and includes a kitchenliving area, separate bedroom and laundrybathroom. Southern Cross Homes is also providing a community room at Kavanagh Court out of its own funds.
– They will be well looked after.
– I know they will because while we are in government we will ensure that they are well looked after. The Labor Party has made much play of what it did for the aged. But let us have a look at the promises that the Labor Party has broken. In his election speech in 1972 Mr Whitlam promised to abolish the means test within three years. The Australian Labor Party has now dropped abolition of the means test from its platform. In the Senate Senator Grimes said:
I was one of those who was responsible for having it removed.
- Senator Grimes, the shadow Minister for Social Security. Mr Whitlam also promised in 1972 that pensions would be lifted to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. This did not occur. In fact pension rates as a percentage of average weekly earnings have reached record levels under this Government. They reached a peak of 23 per cent under the Australian Labor Party and they have reached a peak of 24 per cent under the Fraser Government. What has the Australian Labor Party done regarding the means test on pensions? At the Adelaide conference the Australian Labor Party dropped its commitment to abolish the income test. The Australian Labor Party spokesman on social security matters, Senator Grimes, said:
I was one of those who was responsible for having it -
That is, the abolition of the means test- removed.
That is, removed from the Labor Party platform. That statement is recorded in the Senate Hansard of 1 8 October 1 978 at page 1406.
– I will need a copy of that.
– I am only too delighted to give a copy to the honourable member for Franklin because he can use it in Tasmania. Senator Grimes continued:
I have never made any bones about my attitude in this place to means tests. I made my views known as a supporter of the Labor Government and now as a supporter of the Opposition. I happen to believe that the introduction of a means test pension for those people over 70 years of ageand this was not the intention- is not a bad or costly proposition.
This is recorded in the Senate Hansard of 19 October 1978 at page 1471. I turn now to the question of the placing of a means test on family allowances. The ALP has constantly criticised the Liberal-National Country Party’s family allowance scheme. It does not accept that this scheme should be universal. The ALP platform speaks of ‘reviewing family allowance programs in order to direct resources to low income families ‘. I refer to two quotes from a paper by Senator Grimes, the ALP spokesman on social security. He stated:
The high cost of increasing payments to 4.3 million children per year has an inhibiting effect on any desire by the present government to increase payments. It must be said that this may also apply to a Labor Government in times of economic difficulty.
If it was considered desirable not to add to government spending, a reduction in the Family Allowances could pay for the increased supplement paid to lower income groups, e.g., a reduction of $4 per month per child would have resulted in approximately $200m in 1978.
They are the words of the shadow Minister for Social Security, Senator Grimes. Dr Scotton, formerly the Chairman of the Health Insurance Commission established by the Whitlam Government, has written:
The unprecedentedly high rate of unemployment was the most tragic legacy of the Labor government’s term, and the fact that its policies contributed to it, is the most damaging criticism of them.
He stated further: . . while the rate at which public expenditures were expanded in 1973 and 1974 added fuel to imported and inherited inflationary pressures, the government’s insouciance about violent changes in real wages, relativities and conditions in this period made a major contribution to the intensity of the subsequent unemployment and the difficulty of reducing it.
He also stated:
Professor Henderson, of the poverty inquiry, stated:
Many of the commendable social reforms were introduced (by the Labor Government) at the price of aggravating the plunge into unemployment which has become Australia’s worst social and economic problem.
They are the words of men whom every one of us in this House has heard quoted time and time again. Once again I congratulate the Government on the increased funds for aged persons’ accommodation. Over 500 new self-contained hostel and nursing home projects providing some 15,000 beds were approved under the program of accommodation for aged and disabled persons for the three-year period 1976 to 1979. A further $62.5m has been allocated in 1979 to complete outstanding projects approved for this period. Approval has been given for commitments of up to $10m for urgent new projects to enable planning to commence for funding in 1980-81. Maximum subsidy limits under the program were increased by approximately 8 per cent from 1 April 1979. Grants to the States to assist in the provision of rental housing accommodation for pensioners were more than doubled in the 1979-80 Budget, rising from $ 14m to $30m. As at 30 June 1 979 over 650 hostel premises were approved for personal care subsidy for 16,900 aged people who need and receive special attention or who are 80 years and above. This subsidy will amount to $ 14.1m in 1979-80-an increase of $750,000 over the amount provided in 1978-79.
Since 1976 the Government has assisted over 170 senior citizens centre projects. The provisions range from those for large capital approvals to build new centres to those for minor items of equipment for existing centres. Overall, the Fraser Government will have spent an estimated $ 15m on senior citizens centres by the end of the 1979-80 financial year. The Commonwealth has increased its allocation for subsidies for welfare officer salaries, housekeeping, home repairs, gardening, laundry and other home care services under the States Grants (Home Care) Act by some $4m or 60 per cent compared with the expenditure in 1975-76. The total subsidies paid for meals-on-wheels have increased by 39 per cent over the last four years to an estimated $2.5m in 1979-80.
What are the facts on pensions? Over 1,300,000 people are currently receiving age pensions- representing almost 80 per cent of people of age pension age. Assistance to the aged- pensions, accommodation, mealsonwheels, et cetera- has increased from $2.2 billion in 1975-76 to $3.6 billion in 1979-80, a rise of 63 per cent in four years. It is worth noting that since the mid-1960s the level of pensions and benefits has increased signficantly faster than prices. Most social security and benefit payments have reached record levels relative to average weekly earnings under the Fraser Government. The standard rate of pension has increased from $14 a week in December 1968 to $53.20 at December 1978- an increase of 280 per cent. As a percentage of average weekly earnings the pension during this period has risen from 20 per cent to 24 per cent.
The married rate of unemployment benefit has also increased substantially. A married man with two children would have received, including family allowance, some 50.5 per cent of average weekly earnings while unemployed compared with 48.4 per cent at the end of the term of the Labor Government. The Government has not been able to index unemployment benefit for those without dependents. Nevertheless, the rate of unemployment benefit for single adults without dependents has increased from $8.25 a week in 1968 to $53.65 a week- an increase of over 520 per cent. As a proportion of average weekly earnings the single unemployment benefit increased from over 12 per cent to over 23 per cent.
I am pleased that I have had the opportunity of taking part in this debate. Before I close I thank the Government and congratulate it for the assistance given to the handicapped. This is something that is very close to my heart. Since coming to office this Government has increased assistance to handicapped persons from $62m in 1975-76 to $ 101m in the latest Budget-a rise of 63 per cent. These figures include funds for sheltered employment allowance and facilities, handicapped children’s benefit and allowances, rehabilitation services and sums provided for handicapped persons facilities. Additional sums are of course provided for invalid pensions, which provide assistance to many severely handicapped. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table on assistance to the handicapped.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. The Government has increased and extended eligibility for the handicapped child’s allowance, expanded the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service and widened the eligibility for acceptance for the free-of-charge programs. There have also been increased numbers in receipt of invalid pensions. This year the Government has introduced twiceyearly indexation of pensions for the handicapped. Earlier this year the Government announced a commitment of up to $ lm to establish a Child Accident Prevention Foundation. The Government in 1976 announced a $12 lm program under the Handicapped Persons Welfare Scheme. Reflecting this commitment, in this financial year 1979-80 the Government has budgeted $39.3m to complete outstanding projects and for recurrent funding. Funds will also be made available from within this amount for some new high priority projects. Announcements will be made in the near future. Further projects will be approved this year so that planning can commence to enable funding in 1980-8 1.
This program of assistance for handicapped persons’ facilities will continue to be supported by this Government. Total funding for the program in 1980-8 1 will be announced at a later date. The lower spending on handicapped persons’ facilities in 1979-80 reflects the completion of the new projects which were approved in 1976. Capital spending on the program will fall as most of the new projects are completed. Current funding, of course, will continue to rise as new projects come on stream.
This Government has given top priority to social security and the Fraser Government is to be complimented for the large percentage of the Budget expenditure which it commits to social security. The expenditure on social security programs administered this year will rise about 9.5 per cent from $7.1 billion in 1978-79 to $7.8 billion in 1979-80.
-The package of Bills that we are discussing tonight has four objectives. The first objective is to plug a number of gaps and anomalies in the social welfare provision in this country. The Opposition welcomes most of these efforts at greater consistency and the effort to make more comprehensive and solid the protective social welfare framework. We note, however, as one of the ironies of politics, firstly, that changes always produce new anomalies and, secondly, that the plugging of certain gaps in the existing framework merely highlights some of the remaining gaps in that framework. The second objective of these Bills is to reintroduce twice-yearly indexation of pensions and benefits. As the Government’s rather contemptible handling of this issue over the past year makes it a quite revealing saga, it deserves separate attention, as I am sure the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) would agree. Thirdly, the package of Bills aims to continue and reinforce the Government’s treatment of the unemployed, not merely as second-class citizens but as second-class welfare recipients. Fourthly, the Bills aim to extend the Service pension to veterans of allied countries. As this is an extremely complex issue, the ramifications of which the responsible Minister quite certainly does not comprehend and is deserving of quite separate treatment, I will reserve my remarks on this point to a later debate.
The first objective of these measures is to plug a number of gaps and anomalies in the social welfare provision in this country. First of all, there is a rise in the income limits for pensioner fringe benefits. Secondly, there is an extension of health and pharmaceutical benefit provisions to supporting parents. Thirdly, there is more generous provision for the wife’s pension. Fourthly, there is payment of the family allowance on a daily basis for a child moving between parents and an institution or between one person and another. Fifthly, there is a continuation of the payment of the handicapped allowance to parents or those usually responsible for the care of the child when the child is temporarily in an institution. Sixthly, there is a revision of the maintenance provisions for pensioners in benevolent homes. Seventhly, there is clarification of the payment of the double orphan’s pension with reference to children adopted under the law of another country. Lastly, there are powers to recover sickness benefit payments once compensation has been received for the same incapacity for which sickness benefits were previously paid.
As I said before, the Opposition welcomes most of these changes. Indeed we have long campaigned for a rise in the income limits for pensioner fringe benefits. If I may refer to the Australian Labor Party Platform, Constitution and Rules booklet, which of course is frequently quoted by honourable members on the opposite side, it reads:
Labor will update the income tests for social security payments and fringe benefits in line with inflation.
So we have long campaigned for that. Secondly, we have advocated the extension of the health benefit card to supporting parents, and this is a campaign which we have conducted throughout the history of this Parliament. Thirdly, my colleagues, particularly the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and Senator Bishop, played a key role in drawing the attention of the responsible Minister to anomalies in specific cases arising from the monthly payments of family allowances.
However, I do not need to dwell on the virtues of this legislation. I have no desire to deprive Government members of one of those very rare opportunities to extol the generosity of this penny-pinching Government- a government whose penny-pinching almost always has been at the expense of underprivileged Australians. It should be noted, of course, that even some of these anomaly corrections are designed to save money. We think the financial savings implicit in Division 3A of the Social Services Amendment Bill, which relates to compensation and sickness benefits, is a sensible and reasonable amendment. Nor do we have objections to the possible savings deriving from tightening the provisions relating to the double orphan’s pension. On the other hand I think that the new maintenance provisions for pensioners in benevolent homes, given the very small numbers involved, seems peculiarly parsimonious. To insist that a newly admitted pensioner entering a benevolent home may keep only $7.95 a week from the pension while a pensioner already resident in the very same home and on the same pension can keep $18.75 is anomalous, discriminatory, unworkable and will lead to bitterness and dissatisfaction.
– What about everyone else in nursing homes?
– I am speaking of the comparison in these very few benevolent homes. It seems an extraordinarily parsimonious decision -
– What about the other anomalies?
– Well, you just have a look and see the discrimination that exists.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Bonython will address the House through the Chair.
