31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia; That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representatives without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council’.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Aldred, Mr Bourchier, Mr N. A. Brown, Mr Ewen Cameron, Mr Falconer, Mr Keith Johnson, Mr Roger Johnston, Mr Killen, Mr Lynch, Mr Shipton, Mr Short, Mr Simon, Mr Staley, Mr Street and Mr Yates.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament assembled.
The petition of certain citizens of N.S. W.
Dismay at the reduction in the total expenditure on education proposed for 1980 and in particular to Government Schools.
Government Schools bear the burden of these cuts, 1 1.2 per cent while non-Government schools will receive an increase of 3.4 per cent.
We call on the Government to again examine the proposals as set out in the guidelines for Education expenditure 1980 and to immediately restore and increase substantially in real terms the allocation of funds for education expenditure in 1 980 to Government schools.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bradfield, Mr Cohen, Mr Howard, Mr Keating, Mr Lucock, Mr Les McMahon, Mr Morris, Mr O’Keefe, Mr Ruddock and Mr Sainsbury.
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:
And asks that the Government undertake not to re-issue the licences to the Japanese fishermen next year when the terms of access are again reviewed.
Your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Clyde Cameron, Mr Keith Johnson, Mr Keating and Mr Lynch.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress. That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bradfield, Mr Innes and Mr Short.
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 interests.
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 Mr Armitage and Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of electors of the State of N.S.W. respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act 1 977 should immediately be repealed because:
It provides unfettered power to Ministers to suspend, stand-down and dismiss Commonwealth Government employees and places them in a markedly disadvantageous position as compared with all other Australian workers.
Its use places Commonwealth Government employees in direct conflict with the Government as it circumvents the arbitration tribunals and denies appeal rights.
Its use will exacerbate industrial disputes and inflame industrial relations in the Commonwealth area of employment
The International Labour Organisation has condemned the Provisions of the Act as being incompatible with the rights of organised labour in a free society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cohen.
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 politics, 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 Dr Edwards.
To the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia hereby showeth:
Whereas the undersigned citizens of Australia being professional fishermen engaged in full time employment in the fishing industry in the Portland area:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia showeth:
That the Parliament take action to prohibit any further exploitation of our natural fishing resources by foreign enterprises and that the Parliament aid and assist the development of the local fishing industry as it has aided and assisted other primary industries. ‘
And the undersigned citizens of the State of Victoria hereby pray the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of Australia to grant the prayer of their petition. by MrInnes.
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 changes to the system of telephone charging announced by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications on Tuesday,5 June 1979, fail to meet the needs of the people of the Division of Macquarie in the following respects:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House take action to give all necessary directions to have those subscribers presently in the 047 Zone included in the Sydney Telephone District
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by MrInnes.
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 destuctive power to destroy most life on earth.
Noting that, while millions starve, expenditure on the arms race is $ 1000m 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 Lusher.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that there be no extension of Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension and whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: That, as it is clear that unemployment is a long term problem in Australia, the Government should extend to the unemployed the same assistance as is given to any other disadvantaged member of the community. There is an urgent need to alleviate the financial hardship and emotional stress that the unemployed are suffering.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Neil.
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 unprecendented scale could create conditions that would give these children the rights set out in the United Nations Declaration on 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 Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully sheweth we are completely opposed to the concept of charging patients in the Community Health Centres and indeed, the very nature of fee-for-service medical service delivery.
We feel the Federal Health Department directive to charge patients attending Community Health Centres works to the detriment of the people of Collingwood who demonstrably failed to receive full twenty-four hour primary care before the Community Health Centre was established.
We pray that the Government do continue funding under the present guidelines.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Shipton.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed transfer of the staff of the Working Environment Division of the Department of Productivity will seriously impede the effective functioning of this element of that Department in its daily contact with industry, commerce and unions, and
That this will lessen the success of Commonwealth initiatives in the fields of employee participation, personnel practice, research, health, safety and national productivity promotion, and
That this will incur unjustifiable extra cost to Commonwealth administration, and
That the proposal is outside the Guidelines set down for public service relocation.
Your petitioners therefore, pray.
That Parliament Decide that the best usage of the Working Environment Division requires it to be permanently sited in a major industrial city (for example, Melbourne or Sydney) and so it shall remain.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Shipton.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assem bled.
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 decentralized 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:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Street.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the electors of the Division of Cunningham respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned residents of the Illawarra region protest against plans now before the Federal Parliament to set up a Human Rights Commission and restrict the work of the Commissioner for Community Relations, (the Hon.) A. J. Grassby. The work of the Commissioner is essential for the building of a harmonious multicultural society in Australia.
The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 which is administered by Mr Grassby provides for equality of opportunity for all ethnic and racial groups in every aspect of Australian social life. The Act was passed unanimously by all political parties in 1975 and does not need to be changed.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the work of the Commissioner for Community Relations be not restricted as provided for in the terms of the Bills currently before Parliament.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr West.
– I inform the House that the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom) left Australia on Sunday to attend the conference of South Pacific Labour Ministers. The Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) will act as Minister for Housing and Construction until Mr Groom’s return on 26 October.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. Since the Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve Board made his announcement earlier this month regarding a substantial rise in the United States interest rate, has the Australian dollar been devalued against the United States dollar by about 1.6 per cent? If so, what was the reason for this devaluation? Did it have anything to do with potential losses by the Reserve Bank on its forward foreign exchange cover activities? Finally, if Australia is to prevent the transmission of increases in the United States inflation and interest rates, will the Government give preference to further severe domestic adjustments, or will it rely on external adjustments?
-The Government has taken a very close interest in the announcements made by Mr Volcker, the Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve Board, several weeks ago which I and the Government believe brought a firmer inflationary stance to American economic policy than had been evident for quite a long time. The honourable gentleman’s statistic regarding movements in the value of the Australian dollar in the time since that announcement sounds correct but because I do not carry that sort of figure around in my head I would like to check it before -
– The reason?
– If the honourable member is patient, I will come to that. I would like to check before confirming it. There is no particular reason why that movement should have occurred. The honourable gentleman knows that since November 1976 the value of the Australian dollar has been fixed potentially on a daily basis according to movements in a trade weighted basket of currencies. The system for managing the Australian exchange rate, which has been in place since November 1976, has proved remarkably successful and has made one of the greatest contributions to restoring the international competitiveness of Australian industry. I would hope that in asking the question the honourable gentleman is not trying to denigrate the management of the exchange rate and the new regime that were established in November 1976. They have brought to the value of the Australian dollar international confidence and respect which is very apparent to any member or representative of this Government who travels overseas. The Australian dollar is an exceptionally sound currency. I hope that the question the honourable gentleman asks is not predicated on any criticism of the method that has been used to manage the exchange rate since November 1 976. It has made a first-class contribution to the competitiveness of Australian industry and our international respect.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. The Department’s monthly review of the employment situation, released yesterday, shows a fall of 7,000 in the number of unemployed persons registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service during September. Has the Minister seen reports that the number of unemployed persons registered with the CES is now lower than the Australian Statistician’s unemployment figure released earlier this month? Can the Minister inform the House of the correct position?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his question because I have noticed from some of the comments on unemployment statistics -
– Start changing the ones you use now.
– Particularly the remarks coming from the Opposition- that there is some confusion as to what the statistics actually represent. Of course, as one would expect, the Opposition has complaints to make about the Government, but I find it rather ironic that when one series shows an increase in the level of unemployment the Opposition is not ready to accept the results of another series which shows a decline in the unemployment figures. For a number of years this Government has said very clearly that it accepts the figures of the Australian Bureau of Statistics as the correct measure of unemployment in the Australian community. It is an internationally accepted method of measuring the level of unemployment.
The other area in which I find the Opposition in confusion is in seeking to compare the Commonwealth Employment Service’s statistics with the Australian Statistician’s statistics. Members of the Opposition apparently are not aware that the CES statistics show the registrants who are seeking full-time work, whereas the Statistician produces figures for both those seeking full-time work and those seeking part-time work. When it is said that the CES figures are now lower than the Australian Statistician’s figures discrimination is not made between full-time and parttime work. In fact, the situation is this: The CES figures released yesterday showed a decline of 6,933 in the total registered unemployed seeking full-time work, bringing the figure down to 390,034. The Australian Statistician’s figures for September showed an estimated 324,100 unemployed looking for full-time work. That is the correct comparison to make if one wants to compare figures of the CES and the Australian Statistician. The Statistician pointed out that, in addition, 73,900 people were seeking part-time work. So far as I am aware the measure of unemployment in the community has always been taken on the basis of those seeking full-time work. I ask honourable members to bear this distinction well and truly in mind.
While I have the opportunity, perhaps I ought to reiterate why the Government does not accept the CES figures as a reliable measure of unemployment. A number of surveys have been undertaken since 1963. There were surveys in 1974 and in 1977. Furthermore, there was a report in November 1973, to the honourable member for Hindmarsh when he was Minister for Labour in the former Labor Government, by the Advisory Committee on Commonwealth Employment Service Statistics. I quote just one passage which bears out the stand taken by this Government. At page 40, in paragraph 3.41, the Committee stated:
The Committee believes that the following conclusions maybe drawn from an examination of coverage rates:
a ) CES unemployment statistics cannot be regarded as a measure of the level of unused labour resources in the economy. They are not reliable for purposes of:
Measuring general and sectoral levels of unemployment;
Comparing male and female unemployment rates; or
Comparing unemployment rates between States, between capital cities and within States.
-Order! I think that the Minister has covered the question adequately.
- Mr Speaker, I conclude with just these few sentences: When we are prepared to accept the Australian Statistician’s figures we are, of course, prepared to accept the good with the bad. We have accepted the good from January to August and have acknowledged the disappointing figures that came forth for September. We hope that there will be continuing improvement. When one looks at the overall trend one will see that there has been an improvement this year in the unemployment situation.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Health. I refer to the report of the Ralph inquiry into the pharmaceutical industry, which the Minister has. Is it a fact that implementation of the recommendations in chapter 1 7 of that report would establish a market monopoly for overseas generic trading companies and would mean the end of the research-based pharmaceutical industry in Australia? Is it also a fact that this would mean the loss of the jobs of up to 8,000 skilled workers in that industry in Australia? In view of that, will the Minister give an assurance that the Government will not implement any of the recommendations contained in chapters 17 and 18 of that report until full discussions are held with the Department of Industry and Commerce and the pharmaceutical industry?
-The purpose of tabling the Ralph report was to give the principal parties involved an opportunity to study the report and to give the Government an opportunity to assess the implications of the recommendations of that report. There have been discussions by my departmental officers, representatives of the Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association and members of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. I have not yet had the opportunity of speaking with either the representation of the Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association or the Pharmacy Guild of Australia at an official level. However, I do anticipate that the Government will receive a response from the organisations in the next two or three weeks. As soon as the Government receives their comments on the report it will be in a position to take their views into account before reaching any decisions on the recommendations in the report.
-Does the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs recall visiting the city of Ballarat last week to launch officially a new Careers Information Centre and a new task force on transition from school to work? Is he aware that this task force has been formed as the result of the combined initiative of educationists, employers, trade unions, youth organisations and other relevant bodies in the Ballarat region? Is this transition task force the first of its kind in Australia? Is it an example of the type of total community involvement which the Minister has had in mind in his recent statements about the need to develop new policy initiatives to enable young people to make a successful transition from school into the work force?
-I do recall the visit to Ballarat which I made with the honourable member for Ballarat. I might tell the House that we had a great day down there. We visited two factories and I must say that the reception given to my colleague by the people working in those two factories bears out his high reputation in Ballarat.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Is it in order for the Government to treat the unemployed people of this country in such a derisory manner.
-There is no point of order. I call upon the Minister to get to the meat of the answer as quickly as possible.
– One of the purposes of the visit was to enable me to open the Ballarat Careers Information Centre and to launch the transition task force. It is correct, as the honourable gentleman has said, that this is the first of its kind in Australia. It was sponsored by the community itself and there is a very wide cross-section of representation among its membership. The simple point I want to make is that in Ballarat we have a living example of the recognition by parents, teachers, industrialists, unionists, and indeed by the whole community of the absolute necessity to have in place throughout Australia an effective transition policy so that we can help young people, as they leave school, to find their place in the work force. I call on all other honourable members to follow the example of Ballarat and see whether they can have similar community task forces on transition established within their electorates.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Home Affairs by saying that in view of Australia’s intense love of sport, which could almost be claimed as Australia’s super religion and that unquestionably per head of population Australia has provided more world champions than any other country -
– Not political champions.
– No, that is true. Our success in so many fields at home and abroad has had a tremendous impact on this country and overseas. Is it a fact that the Minister recently announced the Government’s intention to establish a national history museum in Canberra and is considering the establishment of both an aviation and national maritime museums? Does he agree that we as a people owe a debt of gratitude to those who have made our reputation and standing so high overseas? Will the Minister give consideration to the establishment of a sports museum or a hall of fame, which has proved so successful and popular in the United States, Canada and other countries?
-I thank the honourable member for his question. I understand that a sportsmen’s hall of fame has been established in New South Wales. Those of us who come from New South Wales may feel that that is sufficient to represent Australia. However, may I say this: Ever since an Aboriginal cricket team went overseas in the 1870s, Australians abroad who have represented Australia in sport have brought, I believe, tremendous credit to this country. It would be a very good idea if in some way the efforts and the achievements of Australian sportsmen could be recognised in the new museum. I will certainly take that into account in the preparation of the principles for that museum.
Earlier this year the Confederation of Australian Sport did seek a building from the Commonwealth for setting up a hall of fame. Approaches were made to my colleague the Minister for Administrative Services. He went through his portfolio of buildings but was not able to find one. However, he said that if he could find a building he would provide it. He went on to say that he would provide the building on a commercial basis. Should a building become available I would be very happy to speak to my colleague with a view to his being a little generous about the commercial basis.
-Is the Minister for Transport aware of the concern expressed by the managing director of a leading vehicle manufacturer in Australia that until the most severe safety standards are adopted and enforced, his company and other local car makers will not consider making liquefied petroleum gas cars on the production line? Can the Minister assure this House that adequate design and safety standards will be required in Australia for LPG vehicles and equipment?
-The first point I should make is that there is a difference between the accident that occurred to the LPG-driven vehicle in recent days and the proposition put by the motor car manufacturer. The fact is that the vehicles that are converted to LPG are required to meet the Standards Association of Australia regulations in terms of conversion. The proposal that was put forward by the car manufacturer relates to the proposition that there ought to be a design rule for the manufacture of new cars.
The car manufacturing group is represented on the LPG task force that is monitoring and covering this area. We have had meetings with industry on this matter. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, the Minister for National Development and I have met representatives of the Chamber of Automotive Industries to hold discussions on this question. A set of principles has been laid down already in respect of the construction of new cars built for the purpose of LPG use and those principles are being furthered by the LPG task force. The motor car manufacturer himself is able to make a contribution to that.
-I ask the Minister for Administrative Services: Is it a fact that the Australian Information Service operates under a charter which defines for it an apolitical and purely external role of providing information about Australia? Is the Australian Information Service, despite this charter, required to supply the Prime Minister with a daily summary of news published within Australia? On what basis is this demand made on the services of AIS? Why is such a service for the Prime Minister not provided by his own Press office or even the Government Information Unit which has senior staff in Canberra and in four States and will soon, I understand, have such staff in every State capital city?
-It took the honourable member so long to come to the stomach of his question that I was not able to ascertain the pertinent facts. The position is that the Australian Information Service is apolitical. I would have liked to place on record the exact comparison of the expenditure under the Australian Labor Party liaison service and that of our own information service. From memory I think honourable members will find that the figure spent by the Whitlam Government on the liaison service was about $100,000 a year more than is spent by the Australian Information Service.
– I direct my question, which is truly without notice, to the Minister for Transport. I draw the Minister’s attention to recent reports that a certain committee is advising the Government that eight-cylinder cars and large vehicles should attract penalties by way of sales tax et cetera. Is the Minister aware that some of the six-cylinder vehicles belonging to the Commonwealth fleet are getting a petrol consumption as low as 14 miles to the gallon? Does he share the view that the imposition of emission controls over the last few years could well have placed modern six-cylinder vehicles at a great disadvantage compared with four or fiveyearold eight-cylinder vehicles in terms of the consumption of gasolene? In view of the energy crisis and the continuation of the increase in the price of fuel, will the Minister undertake, immediately and urgently, a study to determine the effects of emission controls over the last few years, not just the stage proposed for next year, and report to the Parliament and to the nation? If the results indicate a necessity to abandon latter year emission controls, will he return to the previous situation? Will the Minister give the eightcylinder cars a respite?
– Plenty of evidence is available to demonstrate that the introduction of emission controls has increased fuel consumption across the board on all motor cars. There is no doubt about that.
– That is nonsense.
-The Minister will proceed with the answer and not take any notice of interjections.
– I agree that they are such stupid interjections that I should not take notice.
-The Minister will make no comment. He will proceed with the answer.
– The second point is that one cannot be precise about comparisons of the fuel consumption of six-cylinder cars with emission controls as against eight-cylinder cars of the old order without emission controls without further investigation and a rather more scientific approach. I will see what information can be made available to the honourable member. The question of emission controls generally has been before the Australian Transport Advisory Council on a number of occasions. It has been recognised by all Ministers on ATAC, on advice that State governments have, that emission controls are affecting fuel consumption. All State Ministers at the last ATAC conference, except New South Wales and, for some unknown reason, South Australia, decided that we ought to postpone the introduction of the third and final stage of Australian Design Rule 27A. New South Wales, however, decided to proceed alone. I hope that the new South Australian Government will reconsider the matter and look at it in a more balanced way, and that therefore we may be able to encourage New South Wales to reconsider the matter because it is the only State going down this road. ATAC is looking at the whole question of emission controls, their efficiency and what better ways there might be to obtain the same ends without the same cost in fuel consumption.
-Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of the actions of the South Korean Government in using its central intelligence agency once again to harass its main opposition, the New Democratic Party, this time to overthrow the party’s leadership and prompt the withdrawal of the opposition from the Parliament? Does he have information on that Government’s continuing vendetta against Christians and organisations such as the Catholic Farmers Association and their defenders, such as the Bishop of Andong, who has been expelled after 25 years in that country?
– You are the revolutionary.
– He would be a marxist.
– What is the Australian Government’s attitude to this type of repressive action under the guise of democracy?
– Do you say that he is a marxist?
– Will the Minister make sure that Australia ‘s views are put clearly before the South Korean Government?
– Do you say he is a marxist?
-You are a fascist.
-Order! The honourable member for Hume continually interjected. I do not know what he was saying, but no doubt it was his remarks which prompted the honourable member for Batman to make the remark that he did. Not having heard what the honourable member for Hume said, I cannot call upon him to withdraw, but I call upon the honourable member for Batman to withdraw the last comment he made.
– Despite intimidation, I withdraw.
-The honourable gentleman will withdraw unqualifiedly.
– I withdraw.
– I raise a point of order. As the honourable member for Batman withdrew his remarks, the honourable member for Hume rose, wishing to withdraw his remark, I believe.
-Does the honourable member for Hume wish to withdraw?
– I wish to withdraw. I was simply -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I was asking the Leader of the Opposition whether he was referring to the honourable member as a marxist -
-Order! The honourable member for Hume will resume his seat or I will name him.
-I do not agree with all the imputations contained within the question of the honourable member. It is a fact that earlier this month the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the New Democratic Party was expelled from the Republic of Korea National Assembly by a vote of the Government parties for his allegedly anti-nationalist attitude in calling on the United States to withdraw its support for the Government of the Republic of Korea and for publicly suggesting that the United States should exert direct and public pressure on President Park.
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh, the honourable member for Hume, the honourable member for the Northern Territory and the honourable member for Calare will all remain silent. It will be a big day- four at once.
-It shows that there is a variety of ways in which people can be left out of the Parliament. So far as this question is concerned, it was about eight or nine days after the occurrence of the event I was just describing that all members of Kim Young-San ‘s party, the NDP, submitted their resignations in protest. The degree of political uncertainty that has emerged in the Republic of Korea as a result of these events is clearly regrettable. There appears to be potential for further violent incidents. A number of them have occurred throughout the country in the period between the occurrence of these events and very recent days. The resolution of the political crisis involving National Assembly members is somewhat unclear. I have asked the Australian Embassy in Seoul to report on the situation in the clearest possible terms. To date I have not received any indication that these events will threaten the fundamental stability of the Republic of Korea. In a nutshell, I cannot accept all the imputations contained within the honourable member’s question.
-Is the Minister for Transport aware that a group called the Ansett Seekers has arranged on 10 November to take 92 children from the St Vincent de Paul home in Black Rock, which is in my electorate, on their first flight over Port Phillip Bay? As the hostesses and pilots are donating their time, the Mobil and Shell oil companies are picking up the fuel bill and, of course, Sir Reginald Ansett is providing a multimillion dollar DC9 aircraft for the trip -
-The honourable gentleman is testing me as far as I can go. He will now ask his question or I will rule him out of order.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. Could the Department of Transport waive the landing fees to make this tremendous gesture complete?
– I appreciate the honourable member’s interest and real concern in this matter. I appreciate the genuine way in which he has put forward the question. He shows a real heart, I must say. I think the fact that Ansett Transport Industries has donated the aircraft demonstrates that indeed as part of the cost to that airline company it is obviously prepared to pick up the bill for the landing fees on this occasion. However, as the honourable member has raised the question and as, so far as I am aware, there has been no application from Ansett Transport Industries to avoid paying the charges on this occasion, I will certainly have a look at the matter.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Capital Territory. I refer to the serious threat to employment in the egg industry in the Australian Capital Territory due to the Victorian Egg Board’s dumping of eggs on the Australian Capital Territory market. Some of them are stale eggs, too, and there may be some bad eggs amongst them.
-The honourable gentleman will ask his question.
– I ask: Is the hen quota for the Australian Capital Territory sufficient to meet the local demand for eggs? Is the Minister considering legislating to protect the local industry? Does he have the co-operation and support of the Minister for Primary Industry in attempting to stop this exercise in disorderly marketing by the Victorian Egg Board?
– The Victorian Egg Board, I think last year in relation to alleged acts by Parkwood Eggs Pty Ltd, started to sell eggs from Victoria in the Australian Capital Territory. That was an unusual act and some litigation arose. I do not want to say anything further about that.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to remind the Minister that he said that the allegation was against Parkwood Eggs. I think he meant that it was against the Banters brothers, which is not Parkwood Eggs. I think he should correct that misinterpretation.
-There is no point of order.