-This is but one clear example of either new anomalies created or old anomalies highlighted by this legislation. Let me mention some further anomalies highlighted by this legislation which suggest either government neglect or deliberate discrimination or, in respect of the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), simply ignorance. We welcome the extension of fringe benefits to more old age pensioners and supporting parents. But what of those unemployment beneficiaries who are denied both health and pharmaceutical concessions? What of those on sickness benefits denied health and pharmaceutical concessions? What of the special benefit people- among the most deprived in the community- who are also denied health and pharmaceutical concessions? It has already been admitted by the Department of Social Security that there are no administrative difficulties in correcting these anomalies that
I have just listed, nor should the cost be exaggerated given the operation, albeit rather unsatisfactory, of the disadvantaged persons provisions in the health legislation.
Again, the changes that have been made highlight the fact that not since the Whitlam Government has the supplementary allowance been increased. If provision had been made for inflation this allowance would now stand at $8 a week rather than at the $5 a week originally set by the Whitlam Government in 1975. Again, not since the Whitlam Government has the pensioner children’s allowance been increased. If this payment had kept pace with the cost of living, it would now stand at $ 12 a week rather than at $7.50 a week originally set by the Whitlam Government in 1975.
Thus, with reference to its first objective, that is, the first objective of this package of Bills which the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) pointed out are the objectives- the correction of anomalies- the Government has been too timid and too cautious. With only minimal administrative changes and relatively small expenditure increases, a much more comprehensive welfare floor could have been provided. As it is, it is through the holes that remain that some of the most disadvantaged Australians fall.
Let me look at the second objective, that is, the restoration of twice-yearly indexation of pensions. The Opposition naturally welcomes this restoration. Indeed, on every possible occasion during the past 15 months the Opposition has voted unanimously for the restoration of twiceyearly indexation. But this reintroduction of twice-yearly indexation compels us to examine the quite discreditable record of the Government on this question. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his policy speech of 1977 promised:
We have taken politics out of pension increases by linking them automatically with the consumer price index.
Given this Prime Minister, of course, that perhaps is not quite sufficient. But he did say nine months previously in March 1977:
We are committed to take politics out of pensions by providing increases in line with price rises twice a year.
That is certainly a more explicit commitment. Again, during the election in December 1977, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) said in an advertisement publicised throughout this country:
We believe that to maintain the purchasing power of pensions and benefits is important. We said that we would do that and we’ve done it and I believe that this is one of the things that has been most thankfully received by those people who do receive them. I’ve had lots of people say to me ‘You’ve given us dignity because you don’t argue about rises every six months ‘.
Yet in the very first Budget after these clear pledges were made, the Government simply removed twice-yearly indexation and took away the pensioners’ dignity by arguing again about rises every six months.
It is important, I think, to ask ourselves what excuses were advanced by the Government for this quite blatant repudiation of precise and apparently unequivocal pledges.
– It had to buy VIP aircraft.
-No, even better than that, the excuse was the Government’s success on the inflation front. The Minister for Social Security said:
The decision to index pensions annually was taken in the light of the anticipated reduction in the rate of inflation and in the belief that with a level of inflation of something like S per cent or lower an annual increase is appropriate.
Thus, on the Minister’s own reasoning, the decision this year to restore twice-yearly indexation is a confession of failure on the inflation front. The Government did not get anywhere near the 5 per cent figure, let alone lower, that the Minister talked about regarding inflation. Thus, on the Minister’s own reasoning, this utter failure on the inflation front compelled the restoration of twice-yearly indexation. But I do not think failure on the inflation front was the only reason for the reversal. The second reason was simply that 1980 is an election year- and this decision on twice-yearly indexation produces no effective increase until May 1980. Nothing so concentrates this Government’s mind as the thought of an election. We are thus returning to the quite opportunistic days prior to the Whitlam Government, when it was only in an election year that pensioners could expect an increase in their pensions. But however discreditable the Government’s record on the issue, we do welcome the restoration of twice-yearly indexation. We say simply that it should never have been abolished.
The third and most contemptible of the objectives of these Bills is the further development of this Government’s policy of treating the unemployed not merely as second class citizens, but as second class welfare recipients. The dole bludger epithet may now be rejected in Government rhetoric, but the dole bludger syndrome is alive and active in the reality of this Government’s social welfare policies. Let me just prove that point. First of all, unemployed persons without dependants- some 78 per cent of all unemployment beneficiaries- have not received any adjustment in their benefit for the past 18 months, and apparently will receive none in the next 12 months. If they had received these adjustments, as has practically every other welfare beneficiary, their benefit in November would be some $7 a week more. Secondly, the young unemployed under 18 years of age are given in these measures no rise in their benefit, which is a mere $36 a week, and which has remained unchanged since April 1975. In that period it has lost 60 per cent of its value.
Thirdly, the permissible income that the unemployed can receive remains at $6 a week. This again discriminates against the unemployed as compared with nearly all other categories of welfare recipients. Again, the unemployed are denied the supplementary rent allowance, and despite the widening of fringe benefits in these Bills, those fringe benefits are not extended to the unemployed. No justification is offered for this discrimination against the unemployed and none can be offered. It stems from the Government’s refusal to recognise in anything but rhetoric that we have, in today’s unemployment, the most serious social problem that this country has faced since the Second World War.
But these Bills do more than simply tolerate the existing welfare discrimination against the unemployed. They seek to make even more rigorous the conditions under which unemployment benefits will be made available. Under clause 4 1 of the Social Services Amendment Bill that we are discussing, the postponement of payment of unemployment benefits provisions is tightened. In future, anyone whose unemployment is defined to be as a result of voluntary action or deriving from his or her misconduct as a worker, or resulting from his or her failure to accept suitable work will, in mandatory terms, have to wait at least six weeks and possibly up to 12 weeks before being paid unemployment benefit. Thus, for instance, a girl who may voluntarily give up her job because she finds her boss’s attitude offensive, or a worker dismissed by his employer, allegedly for misconduct, or someone who refuses to accept what the Department deems to be suitable work can, if single, in effect be fined at least $347.40 and up to a maximum of $694.80; and if married, be subject to a minimum fine of $579 and a maximum of $1,158. Those are quite extraordinary fines and quite inappropriate penalties in relation to social wen.l fare measures. They are much more severe, for instance, then the fines usually imposed for drunken driving in this country. The decisions on which those fines are based and which have quite severe consequences, are dependent on discretionary and extremely subjective judgments, often by junior officials of the Department. The prevailing discretionary postponements that operate already reveal great discrepancies in their application from State to State. The only logic or consistency that these proposals possess is that they are consistent with the Government’s revealed antipathy to the unemployed.
Finally, the Government seeks to further use social welfare as an instrument in industrial warfare. I would be very interested to know whether the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) supports that use of welfare provisions. In the past, unionists actually on strike have been denied unemployment benefits. The amendments to the Social Services Act seek to extend this denial to any unionist, belonging to the same union as the striking union, who may be stood down as a result of the strike. This denial is quite irrespective of the fact that the unionist may be in another establishment, may be in another State, may be ignorant of the strike and may even be opposed to the strike. I believe that this quite savage welfare punishment of unionists as the result of the industrial action of fellow unionists is wrong in principle. It is quite inappropriate to use social welfare provisions in this way.
My colleague, the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), quoted a whole number of Liberals who equally disagree with this proposal and a whole series of Press comments from newspapers which have no love for us but which also disagree with the proposal. I just wish to make one quote from the Age newspaper, which referred to this problem when it arose two years ago. I think it stated the principle very clearlyand I hope that honourable members opposite will agree with the principle- when it said:
Unemployment benefits should be regarded as a right for those people jobless through no fault of their own. They are not a privilege and they most certainly are not a plaything for politicians.
Let me say in conclusion that just as this Government’s whole policy towards the unemployed is beginning to tear this society apart, so provisions such as these will contribute directly to the growing and tragic polarisation of this society.
-The bracket of Bills which we are debating deal with the fundamentals of society. History shows that the great nations of the past, the wonderful civilisations, owe a measure of their success to the fact that they have had an inherent respect for the dignity of the individual. Suffice it to say that the barometer of the success of a nation surely must be its concern for the elderly, the handicapped and the sick.
As I listened to the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett), all his diatribe and innuendo, and his ready admission that he had not even read the Bill, let alone understood it, I could not help remembering a quote which, to me, really appeared to understand and to emphasise the Government’s point of view and its philosophy. I would like to quote a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), a man of great concern, tolerance and compassion. He said:
Dignity and self respect are not states to which only the strong and the wealthy are entitled. They are the right of each individual. Fundamental to dignity and self respect is the ability to make decisions respecting one’s fate free from excessive direction or control. An essential condition for this freedom is the possession of the material and social requisites for self fulfilment.
Those are the words of an eminent statesman, the present Prime Minister of this country. His statements are backed up in practice and in fact. In the present Budget a sum of $8.9 billion has been allocated in the general area of social welfare. The honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Burns), in what we might term an immaculate speech, gave details of the catalogue of achievements and the litany of concern that we on this side of the House show in these areas. I add to some of the statements he made to let the people of Australia know. They may have been attracted by the flowery words of nonsense of the honourable member for Bonython.
– He spoke nonsense but, more importantly, it was nonsense on stilts. This Government was the first Government to introduce indexation of pensions. The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) understands. He has read the Bill. We removed the indexation of pensions from the budgetary context and made it automatic. People on the Opposition side of the House may try to gild the lily and claim the credit but what did they do between 1972 and 1975? Did they introduce the indexation of pensions outside the budgetary context? No, they did not. Their words are idle. They do not mean what they say. We simplified the method of assessing eligibility for pensions by removing the capital part of the means test and assessing eligibility on an income test basis. These are positive achievements. The facts and the history indicate the truth of the situation.
Unfortunately members of the Labor Party do not seem to have any sense of balance in these matters. They tend to criticise, destroy and not be constructive. I was interested in some remarks made by Professor Henderson. Those who sit opposite quote his words when the situation suits them. I think it is appropriate in this debate to remind them of what Professor Henderson said in the publication entitled ‘Public Expenditure and Social Policy in Australia’. This publication is edited by R. B. Scotton and Helen Ferber. They are not unknown to the Labor Party. Professor Henderson said:
Many of the commendable social reforms were introduced by the Labor Government at the price of aggravating the plunge into unemployment which has become Australia’s worst social and economic problem.
Professor Henderson knows where to put the blame. It is inscribed indelibly in that publication, never to be erased. Let honourable members opposite try to wriggle out of that. Our Government does not believe in short term policies. We try to overcome anomalies. The previous speaker highlighted an anomaly and said that it should continue. We want justice for all people, not just a special few who continue to get privileges at the expense of others. We have a program for the future. We are continually building on it, secure in the knowledge that our policies, as the Prime Minister said, are based on dignity and the privacy of the individual.
Fortunately, owing to the progress of medical science people now live longer. But notwithstanding the marvels of modern medicine, it has not been able to make any of us younger for longer. That is probably unfortunate. What it has been able to achieve is to make us older for a greater period of time. Indicative of this success has been the increase in the total number of recipients of social welfare which is theirs injustice, not in charity. These people made Australia great. In many instances they worked in a tough and harsh environment. Ninety per cent of the present youngsters- the people whom the Labor Party represent- would be knocked up carting water to some of these old timers. The total number of social welfare recipients will grow this year from 2,280,000 to 2,336,000. That is a rise of 2.4 per cent. Unfortunately, the work force is increasing by only 1 per cent. Fewer people out of sheer necessity have to provide the funds for an increasing number of people. But those funds are theirs in justice. They are strictly entitled to them.