-I thought I said that the allegation was in relation to Parkwood Eggs. However, 1 accept the correction. It related to an associated firm that was producing eggs in Griffith and selling them in Victoria. However, since that time I have reiterated again and again the Government’s commitment in the Capital Territory to the hen levy quota scheme. At the same time over the last six months at least, with the full co-operation of the previous Minister for Primary Industry- I am sure that I have the full co-operation of the present Minister- I have been seeking a review of the hen quota for the Capital Territory. I believe that that quota is less than it ought to be.
Currently my officers are in discussion with the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia for the purpose of increasing that quota. I hope- I can only hope- that the Victorian Egg Board and the Banters brothers will be able to resolve the issue that is between them, but I cannot stand by as the Minister for the Capital Territory and allow the local egg industry to fall away. At the same time, I have the job of protecting the local consumers to make sure that they can get eggs at the lowest price. I think it is fair to say that the hen levy quota that was introduced in 1966 was designed to some degree to keep the price of eggs up so that the producers could get a fair return. So I have to balance the two things. That is what I am seeking to do at the moment. I hope at the same time to introduce very soon legislation which will have the effect of imposing very heavy penalties on those who breach the hen quota in the Australian Capital Territory. So, in effect, we are moving on three fronts. But I still hope that the Victorian Egg Board and the Bartters brothers will resolve their problem outside the Australian Capital Territory and allow our industry and our hens to settle down.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Is it a fact that the Primary Industry Bank intends to appoint certain pastoral houses as agents for the Bank in New South Wales? If this is so, can the Minister say whether this procedure will affect interest rates and terms of loans? Will the Minister inform the House of the intended policy in regard to this proposal?
-I am able to confirm that the Primary Industry Bank of Australia Ltd has appointed Elder Smith Goldsbrough Mort Ltd and the Wesfarmers company as prime lenders on behalf of PIBA. That announcement was made some weeks ago by the Primary Industry Bank. The terms and conditions for loans by these companies will be the same terms and conditions as PIBA itself allows to existing prime bank lenders. In relation to future organisations being given a similar facility, that again is a matter for the Primary Industry Bank to determine.
– In directing my question to the Prime Minister I remind him of his statement of 21 August 1977 when he said:
We have acted by introducing a family allowance scheme. This has been recognised as the single most important reform in the Australian welfare system since Federation.
Government supporters- Hear, hear!
– Indeed. I ask the Prime Minister: Is it a fact that since combining the then existing tax rebate for dependent children and child endowment in 1976 into a family allowance payment, that benefit rate has remained frozen? Is it a fact that the family allowance payment for four children in real terms today is $6.54 a week less than the combined tax rebate and child endowment for four children in 1975? Is it a fact that by terminating the tax rebate for dependent children and by refusing to index the substitute family allowance he has saved $5 80m so far at the expense of Australian children? How much longer does he propose to sustain his penalisation of Australian families?
– I think the honourable gentleman slightly misunderstands the effect of the Government’s reform. It is not surprising that he does because he knows quite well that there are about 300,000 families and upwards of 800,000 children who got virtually no benefit out of the old rebate system. They got no benefit because the incomes of the families of the parents were not sufficient to be able to gain an adequate benefit through the rebate system. The honourable gentleman purports to be concerned about those most in need, but to create a hypothetical set of circumstances with people who might have got a benefit from the rebate system and then compare that with the position now is quite irrelevant to those lower income families who get no benefit whatsoever from the rebate system. They continue to get a substantial benefit from family allowances, a benefit that they would not have had if the rebate system had continued, that is, the rebate system as planned and, I think, introduced by the honourable gentleman.
– But you only introduced it to avoid indexing the taxation system.
-The Leader of the Opposition will remain silent.
– You saved $540m at the expense of kids.
-I ask the Leader of the Opposition to remain silent. He asked his question. I allowed the question to go on for a considerable length of time giving information. I ask the honourable gentleman now to remain silent while the answer is given.
– I think I ought to repeat that part of the answer because of the honourable gentleman’s interjections. It remains true that the family allowance change helps low income families most because they could get no benefit from the rebate system whatsoever. Quite obviously, through the process of time and through some degree of inflation, for those who could get a benefit through the rebate system because their incomes were higher the present benefit is somewhat less than it was. At the same time, for the low income families who got no benefit from the rebate system, what we have done stands as a major and substantial social reform of a kind that occurs rarely in the history of any country. Quite obviously our policy in relation to the family allowance and our policy in relation to families remain under review. We have shown a concern in that particular area which has not been evidenced by past governments, and we will continue to do so.
-Is the Minister for Industrial Relations aware of the 48-hour strike by workers in the Queensland power industry which severely disrupted power supplies in that State on Monday and Tuesday? Is he aware of the heartbreak and hardship suffered by many hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders which was caused by that dispute? Is he aware that there are possibilities of involving the Commonwealth Government in having one registration of trade unions? Can the Minister give the reasons for this dispute and what are the implications for Australia in the future?
– I am aware of the severe disruption associated with the strike in Queensland. There are two particularly unfortunate aspects of this dispute. The first is that the claim for shorter working hours is already before the relevant tribunal, which in this case is the Queensland Industrial Commission. The intransigent attitude of the unions led the commissioner hearing the case to issue an order restraining them from taking any strike action. Nevertheless, the union officials went ahead and called this 48-hour strike. Once again we have witnessed unnecessary and damaging disruption when a claim is already being heard in the proper way. I understand that some $30m worth of production has been lost, some $ 10m in wages has been lost and thousands of workers were stood down with a resultant loss of pay. Virtually everybody in Queensland has been affected in one way or another by the strike. It is about time that the power workers involved had a bit more regard for their fellow Queenslanders.
The second unfortunate aspect of the strike is that the causes of the dispute can be traced back directly to a decision by the New South Wales Government in awarding its power workers a 37%-hour week in March this year. At the time this award was made I said to the House that the effect of a 37Vi-hour week would inevitably increase the industrial pressures upon electricity supply authorities in Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia to make a similar concession on working hours. At the time that case was before the New South Wales Industrial Commission the Commonwealth Government sought leave to intervene and to oppose the introduction of shorter working hours. That application was refused. We made the application because we could foresee the pressures that would be generated for a flow-on and we could foresee the industrial disruption that would follow the claims for shorter working hours. In taking this action our prime concern was to protect the Australian public from the unnecessary and damaging disruption that we have just seen. Clearly, the New South Wales Government, in supporting its workers’ claim earlier this year, must bear the major share of responsibility for bringing on this dispute. Its short-sighted attitude to industrial relations is now having precisely the very damaging effects which we on this side of the House knew it would have and did our best to prevent at the time.
– Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of a report that the world is now spending an all-time record of $434,000m on military might? In view of that does the Minister intend to make a statement to the House on this subject, this week being United Nations disarmament week?
– Yes and yes.
Pursuant to section 76A of the National Health Act 1953, 1 present the annual report on the operations of the registered medical and hospital benefits organisations for the year ended 30 June 1978.
For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the DirectorGeneral of Health 1978-79.
-The Treasurer has indicated to me that he wishes to add to an answer that he gave to an earlier question.
-I would like to add briefly to the answer I gave to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). The effective change in the United States- Australian dollar rate between 5 October and 23 October was 1.5 per cent. In terms of the time period, the figure that the Leader of the Opposition used was correct. The important thing is that in that period the American dollar has strengthened against most major currencies and in that respect Australia has been no exception. There has been an effective revaluation of the American dollar against the Australian dollar and most other currencies during that time.
– What about the transmission of inflation.
-I will come to that. I should inform the honourable gentleman that the index has been adjusted twice, on 9 October and 16 October, since the United States measures came into force. In both cases the adjustments had the effect of reducing the extent to which the devaluation against the American dollar was effective. In those circumstances the adjustments would have had the effect of reducing any loss which may have occurred on the forward book of the Reserve Bank. I make no comment about the quantum.
– What about the transmission of inflation and high interest rates? Will you use external or internal adjustments?
– I have completed my answer to the question.
-The honourable member for Bonython has indicated to me that he wishes to make a personal explanation. The honourable gentleman may proceed.
-I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh). I refer to page 2262 of Hansard of 18 October 1979. His remarks were:
As I listened to the honourable member for Bonython . . all his diatribe and innuendo, and his ready admission that he had not even read the Bill, let alone understood it . . .
I make no reference whatsoever to the vituperation, but the misrepresentation occurs in the phrase: his ready admission that he had not even read the Bill, let alone understood it . . .
I made no admission, ready or otherwise, that I had not read the Bill. I made no admission, ready or otherwise, that I had not understood it. I had certainly read the Bill and it is not my practice to suggest to the House that I am familiar with material which I have not read. As to whether I understood the Bill, of course, that must be left to other people to decide. But I am perfectly happy for those honourable members of this House who can exercise an impartial and detached judgment to read my speech and the speech of the honourable member for Darling Downs and judge who had or who had not read the Bill and who had or who had not understood the Bill.
-I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
-I claim to have been misrepresented on a point of detail. I understand that the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) may have implied that I deliberately stated an untruth in this Parliament.
– Yes, and you’re a Catholic too. That’s another 30 days you have to do.
– Oh, stop talking nonsense.
-The honourable member for Hindmarsh will remain silent.
– No, it was not him. He was quite good.
-It is an unruly corner up there and I would like honourable gentlemen there to remain silent.
– The remarks of the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) were those of a gentleman and a scholar. The facts of the matter are that in interpreting a statement of English one can either make a statement of fact or imply a situation. I readily admit that the honourable member for Bonython did not, in effect, say: ‘I have not read the Bill; I have not understood the Bill’. But a reading of his speech will indicate that, in effect, he said: ‘I have not read the Bill; I have not understood it’.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. He is debating the matter, not making a personal explanation about a misrepresentation.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do.
-He may proceed.
– At page 2336 of Hansard of yesterday the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) is reported as having interjected in a speech by the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin). The interjection reads:
The honourable member for Macarthur was wrapped up in that
He was referring to finance journalists who had fallen short of minimum standards of propriety.
-That’s true, too.
– Order! I did not identify the voice that interjected then but I remind the House that a personal explanation has to be listened to in silence.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I hope the person who interjected so untruly has the guts to admit it. If it was the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Leo McLeay), I wish he had the guts to get up and withdraw it.
-Order! The honourable member for Macarthur should proceed with his personal explanation.
– The honourable member for Hunter said -
An incident having occurred in the galleryMr SPEAKER-It brings tears to the eyes of a child. The House will come to order. We will settle down and we will hear the honourable member for Macarthur in silence.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. I did not realise that the honourable member for Hunter was such a ventriloquist.
-Order! The honourable member will presume nothing. He will proceed with his personal explanation.
– The honourable member for Hunter continued:
He was given a parcel of shares to write a favourable offer before he came in here.
That is not only untrue but also a deliberate lie by the honourable member for Hunter and I ask him to withdraw it.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw the allegation against the honourable member for Hunter.
- Mr Speaker, I withdraw the allegation against the honourable member for Hunter. Nonetheless, I seek to state the truth of this matter, which seriously affects my integrity.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
– This allegation was totally untrue and was a cowardly attack on me made while I was required to be out of the chamber at an Estimates committee meeting of this House.
– It would be utterly impossible to make a cowardly attack on you.
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter will remain silent.
-The facts are that I have never been given, nor have I ever accepted, any free gifts of shares that I have not paid for at the full price of that issue or placement. I have never been given any shares in my life. I presume that the honourable member for Hunter was incompetently referring to page 1061 of the Rae Committee ‘s report, which states that a subscriber- I emphasise the word ‘subscriber’- to a placement of shares in a company called Surveys and Mining Ltd was a regular contributor to the financial pages of a weekly journal. I was that contributor to a regular and very popular column called ‘Speculators Diary’ in the Bulletin magazine. I might say that this column was well known to many members of the Opposition who were quite interested in it at the time, one way or another. There was nothing hidden or improper in what happened in that column. The column outlined publicly purchases and sales of shares made during the week. These were stated publicly. In fact, this column, which did these things so publicly, expressed its severe reservations about this company and other companies in that group despite having purchased, and subsequently sold, some of those shares. I wish to stress that the Rae Committee did not call me as a witness before it on this matter and it made no criticism of me whatsoever on this matter. I ask the honourable member for Hunter to have the decency to withdraw his false allegation.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes I do, Mr Speaker. I am at a disadvantage because I was not in the House at the commencement of the remarks of the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume). I wish that the honourable member had paid me the courtesy of notifying me that he intended to raise this matter because I would have been in the House.
– Did you do that for me?
-Order! The honourable member for Macarthur will remain silent.
– It was spontaneous. I was provoked by what was said by an honourable member. Last night the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) referred to Patrick Partners -
-Order! I must remind the honourable gentleman that he is entitled to make a personal explanation if he has been misrepresented. He must first make clear to me the misrepresentation. How has the honourable member been misrepresented?
– The reason I made my statement -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will say to me and to the House how he has been misrepresented.
– I have been misrepresented in the allegations made by the honourable member for Macarthur.
– What allegations?
-In the allegations that I made unfair or untrue allegations about him. He was a director of Patrick Partners. Four of the directors went bankrupt and he was successful -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– As far as he is concerned, I withdraw nothing.
-The fact of the matter is that the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) has demonstrated a misrepresentation and he has made a personal explanation. The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) has not used any unparliamentary expression. There is nothing for me to call upon him to withdraw in that sense. It is up to the honourable member for Hunter to choose whether he will respond to the request of the honourable member for Macarthur for an apology. I gather from what the honourable member for Hunter has said that he does not propose to do so.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) in his personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
-The honourable member called into doubt my integrity because I supported the proposition of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) which is recorded in the Hansard on the date in question.
– Will the honourable member state how he has been misrepresented?
– I have been misrepresented in that I alleged that what the honourable member for Hunter said was true. The honourable member for Hunter has supported that here today. I think that the calling into doubt of my integrity by the honourable member for Macarthur was improper.
-Order! There is no misrepresentation. The honourable member will resume his seat.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Migration Amendment Bill 1979. Migration Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979.
-I point out that the House has been unruly today and there has been far too much conversation. I am not prepared to allow a pattern of behaviour to develop in which members feel that they can discuss matters continually in a loud voice. I am addressing these remarks to the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) and the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). When honourable members are speaking or when the Speaker is speaking there is far too much conversation from both sides of the chamber and from this point forward I will not allow the proceedings of the House to continue while there is that undertone of continual conversation which is distracting for all members of this House.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The increasing rate of inflation resulting from Govern-, ment policies.
– Another Dorothy Dixer.
-I warn the honourable member for St George. Another interjection and I will deal with him without further warning. 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.
-Almost two years ago the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in a statement to this House announcing his decision to hold an early election proclaimed:
Today, two years later, there is indisputable evidence that the rate of inflation is increasing and that it is doing so largely as a result of policies and decisions of this Government. Firstly, let me look at the prime evidence of the increasing rate of inflation. Today the September quarter figures for the consumer price index have been released. They show a quarterly rise of 2.3 per cent or an annual rise from 8.8 per cent in June to 9.2 per cent in the September quarter. So we are heading back towards double digit inflation. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) said today in his public statement outside this House on this matter that he was surprised at how low that figure was and that he expects it to be much higher for the December quarter. Quite clearly he is admitting that the rate of inflation is moving upwards. Indeed, the Budget is predicated on the assumption that there will be a 10 per cent plus rate of inflation this year.
If we look behind the overall figures at consumer price index figures released today we see that it is even more alarming to note that, excluding the hospital and medical charges, the rate of increase over the last 12 months has been 1 1 per cent, which is very substantial. This is an important indicator because the figures for the hospital and medical section of the consumer price index were artificially reduced by the measures taken in last year’s Budget. This year the reverse situation applies. There have been substantial increases in hospital charges and the abolition of subsidy on medical costs of less than $20. There will be a reverse impact this year which will show up in a large increase in the consumer price index because of the health charges for the December quarter of this year. But we have not felt the effects of that yet.
The most dramatic rises over the past year, according to the figures released today, have been in tobacco and alcohol. The prices are up 19.8 per cent. The increases are almost totally attributable to the actions by this Government in last year’s Budget when there were very substantial increases in taxes on tobacco and alcohol. The second largest increases were in food prices which admittedly are largely outside Government control although one wonders what the Government is doing about the report from the Prices Justification Tribunal on processed foods which it has had for some time. If there is anything in that report, one would have hoped that the Government would have acted on it rather more promptly. The third largest increase is in the area of transportation. This is due mainly to the petrol price rise, and again it is almost totally attributable to the Government’s policies. So we see that the increases in at least two of the three main areas are attributable to Government action over the past year.
Apart from the consumer price index increase and the sort of prime evidence of the rising rate of inflation, there are also various indicators of an underlying rate of inflation. The price index of materials used in manufacturing is one of these underlying evidences. It shows that over the year to July 1979- the latest figures available- prices are up by 36¥i per cent, which is an extraordinary rate of increase. It is three times the rate of a year ago. Looking within that component to the break-up between imported materials and home produced materials, imported materials are up by 24.1 per cent over the last year, but home produced materials are up by 42.6 per cent- an extraordinary rate of increase. As to the price index of materials produced by manufacturing industry, in the year to August 1979- again, the latest period available- prices are up by 16.7 per cent, which is twice the rate of a year ago and is the largest annual rise for four years. The cost of building materials in the housing area in the year to September increased by 1 1 .4 per cent, which is double the rate of a year ago. For building materials in other than the housing industry, in the year to September prices have risen by 1 1.7 per cent- almost double the level of a year ago.
So there is strong evidence of rapidly developing inflation, As I mentioned previously, the Government admits that this year’s inflation rate will be over 10 per cent and that the rate for the December quarter will be high. But it disclaims any responsibility for that. The fact is that the resurgence of inflation in Australia is overwhelmingly due to this Government’s actions in raising prices. We submit that that is an indisputable fact. If one looks at the causes of inflation, that comes out absolutely clearly. I have already mentioned food prices and I set that to one side.
Let us look at things like the crude oil price rise. The reason that crude oil prices have increased so rapidly in this country is overwhelmingly a decision taken by this Government at the time of last year’s Budget to move immediately to import parity for the pricing of Australian-produced crude oil rather than to take the various successive steps which previous policy indicated was the way in which the Government would move towards import parity. Instead, the Government took it all in one jump so that there was a very substantial increase, both in the revenue raised by the crude oil levy and in the price effects of that decision. The revenue effects were absolutely startling. In two years the crude oil levy went from $480m to $2,060m, which is the projected figure for this year, not allowing for any further increases which might occur should there be a further rise in crude oil prices, as seems almost inevitable now.
Added to that are these enormous price effects. If one looks at the price of materials used by manufacturers, one sees that the prices of electricity, gas and fuel rose by 53.3 per cent in the last year. This indicates the enormous impact that the increase in oil prices has had on producer prices. I repeat that there was a 53.3 per cent increase in prices in the electricity, gas and fuel sector as shown in the index of prices of materials used by manufacturers. Turning to the prices paid by motorists in Australia at the pump, the prices increased by something like an average of two-thirds. There has been quite a dramatic rise in the price of petrol paid by motorists in the past year. Let us look at the consumer price index to see what effect that has been having. Figures published by the Australian Statistician show that the direct impact on the CPI has been a 1.7 per cent increase over the past 12 months directly attributable to the increased price of petrol as shown up in the CPI figures; of course, more will show up in the December quarter. That 1.7 per cent increase represents 18 per cent of the total CPI rise in the last year.
They are only the direct effects. There are, of course, indirect effects and everyone, even the Government, admits that there will be indirect effects because the price of petrol feeds into almost everything- increasing transport costs, therefore increasing the cost of carting goods and people. Apart from the petrol price increase, the price of goods and services will increase. Various estimates have been made of the extent to which those indirect effects will accentuate the overall effect of petrol price rises. They range from something in the order of 55 per cent to 100 per cent. Let us settle on about two-thirds. If one does that, then the petrol price rise would have increased the total CPI by about 2.8 per cent in the last year; that is, some 30 per cent of the total increase in the CPI is attributable to the increasing price of petrol in that period. As I mentioned earlier, there are further rises to come. In the last week or so increases have occurred in the price of petrol charged by many members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, with the petroleum Minister for Saudi Arabia, Sheik Yamani, saying that the whole thing is running out of control. Quite clearly in that situation there will be considerable pressure on Saudi Arabia, the most stable of the producers, to increase its prices.
So we must expect a general increase in OPEC prices and under this Government’s policy, that means there will be almost an automatic flow-on of that price increase to the price of Australianproduced crude oil, not because it is necessarily so, not because we have to do it, but because of this Government’s policy that that should be done. Therefore the Government will be importing inflation in this way, as a direct policy decision to do so, not because it is inevitable. To the extent that we import petroleum or crude oil that price effect of course has to come through. But to the extent that it is Australian-produced, and 70 per cent of it is Australian produced- 90 per cent of our petroleum is from Australian crude oilthen we do not have to pass on the price rise in the way that this Government is doing. The price rise is not something which is inevitable, which is forced on the Government; it is a deliberate policy decision, and one which runs totally counter to this Government’s supposed basic policy of fighting inflation first.
Let us look at tobacco and alcohol. The increases in excise on tobacco and alcohol in last year’s Budget increased the consumer price index by Vi per cent- an increase directly attributable to this Government. Health costs were certainly reduced in last year’s CPI figure for December because of the measures taken in last year’s Budget, but as I have mentioned that is totally reversed this year and this December we must expect a substantial rise. We have calculated that rise at something like 1 Vi per cent including the 0.2 per cent attributable to increased doctors’ fees. But there have been other measures as well. This Government, which is supposed to be fighting inflation first, has taken other measures such as the 2 per cent duty on imported items which were previously duty free. The duty was announced in the mini-Budget this year. That mainly affects producer imported materials and therefore increases the cost of production in Australia directly and feeds right through in to the ultimate price of goods and services, particularly goods, and therefore increases the rate of inflation
The increased tariff on imports subject to quota announced in last year’s Budget had a similar effect. It was supposed to rake off some monopoly profit but in fact it meant higher prices being charged by those who held the quotas because there is no price control- the Prices Justification Tribunal is useless- and therefore inflation increased. Devaluation over the last three years has been some 20 per cent and that means higher prices for imported products and therefore more inflation as a result of the decisions taken by this Government. It is undoubted that recent government measures have had a large impact on inflation and that they have increased it considerably. Yet the Government consistently claims that all this amounts to a policy of fighting inflation. If so, it is a curious way of doing it. This Government has invented a whole new way of fighting inflation by increasing prices. It is an absurd and ridiculous policy to fight inflation by increasing prices. I am sure most people in Australia would be staggered to realise that this is the’ Government’s policy and that it is a policy of fighting inflation by a stream of decisions which have the impact of increasing prices and the rate of inflation in this country. Yet, the Government holds this up as some marvellous anti-inflationary policy. It is not an inflationary policy, it is a policy which stems from this Government’s obsession with the deficit and it sees anything which increases the deficit as automatically inflationary. What the Government does not seem to realise is that the string of measures it is taking to reduce the deficit in fact is having the effect of increasing inflation, therefore increasing inflation expectations in the community and therefore making it less likely that we will break out of the inflationary or stagflationary bind in which the Government has so securely put the economy in the last few years.
It is quite clear that this whole policy of deficit obsession is leading to this ever-increasing policy of more and more inflationary measures. I have already mentioned that in addition the Government has destroyed the PJT as having any likely impact on the rate of inflation. I suppose that the Government would say that at least it is doing something about wages and that wages are the basic cause of inflation. I guess that that is what the Treasurer will say. But are wages the basic cause of inflation at present? Let me quote a good authority on this subject who was asked recently about wages and inflation. I quote from the Australian of 18 August 1979. He said:
I suppose wages have been in a sense neutral in terms of their effect on inflation.
My authority for that quotation is none other than the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He said that wages have a neutral effect on inflation. I am happy to accept his comment. I believe that he is basically right. Wages have been battling to catch up with prices, not the other way around, for the last few years. It is absurd to say that the basic cause of inflation at present is wages. This is one time at which I find myself in strong agreement with the Prime Minister. The effect of wages on inflation has been essentially neutral.
We have to move to a totally different approach to economic policy in this country which emphasises the importance of inflation and takes measures to reduce it. We should not increase indirect taxes and take measures which will lead directly to increasing prices. We should adopt measures to reduce indirect taxes and, particularly, to break the nexus between import prices for petroleum and Australian produced crude oil. The decisions made by various OPEC sheiks about the appropriate price of their petroleum should not automatically determine the price of Australian produced crude oil. We do not have to adopt those kinds of decisions. We also need an effective prices and incomes policy. This Government will never be able to adopt such a policy. A Labor government will adopt such a policy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Government welcomes this Dorothy Dixer of a matter of public importance. On the very day that the consumer price index for the September quarter is published, the Opposition brings forward a matter of public importance which allows us to compare the fundamental approaches of the Government and the Opposition to economic policy in Australia at present. What the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) said in the 15 minutes for which he spoke stands or falls on one proposition alonethe validity of the attack that he mounted on the energy policy of this Government. He has not raised a debate about inflation. He really was not talking about inflation. He was talking about whether it is real life for any Australian government, be it Liberal or Labor, to pursue an energy policy other than one based upon the principle of accepting that when there is a dwindling energy resource we will encourage more rapid consumption of that resource if we subsidise its consumption. That is precisely what the honourable member for Gellibrand and the Labor Party would have us do.
The honourable member said that one way or another Australia alone can stand out against the world trend towards market pricing of petroleum products. He said that we can ignore what the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries can do. He said that because we are 70 per cent self-sufficient we can continue to pursue a policy of subsidising the consumption of petroleum in Australia. There is probably no area in which the Labor Party is more muddled and contradictory than the area of energy policy. Somehow or other the Labor Party believes that it can do what no other country can do. It believes that it can thumb its nose at the fact that crude oil is a diminishing energy resource and that it can ignore the fact that unless we encourage through market pricing the exploration for dwindling energy resources, people will not spend large amounts of risk capital on looking for them. What the Labor Party is really saying about energy and what the honourable member for Gellibrand said in his remarks today are three completely and fundamentally contradictory things. The honourable member said, first of all, that a Labor government would reduce the price of petrol. The honourable member, his leader and the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) have said time and again that they will reduce the price of petrol in Australia. That is their policy and that is what they are representing to the Australian people at the present time that they will do. That is point number one. The Labor Party will reduce the price of petrol.
– Do not put words in my mouth.
– I do not need to put them in the honourable member’s mouth. They have been put there by Houdini Hayden who believes that somehow or other the Labor Party can do this. The second thing the honourable member said is that the Labor Party could raise more revenue than we are raising from crude oil. That is what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) said in response to my Budget. You are nodding your head.
-The honourable member will address the House through the Chair and ignore interjections.
-I apologise, Mr Deputy Speaker. Not seven months ago the honourable member for Gellibrand was complaining that we had raised too much money from the crude oil levy. He was complaining that the amount of revenue that we had taken was far too much. Yet on 29 August the Leader of the Opposition said that if he were the Prime Minister or the Treasurer he would raise more money through resource related levies than we are raising. In other words, the Labor Party stands for taking more out of oil than we do.
The third element in this muddled, contradictory, inexplicable energy policy is that the Labor Party’s policy would encourage exploration and conservation. First of all, the Labor Party would deny world parity prices to explorers. It would say to them: ‘If you come to Australia you have no hope of getting a market price’. Secondly, it would raise far more money through taxes and excise than is being raised at the present time. Thirdly, the Labor Party still says to the oil exploration companies that it would encourage exploration and conservation. The honourable member for Gellibrand, his leader, the honourable member for Blaxland and the Adelaide conference of the Labor Party are asking the Australian people to believe that the Labor Party, and it alone, has found the magic answer to the problem of the world’s scarcity in energy resources. It is saying to the Australian people that in this world of dwindling energy reserves it alone can give cheap energy, subsidised energy, at no cost to the consumer price index and at no cost to the speculative investment which is needed in this area to find alternative resources. Of course, the honourable gentleman is asking us to believe the impossible- that the Labor Party alone has found the answer to this problem and that it can produce cheap energy despite the fact that crude oil is a rapidly depleting energy resource.
The facts and the reality of inflation at the present time are that all the industralised countries are experiencing a resurgence of inflationary pressures. This is predominantly, but not entirely, due to increases in the price of oil. We have to ask ourselves very simply whether what the Australian Government is doing at the present time is the most appropriate response in all those circumstances. The honourable member for Gellibrand says that the answer is no because our energy policy is fundamentally wrong. Of course, he would have a different energy policy. He said that the problem is inflation. That has nothing to do with it. It concerns alternative energy policies. The honourable member spent three-quarters of his speech saying that most of the increase in the CPI over and above what he acknowledged would have occurred was due to increases in the price of oil and increases in health charges. The alternative is to pursue the fairyland energy policy to which the Leader of the Opposition and his cohorts adhere.
In the area of health insurance the honourable member for Gellibrand would pursue a different policy. He would provide a much greater subsidy to the consumer. At the same time, of course, he does not say that it would cost so much more and would result in a very significant increase in the level of personal taxation in order to finance it. The honourable member for Gellibrand smiles. Well may he smile because he is still the author of that famous speech to Labor economists at Surfers Paradise in which he said that the first obligation of a re-elected Labor government would be to persuade people that they had to agree to a tax increase to rebuild the public sector. He need not feel lonely about that. He is not on his own. Another gentleman delivered a speech on 2 March 1979 in which, inter alia, he said:
The challenge to traditional democratic socialism has been expressed in a number of deeply dispiriting doctrines.
This is beautiful alliteration. He continued:
One example, is the rapid spread of philosophies based on lower taxes and smaller government . . . This sort of approach strikes directly at the conventional democratic socialist notion that equality and equity can only be assured by a stronger public sector.
The author of that statement was none other than the Leader of the Opposition. It was in his F. E. Chamberlain memorial lecture in Brisbane on 2 March. It is quite obvious what would happen to health insurance if a Labor government were returned. It would restore Medibank, as it promised at its Adelaide conference, although later the Leader of the Opposition said that it would take a while to do it because the shock to the system might be too great. Of course, the financing of a return to the open-ended nature of Medibank would have to involve an increase in personal tax levies. At least some members of the Opposition are candid enough to admit that they believe in that. That is fair enough. Let us have a fair choice and a fair battle.
But the true comparison and the real test of whether this Government is doing the right thing or the wrong thing with Australia’s inflation rate at present is to see how we are faring amongst the industrialised countries. Nobody would deny that energy price increases have had a deleterious effect on the inflation rates of every industrialised country in the world. Nobody has found the magic answer that the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Gellibrand have found- not the American Administration, be it the Democrats or the alternative, the British Administration or any of the Western European administrations. None of them has been able to solve the problem in the way in which the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Gellibrand have been able to solve it. What has happened over the past 12 months is that there has been an acceleration of the rate of inflation all round the world. The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we have responded in the right way or the wrong way. I put it to the House that, in all the circumstances, the response of this Government has been appropriate and that, in all the circumstances, our comparative performance has been very good and compares very favourably with that of other member countries, for example, of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The truth is that for the six months to August the average rate of inflation in all OECD countries was 12.7 per cent. The rate of inflation in Australia during that period was 9 per cent. That is an improvement in relative terms to the same comparison that would be made over a longer period.
Whatever people may say about absolute versus relative levels, in a world in which this country must trade in order to survive our relative rate of inflation is a highly significant matter. No country can avoid in some way the effects of the oil price rises of the past 1 8 months. Anybody who pretends that Australia alone can do that is living in fairyland, as apparently some members of the Opposition are doing, on the subject of energy. What has to be asked is whether this country has performed successfully in that area. I believe that this Government has been successful in implementing an effective anti-inflationary strategy. The Government said at the time of the Budget that the consumer price index during the current financial year was likely to be slightly over 10 per cent. Today’s result is very much on track with the prediction that was made at the time of the Budget. Of course the CPI is likely to peak during the December quarter, as the honourable member for Gellibrand said. What he did not say was that the probability was that having peaked in the December quarter there would be a renewal of the downward path in the first half of next year. In December there will be the coincidence of most of the effects of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ rises and the effects of the health insurance changes which were announced in May and carried forward in the increased health insurance premiums announced by the funds a couple of months ago. With those two matters both coming forward in the December quarter, it is only natural that the CPI should peak during that quarter.
The honourable member for Gellibrand would have us believe that we could avoid that and that if the Australian Labor Party were in government it would have abolished, so far as Australia is concerned, any price effects of increases by OPEC in the price of crude oil. That is the effect of the argument advanced by the honourable member for Gellibrand. However much he may try to qualify it, the fact is that he was trying to persuade this House to accept that if the Labor Party were now in government it would have so arranged Australia’s energy policy as to have avoided the consumer price index effects of the increases in the price of crude oil brought about by OPEC over the past 12 months.
– Brought about by your decision.
– The honourable member for Gellibrand says by way of interjection, as he said during his speech, that it is the result alone of deliberate government decision. But what he has not persuaded me of, and what I suspect he has not persuaded the House of, is the simple proposition that, in the face of what has happened with the price of crude oil over the past 12 months and in the light of the dwindling nature of this scarce energy resource, no government has any real alternative other than to pursue a policy of allowing the price to find its world market level. Obviously the honourable member for Gellibrand, his leader and the honourable member for Blaxland, almost alone throughout the Western industrialised world, believe that it is possible to do that. I remind the honourable member for Gellibrand that for almost five years members of the United States Administration believed that it was possible to do that and for year after year the economic situation in the United States, per medium of its balance of payments situation, deteriorated. It has only been in recent months, after the United States grasped the nettle on the energy issue and accepted that it is necessary for the price of crude oil to find a world market level and it is necessary for countries in the industrialised world, particularly large consumers of energy such as Australia and the United States, to follow appropriate domestic pricing policies, that there has been an improvement.
We of the Western industrialised world must learn to live with the fact that we will go on paying high prices for scarce energy resources. Any member of a political party in this country or in any country who parades around telling the electorate that there is an easy alternative to paying heavily for a dwindling energy resource is not only deluding himself but also deluding the electorate he his setting out deliberately to mislead. The reality is that one cannot avoid the inexorable fact that if something is scarce and if one encourages people to consume it, one is going to make it scarcer in an even shorter period. That is precisely the logic which the honourable member Gellibrand has advanced and it is precisely the logic that the Leader of the Opposition supports. The whole case of the Opposition in this debate perishes on the absolutely muddled and contradictory nature of its energy policy.
-The many people listening to this very important debate must be rather mystified by the comments of the Treasurer (Mr Howard). The matter of public importance raised by the Opposition is the increasing rate of inflation resulting from government policies. What we have received from the Treasurer has been a diatribe. He has been playing politics. But above all else, even on the day when he receives information that the consumer price index for the September quarter is down a little- we are talking about the annual rate of inflation, not the rate for one quarter- he has an argument presented to him, dropped in his lap, and he seeks to divert the attention of the House from the matter under question, namely the increasing rate of inflation, to the question of oil prices. In other words, he is not prepared to debate the issue we have raised before the House. He seems somehow to think that the only policy that adds to the rate of inflation is the oil prices policy. There are many other government policies which add to the rate of inflation. It is the full bucket of policies that the Opposition wants to talk about. It seems ridiculous for the Treasurer to talk for the whole time just on oil prices.
Let us examine some of his arguments on that point. In 1973-74 the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries increased prices but the Labor Government which was in power then did not automatically jump onto the bandwagon of the OPEC price rises. Australia was saved from some increase in the rate of inflation at that time by the Labor Government’s policy. In another argument the Treasurer said that by international comparisons Australia has been going all right in some areas. Perhaps one of the reasons for that is that Australia has 70 per cent independence with its own oil reserves. There is no easy answer but we say that we should maximise the benefits of the assets that we hold, and that we should make a sustained attempt to look at the oil pricing policy and the whole question of energy usage in this country.
As everyone knows, the Opposition in this country has a far more comprehensive, better balanced policy on energy than the Government. Every time the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) gets up he demonstrates that quite clearly. We need to talk about mandatory fuel consumption policies, overall energy consumption policies, the provision of better urban transport services, the placing of more accent on the use of alternative fuel resources, the imposition of discriminatory sales taxes, the use of our gas reserves and the stripping of liquids. There are 100 things we can talk about in terms of energy instead of concentrating on the OPEC price as the only policy in the Government’s armoury with respect to oil prices. All we say is that we should just break the link with OPEC countries. We are not going to sit around waiting for some government to change in some country and for some unilateral action to occur and then automatically follow that situation. It is up to us to determine our oil prices, given the fact that we have reserves, given the fact that we have assets in the energy area and given the fact that we have some control. We just want to break that link. I do not think every other country that imports oil has automatically latched on to this import parity price with the OPEC price.
– They have no alternative. Don’t you understand that? They have to import all their oil.
-Australia has alternatives. They need to be worked through and thought through instead of this automatic latching on to the OPEC price as the above all parameter. Anyhow, I shall return to the point of the matter of public importance which has been raised today. Since coming to office the Government has supposedly followed a policy of fighting inflation first. That is the terminology it uses. Part of this policy is an obsession with the level of the deficit. What the Government has done through following these policies is to ignore its own price increasing policies. That is what the Opposition wanted to highlight today. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) did that very ably. The Government has used its obsession and its policy approach of fighting inflation first as an excuse for not doing anything about the level of unemployment, particularly the rising rate of youth unemployment. It has used the same sorts of arguments every time it has gone before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission with respect to wages. Yet, as the honourable member for Gellibrand pointed out, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) says that wages have been neutral. The Government has used these sorts of arguments to justify its policy which it does not talk about; that is, profits ahead of people.
Whilst the Government has used this obsession and policy approach of inflation first, it has been following policies which have added to inflation. That is the contradiction which we wish to point out. Yet it keeps up this propaganda blanket of the deficit. The deficit has been propelled by this Government into a position where it is seen as something not to be analysed, but as something that is given. Because there is no analysis of the deficit, the Government believes that it can get away with deliberately inflationary policies so long as the deficit is relatively small or smaller. If the deficit inconveniently blows out, that is, if it gets bigger than it was supposed to, then the Government simply turns a blind eye to the non-occurrence of some events which follow from a larger deficit. Thus the Government has been able to get away with policies which reduce deficits, but do so by adding to revenue and feeding or fuelling inflation.
Let us have a look at some of these policies. This year the oil price policy will add about 2.25 per cent to the rate of inflation. This feeds through to industry. Also, as I pointed out a moment ago, if OPEC suddenly makes a decision to raise the oil price by 10 per cent as it did last week, if a government changes and if unilateral action is taken, people have inflationary expectations. I know that the ordinary person in my electorate who has to travel up to 30 or 40 miles to work each day and who buys petrol for his car is worried. I know that the person who travels by bus is worried. These people have inflationary worries. In other words, they have inflationary expectations. They, too, wish for higher wages to compensate for that position to some extent. The new health insurance scheme will add about 1 Vi per cent, including doctors’ fees, to the rate of inflation. The Government’s measures in relation to cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol will increase inflation by about 1 Vi per cent. The Prices Justification Tribunal has been virtually scrapped. The effect of the Government’s flowthrough policy in respect of State and local government has been to increase charges. There has been the Government’s taxation policies, and finally its exchange rate policies. All these policies have been hidden behind this great blanket of the deficit, and we wish to put them out into the open.
Over the past two years devaluation has been at the level of about 20 per cent. On this latter point about the exchange rate, I point out that one of the greatest increases has been in the price of materials used in manufacturing industry. I have the figures before me. In the year to July prices increased by 36.5 per cent. That is three times the rate of a year ago. The last time there was a very high percentage increase in this area was in January 1975 and the inflation rate that followed from that was about 16 per cent. There was a lag of about six months. With increases of something like 36 per cent or 40.5 per cent, which is another figure, what will the inflation rate be in six months’ time? Surely this must cause the Government worry. The prices of materials produced by manufacturing industry have increased by 16.7 per cent in the year to August. The prices of building materials for housing have gone up by 1 1.4 per cent to September. Other building materials are up by 1 1.7 per cent. If we look at the implicit deflaters in the Australian national accounts, we see that just about all of them were higher in the June quarter than they were a year ago. With respect to prices in manufacturing industry, it has been said that the price of items such as beef has had a distorting effect on the index. But the import component in this industry has a larger effect. As the honourable member for Gellibrand pointed out, an impost of 2 per cent is payable on some items that were formerly non-dutiable.
We need to realise that the rate of inflation internationally is on the way up and that we are locked into it to a quite marked degree. For example, in the United States it is now calculated that the rate of inflation will be something like 1 4 per cent or 1 5 per cent in the coming year. Unless we are prepared to vary our exchange rate we are locked into this international basket of currencies, particularly in relation to the United States dollar. I realise that there are political difficulties in implementing a policy of revaluation but the Government is unable to take any appropriate action due to National Country Party pressure. The same set of forces locked the Government into inappropriate measures in the early 1970s. Together with the monetary expansion of that period, those measures were largely responsible for the rate of inflation in 1973 and 1974.
In total, the policies of the Government have led the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research to forecast that the real take-home pay of the average wage earner will be lower by 4 per cent in real terms in 1979-80 than it was two years ago in 1977-78. Therefore inflation and unemployment will be worse in 1979-80. It is a deliberate Government policy to reduce real wages, to reduce the amount of take-home pay and to increase prices and charges. Yet either it blames the OPEC countries or it says that we have to keep the deficit down. It is those matters on which the Opposition wishes to focus. The fact is that we face an increase, a surge in the rate of inflation during the coming months, and the Government is not following appropriate policies. It is simply using blinds to disguise its real actions.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) who has just sat down, mentioned at the conclusion of his speech the points which the Opposition wished to focus on today. If the honourable member thinks that the Opposition has been successful in focusing on these matters, I think it should take the lens back and have it reground. It has got nowhere near the issue. The matter of public importance that was raised by the Opposition, that is: ‘The increasing rate of inflation resulting from Government policies’, was hardly referred to by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). The honourable member for Werriwa rose and criticised the Treasurer (Mr Howard) for devoting most of his speech to oil and then proceeded to devote the first half of his own speech to exactly the same matter. He finished up with a fairly semantic sort of discussion about what was going on in terms of external factors. He spent virtually none of the time that was available to him discussing the matter that the Opposition had sought to raise and which he said it had effectively focused on, that is, the Government’s policies in relation to inflation.
The reality is that this Government in Australia is performing in a very satisfactory fashion. It is to the credit of this Government that it has had the tenacity to stick with policies which in many instances have not been easy policies to follow. In many instances it has been difficult to persuade the electorate that it is necessary to adopt these policies. The Government has pursued these policies with great tenacity over a period of four years. The result of that is that inflation in Australia has been broken. Contrary to what the honourable member for Werriwa was saying there is not now in Australia the inflationary expectation which we had in this country a few years ago. In fact, the average person in Australia regards it as an achievement of the
Government that the inflationary expectation has been halted.
What has happened in Australia is that the Government has reduced inflation from the extraordinarily high levels of 17 per cent or 18 per cent that the Labor Government took it to. The Government brought inflation back down to 8 per cent or 9 per cent and it is fluctuating around that mark. Depending on how individual things go at different times, the rate of inflation can rise to 9 per cent or 9& per cent or it can go down to 7 per cent. It is moving around that point. If we take into account what is happening in other comparable countries and economies, what is happening in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and what is happening in individual countries we see that the situation in Australia is a totally satisfactory one. It is to the credit of this Government and to the credit of the Treasurer that we have been able to achieve a situation where we are several percentage points under the OECD average. We were double the number of percentage points under the United States and Great Britain, countries which are our major trading partners. Is it any wonder that we have achieved a more com.petitive position in relation to those trading partners as a result of this Government’s policies.
Accepting the logic of what has been put to us by the honourable member for Gellibrand and the honourable member for Werriwa today, we would have to give the Government enormous credit. If we accept the figures that the honourable member for Werriwa used- he said 2.25 per cent of the consumer price index this year would be attributable to oil, 1.5 per cent would be attributable to health and another 1.5 per cent attributable to other excise increases- there is a total of 5.25 per cent which is directly attributable to what the Government, through its policies, has put in place in this economy. Those decisions having been taken- I ask members of the Opposition to perform a simple subtraction, but I do not think they really can in economic termsand if the inflation rate this year is going to be around 10 per cent, the underlying rate of inflation before taking into account those government factors is only 5 per cent. So this Government has achieved a situation where the underlying rate of inflation, taking out government activity and government influence on the rate of inflation, is less than 5 per cent. The Government in pursuing responsible policies has had no option but to add another 5 per cent to that. An underlying rate of inflation of 5 per cent is the real comparison that ought to be made with the rate of inflation of the Whitlam years when it was 15 per cent to 17 per cent, and there were no decisions like the decisions which had to be taken by this Government which created an element of government induced contribution to the rate of inflation; that is the test that has to be applied. This Government has an inflation rate of 5 per cent where the Labor Government had an inflation of 15 per cent to 18 per cent.
– What is this 5 per cent nonsense?
-I have just been through it. If the honourable member had listened to me instead of reading the rubbish he has in front of him he would understand the argument. The reality is that this Government has got inflation under control. It has had to take hard, responsible decisions in relation to things like energy in Australia and the health insurance system which the Labor Government made such an appalling mess of in its three years in office. Admittedly, and we have acknowledged it as a Government, these have added to the rate of inflation, but the rate of inflation this year, I believe, will still be single digit. The honourable member for Gellibrand referred to the Government’s wages policy and the effect that had had. He quoted something from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) about how wages had played a neutral role. I am not sure of the context from which that came, but if I take it that wages had been neutral in the terms of the effect that they were having on inflation, then that again is a credit to the Government’s policy because what the Government has done is to neutralise the effect that wages have.