The number of aged persons will rise from 1.3 million to 2.2 million by 1980. It is interesting to note that in the Budget of a government of concern and interest in the unfortunate in society the allocation for welfare is about 28.2 per cent of the total Budget allocation. The Borrie report indicates that the number of people aged over 65 years will have increased by 58 per cent in the 20 years to 1991 while the number in the 0 to 14 years age group will remain virtually static. The modern motor car, of course, is an essential implement in this era. But it has also led to problems. Motor car accidents in the year 1978 totalled 96,863- an increase from 39,766 in 1 972. Again, this is causing enormous demands on the finances of the Government, to help people with handicaps to obtain employment and to improve their educational opportunities so that like all of us they will have alternatives and options in living a worthwhile life.
I pay tribute to voluntary agencies. I know that the Labor Party does not support voluntary agencies. It would rather have people in one mould so that it can control and dictate to them. We support voluntary agencies. Surely they cannot be expected to continue to operate on a daytoday basis, facing the problem of how to respond to poverty and the social consequences of unemployment? It has to be a joint effort. We want a reawakening of the Australian conscience and a return to people being interested in their neighbours and not living insular lives, fending only for themselves.
– A Christian philosophy.
– As the honourable member for Dawson says, that is a Christian philosophy. It is a pity that honourable members opposite do not absorb some of his infectious enthusiasm for improving the quality of life for all Australians. It appears to me that the solution does not lie in a divided Australia. Those who sit opposite seek to divide one Australian from the other. They seek to set the worker apart from the employer. The speech of the honourable member for Bonython was a whole heap of utter rubbish and nonsense. We have the arbitration system. Why do Opposition members want to defy the laws of this country and extract every possible concession which will lead, in the final analysis, to milking the cow dry. We need a partnership to build a better Australia. We have been criticised by the honourable member for Bonython. Would it not be nice if honourable members opposite at least paid the people of Australia the compliment of reading the Bill and doing a little research. Eighty-five per cent of personal income tax collections in Australia is spent on health and welfare. That indicates the Government’s measure of concern. I refer to the indexation of pensions. I join with other honourable members in the House who have congratulated members of the Government for making appropriate representations to ensure that this first for the FraserAnthony Government would be restored.
Members of the Labor Party did not worry about it but they like to criticise a lot now.
I was rather amused at the deliberate distortion of the truth of the situation by the honourable member for Bonython. He tried to cloud the issue. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) claimed that a Labor Government would increase pensions to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. The Labor Party, when in government, never even got within cooee of that figure. The last statistics indicate that the percentage was declining and was getting further away from the 25 per cent. The most recent figures for the Fraser-Anthony Government show that we got up to 24.1 per cent in December 1978.
– What was it when we came into power? It was 1 9.2 per cent.
– When the Labor Government lost office in 1975 the figure was 23.1 per cent and declining. That is shown in the official statistics. If the honourable member listens he will learn something instead of having his head filled with a lot of marmalade jam. Under the legislation, fringe benefits are assessed as being worth roughly $ 10 a week to the individual pensioner. In next year’s Budget some concessions should be given to those people who, on account of circumstances, are no longer able to provide the necessary upkeep for their homes. People who live in rental accommodation do get the supplementary assistance. I hope that next year the Government will be able to offer some type of concession to elderly people who want to live in their own homes but who find difficulty in paying tradesmen to repair windows, paint a room et cetera. That type of concession would be a most worthwhile initiative. It is a matter of balance whether the Government allocates money to allow these people to live in privacy in an old persons’ home or whether it encourages these people to stay in their own home, in their own surroundings, amongst their friends.
In the farming area of Australia, which of course is still the real heart and pulse of our nation, the rural people have difficulty in attracting people- obviously they would vote for the Labor Party- who will work in what we may term seasonal work, be it in the sugar cane growing electorates of Leichhardt or Dawson or in the small crop areas of the electorate of Lyne. These people cannot stand up to the pressure. They cannot deliver the goods. They do not know what it is to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. Elderly people who have been used to doing a fair day’s work are only to ready and willing to assist the farmers. These elderly people do more work in half an hour than these other fellows do in a whole day. Unfortunately, because of the taxation level, these elderly people find it is not remunerative to work. I appeal to the Government to increase the amount of money that these people can earn on a casual basis while on the pension. They have expertise and application and they respect the farmer’s or owner’s rights and look after the machinery. These other people do not do that but tend to ruin it.
– We should encourage initiative.
-The honourable member for Lyne says that they have no initiative. I was most interested in the remarks recently of Professor Karmel of the Tertiary Education Commission. He advocated consideration- that is all- of a proposition that the Federal Government should provide training schemes and pay allowances to 15 to 19-year olds who have left school and therefore should not be in receipt of social security benefits. I thought that was an eminently feasible and justifiable proposition for him to advance. He realised that with modern technology some of the people who are now unemployed lack sufficient skills and will have great difficulty in attaining the skills necessary to allow them to stand up in a world which is going to become more technical and more sophisticated. It is a most interesting thought.
I associate this thought with the recent statement made by the Australian Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace. I was most concerned that recently a statement was put out by people drawing the Australian nation’s attention to the fact that what the Commission published was not with the authority of the bishops. Bishop Patrick Dougherty, secretary of the Australian Episcopal Conference- as opposed to the Commission- sought to distribute the actual facts in the Press. The Press would not publish the facts because that would have been the truth. It would have let the Australian people know what the bishops thought.
– What is the truth?
-The truth is that Mr Fraser has great respect for the dignity of the bishops and undertook to discuss their point of view. He told them that in his opinion he thought it was necessary for the educational system to be designed with a greater emphasis on allowing people to earn a living rather than to be equipped for an academic life. The bishops were most appreciative of his concern and interest. They were most upset that the Prime Minister was blatantly misquoted by this man called Mr
Pollard. I believe he is merely seeking to divide Australian catholics. That is the practical situation.
I want to talk on repatriation benefits and to congratulate the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) for his most worthwhile interest in Australian servicemen and also in allied servicemen. The Labor Party talked about these problems for many years but did not do anything about them. The Labor Party has too many academics, too many people like the previous speaker. You know what he thinks: If you put a feather in the ground and water it it will grow into a rooster. No wonder he is half starved. This Government is a government of justice and compassion. I have here some interesting figures. The Australian Labor Party in 1973 allocated 20.4 per cent of our income to social security and welfare. In 1 974 it allocated 2 1 per cent. In 1 975 the figure was 23.2 per cent. There was an enormous jump in this figure when the Fraser-Anthony Government came to power in 1 976. In that year it went to 26.7 per cent. In 1977 the figure went to 27.9 per cent. In 1978 the figure was 28 per cent; and this year it is 28.2 per cent. I leave it to honourable members in this House. Which is the government of compassion and which is the government of idle, wild dreams?
Finally, I refer to the unemployment benefit. I was amazed at the logic of the previous speaker, his glorious inconsistency. The Opposition must be absolutely lacking in conscience. It does not even know what the word means. On one side he advocated the proposition of solidarity of the workers- the workers unite to destroy the rights and privileges of other people. It does not worry the Opposition that old people die in homes because of lack of warmth, that children cannot have their food warmed. We say that if there is going to be solidarity of the workers in one instance there is going to be solidarity of the workers so far as the unemployment benefit is concerned. If you are going to back up your mate to destroy the Australian way of life, we say that you pay the penalty of that decision. All that the Government has sought to do is to bring justice and order into a situation of utter chaos. We do not subscribe to the position where a unionist, with all the weapons and control at his command, does not have enough intestinal fortitude to go to his union meeting to tell those people who are leading him that they are wrong, that they are adopting an un-Australian attitude. Then he goes home expecting the decent, hard workers of Australia to pick up the tab so that he can go on unemployment benefit.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Despite the fierce rhetoric of the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), who is obviously an aspirant for the leadership of the National Party -
– The favourite aspirant for the leadership of the National Party, the Australian Labor Party has no apologies to make for what it achieved in relation to pensions and benefits in the brief period that it was permitted to hold office in Australia. Between November 1972 and November 1975, pensions rose by 94 per cent while the consumer price index rose by 50 per cent. When Labor was in office it achieved the greatest real gains, in terms of pensions and benefits, of any government in the post-war period. That is undeniable; it is a fact.
More broadly speaking, I think one can argue that during the period when that Government was in office the fact was not simply that the incomes of pensioners and beneficiaries rose in a direct sense but also that what one might well describe in a real sense as a social wage was achieved with gains not hitherto experienced in the post-war period or at least since the time of the Chifley and Curtin governments. Those achievements require no apology. They are a matter of record. The working people and pensioners of this country recognise that Labor achieved a very great deal in terms of the redistribution of income in the time when it was in power.
One should not view the level of payments in respect of pensions and benefits as some kind of competition between the political parties. There is a long history of conservative governments being prepared to spend sometimes very significant amounts of money on social welfare. The reason for that is that, historically speaking, social welfare expenditure has operated to a greater or lesser extent as an instrument of social control. It was A. J. Balfour, a conservative politician in Britain, the man who later led the defeat of the British General Strike in 1 926, who said:
Social legislation is not only different from socialist legislation; it is its most direct opposite and effective antidote.
That is to say, it is possible on occasions to use welfare expenditures as a means of damping down the fires of discontent. Particularly at a time of economic recession, that temptation will be open to any government that is in power. When we talk about the increased amounts that have necessarily been spent on welfare in the time when this Government has been in power, we have only to look at the unemployment statistics to understand why. This Government has been not only a reactionary government, but also the most recessionary government that we have experienced in this country since the 1 930s. We have had to spend considerably increased amounts of money on welfare because unemployment creates a potentially revolutionary situation, a situation in which conflict of very serious proportions is produced in society. To deal with that conflict, the Government has had to spend additional amounts of money in relation to some pensions and benefits.
The Government was not so generous to pensioners last year when it eliminated the indexation of pensions. In the time that is available to me tonight, I will very briefly draw the distinction which is present in the policies of this Government between those who might be described as the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. This is not a 20th century government; it is a throw-back to the 19th century when that kind of distinction was made as a matter of practice. In terms of what we have seen this Government do in relation to unemployment beneficiaries, the analogy between 19th century thought and progressive 20th century thought is the one to draw.
The number of people out of work has increased dramatically while this Government has been in power, particularly young people and older workers. The Government has sought to introduce into the social security system and into the employment service a method of relating pensions and benefits to a whole range of discriminatory actions. One could talk about that aspect in two ways. One could talk about all of the benefits that are applicable to the wider range of age pensioners, invalid pensioners, single parents and such groups. One can then contrast that with what has happened in relation to unemployment beneficiaries.
There is a whole series of ways in which unemployment beneficiaries have been the worse off. For example, they are not eligible for the supplementary rent allowances which are paid to other pensioners and those who have been in receipt of the sickness benefits for more than six weeks. They, or their spouses, may not earn more than $6 a week without a dollar for dollar deduction from their benefit. Other pensioners may earn $20 a week without penalty and after this year’s Budget provisions come into force they can earn more than that without loss of income. So, there has been that kind of discrimination.
Allowances for dependent spouses and the children of unemployment beneficiaries are taxable. These recipients receive no fringe benefits. They have no telephone, travel, rates, pharmaceutical or other concessions.
The whole range of benefits and fringe benefits available to people who are poor, people who are social service beneficiaries, is being denied to the unemployed because the unemployed are to be treated as people who are the nondeserving poor, people who somehow, one way or another, are attempting to avoid their dutythat is, to participate in the work force. It does not matter that the work simply is not available and that the number of jobless outruns the number of vacancies by 10, 20 or 30 to a single vacancy. Nevertheless, the unemployed have to be treated in that 19th century way as potential bludgers, people who are somehow seeking to get something which is not their right from society.
Alan Jordan, commenting on that view of the work test in the 1 9th century, stated:
At the time, there was fairly clearly a basic assumption that the claimant for relief was a probable malingerer, and that the onus of proving he was not a malingerer was on him. There was no presumptive right to support. Behind it all was a lurking fear that if people could live without work, even on a miserably low level, many would choose to do so. Inconsistently, although the poor were to be watched carefully for signs of idleness, nobody worried much about the idle rich.