What the Opposition is about to do is to go out and support full indexation, support this productivity and work value hearing and do its level best to support the trade union movement in its push to get wages up. What this Government has done over the period that it has been in office, as the Prime Minister said and as was quoted by the honourable member for Gellibrand quite generously, is to neutralise the wages effect. We do not want to see that spiralling again. That is exactly what is going to happen if the sorts of policies are followed that the Labor Party and the trade union movement want to follow. It is just not on. This Government will continue to oppose those excesses and will continue to hold the wages factor in inflation in a neutral position because that is where it ought to be.
I come back again to the question of expectation because I think it is important. The realities in Australia are that the people have accepted the fact that inflation has been brought under control by this Government. That is a basic thing and is something which, over the last couple of years, the people of Australia have realised. The movement in inflation rates at the moment is nothing more than one or two per cent up or one or two per cent down on a satisfactorily low figure. I make the comparison again between Australia and those countries with which we trade and those countries with which we normally compare ourselves. We are three or four per cent below the OECD average, we are five or six per cent below the United States and Great Britain.
In Australia the Government’s economic policy must be pursued because of the necessity of keeping inflation at these low levels by comparison with other economies, particularly those economies with which we trade. That is what the Government’s economic policy is all about. The Labor Party has brought nothing into this Parliament which in any way, shape or form over the last four years is going to do anything other than to boost the rate of inflation and destroy the economic recovery which this Government has set in train and which is having the effects that it is having on the economy today. Every indicator shows signs of improvement and buoyancy. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that our economy is on the road to recovery. The Government must take enormous credit- it deserves enormous credit- for the way it has handled this economy and achieved the results that it has. The Opposition can take no credit whatsoever and deserves no credit. As I said at the beginning of my speech it ought to go and regrind its lens if it wants to focus on this Government in the way it has proposed to do today and has failed so dismally to do.
Order! The discussion is now concluded.
Debate resumed from 23 August, on motion by Mr MacKellar:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The 1979 Budget and the Bills associated with it exemplify more starkly than any of the other three Budgets or two mini-Budgets of this Government the nature of its conservative economic policies. The States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill, which we are now debating, embodies some of the most destructive features of these economic policies. The purpose of this Bill is to reduce by $63m the capital grants to the States made by the Commonwealth Government. The effect of this must be to cause deterioration of essential services, increasing inefficiency and reductions in the efficiency of the private sector. It also severely retards the already depressed building and construction industry, so increasing unemployment in that industry and also reducing the economic activity and employment of the industry which supplies the materials and subsidiary services to the building and construction industry.
This Bill shows clearly that the much vaunted new federalism is simply a deceptive means of reducing Commonwealth payments to the States so as to force them to introduce a second income tax. The Bill authorises the payment of capital grants totalling $4 15m to the States during 1979- 80. The Bill also provides for the payment of capital grants in the first six months of 1 980- 8 1 up to an amount equal to one half of the 1979-80 amount until an equivalent Bill has been passed next year. That is a fairly standard mechanical feature of this kind of annual legislation. Finally, the Bill authorises the Commonwealth to borrow the required funds to make these payments. These grants from the Commonwealth to the States for capital works are one-third of the total general allocation made through the Loan Council for State capital works. The States can use these funds for any capital works not allocated for any specific purpose.
There are, in addition, specific purpose capital grants paid by the Commonwealth to the States for such expenditure as housing, schools and various other specified facilities. In allocating $4 15m for Commonwealth capital grants to the States during 1979-80, this Bill reduces by $63m the Commonwealth grants to the States in absolute terms; that is, in money terms. In real terms, that is in terms of work which can be paid for by this allocation, the loss to the States is about $95 m or a fall of 20 per cent in comparison with the previous year. This is a pretty stark figure; indeed it is a disastrous figure. There is no evidence that the Government has given any attention at all to the need for capital works in the States. The figure has not been calculated by looking at any assessment of the adequacy of schools, health centres or any other capital works projects in the various States. Rather, the logic appears to have been that a reduction in the deficit in some way will magically reduce the rate of inflation, that it is easier to cut spending on capital works than to sack public servants and it is easier for the Commonwealth to force cuts onto the States than to make cuts itself.
A 20 per cent reduction in funds for capital works in one year is a catastrophic change in the pattern of financial allocations. It is a decision made unilaterally by the Commonwealth and imposed on the States through the Loan Council. It is inaccurate to describe the decisions of the Loan Council as being made co-operatively. This policy is simply a product of the Commonwealth’s misguided doctrinaire approach. The States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill is part of the total Loan Council approval for general capital funds for the States. Since 1 970 it has been the practice for one-third of these funds to be made available to the States by way of grant and for the rest to come out of loan funds. This year the Loan Council approved $ 1,245m for total general purpose capital funds for the States. That is a reduction in money terms of $189m in comparison with last year, or a 20 per cent fall in real terms. If the Commonwealth had allowed the Loan Council to approve the same real funding as last year, an additional $300m over and above what has now been allocated would have been required. The severity of these cuts has not been appreciated in the community, nor have their consequences. The cuts continue the trend of the last four years but the Government has pushed them much further than ever before. At this stage I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table setting out the trends in general purpose capital funds for State governments for the period 1975-76 to 1979-80.
– Where are these from?
-They are taken from the Budget Paper dealing with Payments to and for the States.
-I thank the House. This table shows that capital grants including borrowings approved and total general purpose capital funds for the States have fallen by 3lA per cent in money terms and by 3 1 V4 per cent in real terms during the last four years. The actual grant component of these total payments to the States for general purpose capital funds is $ 15m less this year than it was in 1975-76. In money terms, it is $15m less. Of course, when one takes account of inflation, that figure is markedly less. It is in real terms 3 1.6 per cent less this year than it was four years ago, the time of the allocation made in the last Labor Government Budget. An additional $547m will be required to restore capital funds for the States to their 1975-76 real level. It is therefore absolutely clear and incontrovertible that the Commonwealth has been steadily starving the States of funds essential for the maintenance and improvement of their infrastructures.
The State Premiers and Treasurers naturally have been critical of this approach, although the Premiers and Treasurers of States with Liberal and National Country Party governments have predictably been rather more muted in their criticism than their counterparts in Labor government States. However, each of the Treasurers presenting State Budgets has been critical of the Commonwealth’s cuts in capital works funds. For example, Mr Thompson, the Victorian Liberal Party Treasurer, in his Budget Speech said:
The reduction in general capital funds by the Commonwealth has imposed great strains on State resources because the demands for essential new buildings and maintenance have to be met.
Mr Thompson then drew attention to the fact that the Commonwealth’s expenditure on its own activities is budgeted to increase nearly twice as fast as the Commonwealth is allowing the States to increase their expenditures. In his loan speech on 27 September, Mr Renshaw, the New South Wales Treasurer, said:
Again this year, despite strong protests from all Premiers, the Federal Government has cut the States capital programs . . . It is wrong for the Federal Government to suggest that the States are better off financially as a result of the Fraser Government’s ‘new federalism’ policy. These past three years have seen the systematic reduction of a large number of federally funded capital programs to New South Wales . . . I would not be doing my duty to the people of New South Wales if I failed to point out the inevitable consequences of the Federal Government’s policies; there will eventually be a significant increase in unemployment in Australia- unless there is a change in the Federal Government ‘s economic strategy. This is the background- the background of stringency imposed by the Federal Government, unparalleled in the post-war years- against which this year’s capital works program has been framed.
Quite clearly Mr Renshaw was very concerned about the substantial cutback which has been imposed on his State by the reduced allocation with which we are now dealing in this Bill. In his earlier Budget Speech Mr Renshaw had said:
There are certain basic facts that should be put on record about the extent of the financial stringency imposed by the Federal Government. In the period from 197S-76 to 1979-80, prices have risen by 43 per cent and all Commonwealth Budget outlays have also risen by 43 per cent. Total Commonwealth payments to New South Wales have risen by only 33 per cent in the same period. Thus, if total Federal payments to New South Wales had kept pace with inflation and with the Federal Government’s own total spending, New South Wales would have received over S300m more this year.
This demonstrates what a restrictive effect this Government’s policies have had on our largest State. It could be said that that was a member of the Labor Party talking, but similar things have been said, as I have already remarked, by Mr Thompson, the Liberal Treasurer in Victoria, and also by Sir Charles Court, the Liberal Premier in Western Australia. In his Loan estimate speech on 1 8 September, Sir Charles Court said:
Despite strong opposition from the Premiers, the Prime Minister and the Federal Treasurer would not budge in their attitude, for reasons related to the size of the Commonwealth deficit and the difficulties they foresaw in raising any greater sum on the domestic capital market. Although I acknowledge the tightness of the market, I consider that we should aim at raising an increased amount and pressed this point of view strongly. My concern and that of all other Premiers, was for the impact the cut would have on our works program and, as a consequence, on employment. In our case, we faced an overall reduction of 6 per cent in funds available to finance works this year, which in real terms, meant a reduction of about 1 5 per cent in the physical volume of work which could be undertaken.
I interpolate here that a 15 per cent reduction is an extraordinary reduction in the amount of work that State can undertake. Sir Charles Court also said:
This Government has done all in its power to alleviate unemployment and the obdurate attitude of the Commonwealth was a bitter blow. It could only have the effect of worsening an already difficult unemployment problem.
There we have a quite specific statement by Sir Charles Court, the Liberal Premier in Western Australia, that in his view this Bill we are now discussing and the decisions encompassed in it would undoubtedly have the effect of worsening an already difficult unemployment problem. Indeed, that was perhaps a rather euphemistic way to phrase it. The Queensland Treasurer, Dr Edwards, in his financial statement made on 20 September said:
I repeat what I have said on many occasions that while I agree that inflation must be contained, we do not agree that cut-back in capital works programs are necessary to achieve this important aim. I believe that full employment is not inconsistent with containing inflation.
I interpolate again that that is something with which we, on this side of the House, fully agree.
But these submissions are coming not from a member of the Labor Party, but from a member of the Liberal Party in Queensland- the Liberal Treasurer in that State. He continued:
I am certain that an increased public capital works program can quickly generate additional activity in the economy.
This is exactly Labor Party policy. He continued:
Expenditure in the building and construction industry results in additional demand also in all the industries servicing it. A total effect several times the value of the initial expenditure is thus produced by these flow-on effects.
What Dr Edwards is saying there has been said time and time again by members on this side of the House. He says that if capital works are cut back, as this Government has been doing so severely in the period it has been in office, the inevitable effect of that cutback will be to reduce employment. If that argument is put the other way around, if one were to increase expenditure on capital works, this would be a sensible way in which to stimulate employment both directly in the sense of public works activity itself and also indirectly through the suppliers of building materials and so on to the contractors on the capital works projects. Mr Batt, the Tasmanian Treasurer, had a special section on Commonwealth and State financial relations in his Budget Speech on 1 8 September. He said:
When I delivered my first Budget Speech, just over 12 months ago, I expressed concern at the deterioration that had occurred in the state of Tasmania’s finances since the advent of the Commonwealth ‘new federalism’ policy on 1 July 1976. I discussed at some length the effect upon Tasmania of the deliberate Commonwealth policy to curtail the financial influence of the public sector in the economy and to restrict the purchasing power of moneys available to the States. It is with deep regret that I record a continuation of this short sighted Commonwealth attitude, with its consequential rising of unemployment, and human suffering. One of my greatest frustrations as a State Treasurer has been my inability to allocate sufficient funds for the relief of the unemployed, because of the financial strait-jacket imposed upon me by the Commonwealth. A disturbing trend that has become evident under ‘new federalism’ is the deterioration in the Federal funds allocated to Tasmania, relative to the sums allocated to other States.
Of course, it was the earlier realisation of the truth of those words by the people of Tasmania at the election which was held in, I think, July, that led to an overwhelming Labor Party victory in that State. Tasmania, like other States, has had to cope with this absolutely unnecessary situation by diverting funds from other valuable public services so as to prevent the fall in capital works spending from being absolutely catastrophic. Mr Batt said in his speech:
Because of the severe cut-backs in Federal funding, it-
The Tasmanian Government- has been obliged to make significant economies in some areas and it has had to defer or postpone a number of highly desirable new services and projects.
So, just to keep some form of capital works program going, the Tasmanian Government has had to cut back on other worthwhile projects and services. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said in the House two weeks ago that State Budgets showed that the States had been able to cope with the level of Commonwealth funding without increasing taxes. In fact, the Prime Minister said that all the States have been able to cut their taxes. As usual he was being quite misleading. The cuts in taxes that he described are minute; most are increases in payroll tax exemptions which are aimed at increasing employment. Several States have made concessions about estate and gift duty, but it is difficult for them to avoid doing so when other States are making similar concessions. Of course, the process begun by Queensland has meant that all the States have moved, one after the other, gradually to reduce and eradicate estate and gift duties at the State level. What the Prime Minister did not say is that the States have softened the blow to capital works by transferring funds from other expenditure areas. The effect of that has to be that the extent and quality of services offered by the States have been reduced.
The permission given to the States last year to borrow overseas for major infrastructure projects does not offset the damage to the States from reduced capital grants and lower interest rate borrowing. Borrowing overseas requires payment of high interest rates and carries with it a substantial exchange risk. When the value of currencies in which the borrowing occurs appreciate relative to the Australian dollar, the repayment and interest payments are increased and therefore there is likely to be a net loss to the States. As one of the Budget papers shows- I think it is Budget Paper No. 6, Table 3, page 22- over the course of the last year Australia’s total overseas borrowings have suffered. If they all had had to be repaid at the end of the last financial year an additional amount of some $356m would have had to be paid back because of adverse movements in relative exchange rates between those countries from which we borrow. If the States are going to move more heavily into borrowing from overseas they are going to have to bear more and more of that exchange risk. At present only a small amount, some $8m of the $350m-odd, is attributable to the States. But if they get more heavily into borrowing- as undoubtedly they are going to do, given the pressure which they have been under from this Government-they are going to have to bear the possibility of quite heavy exchange losses when they come to repay those loans in future years.
The Opposition says that it is clear from all of this that the so-called ‘new federalism’ is no longer a veiled way of reducing the size and the services provided by the State governments. Quite obviously that is what new federalism is all about. This is shown most clearly by looking at total funds from the Commonwealth to the States for recurrent and capital purposes; not just funds for capital purposes but total funds paid by the Commonwealth to the States. The figures are published by the Government in Budget Paper No. 7, titled ‘Payments to or for the States, the Northern Territory and local government authorities, 1979-80’. Table 3 of that paper shows that the actual amount paid to the States in 1975-76 was $8,555m. The payment during 1979-80 is expected to be $1 1,431m, which is a total increase of 33.6 per cent. However, during those four years it is estimated that the deflator for public sector expenditure will have increased by 38.8 per cent, assuming an %Vi per cent increase in the public sector deflator in 1979-80. This means that over the last four years there will have been a real fall in total funds paid by the Commonwealth to the States of nearly 4 per cent; 3.7 per cent to be precise. So the real value of the total funds paid by the Commonwealth to the States in the past four years has now declined by almost 4 per cent. The fall has been heavier in the capital works area, as I have said.
If we take it overall it is an absolute real reduction of some 4 per cent. This is despite the fact that there will have been a population growth of nearly 5 per cent during this period and that until now there has been an overall economic growth in real terms of something like 9 per cent. Therefore, the States have received a significantly reduced allocation of funds while their populations have been rising, leading to an increasing demand for their services. The latter half of the 1970s must accordingly be seen as a period in which the Commonwealth has forced the States to allow the urban environment to deteriorate and the extension of services in rural areas to be curtailed. Housing commission waiting lists have been lengthened and deprived suburbs and towns have become even more relatively deprived. This has all happened at a time when the resources of the Commonwealth have risen in real terms.
Let me show this again conclusively simply by comparing the 1979-80 Budget estimate with that of 1978-79. The Prime Minister likes to pretend that the States have coped effortlessly with the Commonwealth imposed stringencies. In his second reading speech on this Bill, the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr MacKellar) attempted to present the same case. But the fact is that total payments by the Commonwealth to the States this financial year are budgeted to increase by 6.6 per cent in money terms in comparison with last year. This must mean a real fall because the rate of inflation for the year is estimated by the Government to be around 10 per cent. Even allowing for some differences between the consumer price index and the public sector deflator, it is clear that real allocations to the States this financial year will fall by at least 2 per cent. That is taking a conservative view of the matter, but at least a 2 per cent real fall in the total allocation to the States from the Commonwealth is expected this financial year.
At this stage I seek leave to incorporate in Ilansard a table showing total funds to States for recurrent and capital purposes which has been taken from Budget Paper No. 7.
– This table sets out quite clearly the point I have been making. It covers the period between 1975-76 to 1979-80, and shows the actual amounts of total funds payable to the States and the Commonwealth. It shows the adjustment for prices and the percentage change in real terms. As I have mentioned we see an allocation this year of almost 4 per cent below the level for 1975-76. Government spokesmen try to dodge around this incontrovertible fact. This is particularly true of the Prime Minister who is an expert in camouflage and subterfuge. But no matter how he wriggles it is an inescapable fact that this Government has steadily eroded the capacity of the States to provide essential services.
The States would have had to receive an additional $443m this financial year to restore the purchasing power of their allocations from the Commonwealth to the levels that they were at in 1 975-76. To restore their capacity to provide services to the 1975-76 level and to take account of population growth in the last four years an additional $ 1,032m would be required. I think those figures show just how tremendously the funds of the States have been cut back by the activities of the Fraser Government.
A particularly serious aspect of this destructiveness is that capital works, which have suffered most severely, are the most important influence a government has on the level of economic activity. Dr Edwards, as I previously mentioned, showed clearly that government spending on capital works has both a direct and an indirect impact on private sector activity and employment, for reduced capital spending damages constructions firms and, as well, reduces demand for all the materials and equipment that they use. With less building there is less demand for steel, concrete, bricks, timber and transport. What economists call the multiplier effect of public capital works spending is greater than the multiplier effect of any other form of government expenditure. The tragedy is that many of the forms of capital works spending are amongst the most necessary to improve the efficiency and well-being of the community. The quality of roads, the safety of public transport, the accessibility of public transport, the adequacy of the supply of housing, particularly for low income earners, and the availability of community services in more remote rural areas all depend on public works.
This conservative Government has been more concerned with doctrine than with community well-being. The Prime Minister is obsessively pre-occupied with reducing the deficit- a task at which he has so far been extraordinarily unsuccessful. He is apparently willing to use inflationary means to reduce the deficit, for the effect of the 1979-80 Budget is to increase significantly the rate of inflation in Australia, a fact of which we have been reminded today by the consumer price index figures for the September quarter. But even within its own context, the Government is using a self-defeating strategy to reduce the deficit because the effect of its policies is to suppress economic activity, thereby reducing taxable capacity and so contributing to increases in the deficit.
The approach which would be far better in the nation’s long term interests would be to stimulate the economy through government activity, which might lead initially to some increase in the deficit but which would then steadily contribute to reduction in the deficit as the level of economic activity, and so taxable capacity, increased. The employment statistics issued a couple of weeks ago are a foretaste, we believe, of what the two contractionary Budgets of this year will mean for the Australian economy. The rise in September of 24,000 in the number of unemployed, as measured by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and the fall in August of 26,000 in the employed labour force are clear indications of a worsening situation. Normally at this time of the year there is a substantial expansion of jobs in many industries. However, this year the normal pattern has been reversed, with the most recent figures showing employment falling and unemployment rising.
The States have been threatened with even more serious cuts next financial year, for in June 1980 the so-called Whitlam formula, which set a minimum level below which general purpose payments to the States cannot fall, will come to an end. If that leads to even lower payments the impact on the economy of the kind of measures we have seen so far will be accentuated even further. In 1976 the States proposed that the Commonwealth guarantee that the payment would be no lower than would have occurred under the arrangements introduced by the Labor Government. The Fraser Government agreed, but only for a period of four years. This led to the so-called Whitlam formula guarantee being continued for that period.
The formula contains an adjustment to the general revenue grants to the States for growth in population, increases in average earnings and a betterment factor of three per cent. The maintenance of this guarantee has not been sufficient to maintain total Commonwealth payments to the States but it has ensured some growth of general revenue grants, which are now about half of the total Commonwealth payments to the States. The Whitlam formula is at present being renegotiated. A Premiers Conference is due to be held in November to discuss the introduction of new arrangements. The Prime Minister is clearly aiming to force the States to introduce stage 2 of his new federalism policy, which would involve the States in introducing an income tax surcharge. The State Premiers and Treasurers have expressed great concern about that in their Budget speeches. For example, Sir Charles Court said:
I spoke at some length last year on this issue and informed members of our efforts to have the guarantee extended. Discussions are continuing between the Commonwealth and the
States on this and other matters relating to the tax sharing arrangements and I am hopeful that a sensible guarantee formula will be agreed. If the Commonwealth Government holds to its present position that the only guarantee will be that no State will receive less in any year than in the previous years, the effect on the States’ revenue could be serious in some years.
Mr Renshaw has expressed similar concern about the possible ending of the Whitlam guarantee. Of course, we will have to wait until November to see exactly what comes out of the Premiers Conference. If the Government adheres to its apparent position at this stage, which is to ensure that there is no continuance of the Whitlam guarantee, the one growth area in the payments to the States- the general revenue grants- as a result of a guarantee formula taken over from the days of the Labor Government will cease to develop in the way it has developed in the past and total payments to the States will plummet at an even greater rate in real terms than has been the case so far. Because of the serious consequence which would flow from the passage of this Bill, I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not opposing the Bill, the House is of the opinion that the Bill, by decimating Commonwealth grants for State capital works:
causes deterioration in the supply and quality of essential services, increasing inefficiency, and reduced productive capacity;
severely retards recovery of the depressed building and construction industry;
3 ) increases unemployment, and
shows ‘new Federalism’ to be a deceptive means of reducing Commonwealth payments to the States so as to force them to introduce a second income tax’.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
-I completely reject the amendment moved by the Opposition. It is a spurious smokescreen to hide from the people of Australia the real facts in relation to the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill. The Government concedes that the program set out in this Bill represents, in fact, a 13.2 per cent reduction. However, it is quite specious, mischievous and misleading of the Opposition to focus on this particular component of Commonwealth assistance to the States. It is nonsense to suggest that there will be a corresponding reduction in the works program. A proper comparison with funding last year can be made only in the overall context of total Commonwealth payments to the States and borrowings by State authorities.
The amount of money which is the subject matter of this Bill is arrived at on a formula of taking one-third of the amount to which the Loan Council has agreed; that is, one-third of the total funds for the program of $ 1,245m which was agreed to at the June 1979 Loan Council meeting. This represents a continuation of the arrangement initiated by the coalition parties when in government in June 1970. The funds represent a portion of the State government Loan Council program and are interest free, non-repayable grants in lieu of what would otherwise be interest bearing borrowings by the States. This is done in recognition that certain expenditure is to be made on projects which will give no financial return to the States. A good example of such a project would be the construction of a facility such as a police station.
I turn now to the nonsense put forward by the socialist Opposition that we should look at this component of assistance to the States as a reduction and argue that a reduction in part represents a reduction in the whole. This sort of warped logic and half-truth is typical of the socialist Opposition’s method of misleading the people of Australia. The Opposition argues in this way every day in this House on the basis that if one repeats a half-truth often enough people begin to believe it. But the people of Australia are not easily misled. The last two elections have demonstrated that point. I dare say that the election at the end of next year will reinforce it.
When we look at the total funds available to the States from the Commonwealth Budget- a massive $ 11,168m in 1979-80- we see an observable increase of 6.6 per cent. This, as has been rightly pointed out by the speaker for the Opposition, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), has to be cut back to take into account the effects of the erosion of inflation. People in Australia realise that governments cannot continue all the time to spend more and more of their money unless the people pay greater amounts of tax. As the people of Canberra particularly know very well, the continuation of public expenditure has to reach a level at some stage where, because of the high standard of living that has already been achieved by many people in Australia, it is not necessarily productive to the nation to continue to raise that sort of expenditure by increased taxes and borrowings. If we look at the 6.6 per cent increase in funds and take into account State authority borrowings we see that the estimated total figure is a thumping $ 13,408m which represents an 8.6 per cent expenditure or borrowings increase. We cannot continue all the time, as was tried in the
Labor years of 1972-75, to spend more and more money without putting other components of a fairly fragile developing economy in Australia at risk.
To be completely fair to a proper consideration of the availability of funds to States to finance their activities, it is necessary to go further and to look at the borrowings by State authorities on their own account. Honourable members will recall that in November 1978 the Government supported large, special increases to State authorities’ programs in the form of infrastructure financing for a number of major development projects. Some $400 m was approved for 1979-80 and a total of $1.9 billion was approved over eight years. We must add to this the fact that Commonwealth general purpose payments to the States, the most important element of overall payments to the States and of which the grants proposed in this Bill form a part, will increase by 7. 1 per cent. The general revenue assistance component to the States, that is essentially the tax sharing entitlement, increased by 13.2 per cent. A close analysis reveals that all of these amounts are increasing. There is not the doom and gloom that the Opposition would have the people of Australia accept after listening to the speech of the honourable member for Gellibrand.
The overall picture is thus, if one is truthful, properly seen in the context of growth in the States’ share of tax entitlements. Added to this is the real benefit flowing through to local government authorities in their share of net personal income tax collections which has increased by 23.6 per cent. As my colleague the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown) would know, the assistance to local government, is one of the most important and appreciated aspects of the federalism policy which the coalition parties have been following so successfully, both in terms of appreciation and in terms of votes flowing to them around Australia not only in the Federal sphere but also in State elections.
At a time of very proper concern to rein in the expansion of the public sector- a concern which is not shared by the Opposition and which it would throw aside, heading this fine country into another downward spiral of socialistic economic squander that characterised the disastrous Labor years from 1972 to 1975- the present proposals are generous and responsible. We can see increases in all aspects of the funds flowing through to the States at a time when this Government has continually and without any excuse or apology been preaching financial restraint. The
Government intends to ensure that Government expenditure is carefully controlled while giving the States increases and telling them that they should be responsible for answering to their voters and to their own people on how they spend their taxpayers ‘ money rather than having it handed to the States by a spendthrift Federal Government reaching into people’s pockets, taking their precious earnings from them.
After listening to the usual destructive and misleading diatribe that flows from the Opposition benches- I am sure that the next speaker will continue the diatribe because he is becoming well known for being one of the chipontheshoulder socialists who spews out doctrinaire socialist claptrap daily in this place- I believe that people feel that the States have received terrible treatment. It may reach the stage where one would think that the rape of the Sabine women was a veritable Sunday school picnic compared with what the coalition Government has done to the States. My colleagues from the States know that this is not true. It is nonsense.
When the State Premiers left Canberra after the June Premiers Conference at which the level of funding specified in this Bill was determined they all bleated and bayed to the Press about how poorly they had done. The honourable member for Gellibrand read out their statements which are a set piece. Everybody in Australia knows that the Premiers go through this every June or July. I can remember Sir Henry Bolte being a past master. It continues year after year and I think that people generally feel that there is no substance in it because it is a little like the boy who called wolf.
We should remember that the total Budget expenditure by the Commonwealth increased by 9.1 per cent in this financial year. Let me compare that 9. 1 per cent with the increase the States have managed. On the revenue side New South Wales has increased its Budget expenditure by 13.6 per cent, Victoria by 13.8 per cent, Queensland by 1 1.6 per cent, Western Australia by 12.1 per cent and Tasmania by 1 1.9 per cent. All States have increased their expenditure at a time when they have been bleating. The State capital works Budgets have gone up by about 9 per cent to 10 per cent in general terms. In addition, all five States have had tax cuts in their Budgets. The Premiers have been going back to the people in their States, appearing on national television and saying what a bad Federal Government we have. But at the same time they have been merrily increasing their own expenditure and cutting their own tax take.
All this gives the lie to the mindless carping that comes from Opposition supporters who are so preoccupied with their left wing socialist dogma that they cannot recognise the financial responsibility of Liberal-National Country Party governments. Quite plainly, the Opposition is so preoccupied with the size of the hole, and not with the size of the doughnut, that it continually misses the whole point of the thrust of this Government’s sound economic management of this country. In spite of the doom and gloom and the destructive effect of Labor Opposition supporters, and their preoccupation with character assassination and personal vendetta, and their attempts to divert public attention from the resurgence of the country’s economic strength, the people of Australia recognise that this Bill typifies the measures being taken by a responsible government. When it is fitted into place with other measures managing the finances to be made available to the States, it shows how well the economy is being structured to bring this country back to economic strength. We are at last leaving the disastrous social experiment behind and I believe that the very favourable consumer price index figures that were released today give strength to this argument.
Let me inform honourable members opposite what good government brings to this country. It should not be necessary to do so, but one hears day after day the same old tired rhetoric from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), who has about three speeches and repeats them daily, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding), the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) and other members of the Opposition who appear more like slow learners than members of parliament. Let me recite just a few of the manifestations of economic resurgence and the unrebuttable evidence of good economic management. Inflation has been reduced from a peak of 17 per cent in 1975 to about 9 per cent now. Our balance of payments situation has improved, largely occasioned by a strong growth in exports of all categories. In fact, a record trade surplus occurred in September due largely to this country’s getting its costs under control. Private capital inflow for 1978-79 was the largest for seven years. This is indicative of overseas confidence in the strength and stability of the Australian economy. A marked rise has taken place in a number of major investment projects and further investment is foreshadowed. Domestic investment is up and corporate profits have improved to encourage businesses to invest, to expand, and to create jobs in the economy. Civilian employment has grown by over 60,000 in the past 12 months. So there are 60,000 extra jobs in Australia.
– And how many extra people? Twice that number.
– How many people did the Labor Government put out of work? In one go it put 1 50,000 people out of work in one year. That is its record. In this last year we have put 60,000 members of the work force into new jobs. Importantly, for the first time in six years employment in the manufacturing sector has increased and farm incomes have shown substantial increases over the last 12 months. My speech this afternoon follows that of the honourable member for Gellibrand. Many honourable members would not appreciate, of course, that we have so much in common. We are both about the same age. We both went to the same schoolHyde Street State School, a fine state school in the industrial western suburbs of Melbourne. We both went to Melbourne University and we both graduated in commerce. At our old school, if we were a bit slow in picking things up, our teacher made us write things out 10 times after school. I was most upset to hear my colleague’s speech this afternoon because he has quite obviously not understood how well the economic strategy of this Government is working and how excellent the advice is from our advisers. I would suggest that the 10 points I have made to indicate how well the Government’s economic strategy is working could, with profit, this afternoon be written out 10 times by the honourable member for Gellibrand.
– It is extraordinary that someone who has come out of such a fine environment, from such a fine school in the western suburbs, should have degenerated so much and that someone else who has come out of the same environment should have flourished and will soon be Labor Treasurer of this country. I turn to the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill and to a discussion of the question of capital works expenditure as provided for in this legislation. It is quite clear, as the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) pointed out, that the figures do show a very substantial cutback in funding from the Commonwealth to the States for capital works since this Government has been in power. Indeed, the cutback can only be described as massive. It is not a matter of talking about several per cent; in real terms, general purpose capital funds for State governments have declined in the order of 3 1.6 per cent. That is quite a massive cutback.
The other aspect of funding provided under the Bill- total funds to the States for recurrent capital purposes- is that a substantial cut has been achieved by this Government. I guess that one has to look at that cut within a particular context. I think that what the honourable member for Gellibrand was arguing was that in a context where there has been a substantial, continuing, persistent rise in unemployment- and whatever the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) may say, no economist in this country is willing to go on record and say that this Government has developed a set of policies which gives anyone any confidence at all that unemployment will be substantially reduced in the foreseeable future- whatever one might have said about Labor policies between 1972 and 1975, in the present context there is a very strong argument to be made for an acceleration of funding to the States for capital works rather than a reduction because of its importance in terms of generating employment. The Labor Opposition has not argued for massive increases in spending; it has argued that at least real levels of spending on capital works ought to be preserved and that there ought to be limited expansion of that spending because of its impact on employment.
It is also clear- and I think the honourable member for Gellibrand argued this quite convincingly- that from the statements of each of the State Treasurers, not simply statements made as they came out of the conferences but considered statements, each of those Treasurers is, to say the least, concerned about the implications of the reductions in funding for capital works for their State Budgets and particularly for the effects of those cutbacks on the employment situation in the various States. This was not a matter of the Liberal Premiers saying one thing and the Labor Premiers saying something else. Premiers around Australia, whatever their political colour, were saying very much the same thing. Of course, implied in those statements this year was a quite serious threat to the Government. As we already know the Government has been severely wounded by the number of promises that it has been forced to break. There are very few commitments that this Government made when it was in Opposition in 1975 that have in fact been sustained. One of the promises that the Liberal Opposition made a great deal of play about was that it would introduce a new phase of Federal-State relations. There was a new doctrine described as the new federalism. Under this new federalism there was to be a twostage arrangement, the first stage of which would guarantee funding to the States at a level no less than that provided under the so-called Whitlam formula established in 1973. The States would then move to a second stage where they would be in a position to introduce their own income tax. That was what the new federalism was about. It was about transferring some of the burden, perhaps of capital spending, from the Commonwealth to the States so that there would be a shared burden.
The reality is that the Commonwealth has passed the necessary legislation to enable the move to stage 2. But there is no State in Australia that is prepared to buy new federalism as a policy as they have seen it in practice. They have had four years to see what new federalism is about. After four years we find that the Statesnot one or two of them but all of them, irrespective of their political colour- have not introduced, or committed themselves to introducing, the necessary complementary legislation to move to stage 2. In fact, there will not be a stage 2 of the new federalism because new federalism is finished. It was a rhetoric suitable for an election campaign in 1975. In terms of Commonwealth relationships with the States it has not worked out.
The States are becoming increasingly bitter about a situation in which they have to bear a great deal of the flak for unemployment as well as a great deal of the costs. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth is getting away scot free. It is able to shift the political costs to the States while reserving the political benefits for itself. If we want to do some kind of analysis of this legislation in political terms, that is the kind of analysis that I think is important. It is important to recognise that the last Act in the series of Acts under the Fraser Government’s new federalism policy will not deliver the goods. The States are extremely unhappy because they know that the Commonwealth essentially is trying to shift the burden which it has borne in the past from itself to the States.
I now turn to particular aspects of the legislation. It provides in the first instance for general purpose capital funding for the States. These funds are provided in the form of borrowings on behalf of the States as well as capital grants. In this Budget there have been substantial cuts both in the borrowings and in the capital grants area. The bulk of the loan funds in the general capital area are essentially related to infrastructurethings such as increased power and transport capacity. There are also special provisions for long term financing for infrastructure about which the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) spoke. He referred to the eight-year program which relates to such facilities as coal loaders at Balmain and Port Kembla, the Loy Yang power project in Victoria, the world trade centre, which one would not have thought was much of a priority, a coal loader at Hay Point in Queensland, the petrochemical project at Redcliff in South Australia, $568m for Western Australia for a natural gas pipeline between Dampier and Perth, the integration of power supplies in the Pilbara region, the Worsley alumina project and $100m for Tasmania for hydro-electric power development.
It seems to me to be of some importance, when one is referring to where the capital money for the States is going, to stand back a little and ask whether those particular projects which have been agreed to by the Commonwealth and the States are of the highest priority in the present circumstances. When I look at government funding at the present time it seems to me that in a sense governments are increasingly taking over the capital responsibilities to provide infrastructure for services for private industry. There are some real questions about some of the projects that are being devised and the purposes of those projects that I think we, as a parliament, ought to be concerned about. In debates such as this it is not simply a matter of saying: ‘Well, we would spend more than you’ or ‘You would spend more than us’. Implied in the items for which capital moneys are being provided is a set of priorities.
I think that one ought to raise questions about the priorities as they have been established, and certainly as they have been agreed to by the Commonwealth and the States. There are several points that one might want to make. For example, the Commonwealth provides assistance for Victoria to build a world trade centre at a cost of $56m. What kind of priority is a world trade centre at a time of extremely high unemployment? How much employment will be created by that kind of centre? I believe that that is one project that would not stand up to a great deal of” scrutiny considering the scale of money involved. One might refer to the very great emphasis placed on infrastructure developments that are related to the utilisation and development of energy. I believe that in this country we will have to look very seriously at the way in which we are developing, using and increasingly exporting our energy resources. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) is inclined to develop a mad gleam in his eye every time he gets out of Australia. He talks to overseas governments about the massive energy reserves in this country which, frankly, he cannot shift out of the country quickly enough. That kind of attitude, which is becoming increasingly prevalent and dominant within this Government, may provide some short term benefits for the Australian economy and the Australian people. But it does not say very much at all about long term planning.
We are providing for a massive $2 billion Loan Council program to support infrastructure developments for the exploitation of energy resources in this country yet we have nothing that remotely resembles a national energy policy. We have on the one hand the argument, which was presented in an earlier debate this afternoon, that we have to impose massive petrol taxes in this country to convince people that they need to save energy. On the other hand, the same Government is shipping, hoping to ship or planning to ship energy out of the country as rapidly as it possibly can. It seems to me that those two things do not hang together. If we are asking the ordinary people of this country to pay increasingly high prices every time they go for a drive in the family automobile then we ought to know that that is being done within the context of a rational overall energy policy. We ought to have some view of where we are heading. One could refer to the increasing and very rapid development of bauxite, alumina and aluminium refineries and smelters around Australia. That is becoming another one of the obsessions of those within the Government who are obsessed with a notion of growth at all costs. Anyone who has studied the subject knows that that particular industry is a massive energy user. It is much more expensive in terms of its use of energy than would be, for example, an integrated steel plant or the iron and steel industry. The use of energy is absolutely massive.
Other countries, such as Japan, in the face of a world energy crisis are closing down their refineries and smelters at a very great rate. The United States is doing very much the same. But what do we find in Australia? We find projects all over the country to expand Australia’s involvement in the industry because large multinational corporations such as Alcoa of Australia Ltd and Alcan Australia Limited see the opportunity to exploit divisions between States, get their hands on cheap Australian energy and export it in the form of alumina or aluminium. It seems to me that when we talk about the overall relationship between Commonwealth and State capital spending we ought to be asking questions about the nature of our society, the nature of economic growth and what kind of growth we want to encourage.
The Humphrey-Hawkins Bill which passed through the United States Congress proposed that the Budget there be subject to some scrutiny and attention in terms of the employment implications of the proposed spending. That would apply particularly to the capital area. At a time when we are increasingly being drawn into massive capital projects, particularly in the mineral and mineral processing areas, we ought to be asking ourselves much more seriously what will be the employment implications of those projects. In terms of my argument it is not simply a matter of providing the States with more and more money so that they can compete with one another more and more energetically to get into these kinds of projects, unless it can be demonstrated that these projects will make a substantial contribution to resolving the No. 1 problem which we face in this country- massive unemployment.
It has been made obvious during the past week that the key department of the Government that is concerned with economic planning and the assessment of major projects infrastructure could not give a fig for the social, environmental and broader implications of economic policy. I refer to the Treasury. Indeed, it is obsessed with the desire to ensure that none of these issues is brought into the open and fully debated. It is concerned in an obsessive way with secrecy and with the prevention of proper scrutiny by the public of major capital projects. It wants to see the projects in this area determined and approved behind closed doors. It does not want to consider the possibilities of alternative economic and social analysis. We are reaching a very dangerous situation in this country in the making in the capital works area of decisions which have very long term implications indeed. In Victoria, $2,000m is being allocated for the Loy Yang power station. That is a massive sum. A great deal of the available capital in this country is to go into a single major power project within one State, and that is to take place within the context of a country which has developed no capacity for overall management and planning of its resources.
One has to be concerned with the way in which the Government has cut back increasingly on funding for the States. But, corresponding to what I have been saying about capital works, if one looks at the particular areas of spending, such as health, education and welfare, one will see that the cutbacks are much more obvious and one will see the implications of the Government’s strategy much more clearly displayed.
This Government’s strategy is to transfer resources towards large scale capital and industry and away from people and communities. That is why all the programs in the urban and regional development areas were eliminated. That is why public housing in this country is a disgrace. Australia’s record with respect to public housing is the worst of any country in the developed world. We are concerned more and more about moving resources towards profits for overseas companies and less and less about the direction of our society in terms of overall social priorities. That is regrettable. We are in a critical stage and ought to be giving more consideration to long term priorities.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Willis’s amendment) stand pan of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr A. W. Jarman)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for the third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr MacKellar) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18 October, on motion by Mr MacKellar:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I remind the House that it has been agreed that a general debate be allowed covering this Bill and the Overseas Students Charge Collection Bill 1979.
-When the motion for the second reading of these Bills was last debated I moved the following amendment 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 ‘.
When the debate was adjourned I was granted leave to continue my remarks later. In our view, if a new comprehensive program were put forward along the lines suggested in our amendment, there may be some justification for charging those seeking to study in Australia, outside and independent of that particular scheme- a real scheme- which I hope would help the developing nations in the region to our north. Unfortunately, the Government has taken the cheapest, nastiest and most superficial and irresponsible approach to the problem by imposing charges without honestly or fully assessing how the program is working- whether the objectives have been fulfilled, whether the objectives will be fulfilled by imposing charges or whether as a responsible, rich and advanced country we should do a lot more in different ways to help our neighbours educate their students. In response to the statement on immigration policy by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) on 22 August I made the following comment:
It is quite clear that the overseas student program was initiated for very worthy purposes in order to help mainly the countries from which the students came to get the skilled people they required and to provide training which was often not available in those countries. We undertook, by virtue of our overseas student program, to help provide that training. It has undoubtedly made a contribution, as the Minister has mentioned, to increasing understanding, international cultural exchange and so on.
Now, the question is: Is that purpose being fulfilled? If it is being fulfilled, why impose fees, why meddle with the scheme? If those coming to Australia are considered to be already advantaged in comparison with others in their home countries, why not change the selection procedure to ensure- if that is what is felt to be necessary- a better selection? That is what we are proposing. In our amendment we suggest that certain criteria should be applied which could take more serious account of academic ability and the needs of developing nations. The Minister, in his comments, suggested that often students come to Australia and take courses which prove to be of no real value to their home countries. We suggest that that should be one of the criteria to be used before deciding to allow a student to come here. Finally, of course, we should pay some attention to the position of the student themselves. If all that were done, it may well be that the scheme as it now operates is quite reasonable and quite successful. However, that simple question does not really cover the problem as it was put by the Minister. Let me recall to the House what he said in his statement to the Parliament on 22 August. He is recorded on page 442 of Hansard as saying: . . although students have been admitted on the clear understanding that they would return to their home countries on completion of their studies, substantial numbers have sought and obtained permanent residence. Almost 75 per cent of students completing formal studies in recent years have applied successfully for resident status. This development has negated the mam objectives of the program.
What did the Minister really mean by that? One can surely interpret his remarks to mean only that most of the students, 75 per cent in fact, stay here. My response to that assertion by the Minister in my speech was:
That being the case, quite clearly the purpose of the exercise has been defeated.
Now let me once again elaborate on the purpose of the exercise and the way in which it has been defeated. The purpose of the exercise was not, in fact, mainly to help individual students. The purpose of the exercise was to help the developing nations around us to the north of Australia. If that purpose is to be achieved then quite clearly the students should return home. If they stay then clearly the purpose is defeated. If the Minister’s statement is true, in other words that most of the students stay here, the effect is that these students are being educated at the Australian taxpayers’ expense and by virtue of that education are then gaining easy permanent residence in this country and are, in fact, depriving their own countries of resources and skills. To quote again from my speech of 22 August, I said that if these students remain here:
They have, in fact, deprived their own homelands of the advantages of the contributions made by us and, presumably in part by their own countries in allowing them and perhaps in some cases helping them, to come here.
Is the Minister’s statement giving the whole story or, by omission, is it giving a false impression? Is it casting a slur on the majority of students and did it lead me astray? Honourable members will recall what the Minister said. I will quote his words so that I cannot be accused of misinterpreting him. He said quite clearly:
Almost 75 per cent of students completing formal studies in recent years have applied successfully for resident status. This development has negated the main objectives of the program.
I have been criticised for my remarks based on the only conclusion one could draw from the Minister’s statement. I have received lots of representations from lots of students. There is no doubt that the Minister did too. In fact, I saw some of these representations after he had seen them. On the basis of their representations I placed the following question on notice:
The point is that the students claim that they are advised by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to apply for permanent residence visas when they seek to stay here in order to gain work experience. Most of us know it is the same for Australian students who graduate from tertiary institutions in that inevitably they need to gain some work experience before they can hope to get jobs of significance in their skills. Certainly this is the case for students who study for a time here and expect to go back to their home countries and gain jobs there. They will almost certainly be expected to give some evidence that after graduation they have had some practical experience in their skills. Of course having studied here surely it would not be unreasonable for them to expect that they would be allowed to gain that practical experience here. They claim that that is what they seek. If they could get an extension of their visitors’ visas for two or three years, they would be quite happy. They have assured me that they were advised that they had to apply for permanent residence visas. These were granted. Then they claim they work for two or three years and after that they go home.