What was said there about the 19th century is just as true today. We can look at all of the additional restrictions that have been placed on unemployment beneficiaries since this Government came to power. Let me mention some of them.
From January 1976, single people over the age of 18 years could be forced to change their area of residence in order to find a job. If the Commonwealth Employment Service thought someone was adopting an unacceptable style in appearance, dress or attitude he or she could fail the work test. Clause 41 of the Bill amends section 120 of the principal Act by adding a new sub-section (2) which allows the DirectorGeneral of Social Services to postpone benefits over such periods as he thinks fit. From March 1976 skilled workers who had not found an appropriate job within six weeks were required to accept an unskilled job. People who became unemployed voluntarily had to wait six months before they were eligible for benefits. In August 1977, it was announced that as from November 1 977 benefits were to be paid two weeks in arrears. In October 1977, it was proposed that those who were stood down as a result of strikes but who were not direct participants should not be eligible for the unemployment benefit. That proposition is before us in the legislation that we are debating tonight.
In November 1977, new administrative guidelines for proof of identification were laid down. In February 1978, there was a direction that all 250 field officers of the Department of Social Security concentrate on unemployment beneficiaries and carry out door-to-door checks. In August 1978, there was a continuation of staff ceilings, causing delays in the administration of pensions and benefits. From July 1979 people were expected to accept suitable short term, temporary and part time work. Unemployment benefit recipients were to be interviewed at least once every three months. That history illustrates the thrust of this Government in relation to the unemployed. There is no sympathy; there is no compassion. They are regarded as people who are to be controlled and harassed at every point. In last year’s Budget the Government introduced a measure whereby it increased the staff of the Department of Social Security at a cost of $100m, simply for the purpose of checking on people, harassing the unemployed and other perhaps similarly undeserving or potentially undeserving social security beneficiaries. Recently in an Estimates Committee I asked the Department what had happened as a result of that employment of staff. There was not a single fact that a member of the Minister’s Department was able to put in front of me. There was no idea of what the effect of it had been. We know that that Department, of all the government departments, was the only department that got an increase in staff. It got the increase in staff specifically to harass the unemployed.
If we turn to what is being proposed in this legislation tonight in relation to unemployment beneficiaries, we see that it is simply a continuation of that kind of story of welfare, not in terms of the achievement of justice, not in terms of delivering to people what is their right, but rather in the form of an attempt further to harass people and make them feel that somehow they have to get more into line and that somehow they are being deviant. The two particular measures that I refer to are, first of all, the changes in relation to the postponement of unemployment benefits. The Director-General under the postponement provisions of section 120 will now withhold unemployment benefits for a period of not less than six weeks and for a maximum of 12 weeks. This authority is to be delegated, not to senior and responsible members of regional administrations of the Department but to whoever is on hand, even the most junior officers who, in consultation with the Commonwealth
Employment Service, will make a decision which could cost young people or older people hundreds of dollars over a period of weeks. The people who will come to that situation in which they have no assets and have no backing are to be treated in that particular way on the basis of quite subjective judgments, for example, concerning their voluntary unemployment. Which officer of what department will take responsibility for saying to a person, who says that he has had to leave a particular job because he could not stand it any longer, that he will not be eligible for unemployment benefits for a period of six to 12 weeks. Who is to take that responsibility on his head?
I wish to say to this House of Parliament that I am getting tired, as a member of parliament, of having to deal with unemployed people who, by reason of government policies, are being driven to the point where we now have more and more suicides, where more and more people are getting hooked on drugs, more and more marriages are breaking up, and more and more people are lacking any capacity to relate to people in the most basic sense let alone relate to a working environment. We are destroying people’s capacity to operate normally within the community simply to create conditions where people will become more passive and will not fight back. That is what this Government is about. That is what Fraserism is all about. It is about the politics of repression; it is about the regulation of the poor; it is about distinguishing between the undeserving and the deserving poor; it is about reducing pensions and benefits for those people who Malcolm Fraser thinks might be a threat or who might throw a tomato or egg at him. They have every right to do so, because he is responsible for ruining the lives of what might be described as a generation of young people. That is what this legislation is about.
One can turn to the other aspect of the legislation which deals with the denial of unemployment benefits to people who are unemployed as a result of a strike which affects their union. Something which could happen in Western Australia could affect a person working in Tasmania. That person could become unemployed and lose his unemployment benefit through no fault of his own and through no action which he has taken. He is regarded as undeserving. That has nothing to do with social welfare. That is political; that is industrial. It has nothing to do with welfare, and yet that is part of this social security legislation. This legislation is vindictive legislation. Let us not have talk about the good aspects of this legislation. Let us get to the heart of it. That is what this Government is about. It is about social control; it is about repression. There is not an ounce of justice in this Government in any real sense whatsoever. This legislation ought to be severely amended. I hope that the Opposition’s amendment will carry the support of the House.
-At the outset I must say that I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I was listening to the speech of the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh). There would be no prizes for guessing who is the odd one out in terms of Christian principles, Greek democracy, Malcolm Fraser and Professor Henderson. The fact of the matter is, as the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) has pointed out, that parts of the Social Service Amendment Bill can only result in further division within Australian society. The legislation will inflict unnecessary misery on many Australians. It will do nothing to improve industrial relations in this country. In fact, it reinforces the Fraser Government’s philosophy of union bashing.
The Social Services Amendment Bill is a further example of the Government’s cruel and heartless attitude to the unemployed. The Australian Labor Party supports the general principal that social services legislation should be concerned with the needs of those less fortunate individuals in our society who need government assistance. If the Government wants to cripple union action- I guess there is no need for me to say ‘if; it is showing plenty of signs of wanting to do it- it should use industrial measures, not the provisions of the Social Services Act. The social services system is to help people. It has been developed to provide on-going payments to people who cannot work and temporary payments in case of severe hardship. Why is it that this Government is trying to transform this legislation into another anti-strike weapon? This Bill is a divisive and heartless way of making war against the union movement. Whether the Fraser Government likes it or not, it has a responsibility to see that no family or individual lacks food and shelter.
The Government’s proposal, contained in clauses 35 and 42, to allow no payment to families where a worker is stood down though not involved in a strike and even geographically remote from it, is hitting directly at the innocent. However, the Government is not only taking away the right to unemployment benefit; it is even taking away the right to special benefit, a payment made only when a person or family is destitute, without money and without any prospect of raising it. If, for example, a husband and wife are in the same union and the wife voted against strike action and was not involved in it, the family still cannot receive any benefit, even if the breadwinners are supporting children. The only possible help will come from State welfare departments, which have limited emergency funds and which in some States they are unwilling to hand over. The voluntary agencies, already in a state of crisis, will have to find money and food vouchers. The Government has learned nothing from the 1977 four-week Latrobe Valley strike, which threw every welfare organisation into chaos from which they were finally rescued by a joint Commonwealth-State grant of $100,000. The next time there is a widespread strike there will be chaos and hardship for many working Australians.
The honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) is on record in the Age of 13 October 1977 urging the Government to reconsider its proposals to stop dole payments to workers who are stood down in a strike and who belong to the same union as the strikers. I would hope that the honourable member takes the same stand now. The Bill provides for a wide definition of trade unions. Even deregistered unions would be covered under this legislation. Postponement of unemployment benefit is entirely at the discretion of the Director-General of Social Services, as is the definition of industrial action, and whether go-slow, work-to-rule or other industrial protests short of strike action constitute action which penalises stood-down employees again is at the discretion of the Director-General. The Myers report on the administration of unemployment benefits recommended: . . that the Government consider the drafting of an amendment which would relieve the Director-General of the responsibility for interpreting s.107 (c)(i) of the Act by clarifying in this context the terms ‘direct participant’ and strike ‘.
What has happened is the reverse. The DirectorGeneral has been given more responsibility and will determine both the categories affected and the eligibility of stood-down workers remote from the industrial dispute. Clause 41 of the Bill provides for the mandatory postponement of unemployment benefit by the Director-General for a period of not less than six weeks and a maximum of 12 weeks in cases of voluntary unemployment, misconduct of a worker or failure to accept suitable work. This authority in the real world is delegated to junior officers in the Department of Social Security as advised by junior officers in the Commonwealth Employment Service. Compassionate officers, of course, will try to apply the rule sparingly. Unfeeling officers will have powers to deprive people of income which magistrates would use only in severe cases and after a fair trial. The amendment makes the minimum period of postponement six weeks. That works out to be a penalty of $347.40 for a single unemployed person and $579 for a married unemployed person. The maximum period is 12 weeks. The penalty is $694.80 for a single unemployed person and $1,158 for a married couple.
Let me cite a few examples of how this will work out in my electorate. A young man, who could not stomach cruelty to animals and was intimidated by his employer, left the job voluntarily. Perhaps he could go to a sympathetic officer of the Commonwealth Employment Service and the Department of Social Security. What if he could not? There are many examples like this. There are examples of employers standing over individual employees. There is the problem of distance. In my electorate if some people do not have a private car as they move out to these new housing commission areas they cannot get in to work. Is that going to be classified as voluntary unemployment? Are these people going to lose their jobs? What about the matter of health? Lots of people work in a situation where they become diseased. In my electorate, there is one plant where people suffer disease in both hands and feet after a certain time and they leave. Are they going to be classified as voluntarily unemployed? I have got concrete examples of this sort of thing and I could continue in this vein. Unlike many of the honourable members opposite, every day in Werriwa I witness some of the have-nots, the unemployed, the pensioners, and the workers, struggling to meet escalating retail costs. The legislation of this heartless Government will make such people suffer more.
The Government believes that there are masses of dole bludgers and thousands of jobs to be filled. I have not found this to be the case in my experience in Werriwa. If we look at the latest figures we see that 2,225 youth are unemployed in the Liverpool area and there are 24 job vacancies. There are 4,486 people overall in the Liverpool area and there are 96 job vacancies. In the Campbelltown area 2,818 are unemployed, and there are 218 job vacancies. There are not masses of jobs and there are not masses of dole bludgers. I believe that publicly-supported moves to eliminate those abusing the system have now reached the stage where, without flexibility in administration, thousands of innocent people will be adversely affected.
This legislation is anti-human and cruel and it will have serious, long-term effects on harmony in our society, and on the wellbeing of less fortunate Australians. I believe that the ideological bias of the Fraser Government is continuing policies that seek to blame the unemployed for unemployment. The magnanimity of the Government was demonstrated in its restoration of a broken promise in this Bill. Automatic twiceyearly indexation of pensions was promised in the 1975 policy speech and in 1977 by the Liberal and National Country Party. It was introduced in the 1976 Budget from 1 November 1976. It was reduced to annual indexation in the 1978 Budget from 1 November in that year. In the 1979-80 Budget- the one presently before the House- the Government decided that twiceyearly adjustments to pensions would be restored due to unexpected high rates of inflation.
However, if that is the reason, does the Treasurer (Mr Howard) intend restoring some measure of justice to our elderly and disadvantaged citizens by making retrospective adjustments to pensions due to the Government’s miscalculation of the rate of inflation? Of course, the answer is no. Each single pensioner lost about $60 and each married pensioner couple lost $ 100 when they were deprived of the May 1979 indexation rise. Automatic twice-yearly indexation has been reintroduced under pressure from the Opposition, the back bench and the public. Perhaps this is because the inflation figure is now 10 per cent rather than the 5 per cent for which the Government aimed but never reached.
As Mrs Irene Ellis, Secretary of the Australian Pensioners Federation commented:
Justice delayed is justice denied.