Given the claims of the students, are they lying or is the Minister a fool or a knave? Is he a fool because- I am only asking the question, I am not saying that he is- the Department has given the information that 75 per cent apply for permanent residence status and they get it and he has interpreted that to mean that they stay here? Has he put a simplistic interpretation on it? Alternatively, did the Department supply the Minister with the information that 75 per cent obtained permanent residence status? Did it then give him the impression that the students stay? Did that then justify to the Minister the course of action he has taken? He felt, as he said, that the whole point of the exercise is defeated. Did that prompt him to suggest and, in fact, bring in this legislation to levy charges on the students? In other words, has the Department been dishonest and made a fool of the Minister or, is the Minister a knave? Did he know what it meant all along? Did he realise that permanent residence status was necessary in order to stay for work experience but consciously made his statement in order to mislead? It was not a dishonest statement. He simply omitted to give all the facts and it was possible for an innocent listener to draw the wrong conclusion. I am not saying which it is, because no answer has yet come from the Department and the Minister to the question I have placed on notice.
I have another fear. My fear is that both the Department and the Minister may be ignorant and, in ignorance, have quite honestly drawn and given us the wrong conclusion. Why is it proving so difficult to answer the questions? Are the answers to the questions not known? If so, how was it possible to draw the conclusion which was drawn that students stay here permanently if it is impossible to answer my questions? Is it because the answers are not known? I leave the question open as to whether the Minister is a fool or a knave or misled by the Department or whether, in fact, the Department does not know either and has taken a punt.
Let us turn to the effects of the proposed charges in the Government’s new policy. Again let me quote from the Minister’s statement on 22 August because I do not learn anything from his second reading speech. The Minister said:
The Government has acted to remove arbitrary limitations on the number of overseas students who may be approved for study in Australia.
This is a very liberal move. More people are to be allowed to come here. The Minister continues later in his speech: people wishing to come here for English language studies, specialised training and under student exchanges are particularly useful in achieving the objectives of the private overseas student program. In future, no numerical limitations will be applied to them.
As I recall, I applauded that also at the time. That sounds very good. The Minister continued:
In the main, people entering Australia for English language and specialised training courses pay commercial fees and, therefore, will be exempted from the proposed overseas student charge.
In other words, they pay their way, so of course the Minister has no argument against allowing more of them in. So that is not what is bugging the Minister. The Minister continues:
New private student criteria are being developed for selecting students from among the tens of thousands of persons applying annually for entry to Australia for studies.
This is good. The Minister continues:
Priority in selection will go to students sponsored by home governments and others such as those granted scholarships and those undertaking post-graduate research within Australian universities. These criteria should enable more students to be accepted from a wider group of countries.
Preference will be given to those with high academic ability and those wishing to acquire qualifications that will be of particular use to them in their future careers.
Presumably that means in their home countries, though that is not what the Minister says. One cannot argue with any of that. That sounds perfectly reasonable, but why bunch it all together? After all, we are talking about the imposing of charges. In his second reading speech, the Minister suggested that while all students will be charged these groups will be exempted. Let me quote from his speech. He said:
In my earlier policy statement I outlined new provisions that will make this program more responsive to the needs of people seeking to study here and the needs of their home countries.
That is good. He continues: the Government has decided that private overseas students attending Australian universities and colleges of advanced education, which are fully funded by the Commonwealth, should be called upon to contribute towards the cost of their education.
In other words, all the students are going to be charged. In the second Bill, the Overseas Students Charge Collection Bill, the Minister points out:
An exception -
We know that all the students are to be charged- to these arrangements will apply in respect of overseas students who come to Australia under Australia’s development assistance programs … In these circumstances the charge would be paid -
In other words, they are all to be charged- by the Bureau, which will receive additional funds for this purpose within the appropriate aid vote, to ensure that the overall level of assistance to developing countries is not reduced. It will mean that there could be a more accurate reflection of the true level of assistance Australia makes available under these programs.
Once again, one cannot object to that. There is also provision: to permit development assistance funds to be applied to meet the charge in respect of students sponsored for entry by the governments of the developing countries, if the Minister for Foreign Affairs agrees to such an arrangement.
The Minister then lists a number of other categories such as post-graduate students, students here under reciprocal exchange agreements and so on. All of that is highly laudable and is completely in keeping with what we have proposed in our amendment. The trouble is that the Bills do not do anything to delineate the difference between private students and our responsibilities as a rich nation to help the countries to the north. It is for these reasons that we have proposed our amendment.
Let me go through it again. Consideration of the Overseas Students Charge Collection Bill should be deferred until the Government presents a comprehensive proposal for a program of educational aid for students from developing countries according to defined criteria. Those are the sorts of things that the Minister has talked about but we do not know how many students are involved. We do not know how well this selection program has functioned in the past. In the Minister’s own words, it has not been working because the students stay here, often on compassionate grounds. In my view the Minister quite rightly grants the students permission to stay here. They are able to make perfectly legitimate cases that they will not be able to get employment if they go back home because the courses they have studied have been totally inappropriate. What has gone wrong with our technique and our selection procedure? Has care been taken in the program to make sure that Australia has been taking people who need the help we offer in order to help develop their home countries? The reaction to what the Government has done and the reaction to my response to what the Minister said, has been enormous discontent and anger amongst many of the students from overseas who claim they are trying their best to fulfil the criteria we have talked about. The students feel that they are being victimised.
In my view we need to clarify the position before we go ahead and levy charges, otherwise I fear it will lead to enormous misunderstanding in the nations around us. They will resent the actions we have taken and they will interpret those actions as prejudice against them and their students. In short, one can conclude only that the course of action proposed by the Minister is quite disastrous. As I stated in my opening remarks, for these reasons we are not necessarily objecting to students outside the aid program coming here on their own resources and being charged. But before they are charged we need to be convinced that there will be a genuine, open, free, comprehensive program to ensure that we really do fulfil our obligations to many of those countries to the north. For far too many years they have been exploited by advanced countries in this way. We have profited from their misery and it is our moral duty to help them overcome their problems in seeking to develop rapidly their inadequate education facilities by providing these services in Australia. Maybe Australia should be sending teachers and resources to those countries in order to set up schools. This is one of the things that we could contemplate in the alternative program we are suggesting. The schools could be set up so that not only those who can afford to get to Australia can get here, but also so that those who cannot afford to leave their own countries because they do not have enough money could still attend our educational institutions in those countries. Those institutions would be financed by Australia and would enable a broader crosssection of the community in those countries to obtain the benefit of this educational opportunity.
Most of the letters I have received- I am sure the same applies to the Minister- indicate that the students who are able to take advantage of this offer of ours come from middle and upper class families, because the rest are so poor that they cannot ever contemplate getting out of their countries. Even though the students come from the higher strata of their home societies because of the poverty of those countries compared to Australia it often means an enormous strain on the family resources to enable those students to come here. For all these reasons I think that it is unwise to proceed with this legislation until we have come up with a positive alternative to ensure that the need for education can be met without destroying the hopes of people who wish legitimately to be educated so that they can go back home and genuinely help their countries to develop.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I rise to support the Overseas Students Charge Bill and the Overseas Students Charge Collection Bill. The Overseas Students Charge Bill introduces an annual charge on overseas students in Australian universities and colleges of advanced education. Since 1973 a limit of 10,000 students has been placed on the number of overseas private students being allowed into Australia at any one time. These students could be granted temporary entry visas provided they satisfied a number of conditions. The chief condition to be satisfied was that the students’ proposed course of study was not available in their home country. The students had to have a genuine intention to enter Australia on a temporary basis and to leave Australia on completion of their courses. Private overseas students could, however, acquire resident status if they were able to satisfy the normal criteria for migration. As has been mentioned by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), in recent years almost 75 per cent of students completing formal studies have applied successfully for resident status.
This year the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) announced the new criteria for admission, which requires a high academic ability on behalf of the student and the future utility of the intended qualifications. The student is required to leave Australia on completion of studies and applications for return will not be received or considered within two years of his leaving Australia. The Government assumed full responsibility for universities and colleges of advanced education from 1 January 1974. Since that time students at these colleges have not paid tuition fees. The estimated cost of full time students’ tuition fees at universities is $5,500 and for advanced colleges of education it is $4,000. The Government has determined the charges to be levied under this Bill after taking into consideration costs and fees charged by other countries.
The Bill provides for an annual charge for overseas students enrolled at universities and colleges of advanced education and in courses leading to a degree or diploma. Clause 7 of the Bill exempts those overseas students enrolled in courses for a year before 1 January 1980. The amount of the charge is to be fixed by regulation but is not to exceed $2,500. The charges are to be as follows: A master’s or Ph. Degree, $2,500; medical, veterinary science and dentistry courses, $2,000; and other award courses $ 1 , 500. I have been requested to cease speaking at 5.55 p.m. and as that is the time I now do so. I support the measure along with my colleagues.
-The Overseas Students Charge Bill bears all the hallmarks of another of those ill thought out -
Motion (by Mr Hodges) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr A. W. Jarman)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr MacKellar) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 10 October, on motion by Mr MacKellar:
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 MacKellar) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.5 to 8 p.m.
Consideration resumed from 27 September, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Willis had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: “whilst not opposing the second reading, this House condemns the Fraser Government for presenting a budget which:
reduces the real living standards of Australian families;
will increase unemployment to the highest level in the nation’s history;
facilitates and stimulates the recent fresh outbreak of inflation;
ensures that economic growth will be well below the nation’s productive capacity;
fails to introduce an effective job creation program, particularly for the young;
6 ) savagely reduces the allocation of funds for job training and re-training program;
will be responsible for the highest level of tax and total revenue collections in the nation ‘s history;
forces State and local governments either to reduce their services or increase their charges, and
intensifies the lack of credibility of the Prime Minister and his government and adds to their long list of broken promises”.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Willis’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member for Fadden will remain silent and not raise specious points of order.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Consideration of Report of Estimates Committee A
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I suggest that it might suit the convenience of the House to consider in one motion, firstly, that each of the proposed expenditures covered in the report of Estimates Committee A be agreed to, and secondly, that the expressions of opinion of Estimates Committee A be noted. This procedure has been discussed with the Opposition which has raised no objection to what is proposed.
-Is it the wish of the House that we adopt the procedure suggested by the Minister? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed. The question before the House is:
That the following proposed expenditures be agreed to:
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 7,602,000
Department of Administrative Services
Proposed expenditure, $333,435,000
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Proposed expenditure, $52,343,000
Department of Aboriginal Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $103,538,000
Department of Social Security
Proposed expenditure, $327,230,000
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 , 492,266,000
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $386,615,000
Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $71,91 9,000
Department of the Capital Territory
Proposed expenditure, $80, 1 37,000
Department of Home Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $83,298,000
Department of Defence
Proposed expenditure, $2,659,4 15,000
Department of Foreign Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $572,957,000
Proposed expenditure, $91,688,000 and that the expressions of opinion agreed to by Committee A in relation to the Parliament be noted, namely:
That the committee is of the opinion that there is an unnecessary duplication of administrative and budgetary functions within the multiplicity of departments that form the total administration of the Parliament. The committee therefore considers that the estimates for the Parliament should be presented under three headings, viz.: Senate, House of Representatives, and the three other departments, without particular items of proposed expenditure being specified, and
That, in order to relieve accommodation congestion, the committee is of the opinion that the Parliament should have the first call on any accommodation which has become or becomes available in the near vicinity of the present Parliament House.
-May I first make a comment in relation to the House of Representatives Estimates committees. The Estimates committees are a new approach to the examination of and debate on the Estimates following the presentation of the Budget by the Treasurer (Mr Howard). Whilst there will be some honourable members who will be very critical of the way in which some of those Estimates committees operated, I would like to go on record as saying that I think it was well worth while and a novel introduction which may well have greater relevance at a later date.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. The level of conversation is too high. I remind honourable members that we are now engaged in a completely new procedure in the history of this House. I ask honourable members to acknowledge the occasion and remain silent so that the procedures may flow smoothly.
– Some honourable members have been critical of the Opposition for having used Estimates committees as an opportunity to grandstand or cross-examine Ministers or officers of the relevant department to the detriment of the Government. I reject that notion because I
think that is what Parliament is all about. If we cannot stand up to criticism then it is a rather sad state of affairs in this Parliament. I recommend the continuation of the Estimates committees and in fact an extension of them to the stage at which they may convene before the Budget is drawn up so that the input of Government members can be so much greater in the final formulation of the Budget.
One committee which I attended dealt with the proposed expenditure by the Parliament. I asked how many of the parliamentary committee reports which have been tabled in this House have been commented upon within the sixmonth period which had been stipulated by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) when he made an announcement on 25 May 1978. By courtesy of Mr Pettifer, the Clerk of the House, I now have that information and I seek leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
– I refer to just two of the reports. Firstly, the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation was tabled on 1 June 1978. Sixteen months later we have had no response from any Minister in this House. May I refer to some of the findings and recommendations of that Committee, in particular to two recommendations found in paragraphs 14 and 15 of that report. The report was read avidly by every local government council and every local government association in this country. It was applauded. Those bodies are still waiting to see what the Government will do. Paragraph 14 states:
Paragraph 15 reads:
Those particular recommendations were recognised as a genuine attempt by a parliamentary committee to assist local government in an inequitable situation which currently exists whereby many municipalities are impoverished because a number of Commonwealth Government properties in their areas are not subject to the payment of rates. I only mention these matters to highlight the fact that they were quite urgent and were in need of comment within the six-month period. In the course of the consideration of the matter all government departments were approached and asked whether they would make a contribution to the deliberations of the Committee.
I would like to refer to a couple of quotations from the body of the report which identifies the problem that the Committee found. The Committee was concerned to gain an appreciation of the perception by Commonwealth Government departments and instrumentalities of the relationship between policies and programs of the Commonwealth and the urban environment. I will select just some of the quotations from the report. The first is:
The evidence revealed lack of perception in a number of departments and instrumentalities, including those with key policy responsibilities.
The Department -
Here we are talking about the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs- declined to make a submission to the Committee.
It did subsequently, but it was still not satisfactory. Another quote is:
The Committee can only conclude that the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs has no perception as to the relationship between its activities and their impact on the urban environment.
Again, paragraph 27 on page 9 of the report states:
The Committee received a disappointing three page submission from the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs . . .
Again, subsequently the Department put in a supplementary submission. There are many quotes similar to that where the findings of the Committee were that it was a serious matter and the Parliament ought to consider whether in fact there was any sensibility whatsoever with a number of departments which were making decisions affecting the urban environment. Yet after 16 months we have not had a reply from those Ministers responsible for those departments. It may be that they can answer the allegations made by that Committee. I am sure that the Committee members would welcome any comment which could be made on them. I urge the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) to take this matter up and pursue it to the extent that we hope to have a report tabled fairly shortly.
Another report brought down by the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation was the Quinkan Galleries report. It was only yesterday that the report of the Australian Heritage Commission for 1978-79 was tabled. A number of the parts of that report were highlighted by the media- and rightly so- in relation to Aboriginal sites. The Quinkan Galleries report was tabled on 22 May and therefore the six-month period is not yet up. But I hope that a relationship will be established between the Minister responsible for the Quinkan Galleries report, the report of the Austraiian Heritage Commission and the findings in relation to Aboriginal sites which are set out on page 3 of the report, because there is certainly an urgent need to look at areas like the Quinkan Galleries near Laura in north Queensland and many others around the country. I shall quote again from that report in the hope of highlighting some of the inadequacies which the Australian Heritage Commission is experiencing in its desire to protect the national estate on behalf of us all. The Commission makes this point:
The rapidity of the weathering of painting and rock engraving sites is now an issue being widely considered by conservators throughout Australia. Whilst vandalism remains a considerable problem in some areas possibly the most vexatious problems are associated with the natural weathering process at art sites.
The action of wind, water, plants and animals, including man, touching or rubbing the surface of both paintings and engraving sites means that in many instances we can expect only a photographic record of a large number of sites within twenty years, simply by natural forces.
I have had the privilege of visiting some of those Quinkan Galleries. They are galleries which ought never to be lost to mankind. In fact I go so far as to say that some of those wishing to promote them as tourist sites ought to be discouraged so that no person, apart from the Aborigines themselves and genuine students of Aboriginal art works and rock paintings in particular, is able to visit those sites.
I conclude by referring very briefly to another committee, that is, the House of Representatives Estimates Committee which met to consider the estimates for the Department of Health last night. I will highlight just one aspect about which I am particularly concerned and that is the lack of commitment to the extent necessary for preventive health schemes in the national health programs. Only 3!6 per cent of the total health bill is spent on preventive health programs. While we have an identification of programs such as the drug education program, dental health and community health, the National Heart Foundation, the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria and other bodies are crying out for funds to be able to promote the preventive aspects of health. I think we need to consider very seriously that aspect too as a national commitment as part of a long term program. I know that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) made the comment that the national health promotion program which is due to start very shortly will be the first step in perhaps having a national health program which will really be concerned about the health of this nation.
-This, as the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) has indicated, is an historic occasion. It is the first time that the Parliament has used this method of dealing with the Estimates and with Budget matters. I must confess that I have not attended any of the Estimates committee meetings, and I am not very proud to have to make that confession. But I shall be attending future meetings of the committees because I believe that they have a very useful function to perform. I am disturbed, however, by some of the remarks made by the honourable member for McMillan. He found cause to complain about the apathy, or perhaps even worse, the cavalier attitude of Ministers towards the various committee meetings. What the honourable member for McMillan was really saying when he talked of the cavalier attitude of Ministers towards Estimates committees of this House is that there is a cavalier attitude by the Public Service towards the Parliament. It is not the Minister who is to be blamed in most of these cases. It is very rarely that a Minister would say, ‘Look, I know the answers. I can help the committee with some of the information it wants, but I am not going to bother to go before the committee. To hell with the Parliament. I am a Minister and I am not going near the committee ‘.
Ministers do not do that unless they are incompetent. What is happening here is that in so many governments, whether they be Liberal or Labor- and I am not trying to make a party political issue out of this- there are so many Ministers in all Cabinets, Liberal and Labor alike, or shall I say some Ministers, who are just not capable of administering their departments. They are just not competent to do it. I was a first class Minister for Industrial Relations and a hopeless Minister for Science. I knew nothing about science.
– You were pretty good on the pronunciation of ‘kilometre ‘.
-The honourable member has got it right for once, but the then Prime Minister, in his very doubtful wisdom, decided that he would deprive the Department of Labour and Industry of the best Minister it had ever had and give to the Department of Science probably the worst Minister it had ever had, bar one. That is the sort of thing that happens. In the case of Liberal governments where the Prime Minister has the personal selection of Ministers, I blame him personally for bad ministries. In the case of Labor governments, the Prime Minister cannot be blamed for the selection of the Cabinet. He can be blamed for trying to put square pegs in round holes, as sometimes also happens.
We ought to remember that criticisms of Ministers are really criticisms of the Public Service, The Public Service is becoming quite contemptuous of the Parliament. The Public Service, which props up certain Ministers- that is as good a description of the relationship between certain Ministers and the Public Service as I can usefeels that it ought not to be bothered coming to the committees at all. We are approaching- and I think, approaching at a much more rapid pace than many of us realise- a situation where this
Parliament is going to lose its relevancy altogether. That is true, whether there is a Liberal government in power or a Labor government in power. It is true of State governments, both Liberal and Labor, the same as it is true of Federal governments. But it is a luxury that we cannot afford much longer, because once the contempt with which the Public Service and its stooge Ministers treat us is recognised, then the people outside are entitled to have the same contempt for the Parliament as the public servants have for it.
There is one thing that public servants are very good at and that is politeness. Public servants know that if they call the Minister ‘Minister’ often enough and get the word ‘Minister’ into each sentence as many times as possible without making complete fools of themselves, the Minister gets so big in the head that in the end he believes that he is the department. He does not realise that he is a puppet on a string being played for a sucker by the public servants who laugh behind his back every time he turns his back on them. The two Ministers at the table, the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), are good Ministers. They are laughing with me, not at me, I am pleased to say. They know that what I am saying is true. They are two of the few Ministers who know what it is all about, although the Minister for Defence does not seem to have a tremendous interest in his department. If only he could develop an interest I think that he would be a good Minister.
– He will be the first High Commissioner to Tonga.
– I do not think that he would take a position like that. The committees have to insist upon the Ministers’ attending their hearings. They ought to insist upon the Ministers’ answering proper questions. By that I do not mean that a committee is entitled to make a Minister give information relating to matters of policy that are in the course of being hammered out. That is not what I am talking about. But the committees are entitled to be given factual information that does not impinge upon matters of policy about costs, about where the money is being spent and what it is proposed to do with certain projects. If a Minister does not do that, which is another way of saying that the public servants propping him up have refused to do it, the committee ought to report back to the Parliament and have that Minister charged with contempt and made to explain why he should not be dealt with. Unless that is done, the committee system, which is a marvellous concept, will not produce the results that those of us who are supporting it believe it is capable of producing. Something had to be done about this Parliament. We can not go on as we are, making meaningless speeches in the House, very often with somebody writing the speech for us before we leave home and reading it without alteration regardless of what is said before us and without any regard to whether it is germane to the issues that are under debate. That is not the way to run the national Parliament.
When I first came into the Parliament members were not allowed to speak from notes or to read their speeches. They could not go to somebody in some office and say: ‘Look, you are interested in white ants. What about writing me a speech on white ants?’ I remember that I gave a speech in the House one night on the stars. At least it was not written out. I was well briefed. I remember Jim Cope trying to be funny. He said to me: ‘Have you ever seen Mars?’ I said: ‘No, but I have seen Uranus! ‘ This was the standard of the cut and thrust of Parliament when people did not come along with speeches written out. It made Parliament worth while. I think that was a pretty common, crass and crude sort of way to behave. This is the first time that I have mentioned that incident since it occurred because it is not something that I think we ought to boast about. The Parliament nonetheless was a different institution in those days from what it is now. If we could only get members of the Parliament to debate as we had to debate in the golden days when it was against the Standing Orders to read a prepared speech, the debates in this House would mean something again. People would want to get into the Parliament and stop here. The public outside would have the sort of respect for us that we should never have lost.
– I want to say something about these Estimates and, in particular, I want to say something about the Parliament. I agree with some of the things that have been said by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) but not, perhaps, for the reasons that he has given. I have been rather perturbed about the Parliament for some time because I believe that it has lacked something that it had a number of years ago. I must confess quite sincerely that I do not think that the Estimates committees will be the answer. If what happened at 8 o’clock this evening is any example then I think that it is sufficient evidence that the committee system will not work as some people thought it might. I have never seen such an episode- a Budget being put through the House with nobody really knowing what was happening, with the Opposition not even knowing what was to be brought before the House. If I am correct- if I am not I will apologise- the Leader of the House (Mr Viner) was not even in the House. I have not spoken on the Budget. I have been waiting to see something appear on one of the speakers’ lists to say that Mr Lucock was going to speak.
It may not be very important but at least one of the things I want to register in the Parliament is the fact that a member in this House is a representative of an electorate. This House is the place in which that representation must be presented. Honourable members do not want to go into back rooms and talk about matters that concern them. This is the place to say what they want to say and this is the place to debate it. If the Executive- I have been critical of the Executive- is not doing its job then it is the party members’ job to tell the Executive so. The Parliament is the institution of democracy in every sense of the word. We can have committees that discuss things at different times and committees which can question departments and Ministers. I say candidly that in the last few days these committees have been a farce. They have been meeting while the Parliament has been sitting. Members have run down to the committee rooms and then they have come back to the Parliament. They have never been quite sure what has been going on. I think that this House and the country have to look at what is happening to the parliamentary system in Australia. It started with the change of government when the GovernorGeneral took certain action. I will not say very much about that at the moment because it has happened and it is in the past. But let us remember one thing; it happened because of the action of a State government over the death of a senator. I think that perhaps that is something all of us must ask ourselves about and look at.
Something else has happened in this House that is very bad. I have given notice of a motion I propose to move. Heaven knows when it will come before the House. The Executive will make that decision. The notice of motion concerns the Department of Post and Telecommunications. It relates to Telecom Australia and Australia Post. I gave that notice of motion because I believe that public servants and the bureaucracy are running this Department to the detriment of the progress and development of this country. They are ignoring anything that honourable members say. Not so very long ago, a group of people said that they would go to their member of parliament to get something done about the Postmaster-General’s Department as it was in those days. A person in the bureaucracy said to them: ‘There is no higher authority; my decision is final.’ I give credit to the present Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley). He is trying to do something but he is handicapped because the legislation restricts him. In my candid opinion it gives too much authority to the bureaucracy.
Last year, when I was in New York I said to Rupert Murdoch: ‘I am worried about the Australian political situation.’ I have seen nothing in the last 12 months to change that opinion. I asked a very prominent member of the Australian Labor Party the other day why it was that the Left wing did not want Labor to get into power. In a democracy we at least want an effective Opposition. Every time we see what the Left has done we can almost say that it deliberately seems to be doing everything it can to make it impossible for the Opposition to be effective. I want to say one other thing. It is not a criticism of the Speaker but a mere statement about something that concerns me. I will not talk about the subject matter but I refer to a case that concerns a member of this House, the questions that were asked, the debate that was carried on and the discussion that was held in this House.
In this country we have the sub judice rule. The major reason for the application of the sub judice rule is to enable a person to have a fair trial and to prevent a case being built up against a person without that person having the opportunity to say something in defence of himself. In the instance concerning my colleague the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), I do not think that has been the case. I have heard some criticism of things that the media did, but if the media had not reported certain things it could have been said that it was covering up. In the circumstances, I believe that the media had to publish reports and comments. I do not think that any criticism should be levelled at the media in that regard.
I believe that members of this House should consider this matter. In this House questions were asked on the subject, there was discussion of it and certain points of view were put forward. Because of that certain opinions have been formed. No matter how much one tries to dismiss from one’s mind the things that have been said, anybody who considers that case or thinks about it must have formed a certain opinion. I ask: Is that something that should be allowed to happen before a person is tried in a court before a judge and jury or whoever will be making the decision? Frankly, that is something at which this House must look and with which it must concern itself. I am a member of the Privileges Committee, as this House would be aware. I believe that this matter must be discussed by the Privileges Committee with Mr Speaker to ensure that that sort of thing does not happen again. I am not being critical of anyone about what has happened so far because I believe that, in the circumstances, nothing could be done about it.
Those are the two matters which I particularly wished to mention in the discussion of these Estimates. As I said at the beginning of my speech, if Estimates committee meetings are to be the way in which the Estimates are considered in the future, I believe that a lot more thought will have to be given to the procedure followed. If one looks at what has been discussed by the Estimates committees one will find that insufficient time has been set aside to enable consideration of the matters in the manner in which they should have been considered, especially if that is to be the only debate and discussion on them. I am frightened that we will get away from the fact that this House is the forum for matters concerning this nation to be discussed. Every individual in Australia has the right to have his member of parliament say something on the noor of this Parliament. That is something that we must never forget and something that we must never give away. It has been said that these Estimates committee meetings are something new and that something new has to be tried for some time before one can find out whether it will be successful and before one can work out ways and means of making it as effective as possible. Honourable members must do everything possible to maintain and sustain this Parliament as the window of that for which we all stand, that is, democracy and the progress of this country.
– It is always refreshing to hear someone express some sentiments from the heart, as the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) has done, particularly when speaking about justice being done and whether some injustice appears to have been done. Let me put the matter in the right perspective. I want to put it on record that the Attorney-General of New South Wales has specifically asked that the matter referred to by the honourable member not be raised in this Parliament. Let me also put it on record that a relative of somebody who felt that there had been injustice and who had some beneficial interest in a company was repeatedly asking people, particularly members of the Press and members of parliament, to raise the matter. In that way we have a problem. I would like the honourable member for Lyne to understand that. I would not like it to be thought, as reported in some journal, that I would not dare raise the matter because I had something to hide. I say that in the context of what happens in public life. The issue is clear. The Attorney-General of New South Wales did nothing wrong and it should not be impugned that he did. In fact, he asked specifically as a law enforcement officer that no action be taken that could embarrass anyone.
In that context, let us look at what we find when we go along to meetings of these Estimates committees. I am of the view that we are not going to find out very much when we go along to them because we get rather soft answers to our questions. If one looks at the softness of the answers in relation to the amounts of money involved in some cases, one will wonder whether justice has always been done by supporters of the Government. The honourable member for Lyne was kind enough to talk about matters that might have been perpetrated in November 1975. All sorts of allegations of collusion by certain State governments could have been made at that time. One of the most fascinating things that happened at that time, for which we are still paying, was the commencement of what is known as the Sankey case. I asked questions recently about what expenditure was incurred by the taxpayers of Australia in paying for the legal costs of the four defendants in that case. I was advised that the amount is now approximately $280,000, and that is not the end of the matter.
Supporters of the Government must look at what they tried to achieve in that case. I would say there was some connivance with State governments, particularly that of Queensland. Four members of the Opposition- four former Ministers- were charged with the crime of conspiracy. It was arranged by Mr Sankey that the return date for the summonses would be consistent with a special one-day hearing of the Queensland Parliament. Honourable members opposite are not exempt from collusion or connivance. It was specially arranged for these unfortunate members of parliament to be charged at a court appearance in Queanbeyan on the very day that Bjelke-Petersen arranged a special oneday meeting of the Queensland Parliament. Is it any wonder that certain things have happened in our country when one thinks of the collusion involved in this matter? I remember Mr Connor making a speech in this Parliament about how this case was affecting his health and his life. He is now dead. Yet honourable members opposite want to think that this matter will be forgotten. Let us look at the amount of money involved in the Sankey case. It has cost the Commonwealth Government over $250,000 for the costs of the defendants and those costs have not yet finished. How in the name of fortune could the costs of Mr Sankey be met? He is not that wealthy. Certainly an equivalent a mo un t - n a m ely , $250,000- would have been incurred by him in costs. The insidious message that we have is that somebody else has been paying the costs and that they had ulterior motives for doing so.
– The Liberal Party.
-I do not know whether it was the Liberal Party or some company but it is quite clear that there was a definite criminal intent from the point of view of financing a malicious charge that it would be on the basis that these men would be removed from public life and be pilloried on the grounds that they did something wrong. If one looks at the petitions presented in this House to get certain evidence brought before the court one will see a whole gamut of conspiracy and collusion from a government. It is now a little late to talk about some of the other problems that have eventuated in this Parliament because that case has effectively damaged and permanently destroyed the processes of this Parliament by playing with the lives of those people. If one does anything wrong from the point of view of the Parliament one should be challenged in the Parliament. One should not be subject to challenge from some impecunious solicitor who suddenly dreams up a charge on the basis that he is going to do something that the Parliament was not able to do.
Let us look at the other factor that comes out of asking questions at meetings of these committees. I have no particular objection to Mr Rofe, Q.C. He is fully entitled to press any charge as forcefully as he can. He was briefed by Mr Sankey. He performed very well indeed. He is quite a bright counsel. He had junior counsel with him. But one is led to ask whether we have got away from this question of connivance, collusion and corruption when one finds the same senior counsel and the same junior counsel being briefed by the Government to appear on its behalf in what is called the Greek conspiracy trial. On behalf of the taxpayers, the Government has already spent, in counsel’s fees and legal costs properly incurred, $350,000. Of that, a substantial sum naturally has been earned and has had to be paid to the same Queen’s Counsel as figured in the Sankey case.
I think it would be beneficial for this Parliament to do something appropriate- I have asked for this on two previous occasions- and to have an inquiry as to who really financed Mr Sankey. Let us get rid of the smell that people outside this
Parliament have been manipulating it for the purpose of destroying people in it and at the same time damaging the Parliament itself. Let the Government clear itself of the obvious odium attached to the allegation that it had something to do with the matter because it has given the same counsel additional work which has given them a substantial portion of $350,000 or more. They are entitled to it, but it is an extraordinary coincidence. It appears that if a learned legal counsel is anxious to pillory former Labor Ministers, one of whom is dead, he may look forward to getting some more succulent briefs from the Government. I do not think that is good enough for this Parliament. Having said that, let us have the matter investigated. Two years ago I asked about this issue. I asked about the financing of the informant. How did it happen? How could a case run into costs such as these and be just ignored? Nothing has happened since. The costs are still building up. This is the tragedy. We must look at out own consciences to see who really financed that particular informant. Until such time as we get the matter out into the open we will always have a running sore in this Parliament.
The other matter which is of interest from the point of view of the estimates of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department is very important and relates to the United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders. I would have thought that it was a most important matter. In fact, the House will notice that in March 1977 the present Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott), who was then Attorney-General, thought the Congress was important enough for him to come into this Parliament and make a ministerial statement on how the Government was going to be the host for the Sixth Congress which was to be held in the Sydney Opera House from 25 August to 5 September 1980. By asking some questions about what had happened, we were told that the Government no longer wished to host that particular conference. I might add that we have spent some further $250,000 on the proposal. That is a loss. I am quite amazed to think, particularly in relation to what we can do by way of effective crime prevention and treatment of offenders, that we would disassociate ourselves from, and in fact abandon and reject, a previous decision that we were to be the host country. It was going to be a pretty substantial Congress. There were to be more than 2,000 participants from more than 100 countries. Ministers of justice, judges, criminologists and leading figures in the fields of correction, police, social welfare and generally related areas were to be involved. Honourable members will know that the fact that Australia had agreed to be the host nation was highly thought of. The New South Wales Government was prepared to cooperate by making the Sydney Opera House available free of cost. But our inquiries now reveal that we spent $250,000 and then abandoned the conference.
I am amazed to think that this would be the attitude of the Government but apparently that was the decision. No announcement was made in the Parliament to that effect. When making the original announcement the present Minister for Home Affairs, the then Attorney-General, said that he favoured the conference because it would give an opportunity to guarantee that we would be able to offer friendship and hospitality and to make a substantial international contribution to the development of more effective crime prevention.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Mr Deputy Speaker we are discussing- if my quick additions as you read out the expenditures for the various departments in your introductory remarks are correct- in the vicinity of $6,000m or a little more. That probably represents the entire income tax contribution from the Australian work force over a period of, say, four to five months of the year. So it is indeed a significant amount of expenditure. This is indeed an historic occasion, as it is the first time that honourable members have attended Estimates committees while the House has been sitting. Varying views have been expressed in this House tonight as to the effectiveness of those committees. As one who originally held the view that it would be a crazy exercise I wish to make some comments. Perhaps like other honourable members in this place who have been here for some years, I have started to believe that established procedures are the only procedures.
I was pleased that the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) concluded his observations by commenting that the system that we have just practised has a lot to offer although it might need some of the rough edges knocked off. I have been completely converted to the view that if some of the rough edges are taken off this new Estimates procedure, it has a lot to offer. When we reflect on the previous system of inquiring into Estimates when members would come into this place and make parochial speeches- I am as guilty as the worst or the best of them in that respect- we realise that the Estimate meant absolutely nothing. I agreed with the honourable member for Lyne when he said that this chamber is the most important chamber. One point that he did not make- perhaps he accidentally omitted to make it- is that those Estimates committees are but an extension of this chamber. The same rules as exist in this House pertain to those committees. I speak as a convert. Sometimes converts are the worst people to speak on a subject because they are trying to justify the reasons for holding a view originally. I really believe that if this Parliament turns its mind to improving the exercise that we have carried out, the Estimates committees will have a lot to offer. I highly commend my colleague the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) for having been such a champion of this cause. Frankly, I thought that he had gone around the twist when he pushed and pushed to have this system introduced.
– They say that about all reformers.
-The honourable member for Perth makes an observation which has a ring of truth about it. But having said that, I believe that in practice it has a lot to offer. I look at the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) who is sitting here. He might have a different view. He is also a lover of the institution of Parliament and I am sure that if he were in different boots and had sat at the other side of the table instead of being a Minister he may well have had a different appreciation of the matter. But far be it from me to conclude what his view of this new system might be.
-I did it for 20 years.
-Does the Minister like the new system?
– I think it is deplorable.
-We have the Minister’s view and that is helpful. I make this observation: I believe that Question Time which we go through in this Parliament day after day, when we question Ministers on their portfolios, is almost a charade inasmuch as Ministers cannot be expected to know everything about their departments- unless questions relate particularly to the Minister’s personal efforts. We sat in the various committee rooms crammed to the door with public servants. We observed that when members of the committees asked questions the Minister, understandably, relied so heavily on individual officers to get the exact answer. Even at times some of the officers were quivering and looking at each other as if to say: ‘Who is going to answer this?’ Such observations simply highlight the fact that there are limitations on a Minister’s ability to know everything that is going on within his Department. Undoubtedly, there would be a few who would profess to know everything that is going on. But even if they do they can give us only generalised answers. I believe that the exercise that we have gone through recently is one which, if improved uponperhaps the question is the improvement of the quality and the ability of honourable members of this House to probe- will enlighten not only the Parliament but, as a result of that, the public too. I believe that is a far more beneficial result .than we are able to obtain under the old system.
I was generally impressed by the calibre of the higher echelon of our Public Service, though as my friend, the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown), so ably observed to me tonight, it is a pity that we did not see the First Division boys. All we had generally were first assistant secretaries appearing before us, because the permanent heads did not appear at many of the committee meetings. No doubt the honourable member will elaborate on that further as the night continues. One observation I would like to make is that I believe that politicians, by virtue of their very position, find it difficult to capitalise on a situation if they see an opportunity to make a mark. Honourable members on both sides of the House, if we are to have a repeat of the Estimates committees in the form in which we saw them this year, must remember at all times that when we are given an opportunity to ask questions, and because of the number of departments there is a restriction on time, we must utilise the available time to the utmost advantage. It is really not a time for intertwining questions with lengthy speeches. No doubt honourable members on both sides of the House, being in a peer situation, witnessed on many occasions colleagues really overdoing it in taking up the time that was available for questioning.
I conclude by making the observation that we in this Parliament have a duty to ourselves, to the Parliament and to the nation to become perhaps a little bit more skilled in our techniques of directing questions. On the other hand, the Ministers can perhaps assist us. I do not believe the situation should exist in which the members of the Ministry should see themselves as being the quarry and having to defend rigorously the system which they represent. Any person who took the time as an observer to sit and watch the procedures and look at the documentation would recognise that there is hardly a Minister in this chamber who is really capable and able- I do not use the word capacity in relation to his ability because it is beyond the ability of almost any man- but there is hardly a man alive who could amply fulfil the requirement of supplying information on every aspect of his department. For the first time we were given an opportunity as a Parliament to sit down with those who serve the Ministers, who serve the Parliament and who serve the public. We were able to question the Ministers and the public servants and to be given explanations. This probably brought a great deal more enlightenment to this Parliament in that respect than has been evident for a long time. I commend this new system. I congratulate, once again, the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde). I hope that next year the Minister for Defence will be given an easier time by the Committee. He too might come to appreciate the finer points of this new system.
– I hope that as a result of these Estimates committees we will get a bit closer to the government of the country than is ordinarily the case with honourable members of this Parliament. This Parliament is the executive instrument of the Australian people. The Ministers are simply the agents of the Parliament in carrying out its will and the departments are the arm of the Ministers’ and therefore of the Parliament itself. It is extraordinarily difficult for honourable members of this Parliament to get close enough to the machinery and complexity of government to find out how it is operating. That is difficult enough. But to exercise some influence upon the way it is operating is almost impossible inside the present system. That has been the burden of complaints of honourable members here this evening.
I hope that the Government in which I was a Minister took some steps to allow the Parliament and parliamentarians to take part in the government of the country. I was instrumental at that time in the establishment of the Aboriginal Affairs Standing Committee. On several aspects of that Committee I appointed honourable members of the Parliament to positions of executive authority. For instance Senator Bonner is still, I think, on the section of that Committee relating to Aboriginal hostels. I think that is an area of action available to honourable members which is totally ignored. I am a member of the Council of the National Library of Australia. Other members of the Parliament are members of the Council of the National University and of the Institute of Aboriginal Studies. In respect of the long debate about the statutory authorities, it is my belief that the country would be advantaged if members were appointed to the boards of all of them so that there was some executive action.
As I have found over many years in this place, when it gets down to administrative action there are not that many differences between us. We might be right wing or left wing, reactionary or progressive, but when it comes to making a decision about carrying out an administrative act in this way or that way, honourable members will find that there is ordinary agreement. I believe that we have sold out and abdicated our responsibilities to the country by ignoring the talent that lies within this Parliament. This Parliament is a sort of committee of wasted talent. There are 27 members who are Ministers. There are a number of executive officers of the Parliament in one way or another. In many respects many of us may as well stay at home. That is the first point.
This evening many honourable members have said that the Public Service is running Australia. Indeed, that is a complaint or a statement that applies in many parts of the world. Why is that so? It is obvious enough. The complexity and scope of government are such that it is impossible for a handful of people whom we charge with the task to run the country. The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) who was sitting here a moment ago is a man of great capacity. In fact, at times, I think he is capable of almost anything. He cannot possibly control and conduct all the affairs of the Department of Defence on his own. I refer honourable members to the system that applies in Britain where there is a team of Ministers applying themselves to some of these tasks. I spoke only a week back to the former Minister for Social Security in Britain, the Right Honourable Stan Orme. There had been, I think, a team of five involved. He said that, of course, they are still tentative about the way it works. Sometimes the senior Ministers, the Secretaries of State, ignore the rest of the Ministers, but in some instances they work as a team. I think we, in this Parliament, have to start to do something about it.
One can only make a few notes and a few comments tonight. The House of Representatives is probably the most vulnerable legislativeinstrument in the free world. It may be dissolved at the whim of the Governor-General. It may be dissolved at the whim of the Prime Minister. It may be strangled or whatever at the fancy of the Senate. It is impossible to govern a country in this way. It is absolute nonsense for us to allow it to continue. So apart from the referendum requirements of changing the relationship between the two Houses we have to do something about the supremacy of Parliament. There ought to be a Supremacy of Parliament Act. It ought to include, in the first instance, three provisions. The Parliament ought not to be dissolved except by its own motion or the effluxion of time. If a motion is put through Parliament that the Parliament should be dissolved, that should be it. Otherwise the Parliament should run its time before there is an election.
I think it is absolutely ludicrous that one person can go to the Governor-General and ask that Parliament be dissolved- honourable members of this Parliament have been placed here by the vote of some six million people- and it is idiotic, a danger and a threat to the whole institution. On the other hand we have the appointment of Ministers. On 11 November 1975 I was removed from office by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral at the time, Sir John Kerr. He apparently chose to think that he no longer required my advice. In fact, he did not ask for it. I was removed from office, as I understand it, at 1 p.m. I did not know that that had happened. I think that at 2.24 p.m. the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) the present Prime Minister, stood up and said that he was now the Prime Minister. I was dumbfounded. The Parliament then carried a motion of no confidence in him and he took no notice.
– Why should he?
-That is right; why should he? The honourable member would not expect the Prime Minister to understand the precedents of Parliament and what it is all about.
– Why should he take any notice of you?
-Because I was a voting member in this Parliament and I had a lot more votes than had the honourable member for Diamond Valley. The honourable member is a very insecure member of this Parliament, and while he is here he might as well make the most of it. The facts are that this Parliament passed a motion of no confidence in those caretaker Ministers. None of them, if they had been men of faith in the parliamentary system, would have accepted office. But that is not the point I want to make. The Supremacy of Parliament Act ought to require that Ministers shall have the confidence of the House of Representatives. Another matter follows from that. On the day on which that occurred, almost immediately the Public Service transferred its allegiance from the former Ministers to the newly-appointed caretaker Ministers. We are all brought up in the tradition of doing what we ought to do in these circumstances. It ought to be required that the Public Service will not take notice of instructions from Ministers who do not carry the authority of this Parliament.
The matters I raise are the answerability of public servants, the appointment of Ministers and the actual protection of this Parliament against the whims of dissolution. I put those points forward to honourable members and suggest that they should examine them for the protection of the institution of parliament, not for any of us for the time being. As has been pointed out to me by recent events, our passage through this Parliament is terminal. We all have a terminal appointment and we are not going to be here forever. Therefore, during our passage through this Parliament we ought to secure the institution itself, insofar as it is possible to do so, against the whims of fate and the temporary aberrations of people who might be in charge. The great challenge of these times for a democratic society such as ours is the challenge to democratic institutions. We are assailed by the media which is normally in most countries, not just here but elsewhere, in the hands of people who find the existence of free institutions inimical to their interests. There are great institutions in the country which try to change it, subvert it, persuade it or hinder it. There are great forces, both commercial and private, attempting to do that. These institutions stand as the protection of the people and their freedom and they have the responsibility to carry the people’s aspirations into political action. We have to find better ways of doing it.