The level of unemployment benefit for recipients under the age of 1 8 years, without dependants, has remained at the 1975 levels. In March 1979 59,100 young Australians were suffering the difficulties of surviving on such a miserly benefit. There is a fair amount of hypocrisy when one hears some of the comments of the Government Ministers and back benchers about the adequacy of this provision. If we compare that to a Minister’s overnight travel allowance we see that it is more than a week’s unemployment benefit. The conservative myth is that if an unemployment benefit is low enough people will work; they will automatically find work. They will have to in order to survive. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) recently suggested that unemployment was linked to duller, lessmotivated people. The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) also said that we should provide other options for young people to make unemployment in the sense of idleness at the community’s expense an unacceptable alternative.
Now with an average of 22 unemployed people for every job vacancy it clearly does not matter how motivated all these people are since there just are not enough jobs to go around. Blaming the victim will not change that fact. Enforced unemployment cannot be interpreted as idleness, nor as fun. The costs of unemployment are being seen in depression, psychiatric illness, suicide, homelessness, family breakdown, alcoholism, crime and an unemployment bill of approximately $980m per year. Benefits should be increased from below the poverty line level. Man cannot subsist on the pursuit of education and vain hope for something better.
Despite facts like these concerning the plight of the unemployed- the have-nots in our society- this malevolent Government is presenting legislation in the guise of social services which will make it even harder for people to obtain an unemployment benefit. My electorate is a welfare electorate. Thousands of young people with no prospect of employment are regularly attending the Community Youth Support Schemes. I am told that 1 5 per cent of young people in one part of my electorate are already classified as chronic delinquents. Up to 20 per cent to 25 per cent of some parts of the electorate consist of single parent families. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table from the Department of Social Security showing some of the problems of that electorate.
The table read as follows-
Taken from Department of Social Security- Recipients of pensions, benefits and family allowances in postcode districts and electoral divisions, NSW-ACT; June 1978.
– I thank the Minister. Families at risk in this country need economic and social justice to prevent crisis situations which so often occur unnecessarily. This Government fails to realise that high percentages of welfare recipients and low income earners are poverty stricken. This legislation, the Social Services Amendment Bill, does very little to alleviate that situation. If we are not successful in mobilising human resources and skills present in every community to assist those in need, the divisions within our society, exacerbated by the Fraser Government at every turn, can only be augmented.
-The principal Act associated with the Social Services Amendment Bill that we are discussing tonight is probably the most complex and comprehensive Act to be administered by this Parliament. The administrative arrangements that go with the Act are a labyrinth of contradictions and double benefits. This particular Bill will go further to compound that error. In my mind there is a need for this Act to be completely overhauled and for a new standardisation of benefits that will be payable to social service recipients. At present, we need to be a lawyer or a social worker to understand the entitlement. It is very difficult for the ordinary person in the street- let alone honourable members of Parliament- to understand. We do not know what to advise people as to their rights.
This particular Bill endeavours to implement some of the proposals put forward in the Budget. One of those proposals involves the twice-yearly indexation of pensions, which this Government was forced to reintroduce by the urgings of the Opposition. It was a very costly mistake that the Government made some years ago when it took away the indexation of pensions. It was a mistake from which a number of pensioners in my electorate are still endeavouring to recover financially. We would welcome the extensions of fringe benefits for supporting parents. Unfortunately, a number of people who should be receiving fringe benefits are not. I refer in this instance to people on superannuation schemes, particularly Fourth Division Commonwealth public servants who find that, when there is a small increase in their superannuation, they go past the fringe benefit threshold and they thus have removed all the normal concessions such as the pensioner medical card, the rebate on telephone rentals and, in New South Wales, the rebate on local government rates, water rates, electricity rates and transport concessions. These are the sorts of things that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) in his second reading speech suggested were worth about $10 a week to a pensioner. These are conservatively estimated to be worth at least $20 a week to a person who is on a small superannuation pension. If this Government had been fair and reasonable it would have gone some way to providing some equity for its own public servants who find themselves in this iniquitous position.
I would like to deal with the amendment moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), and to deal with some of the matters touched on by that amendment. The Opposition has proposed that there should be twice-yearly indexation of pension benefits for unemployed people without dependants. That section of the unemployed accounts for about 75 per cent of those people who are receiving the unemployment benefit. This Government has made a great point about what it is doing for the unemployed. When the real situation is considered I am sure that you will understand, Mr Deputy Speaker, as should the people of Australia, that this Government continues to belt the unemployed at every chance it gets and in every way that it can.
The young and the old people do not receive indexation of the unemployed benefit, and they are the two groups which in most instances need assistance. The older people who are being put out of work are, in the main, those who are being displaced by technological change and who find it very hard to find new work in the area in which they have some competence. Their cost of living is going up by about 10 per cent per annum, and they usually have more expenses than do married people or people living at home with their parents. The Government’s not indexing those benefits is a cruel impost on those people who have given their lives and their work for the benefit of this country. The Labor Party has proposed that the unemployment benefit for those people under 18 years of age should be increased. There has been no increase in the benefit for unemployed young people since April 1975. The benefit has remained at $36 a week since that date. Inflation over that period has reduced the value of that $36 by about 60 per cent. Low income families are having a further impost placed upon them and they are having difficulty supporting their adolescent dependants who are out of work. The poverty cycle has increased once again because of this Government.
The Labor Party has suggested the removal of the provisions relating to the mandatory postponement period of the so-called voluntary unemployed and those who fail the work test. In the past the normal discretion that was allowed the Commonwealth Employment Service was that it could postpone the payment of the unemployment benefit to a person for up to six weeks. This Bill provides that there should be a mandatory non-payment period of six weeks to 12 weeks. In many instances, as my colleague, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) has pointed out, there are particular mitigating circumstances surrounding the reason that people leave jobs. Some people are too old for the arduous work that they may have been engaged in over a number of years. In many instances people in their late 40s and late 50s might find themselves working on permanent night shift and that they cannot take that sort of work any longer. They may be doing arduous work in manufacturing processes, find that they cannot do the work any longer, and decide for health reasons that they would like to change their jobs. If they continue with their work they know that their life span will be shortened. But this Government says that that is voluntary unemployment.
In a number of instances people have to leave their place of employment for genuine family reasons. They may be having problems with their wives and children or they may be having problems in relation to the distance they live from their work, which was an example given by the honourable member for Werriwa. The most odious of reasons for some people having to leave their employment is that of sexual intimidation which young women sometimes find is imposed upon them by some employers. That is not the sort of reason that a person is willing to give to the CES office for leaving a job. It is not the sort of thing that someone is willing to talk about in a country town, if that is where the person is working. The person concerned just has to leave her job.
This Government then says: ‘You won’t be paid the unemployment benefit for at least six weeks, and we will probably put you off for a little bit longer. ‘ That is nothing less than a fine against those who are unemployed. It points up the eighteenth century attitude that this Government has to the unemployed. Its attitude is that if someone does not have a job then he or she is unworthy and deserves to pay a penalty. As has been pointed out this evening, that penalty can range from about $300 to about $ 1 , 100 for what, in many instances, is something that has happened without the person concerned having any control over the circumstances involved. More than 20 people are out of work for every job vacancy registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service at present, but very few people voluntarily become unemployed. The provision contained in the Bill is a particularly iniquitous one and the Government should be ashamed of itself for instituting it. The Labor Party has suggested that the provision for refusing unemployment and special benefits for those people who are unemployed through industrial action should be removed from the Bill.
This provision is an example of the Government’s desire to use the Social Services Act as an industrial sledge-hammer. If the Government wishes to attempt to prevent strikes, it should do that through industrial legislation and not by means of the Social Services Act which is designed to help those people in need. Section 107 of the Act provides that a condition of eligibility for the unemployment benefit under that section of the Act is that the claimant must satisfy the Director-General that he is unemployed and that his unemployment is not due to his being a direct participant in a strike. The Government is attempting to widen the catch-all provisions of that section to ensure that anyone who is associated with any union that may be on strikeo is in a particular area and who is stood down shall not receive the unemployment benefit. An example of that is given in the Sydney Morning Herald of 1 1 October 1979. An article which is concerned with a vehicle builders strike states:
They said an example was a stoppage by the Vehicle Builders Union in South Australia which led to the standing down of workers at plants in Victoria because of lack of work and shortage of parts. The legislation to be introduced today will virtually return the Act to the position before 1 973.
What effect could those vehicle builders in Victoria have on a decision that is arrived at by a completely autonomous branch of the union in South Australia? They could have no effect. We could have the ridiculous situation where under the provisions of this Act, if the electricians or the power workers and the members of the Electrical Trades Union of Australia in some State decided to put on bans and limitations any electrician or member of the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union covered by the electricians award could find that he could be stood down in some industry although he has had absolutely nothing to do with the decision taken by the group of workers in some other part of the State or country. That man will find that he is being penalised and his family and children are being penalised for a decision that he had absolutely nothing to do with.
But to make sure that the Government catches as many people as it can it has provided for a very wide definition of a trade union. The definition of a trade union in this Bill includes any organisation or association of employees, whether corporate or unincorporate, that exists or is carried on for the purpose, or for purposes that include the purpose, of furthering the interests of its members in relation to their employment. That definition could cover anything. It could cover a deregistered union or it could cover a union for management people. It could even cover the Australian Medical Association or the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia. But one can bet one’s life that the Government will not be taking action against those organisations. Who is going to decide who is and who is not in a union. Is the Government going to ask the employers to give it that information? I can assure the House that the unions are not going to make their records available to members of the Government so that the Government can find out who are members of the union. What happens to people who are in two unions- those who may belong to a professional association as well as a union. They are going to find that they will be in a situation where they cannot win no matter what they do.
I refer to one of the other Bills with which we are dealing at present, namely, the Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill. I am pleased to see that a number of Polish people in my electorate who fought for the Polish army during the war will find that their benefits will be increased. I do not think that this Bill goes far enough because the Greek and Yugoslav partisan groups who have records and who have a very active association in Australia are denied the benefits of the provisions of this Bill. I suggest that the Government should reconsider the position of those people and reconsider the very fine job that those groups did during the Second World War.
The Government should consider also the plight of the merchant seamen who found after the war that they were denied most of the benefits provided under the Repatriation Act. The Toose report, which this Government commissioned, recommended that seamen’s war pensions and allowances legislation be reviewed with a view to bringing conditions of eligibility and benefits as close as possible to those in repatriation legislation. In reply to a question asked by the honourable member for Prospect on 7 June 1979 in this House the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) said that to do this would cost only $3. 54m. I put to the House that the Government has had sufficient time since the Toose report was brought down to take proper action and to include merchant seamen in the provisions of the Repatriation Act. The merchant seamen took a lot of risks during the war. They were probably more at risk than people in the Royal Australian Navy or the navies of other countries. The Government should take some action to ensure that the rights of the merchant seamen who served this country during the Second World War are protected and that they are given a fair go.
– I reply very briefly to the debate which has taken place this evening on the social services and health amendment Bills. Hard though it is to discern from the speeches of Australian Labor Party members tonight, the Social Services Amendment Bill has two broad parts. One is, by amendment, to create a number of benefits and increases in benefits to pensioners. Not much attention was given to that. The second part is to remove unemployment benefit from those members of unions which have gone on strike. Labour members tried very hard to find examples to suggest that this was unfair, but the Government cannot permit unemployment benefit in effect to be strike pay. The public is fed up with strikes, the effect they have on peoples lives and their incomes. These measures are to put the responsibility for the support of a strike by a trade union equally on all members of that union. The reasons for all the amendments provided in this large Bill are set out fully in the introductory speech. I am not going to go over them again now, but there will be an opportunity next week to debate further the clauses of the Bills in the Committee stages.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Motion (by Mr Garland)- by leave- agreed to:
That the resolution of the House this day postponing the orders of the day for the second readings of the Overseas Students Charge Collection Bill 1979, the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1979 and the Seamen’s Compensation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979 until the next sitting be rescinded, and that the second readings of the Bills be made orders of the day for this sitting.
Debate resumed from 20 September, on motion by Mr Hunt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence to suggest that the House have a general debate covering this Bill and the Seamen’s Compensation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979 as they are related measures? Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the two measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The introduction of this legislation provided an opportunity for the Government to provide a measure of social justice to Commonwealth Government employees who, through injury or disease, are permanently or partially incapacitated and are not able in whole or in part to discharge their duties. It therefore provided an opportunity for the Government to give social justice to the families of those government employees whose death had deprived their families of their breadwinners. It was an opportunity for this Government to resolve areas of anomalies within the Act and at the same time to produce legislative remedies that could overcome the inordinate delays that bedevil the present administration of the Act- delays of such duration that they are a paramount cause of hardship and legal injustice to many Commonwealth employees. On any one of these criteria the first Bill fails.
I want to deal firstly with the issue of rates. Until the election of the Fraser Government increases in compensation rates to Commonwealth employees and seamen took place annually. The last increase took place in September 1 976.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I am not going to gag the honourable gentleman. He should not get excited.
– That is a change.
– I could. Mr Deputy Speaker, is it correct for a person who is not elected, selected or appointed to the front bench or the shadow ministry to be speaking in a debate at the table or should he be in his correct place in the House?
-It is a matter for individual members of the House and the party to which they belong to resolve. There is no firm procedure in the Standing Orders.
– I point out to the Government Whip, who is not fully aware of all the proceedings and practices of parliaments, that as I understand it the position is that shadow Ministers as such are not traditionally recognised. It was not until recently that they were recognised. The better tradition is that any member handling a Bill on behalf of the Opposition speaks from the table. I hope that piece of information will be of benefit to the Government Whip.
– Of course it will.
– Good. I am pleased that on this occasion he did not choose to gag me yet again. The point I was making was that until the election of this Government compensation rates for Commonwealth employees and seamen were increased annually. The last increase took place in September 1976. Over the last three years, despite requests from employee organisations and Opposition members, there has been no response at all from this Government. The nature of this legislation indicates that the Government is applying increases of 12 per cent to the rates of those employees who are entitled to receive compensation payments- 12 per cent. Since September 1976 the consumer price index has risen by 36 per cent and the minimum wage has risen by 22.5 per cent. In the last 12 months I have been present in this House, as have other honourable members, when we have passed legislation granting very considerable increases to judges of the High Court, to other members of the judiciary and to senior public servants. On all those occasions we were told by the Government that a simple principle of economic justice was being applied and it was simply a matter of passing on to senior public servants and members of the judiciary the increases as a result of movements in the consumer price index or the minimum wage level. It is therefore fair enough to put to the Government this question: Given the range of those increases, on what basis does the Government say that there should be a 12 per cent increase in respect of Commonwealth employees who are the beneficiaries of Commonwealth compensation?
I find it extraordinary that, when this Government was dealing with the higher echelons of the
Public Service, in terms of wage and salary increases the movements in the CPI and the general wage were regarded as the proper criteria and the only arguments that were used to justify the increases. What impenetrable logic is used to say that it is just and proper that the level of economic movement within the community will flow on to these public servants but when it comes to those who through no fault of their own are injured and who have served the Commonwealth faithfully and well in a whole range of services, all of a sudden that principle is abandoned. I challenge the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland), who is handling this legislation in this place, to inform the House whether it is a fact that the Department of Social Security recommended a 30 per cent increase in the level of benefits. I do not for one moment expect that that allegation will be denied. That leads me to the next question.
If the Department of Social Security recommended 30 per cent, why was it cut to 12 per cent? What was the reason for reducing it? Why was it not 10 per cent, 1 5 per cent or 20 per cent? We are dealing with a simple principle of economic justice and applying the very logic or reason that has compelled this Government to urge and apply increases for the higher income earners in the Public Service. On what basis does this Government now abandon that principle? What were the criteria for establishing a figure of 12 per cent? The fact is that that figure bears no relationship at all to CPI or general wage movements. It is a figure which has been plucked from the air. It is not a figure that meets the real needs of former Commonwealth employees on compensation. They are not rich. They are not living on the fat of the land.
– You should declare your interest.
– I am very happy to declare my interest. I hope that my interest is the interest of the honourable member for Holt who has interjected because there are many Commonwealth employees in the electorate of Holt. I ask the honourable member for Holt -
– Declare your interest.
– My interest is very simple. My interest is to see that Commonwealth employees receive no more and no less than is their just entitlement. The honourable member purports in this Parliament to speak for the people of Holt. Let me deal with that. Does he deny that there are in his electorate people who are former Commonwealth employees? Does he deny that many of them are recipients of Commonwealth compensation benefits? Does he deny that they have been denied an increase for over three years? Is the honourable member for Holt prepared to speak in this debate in defiance of instructions from the Government Whip and say that an increase of 12 per cent meets the exigencies of the Government but that it does not meet the needs or satisfy the just claims of former Commonwealth employees in receipt of compensation payments?
– I raise a point of order. I do not mind being misrepresented by the honourable member, but on one condition, and that is that he declares his interest by stating for which firm he works in respect of this legislation.
Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I suggest that the honourable member for Holt cease interjecting. I suggest that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports address his remarks to the Chair.
– Very well, Mr Deputy Speaker; let me address the Chair because a well established principle is involved. The honourable member for Holt wants to interject but he does not intend to take part in the debate. All I want him to do is to speak up on behalf of former Commonwealth employees who are interested -
– You have a pecuniary interest.
-Order! The honourable member for Holt!
– All I want him to do-I invite him to enter the debate- is to speak on behalf of former Commonwealth employees, many of whom are living under abominable circumstances if their sole source of income is Commonwealth compensation. I would like to know on what basis the honourable member is prepared to say that a proper figure for an increase after three years in which there have not been any increases is 12 per cent. I say to him, as I say to honourable members opposite, that there is no basis upon which that figure can be justified. It could just as easily have been 10 per cent, 20 per cent or 30 per cent. The figure of 12 per cent was not determined from any of the normal economic movements that have taken place within the community and upon which we judge these matters. That figure was plucked out of the air to meet the economic attitudes and the economic philosophy of this Government. It is the political priorities of this Government, its total economic strategy and its decision to cut back expenditure which have produced those social results.
Let me just look at the details. The weekly payment of $90 provided for in this legislation represents only 72 per cent of the current minimum wage. In 1974, compensation payments were 84 per cent of the minimum wage. So this so-called increase represents a step backwards. But it will be supported by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) who will put his Party interests before the interests of the people whom he was elected to represent. He will not be representing them for much longer because they will learn what he is up to.
– You declare your pecuniary interest in the matter.
– The honourable member has been told that his point of order is no good. If he wants to get into the debate, let him please do so, but let him wait his turn. In terms of increase, let me give a simple comparison. Tonight, I suppose it is a matter of luck, depending on what time one leaves the building, whether one is driven home by a Commonwealth driver or by a hire car operator. Under the provisions that operate in the Australian Capital Territory if there is an accident and a hire car driver is injured and is on compensation, say, for a period of six months, on what basis should he, if he has a wife or two children, receive $12.40 a week more than a Commonwealth driver would receive? Where is the justice in and what is the logic in that situation? Let us assume the accident is fatal and the family is deprived of a bread winner. If it involved a hire car driver who worked for a private employer operating in the Territory, the family will receive a lump sum of $3 1,573.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– On what principle do we justify a situation where, if the person is a Commonwealth driver, he would currently receive $25,000? That, for a family in that situation, makes a very real difference. On what basis, on what sort of logic do we justify it? Even when this legislation is amended in respect of the very same situation, the lump sum payment that is given to a Commonwealth driver will be only $28,000- again, a significant difference. On what basis does the Commonwealth say, in respect of its own employees who are performing exactly the same work as private employees and who become involved in an accident: ‘Well, you are somehow a second class citizen as against those working for a private employer’? That is the logic of it. That is the legislation which this Government brings into the House and we are told that it is a step forward. It is a step backwards. The rates that are involved as so-called amendments to the Bill, in my view, having regard to the claims for justice, to the delay in payments, are nothing less than a public scandal.
It also has to be a matter of concern that the Government could have used this legislative opportunity to improve the machinery and to overcome the inordinate delays that now bedevil the system under the Commonwealth compensation legislation at the moment. For those honourable members who are not aware of the system, unless a determination is made by the Commission, there is no right of appeal. The average time for determination in a matter of controversy is at least 12 months and, more often, 18 months to two years. It is only after a determination is made, often at the expiration of that time, that the applicant can exercise his right of appeal, and that of course means further delay. So it is not unusual under the law for an applicant who is endeavouring to receive his payments to wait up to three years. The Tribunal has recommended a provision whereby, if there is no determination within six months, the applicant ought to have an automatic right of appeal.
Let me take just two cases, chosen pretty much at random, which I believe indicate the practical effect on the rights of applicants. We are dealing with people who, as employees, have served the Commonwealth faithfully and well. I refer to the case of Eric Bratwatzki v. the Commonwealth. As I say, these cases have been chosen at random; I can assure honourable members of that. But they are chosen because they represent the range of delay that is now taking place. In that case, this man made a claim for compensation in December 1975. He has not worked since that date. He was seeking compensation for a back injury. The determination was made- and listen to this- on 2 August 1978. Liability was denied. It took from December 1975 until August 1 978 - and I am glad that the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) is in the House because he will understand what is involved in this- for a determination to be made and for this unfortunate man to be told: ‘Well, we are going to deny liability’. It is only then that an applicant is entitled to make an appeal. In this case that man made an appeal. It was finally heard and dealt with by the Compensation Tribunal on 10 April 1979. On the appeal, the Commonwealth admitted liability for compensation. So let honourable members think about that, and let them think about the economic hardship and the injustice involved. That sort of situation is occurring right around Australia and, I would venture to suggest, in the electorate of every honourable member in this House. This situation was occurring at a time when an eminent Melbourne orthopaedic surgeon who had always supported this man’s claims gave certificates to that effect. His reports have been in the hands of the Commissioner since February 1977. That is just one case; there are dozens of them. I suggest that anybody who wants to go to the office of any solicitor who practises in this field can be given a bundle of them.
Let us look at the case of Ignatius Koukouras v. the Commonwealth. This man was an employee of the Australian Telecommunications Commission. The reference number is 72/3977. This man’s claim was a comparatively small one; nevertheless, he was entitled to make it in respect of five weeks incapacity resulting from a back injury on 19 March 1976. He made his claim for compensation on 17 June 1976. The determination was not made until 1 1 August 1978 and at that stage, of course, there was a denial of liability. Frankly at that stage he almost gave it away, but he happened to run into his union representative, who insisted that he go to see the union solicitor. The application was made to the Tribunal on 1 5 May. The hearing was set down for 1 1 October 1979- three years later. And what happened three years later? The Commonwealth admitted liability.
– They are very slow on this.
– Any practising lawyer not only regards them as slow but also regards what is occurring as something that has to be a matter of major concern to this Parliament. As I have already pointed out, there has been a recommendation, of which the Government is aware, that if the determination is not made within six months of the application being made, there should be an automatic right of appeal. This was one occasion when these problems could have been remedied and these injustices resolved.
– Could a person not take out a prerogative writ of mandamus? I mean, justice delayed is justice denied.
– I agree completely with the view of the honourable member for Denison. Justice delayed is justice denied. But the problem that one is dealing with here is that one is dealing largely with a group of people, many of whom are unaware of their rights. They are involved in a process which they do not expect will be so slow and unresponsive as it is. In the first case that I mentioned, the man has been on the age pension. He was waiting on the determination in order to obtain his proper benefits. The Government has been told of the inordinate delay. It has been told of the injustices that occur and, as I said, it has been the recommendation of the Commissioner for Employees Compensation that that situation be remedied. I do not believe that there is a single member of this House who does not believe that the situation ought not to be remedied and that people who are trying to do their job in the normal course of events and to discharge their duties and who, through no fault of their own, find themselves either the victims of accident or disease, are entitled to have their claims dealt with promptly and their cases resolved and settled.
But it can take over two years to resolve a case, to get to the stage where the Commonwealth says: ‘Well, yes, we admit liability’ or: ‘We deny liability’. When a matter is about to be determined after a delay of three years the Commonwealth admits liability. That is not a standard which the average private employer would tolerate from his insurer in respect of his own work force. It is not a standard that ought to be tolerated for one moment by any government in respect of its own work force. That is why I and members of the Opposition are disappointed with this legislation. We believe that in terms of economic justice and increases in rates the Government has approached this matter in a mealy-mouthed way. As I said, the increase of 12 per cent can be related only to the overall economic stringencies of the Government. It should have been related to movements in either the consumer price index or wages. There are a number of formulas. There is no way that any honourable member in this House, speaking for or against the legislation, can justify the figure of 12 per cent. It should have been closer to 30 per cent. All that would have done would have been to ensure that Commonwealth employees would keep up with other movements within the community. Having made those points, on behalf of the Opposition I move:
If the Bill is withdrawn I hope that the Government will act on the other matters I have raised. I believe that they are just as important in principle in providing effective social justice for employees of the Commonwealth. For too long, when compared with employees outside, Commonwealth employees have been treated as second-rate citizens. I do not know by what compelling logic we say that a private employer ought to be carrying burdens. State legislation will ensure that in almost every case workers in private industry who are injured and who are beneficiaries of a lump sum award or a table injury will receive more than their Commonwealth counterparts. It is time that the Commonwealth faced up to its responsibilities in this matter and that real justice was done to what is, after all, our own work force. I commend the amendment to the House.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment that has been moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding). I think that he clearly stated the injustice that applies in this legislation. The amendment contains two measures which would at least assist in overcoming some of those injustices- an increase in payments in line with the consumer price index since 1976 and automatic twice yearly payments. As has been pointed out by my colleague, Commonwealth employees have not had any indexation increase for three years. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) in introducing this Bill said:
This legislation was last amended for this purpose during the 1976 Budget session of the Parliament. Since then there have been significant increases in the cost of living-
He would have to be joking there- and in the benefits payable under the workers ‘ compensation legislation in New South Wales, Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland, while legislation is pending in Victoria. It is therefore necessary that the benefits under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act should again be increased.
If the Government is concerned about what is happening in the States it is strange that it has introduced the increases provided in this Bill. In the course of the Budget debate I called the increases miserable. I repeat those words. They are absolutely miserable. They are an insult to Commonwealth employees who, because of injuries sustained in the course of their employment, are off work for more than six months. There is only one thing in the second reading speech that is of any advantage to those employees. It states:
The increased lump sums for death and specified losses will also apply from 1 September 1979 in all cases where the death occurs or the loss is suffered after that date, even though the death or loss may have resulted from an injury sustained before that date. Increases in other benefits will apply in a similar way.
To my knowledge that is about the only thing in this legislation about which the Government can boast. Previously, if an employee were injured on a particular date and death occurred later the amount paid out was the amount that applied on the date on which the injury took place. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Garland)- by leave- agreed to:
That Standing Order 103 ( 1 1 o’clock rule) be suspended for this sitting.
– If we look through the history of what has taken place since the Labor Government came to office in 1972 we will see how harshly Commonwealth employees have been treated. On 2 November 1972 the weekly benefit was 84 per cent of the minimum wage. The Labor Government introduced a completely new compensation Bill which had very many advantages. It was in line with the more advanced legislation in some of the States. Unfortunately, because of the opposition in the Senate, that legislation was rejected. All the Labor Government could do was to introduce increases that at least restored the weekly amounts and lump sum payments to their value. In the case of the weekly payments that was 84 per cent of the minimum wage. The Wheeldon proposals which were brought in in 1975, prior to the Whitlam Government’s being shanghaied out of office by the Governor-General, made allowance for a payment of $73 which at that time would have brought the payment to 91 per cent of the minimum wage. We know what happened then. That legislation was on the statute books but it was never voted on. It went out of operation when the Whitlam Government was dismissed. The people receiving compensation had received no increase for 12 months.
When the Fraser Government assumed office it was not until the end of 1976 that moves were made to increase the amount of compensation. The legislation was altered to increase payments to the beneficiary from 1 September 1 976 to $80. At the time that amount represented 83 per cent of the minimum wage. Prior to that legislation’s being introduced, the amount being paid represented in the vicinity of 65 per cent of the minimum wage. It had dropped in value considerably. What do we find now? The Government has introduced legislation which it claims will restore value to the weekly compensation payments. It certainly goes nowhere near achieving that aim. The weekly payments under this legislation will increase from $80 to $90 a week. That is an increase of 1 2.5 per cent. The payment for a spouse increases from $2 1 to $23.60 a week which represents an increase of only 1 1 per cent. The amount of payment for a child goes from $10 a week to $11.25, an increase of 12.5 per cent. It is a rather strange increase when one realises that the consumer price index increase in that time was 36 per cent. It indicates just how far behind the Commonwealth employees on compensation are. This legislation completely ignores their situation.
Let me state the position under this legislation. This Bill does not allow for indexation of payments. The amendment moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) tried to introduce indexation payments in line with automatic twice-yearly adjustments. This legislation does not do anything of the sort. The Schedule of the Bill indicates that where a figure is altered, it omits so much and substitutes so much or such higher amount to be prescribed. It appears that at some time in the future that can be done by regulation. But there is nothing in this legislation to give an indication of how this Schedule is going to apply; when it is going to apply; when adjustments are going to be made to keep these figures at a decent level.
Compare this legislation with State legislation. The weekly benefit in Western Australia is full pay and is indexed. In South Australia it is weekly full pay and is indexed. In Tasmania it is full pay and is indexed. I understand that in Victoria a Bill has been introduced this year to provide payment of $105 a week and it is indexed. In the Australian Capital Territory the weekly payment is $94.33 and is indexed. In New South Wales the weekly payment is $92.60 and is indexed. In Queensland, which has the only payment lower than that paid to Commonwealth employees, the weekly amount is $83.10 but it is indexed. Possibly, in 12 month’s time, the
Queensland weekly benefit may be higher than the Commonwealth payment. On the question of the amount paid in the event of the death of an employee, when the Labor Government introduced legislation in 1975 it was to take the lump sum payment to $28,000. When the Liberal Party introduced legislation in 1976 to bring the amount up to somewhere near what it should have been, the figure went only to $25,000 instead of the $28,000 that applied under the Labor legislation. In this legislation, three yea rs later, the Government has caught up to the Labor Government’s figure and made the amount $28,000.
Compare the amount paid to Commonwealth employees under this legislation with amounts paid to employees in the States. In Western Australia the death benefit is $40,822; in Tasmania, $33,995; in the 1979 Victorian Bill the amount goes to $33, 160; in the Australian Capital Territory, the amount is $33,100; in Queensland, the amount is $29,080; in New South Wales, the amount is $25,000; in South Australia, the amount is $25,000; and in this legislation that we are dealing with now, the amount for Commonwealth employees is $28,000. This shows that we are way behind most of the States in the payment of death benefit.
I know there was a bit of argument across the House not so long ago between the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, but my concern is for the people whom I represent. Within my electorate there is a large Commonwealth establishment, the Australian National Railways, which employs about 4,000 employees. The railway industry is accident prone. Probably that establishment in my electorate has the worst record of any Commonwealth establishment. Most of the people who are injured are employees on wages. Quite a lot of the injuries they sustain are serious ones. In the case of operating staff it is the loss of an arm, the loss of a leg or the loss of both. There are quite a number of back injuries. Honourable members may be interested in the number of employees injured in accidents in this establishment. At the end of last year I received an answer from the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) to my question about how many Australian National Railway employees had been involved in accidents. In his reply he stated that 54 employees had been on compensation or were receiving compensation payments for injuries received during their employment. Part of the Minister’s answer stated: the main types of long term injuries are spinal injuries. For example, 35 of the 54 employees and former employees referred to in part ( 1 ) of the answer are so incapacitated.
This is an interesting point in his answer
Of the 54 employees and former employees mentioned above, one former employee was salaried and the remainder . . .
It means that 53 employees were wages and salary staff. When dealing with this legislation, we are not dealing with the higher paid people in society but the lower paid. I represent members of an organisation which consists largely of employees on wages and an industry that is probably more accident prone than most industries. I feel that this Government, by its actions in this legislation in not giving recognition to the problems and in not making decent payments to these people to ensure that they have a decent standard of living if they are off work for any length of time, should be ashamed of itself. It has been pointed out that recently there was an increase of 12.5 per cent generally in payments, but there has been an increase of 36 per cent in the consumer price index. Every honourable member should get behind the amendment moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. I repeat the wording of the amendment:
That the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for-
an increase in payments in line with the consumer price index since 1976; and
automatic twice-yearly payments.
I urge the House to support the amendment.
– I want to support the amendment moved by my colleague the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding). Even though we are accustomed to this Government introducing anti-worker legislation, anti-public servant legislation and antiCanberra legislation, this is the most contemptible legislation I have seen it introduce. The Government has excelled itself. We are accustomed to the Government showing contempt for other people’s employees, but now it is showing contempt for its own employees. The Government is not prepared to bring in a piece of legislation which rectifies what the Government has admitted to be a great anomaly in the compensation payments. I suggest that many Government members agree that this is a contemptible piece of legislation, otherwise they would be defending this legislation. But they are sitting there not saying a word.
– The honourable member for Canberra is here now.
– It is good that the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) is here. I hope he will criticise this legislation because it is definitely discriminating against quite a large section of his electorate.
– It is scandalous.
– It is scandalous. The honourable member for Canberra and I probably have more public servants in our electorates than other honourable members have, but over the last couple of years we have had representations from people complaining about the low level of compensation payable to Commonwealth employees. We have been given letters from various Ministers saying that they recognise there is an anomaly and that they are going to correct it. In this legislation they have completely reneged on that commitment. The people who are in receipt of compensation payments have been, or will be greatly disappointed because they have had a reasonable expectation that the level of compensation would be restored to something in line with the level under the private employee legislation. They have been greatly disappointed, as I am. We have been assuring them that the matter would be put right in the Budget. Here we have it. It is a confidence trick, as my colleague has pointed out. Despite an increase in the cost of living of over 30 per cent, we get a mere 1 2 per cent increase in compensation payments.
Let me spell out the legislation as it relates to the Australian Capital Territory. I take the case of a building worker employed by a private contractor or a building worker employed in the Department of Housing and Construction. Under the new legislation the payment for a worker who is incapacitated is to be increased from $80 a week to $90 a week. Under the Australian Capital Territory ordinance which controls the private sector, that worker would receive $94.33 a week and this payment is subject to quarterly indexation. There is to be another increase in that payment in the next few days and another one at the end of the year. So the Australian Capital Territory private employee will be receiving around $100 a week but the Commonwealth employee will be receiving only $90 a week. How do we justify these anomalies? The weekly payment for a wife of an incapacitated worker is being increased from $21 to $23.60. Under the Australian Capital Territory ordinance it is $24.82. Again, the Commonwealth payment is behind. We are increasing the weekly payment for each child from $10 to $11.25. Under the Australian Capital Territory ordinance, the weekly payment is $ 1 1 .5 8.
Where is the justice in these payments? In every case the Commonwealth employee is being greatly discriminated against. There is no question of that. The Commonwealth legislation is particularly disgusting as it applies to the death of a breadwinner. The compensation for the death of a breadwinner is $25,000 and is being increased to $28,000. In the case of a private employee, the spouse would receive $33,000. The death of a private employee is worth $5,000 more than the death of a Commonwealth employee. How in justice can we justify these anomalies?
An amount of $28,000 is paid on the death of a Commonwealth employee. Let me remind honourable members that that is equivalent to about one year’s salary for a back bench member in this House. A back bench member in this House receives $28,000 a year and that is what we value the total life of a Commonwealth employee to be. Where is the justice? I had hoped that some members on the Government side would have some sense of justice. Some honourable members on that side have, and have demonstrated it. I am disappointed in the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), who has shown great compassion for people in East Timor, whom I have been interested in. I wonder what he thinks of this legislation? If he thinks that it is socially just, why does he not come into the House and defend it? I am sure that he does not think it socially just but is ashamed of it and remains out. The same story applies to funeral expenses. It is to be increased from $650 to $730 but in the case of a private employee it would be $744. How can we justify this?
After three years of waiting, with all these promises that the anomalies were going to be put right, we get this gross discrimination against Commonwealth employees. Of course, when we look to the future, as my colleague, the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis), pointed out, there is no guarantee that in three years time the situation will be any better. Commonwealth employees are now worse off than they were three years ago. There is no assurance that the situation will be better in another three years. There is no commitment to regular adjustments as there is under the Australian Capital Territory ordinance. The Australian Capital Territory ordinance provides for quarterly adjustments. Even though the incapacity payment is very low overall and is below the minimum wage, at least it gives employees a chance not to slip further behind, but to keep up with the very low level of subsistence that they are receiving. Under the Commonwealth legislation they are slipping further and further behind. It is a disgusting situation.
As I said, the Commonwealth is showing complete contempt for its own employees. I am surprised that honourable members on the other side are prepared to accept this gross discrimination against Commonwealth employees, but I suppose that it is consistent with the Government’s attitude towards workers generally, towards public servants and towards Canberra. Of course, this attitude is reflected in every electorate. Every honourable member has Commonwealth employees in his electorate and should be jumping up and down and screaming out about the injustice in this Bill which is being inflicted upon people.
In addition, the added problem for people in Canberra who are in receipt of compensation is the fact that the Australian Capital Territory has the highest cost of living in Australia, which puts them further behind. In the June quarter we had the highest rate of inflation in Australia. But all of these factors have been disregarded. We have waited three years for the fulfilment of a promise, which has turned out to be a very hollow promise indeed. This is a disgusting piece of legislation. I am disgusted that members of the Government have accepted it meekly and have not had something to say about it. I suggest to them if they have any sense of social justice at all they have second thoughts about it and support the amendment moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports.
– I wish to make one or two comments in reply to the speeches that have been made which serve perhaps to emphasise the comments which have been made by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in debate in the Senate and in the second reading speech in this House. I draw attention to the fact that long term compensation payments to Commonwealth employees have to be seen in perspective. In the first 26 weeks of any incapacity for work an employee receives compensation payments at his full sick pay rate. It is only after that period that the flat rate benefits apply. Various methods may then be used by incapacitated employees to supplement weekly compensation payments. Firstly, accrued sick leave may be used to bring weekly income up to pre-injury salary. Secondly, if an eligible employee is retired as a result of his injury, he also receives a superannuation pension. Thirdly, for the employee who is not eligible for superannuation, an invalid pension, adjusted by the income test, may be payable in addition to weekly compensation. A married employee with at least one dependent child would receive flat rate weekly benefits at a rate higher than the present adult minimum wage.
The Government ensures that compensation rates are regularly reviewed having regard to increases in the general wage scale and in comparable benefits paid under State legislation, including those which are provided for automatic adjustment. The Government believes that the present methods of review are adequate. Commonwealth rates for weekly incapacity benefits can be compared with those available under Statelegislation. I mention two States- New South Wales and Victoria. In New South Wales a single employee receives $96.30 a week, a spouse $22 a week and each child $ 1 1 a week, which are about the same as the rates paid by the Commonwealth for a family man. In Victoria the rates presently paid are $73, $20 and $7 respectively. I understand that the new proposals provide for $105 a week for an employee, $30 a week for a spouse and $ 10 a week for a child, but these rates will be subject to a ceiling of $155 a family a week. So the weekly benefits of a Commonwealth employee with a spouse and three children will exceed those that would be available under the proposed Victorian rates. I mention those two examples in the two most populous States in general response to what has been said.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Holding’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
– I move:
Clause 2, page 1, line 10, omit ‘ 1 September 1979’, substitute ‘1 July 1979’.
This is a simple amendment, the principles of which have been canvassed during the debate on the second reading. The amendment is to date the increases involved in the Bill from 1 July so that Commonwealth employees get benefit of these increases from the beginning of the financial year rather than from 1 September 1979. Having regard to the fact that they have had to wait something like three years for any increases at all, we commend this amendment to the Committee.
That the amendment (Mr Holding’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman-Mr G. O’H. Giles)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
– I move:
Schedule, page 6, omit the Schedule, substitute the following Schedule:
Basically, the purpose of this amendment is to update the Schedule to bring it into line with the arguments which were advanced in the Committee stage of the Bill. For the benefit of those honourable members who did not hear those arguments they are very simple and very direct, namely, the increases that are proposed in the Bill do not bear any relationship at all to movements in the cost price index or in wage movements. The amendments proposed to the Schedule are simply to update that Schedule to bring it into line with some real principle.
I should like to take this occasion to point outbecause it seemed to be relevant, during another debate last night- that to date the only Government speakers who have been heard to support this legislation were the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in the other place and the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt). Apart from the Minister not one Government member has been prepared to rise in support of this legislation. This includes the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) who has more public servants in his electorate affected by this legislation than any other honourable member. He listened to the arguments of the Minister, took one look at the legislation, and left.
– The amendment is not acceptable to the Government because such increases would be distinctly pacesetting in comparison with every other compensation code in Australia. I think that the Opposition will be aware that one of the matters of great concern to those who employ people, those who provide jobs in Australia, is the cost of workers’ compensation. The economic consequences, particularly for the private sector, would be significant if the Opposition ‘s amendment were to be accepted.
That the schedule proposed to be omitted (Mr Holding’s amendment) stand part of the Bill.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman-Mr G. O’H. Giles)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland)- by leaveread a third time.
Consideration resumed from 20 September, on motion by Mr Hunt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland) read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.42 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 30 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The salary ranges are determined by the Commission with the approval of the Public Service Board. Apart from a few designations which are peculiar to the Commission’s service, the salary ranges are identical with those which apply in the Commonwealth Public Service.
Duties can in general be inferred from designations. For professional, technical, drafting and library staff, duties are consistent with Public Service Board Position Classification Standards which have been adopted by the AAEC. Trades, operations and similar groups carry out duties consistent with definitions of such work in Industrial Determinations. Clerical/Administrative personnel have individual duty statements.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 2 1 August 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) (a) The Depanment of Defence controls 56. 1 705 hectares of Commonwealth land on Rottnest Island. The Commonwealth also owns the Mt Herschell water catchment area of 4.4465 hectares and the 0.0405 hectares controlled by the Depanment of Science.
asked the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 21 August 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Office has processed applications for PAYO funds from 25 national youth organizations indicating a very positive response to its activities.
Aboriginal Self -management (Question No. 4457)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 22 August 1 979:
-The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 28 August 1 979:
-The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
(a) The control of fisheries is a State Government responsibility and the Queensland police officers stationed at Aurukun are empowered with the authority of fisheries inspectors. My Department is currently discussing current State legislation pertaining to commercial fishing in Queensland with the State Department of Local Government and Primary Industries.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 29 August 1979:
How many major items of the Defence Force equipment have been lost or seriously damaged (a) in joint service exercises involving other national forces, (b) in Australian exercises and (c) when being operated by persons who were not members of the Australian Defence Force in each of the last 5 years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 30 August 1979:
Is it a fact that merchant seamen who served in war zones during World War II are eligible for war service homes, for membership of the R.S.L. and for the award of the Australian service medal; if so, why are merchant seamen prisoners of war excluded from receipt of benefits under the Repatriation Act Amendment Act which applies to other prisoners of war.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A merchant seaman is eligible for a Defence Service Homes loan if he was employed between 3 September 1939 and 18 April 1946 in sea-going service on a ship engaged in trading between a port of an Australian State or Territory and any other port, or on a troop transport or hospital ship and was, during that employment, domiciled in a State or a Territory of Australia. Eligibility for Returned Services League membership or the Australian Service Medal are the responsibility of the Returned Services League and the Department of Defence, respectively.
In 1973 the Repatriation Regulations were amended extending free medical and hospital treatment for all disabilities to former prisoners of war who were ‘ members of the Forces’, as defined in the Repatriation Regulations.
The reason for the exclusion of merchant mariners from certain Repatriation benefits is that, during wartime, they were following their usual occupation and served under different conditions, involving the payment of award wages and the ‘War Risk Bonus’ and different leave provisions, than serving ‘members of the Forces’. Merchant mariners do not generally qualify as ‘ members of the Forces ‘ but they are entitled to pensions and medical treatment under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act for any disability resulting from enemy action, suspected enemy attack or in consequence of capture or detention by the enemy.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 30 August 1979:
-The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister respresenting the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 18 September 1979:
Is it a fact that early in 1 979 the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was instrumental in having a house built for the Nyampa Company at Menindee on the wrong block of land; if so, what action will the Department take to rectify this mistake.
No. The Nyampa Housing Company had a house built on a block owned privately by an Aboriginal, the owner having undertaken to sell the block to the Company. The owner died before the transfer was effected and the present owner has undertaken to buy the house from the Company. A contract has been drawn up between the owner of the land and the Housing Company for payment of the cost of the house and installation of services and monthly repayments are being made.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 1 8 September 1979:
Stanley Village Co-operative, Moree (Question No. 4666)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 18 September 1979:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 18 September 1979:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 18 September 1979:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 19 September 1979:
Has the Government received the report from the interdepartmental committee inquiring into the condition of accommodation for servicemen and women which was to further examine the ready availability of private rental housing to meet the needs of married servicemen and the viability of a new housing allowance concession scheme as a replacement for the existing scheme; if so (a) when was the report received, (b) what were the findings and recommendations of the committee and (c) which of the recommendations have been (i) accepted and (ii) rejected; if not, when is it expected to be received and what has been the cause of the delay.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 20 September 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 20 September 1979:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 25 September 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 25 September 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Aboriginal Land Rights (Question No. 4732)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon -notice, on 25 September 1 979:
-The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question: (1)and (2)Yes
(a) The changes recommended in the Working Party Interim Report which are referred to in the question concern entry for mining purposes. Under the present provisions of the South Australian Aboriginal Lands Trust Act the Governor may proclaim that any rights of entry, prospecting, exploration or mining conferred under the Mining Act 1971-78 and the Petroleum Act 1940-78 are exercisable in relation to land vested in the Aboriginal Lands Trust. The Working Party recommended that such proclamation should not be made without the consent of the Trust and. where the land is leased, of the Aboriginal council or community leasing that land.
The Commonwealth encourages such moves by State Governments. The recommendations are not inconsistent with (a) the Woodward Report and (b) the LiberalNational parties’ policy statement on Aboriginal affairs. As regards (c) this was a judgment on the law which was later overturned by appeal to the Privy Council. I have already had preliminary consultation with the South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on a range of matters concerning Aboriginals.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 9 October 1 979:
Have directives, memoranda or minutes of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs been issued to the effect that no further Aboriginal housing is to be constructed on the reserve at The Mallee, New South Wales; if so, why.
No. See reply to Question No. 466S.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 October 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19791018_reps_31_hor116/>.