We have very little access to the decisionmaking apparatus. The Minister has his staff and his department and we are way out on the edge. Way down in the departments quite junior members of the Service will have a certain amount of influence upon the Estimates. I suggest to honourable members that we give thought in considering the Estimates situation to looking at them not just as a piece of history, and getting a stack of people in here and asking them: ‘Why did you do that?’ or ‘What is that for?’. Instead of that, Ministers, such as my friend, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) who always pays a great deal of attention to us, at the beginning of the next budgetary year should bring their estimates before the Estimates committees and say: ‘This is what we propose to do.’ If they did that, those of us who had matters we wanted to raise could have some chance of making an input. I can see no difficulties in that whatsoever. There are a great number of administrative questions that can be resolved by mutual agreement between us. For example, I refer to questions of migration, education and so on. They are not party political matters. The issues can be put before the Ministers and floated into the system in that way. There is an enormous amount of work to be done to make this Parliament- the product of nearly 1,000 years of parliamentary government- even more effective in the way that it is going to govern the country. Today is United Nations Day. I congratulate the Minister. I understand that he has the flag of the United Nations flying on Capital Hill. I hope that before this debate closes one has a chance to say a few words on foreign affairs and about the United Nations.
– I want to take part in this debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1979-80. 1 firstly want to say how effective I think the experiment of having Estimates committees has been. I am afraid that 1 must take issue with my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock), because it seems to me that if we were to pursue the old procedures we would have had substantially less opportunity to debate the Budget and the Estimates taken as a whole. On this occasion every minute spent in an Estimates committee was an extra minute in which the honourable members of this House had the opportunity to consider the actions of the Government and the Estimates contained in the Budget. If we had the traditional form of Estimates debate, we would have had speeches of 10 minutes in length and no opportunity to examine or discuss- I think that is the way I prefer to put it- with Ministers, and through Ministers their officials, some of the underlying reasons why we are spending money in certain areas.
I want to stress that those Estimates committees are a part of the Parliament. They are subject to privilege and open to the public. Their debates are recorded in Hansard and are available to members of the public, just as are the debates of the House. I think that the conditions of accommodation for the committees are somewhat wanting, but I am aware that Mr Speaker is conscious of the need for increased capacity to handle the committees of the House in the way in which they have met this year. I found it very valuable to have had the opportunity of raising a number of issues and assessing for myself whether the Minister or, through the Minister, his officials have been sensitive tq changes going on within our society and to see whether they have an appreciation of the need to make an assessment of the effectiveness of the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money. We would not have had that opportunity in a debate in this House.
Therefore, I think that it would be a useful exercise- I hope that someone will have the opportunity of carrying it out- to examine the Estimates debate and list the number of different issues that were identified by both Government and Opposition members and to trace those issues from this year forward to see the extent to which the Government and the bureaucracy may have been influenced by the sensitivities of honourable members in a way in which in the past it has not been influenced. I am confident that as a result of the way in which the Estimates committees were conducted this year, we will have more effective government and more sensitive government because of a more efficient and appropriate interaction between the elected representatives of the people and those who are there to administer the laws that this Parliament passes.
Of course, there were some defects. We all had to learn the procedures of the committees. The decision was taken very late. A lot of the material that would have been useful to us some two or three weeks in advance, came to us rather late. I think that those who prepared the information for us are to be congratulated on the extent and detail of that information that they gathered in the very limited time available to them. I turn now to a matter that my friend, the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) raised. I refer to the report of the inquiry into the urban environment conducted by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. I, too, want to express a concern that that report has not yet been commented upon by the Government. I think that it was a very significant and important report and needs to be fully considered by the Government.
In discussions in the relevant Estimates committee I asked a question of officers of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. I sought to find out whether consideration was being given or had been given or whether there had been any changes in the administration of the Committee called the Location of Australian Government Employment Committee. Since that Committee met I have received a detailed reply to the question I asked. I seek leave to have that reply incorporated in Hansard.
The letter read as follows:
Parliament of Australia
House of Representatives
Mr Wilson, M.P.
The following additional material has been received and is forwarded for your information.
Mr Wilson, Report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and ConservationThe Commonwealth Government and the Urban Environment.
Mr Wilson sought information on the number of officers in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet responsible for co-ordination of the Government’s policies insofar as they affect the urban environment, and information on coordination for the abovementioned Report.
Attached is an extract from the 1978/79 Annual Report of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet- on ‘Coordination of Government Administration ‘.
From this it will be seen that all departments and authorities have a responsibility for ensuring that their own activities are well administered with proper regard for coordination with other departments.
Although the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has a responsibility for general policy co-ordination the Department’s aim is that this role should be one of support, not dominance.
With regard to matters of the urban environment the Department does not have staff of whom it could be said are engaged exclusively or predominantly in the subject. Appendix 4 to the House of Representatives Standing Committee Report contains an indicative list of policies and programs affecting growth and change in the urban environment. The very broad range of thislist relates to a number of departments and authorities and to most Branches in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Most staff of the Department can be involved in more than one subject area of Government policy. The degree of involvement in a subject can vary from officer to officer and from time to time, for many reasons.
Under the Administrative Arrangements Order the Department of National Development has the Commonwealth responsibility for urban planning and development. Within this responsibility National Development has the prime carriage for Commonwealth deliberations on the Report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation.
The Department of National Development, in this carriage role, has co-ordinated with other departments and authorities which have a relevant interest in the ReportFinance, Housing and Construction, Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Science and the Environment, Administrative Services, Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Public Service Board, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The co-ordination on the Report by National Development is active and concerned. That Department chaired the Interdepartmental Committee which was set up to report to the Government on the matter.
Co-ordination of Government Administration
The ultimate responsibility for ensuring that government activities are pursued in an efficient, coherent and coordinated way lies with the Cabinet and with the Prime Minister as head of government.
While all departments and authorities have a responsibility for ensuring that their own activities are well administered with proper regard for co-ordination with other departments, special co-ordinating responsibilities have been given to particular agencies: for example the Public Service Board for staffing matters; the Department of Finance for public expenditure; and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for general policy co-ordination.
The wide range of the department’s activities, across the whole span of government activity, and the primary responsibility of functional departments for administering programs and advising on policies, mean that there is a need to be selective in the department’s involvement in policy and administrative issues, and sensitive in the manner and degree of its involvement
The areas the department is particularly heavily concerned with from time to time will reflect the priorities of the government of the day, the interests of the Prime Minister and the perceptions of senior officers of the department about where a particular effort is needed to implement a policy, change direction, review government involvement, coordinate the activities of different agencies or overcome a problem.
The nature of this involvement will vary sometimes the Prime Minister or Cabinet will call on the department to convene in interdepartmental committee or task group for advice on the development or review of a policy or for suggesting means of overcoming particular problems. At other times the department may simply note that there appear to be problems with some matters. In these cases it would generally point out likely problems to relevant department’s getting directly involved only if the matter so warranted, for example where there is a need to co-ordinate the work of a number of agencies.
Much of the department’s co-ordination role arises from its close involvement in Cabinet meetings. Since members of its senior staff act as notetakers in the Cabinet Room it has a close knowledge of ministerial thinking on a range of issues and is therefore able to assist other departments in implementing ministerial decisions. Its role as a primary official channel of communication with State governments puts it in a somewhat similar position.
However, the department’s aim is that the co-ordination role should always be one of support, not dominance. The success of any contribution the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet can make depends on its officers knowing when to probe, when to put alternatives, when to bring different interests together, but, most of all, when to leave matters to others.
In trying to achieve this balanced approach, the department is also concerned to ensure that there is adequate advice available to the Prime Minister, and through him to the Cabinet, on all matters which come before them and to ensure that essential matters come before them. This task involves many difficult and delicate judgments.
The Prime Minister’s principal advisers are his ministerial colleagues. However, part of the department’s co-ordinating responsibility is the requirement that the department be able as requested to obtain advice for the Prime Minister on matters across the whole range of government activities. The department cannot, from its own resources alone, ensure that the Prime Minister is adequately advised; it must rely on the willing co-operation of other departments to establish the facts and provide views on lines of approach.
Moreover, in advising the Prime Minister the department must be careful to ensure that he is aware of the range of policy or administrative options and of differences of opinion; and that advice given by the department has, as appropriate, been tested with other departments. In briefing on Cabinet submissions in particular (the central thread of the department’s policy advising responsibilities) there is a firm requirement that relevant departments be informed where advice differs from the submissions ‘ recommendations.
-In the light of the Committee’s report I am concerned that more work needs to be done by departments because of the House of Representatives Estimates committee recommendations. As a result of its inquiry the Committee found: a lack of perception in a number of departments and instrumentalities, including those with key policy responsibilities.
A lack of perception as to the impact of the decisions by departments on the way in which the urban environment is affected. In regard to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet the Committee had this to say:
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet stated that one of its primary roles is to ensure that proper coordination and consultation takes place between other Commonwealth Departments. The Committee believes -
This was its finding- that the Department adopts a passive approach to coordination, particularly where there is no specific executive direction to bring the parties together in an endeavour to resolve the conflicts arising from vertically organised departments with specific functional responsibilities. The Committee believes that the Department should adopt a more positive approach in ensuring that the full implications of Commonwealth Government decisions and policies are drawn to the attention of the Government.
From the reply that I received it would appear that at the present time the Department has not as yet undertaken that more positive role. The Department referred to a report that was incorporated in its reply. That reply states:
From this it will be seen that all departments and authorities have a responsibility for ensuring that their own activities are well administered with proper regard for coordination with other departments.
The very point of the House of Representatives Estimates committee’s recommendations was that unless there is a department with the active responsibility of ensuring co-ordination between those departments their perceptions will be far too narrow and decisions will be taken with adverse impacts upon the urban environment. I urge the Government to consider the report. I know that it has been before an interdepartmental committee. I hope that the time will come when we will get a positive response to the recommendations of that committee. If we do not get a positive response we will find this sort of thing occurring. I made some representations to the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in respect of a building being built in my electorate by the Commonwealth Trading Bank. The response that I received was as follows:
Against this background, the Corporation -
That is the Commonwealth Banking Corporation- has been and remains of the opinion that the Council ‘s -
That is the local government body- requirements in relation to car parking spaces do not accord with reasonable and accepted standards. In view of the extreme urgency of the project, the Corporation decided to proceed with the building even though this issue had not been resolved.
Who is the Commonwealth Banking Corporation to say what are adequate requirements for parking within a municipality’s area of responsibility? I thought we believed that in Australia we should have a three sphered system of government. I thought that local government had been given the responsibility of this level of urban planning. I thought that the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, like any other trading corporation, should be made subject to the same rules and regulations that any private enterprise bank is subject to if building something of similar proportions.
It is of very great importance to the development of our cities and towns that the Government read and reread the report on the urban environment and that it take note of that report. The Government should agree to as many of the recommendations of that report as is possible and practicable. But to do that it will have to be prepared to lift itself out of the narrow perceptions that are created by vertically organised departments. The Government will have to look at the impacts in terms of society as a whole. One of the weaknesses in our present system of organising government at all levels is that vertical organisation of departments.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to start with the general and then move on to the particular. While in theory I was quite enthusiastic about the idea of setting up Estimates committees- it was pleasing that we had the equivalent of twice as much time to consider the whole of government policy- unfortunately the reality was a bit less exciting than the prospects.
Firstly, there was a great danger of members being absolutely swamped with information. In the case of the Department of Administrative Services we had a 605 page brief and there was an enormous gaggle of public servants to answer the various nit picking questions that we might want to raise. I suppose the opportunity to score off Ministers on comparatively small points of detail was almost irresistible for some of us. The problem was that by being so swamped with matters of detail it did seem to me that we were rather inhibited from canvassing the broad policy issues. The result was that there was an enormous amount of discussion on points of detail and not really a great deal of discussion on broad policy issues.
I must say that compared with the budgets in State Parliaments, which are comparatively plain sailing, I have been a bit taken back by the extraordinary complexity of some of the Budget procedures and, in particular, by the significance of the permanent appropriations that are so characteristic in the Commowealth Parliament. When the Budget was brought down a few months ago there were a few items that I was looking for and I did not grasp that they were in permanent appropriations. When I spoke to some of the long serving members, even some of the lifers around the place, they were inclined to say vaguely: ‘Look, you have turned to the wrong page. It is all there somewhere’. Then when I looked further they would say: ‘You know, it does not seem to be there after all’. That takes me to the mystery of the permanent appropriations. It is astonishing how little information there is about these permanent appropriations. I have a question on notice- a little bird told me that I am likely to get an answer to it some time before the end of this decade- which seeks very precise information about the nature of permanent and special appropriations. There is very little information to be found about them, although there are a couple of references in the book Australian Senate Practice by Mr J. R. Odgers, the former Clerk of the Senate. I will read two very short sections.
– You shouldn’t mention it in the House of Representatives.
-Unfortunately there is no equivalent book about the House of Representatives. There really ought to be. Perhaps the Clerk at the table might take this task on board. On page 39 the book states:
Annual appropriation….. accounted for only about 44 per cent of annual expenditure, other expenditure being covered by special appropriations.
I understand that the figure in this year’s Budget is of the order of 40 per cent and 60 per cent is really covered by permanent appropriations. On page 377 the book states: . . . permanent appropriations are removed from the annual supervision and control of Parliament. Certain permanent appropriations were made by the Constitution, such as the salary of the Governor-General. Since 1 90 1 , other permanent appropriations have been made, pursuant to statute, such as salaries of Justices of the High Court. In modern practice, the permanent appropriations are classified as special appropriations and are grouped with many other appropriations which, while not all permanent in the strict sense, are appropriations which are not voted by Parliament from year to year. These appropriations, therefore, do not form part of the ordinary annual services of the Government and are deemed to be Amendment Bills (subject always to the qualification that the Senate may not amend any proposed laws so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people- section S3 of the Constitution). These special appropriations include Parliamentary Allowances, bounties, National Welfare Fund, Payments to or for the States, Debt Charges and primary industry assistance. In recent years special appropriations have comprised over SO per cent of total annual expenditure. In Canada the situation is similar to that in Australia, but in the United Kingdom the special appropriations (called Consolidated Fund Services) do not normally amount to more than 10 per cent of total expenditure.
To find the total list of these extraordinary special appropriations one has to go to Budget Paper No. 4 entitled ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ended 30 June 1980’. In this we find that the total estimate for the permanent appropriations which are not put before this Parliament is a trifling $20,37 1,85 1,000!
– Twenty thousand million dollars.
-Yes. No doubt if we wanted to we could refer to this expenditure in the course of our speeches on the Budget but the point that I am trying to make is that the paper we were weighted down with at the Estimates committees, the tonnes of paper that landed on our desks, related really to that 40 per cent of expenditure covered by the Budget; the 60 per cent was not really covered at all. That is where an absolute plethora of information- the sheer volume of information- may actually have the effect of inhibiting proper examination.
I move now to a very specific subject. I want to talk about the Department of Home Affairs and in particular about our expenditure on the arts. Commonwealth funding of the arts generally is no longer a matter of partisan debate in Australia and the ocker response to high spending on art works, such as Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles, now seems anachronistic. It is now 10 years since the report of the Australian Council for the Arts on film and television in Australia was adopted by the Gorton Government. The film industry, which was intensely controversial in the years 1971 and 1972, is now very widely accepted and regarded with national pride. I may say that the begetters of the 1969 report thought at that stage that we would have a modest success in the film area but, of course, the success of the Australian film industry has far exceeded our expectations. However, we need sometimes to exercise some critical oversight in spending.
I am particularly concerned about the current situation with the Australian Opera Company. I think that it is about time that the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) provided a statement to the House of Representatives about the long history of conflict within the administration of the Australian Opera. In 13 years seven general managers have been shot out of the revolving door. Of course they have been forced to take a vow of silence. In particular, we need to know much more about the reasons for the elimination of the most recent general manager, Mr Peter Hemmings, a man who was regarded as an aspirant to the directorships of Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera. I do not believe that the Australia Council’s proposed inquiries into the Australian Opera can be nearly broad enough. I believe not only that there are very important basic matters of principle and policy to be discussed but also that there are financial matters which need very rigorous scrutiny. I believe that any inquiry into the Australian Opera must be able to deal with questions relating to taxation, to the sending out of the country of large sums of money which may or may not be exempt from taxation and possible financial conflicts of interest within the Company and within the Board of the Company. I want to draw attention to what I think, after the research I have done, is an admirably balanced report. I refer to an article by Maria Prerauer which appeared in the Australian of 1 1 August 1979. 1 shall readjust a few small sections of the article ‘What’s gone wrong at the Opera ‘. It states:
Traditionally opera is a bloody art, on stage and off. The stab in the tenor’s back while the prima donna goes mad to waltz-time is nothing compared with the dagger between the general manager’s ribs after the curtain falls. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
The article continues:
Peter Hemmings has said that he would like to talk about the circumstances which led to his going but a clause in his contract forbids it. Charles Berg -
He is the Chairman, refuses categorically to comment.
– It must be under the Public Service Board.
-Exactly. The article continues:
In the words of a member of the company, ‘It seems like a conspiracy of silence. It ‘s all being run as a private club. ‘
But $3,500,000 of public money is involved in running that private club and I am very much concerned about that. The article states further:
So why should the board disregard the advice of its general manager? And then, when it came to the crunch, even the general manager himself? The answer is Dame Joan Sutherland- indirectly, Australia’s foremost diva is married to Richard Bonynge and as the chairman of the board once admitted, ‘We just can’t afford to lose her. We can’t take the risk. ‘ The members, or most of them, appear to live in constant fear that if they do not allow Richard Bonynge to carry out his own plans he will depart taking their star with him.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Despite some voice affliction I take very much pleasure in participating in this debate. I was a member of Estimates Committee A when it dealt with the estimates of the Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of the Capital Territory. Before I speak with respect to the work of the Committee, I want to congratulate the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) and his colleagues on setting what was certainly an Australian record and probably a world record in respect to the vote tonight on the motion for the second reading of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1). I do not take it any further except to say that I have checked and I believe that the vote by 18 members of the Opposition is the smallest opposition vote on a Budget Bill since Federation. I congratulate members of the Australian Labor Party on their contribution on that occasion.
I refer, firstly, to the estimates for the Department of the Capital Territory and the Department of Home Affairs. I do so specifically to congratulate the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon. K. J. Ellicott, for the manner in which he presented the estimates of those two departments to the Committee and for the very co-operative manner in which the departmental officers assisted the committee. The honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) was present at the meeting of Estimates Committee A when we had the benefit of considering the estimates of both departments. I particularly commend the honourable member, and other honourable members who were present, for the manner in which we were able to go through a multitude of estimates with respect to both departments. The matter just raised by the honourable member for Lalor about the Australian Opera was in fact raised at the meeting of Estimates Committee A. I simply make the point very bluntly and briefly that if it is to be called the Australian Opera it must be the Australian Opera. It is not good enough for the Australian Opera, out of some 200 performances which are listed for the current financial year, to perform in the order of 160 of those performances in Sydney, New South Wales, and to omit totally visits to Tasmania and Western Australia. I make the point: If it is the Australian Opera let it be the Australian Opera and let it go into every State in the Commonwealth. We should bear in mind that funding through the Australia Council for the Tasmania Opera Company was terminated last year and we no longer have a Tasmanian opera company. We were promised that the Australian Opera would go to Tasmania. To date I am afraid that we have yet to see it. Having said that, I turn my attention to -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, as it is such an important matter, I draw your attention to the state of the House.
-What a hypocrite you are.
-Order! The honourable member for Denison with withdraw that remark.
– He is only doing the dirty work of the honourable member for Hughes.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I believe that I have been misrepresented. The honourable member for Denison has suggested that I have drawn your attention to the state of the House only because the honourable member for Hughes has suggested that I should. I ask that you require the honourable member for Denison to withdraw that imputation.
-Order! A quorum is required. Ring the bells.
– You are just a puppet; the newest member of the Muppet Show.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I find that very offensive and I ask you to request the honourable member to withdraw it.
-I am sorry; I do not understand what you wish to be withdrawn,
– I am sure you do. Everyone else heard it.
-To what are you referring?
– The honourable member for Denison suggested that I am a puppet. I find that very offensive and I ask for it to be withdrawn.
– I said that he is the newest member of the Muppet Show and he is.
-Order! The honourable member for Denison has already withdrawn once. Is the honourable member for Grayndler referring to a second remark?
– He withdrew the first imputation he made and then he made a second imputation. I ask that he be requested to withdraw that.
-Order! The honourable member for Grayndler seems to be upset that the honourable member for Denison has reflected on him. I ask whether the honourable member would mind withdrawing the remark.
– I certainly will withdraw, but the honourable member needs to check his hearing aid. I said that he is the newest member of the Muppet Show.
-Order! The honourable member will not get the call after the quorum is formed if he does not obey the Chair.
– I did, Sir.
-Yes, and you went on talking when the Chair called you to order.
– He said I said something which was different from what I said.
-Order! (Quorum formed).
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! The honourable member has not yet been called. Will he mind waiting until he has the call please? I call the honourable member for Denison.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I just want to repeat that the Australian Labor Party set a record tonight when there was the lowest vote by an Opposition in the history of Australia- 18 members.
-Order! I remind the honourable member to relate his remarks to the Estimates. If he would tell me which estimates he is dealing with I would be very relieved.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The real reason honourable members opposite drew attention to the state of the House while I was speaking was that they knew that I intended to raise a matter which would be very embarrassing to them.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. You have asked the honourable member to relate his remarks to the Estimates but he has gone on to deliberately defy you. Anxious as I am to uphold the dignity of the Chair, I suggest that you call the honourable member to order.
-Order! The honourable member has made his point of order. He must give the Chair a certain degree of latitude before he reacts. I call the honourable member for Denison.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I now talk about the estimates for the Parliament. I wonder whether it is worth while keeping all the staff of the Parliament here when the Labor Party can muster only 18 members to come into the House and vote on the Budget. That is an Australian rules football team without the nineteenth and twentieth man. Shame on the Labor Party. Why should the staff of the Parliament have to remain here while honourable members opposite can muster only 18 men for a vote? The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), as coach of the team, ought to resign. It is a world record. It is the lowest vote by an Opposition in Australia’s parliamentary history.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. While the honourable member for Denison is on his feet, he might tell us where the other 27 members of the coalition parties were.
-Order! There is no point of order. If the honourable member for Denison cannot tie his remarks to the proposed expenditure for the Parliament more clearly I will be forced to ask him to resume his seat.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not need to make the point that for the Muppet Show to raise only 18 members for a gala performance on a vote on the Budget is a scandal. A few years ago the Labor Party used to be known as the Kindergarten of the Air. It is now a cross between the Muppet Show and Kindergarten of the Air.
I want to turn to the reason why this quorum was called. I want to talk about the Department of Foreign Affairs. I want to make certain comments that will be very embarrassing to the Labor Party. Honourable members opposite might well quiver in their shoes because what I am about to say to them will mean that a few chickens will come home to roost. I will mention something which used to be a subject of embarrassment to those on this side of the House but is now a matter of shame for honourable members opposite. I want to ask why is it that not one member of the Labor Party was prepared to publicly raise the fact that Australian relief amounting to 1 IS tonnes for East Timor sat on the wharves at Jakarta for no fewer than two months. I have been out of Australia and I have only recently returned. It is the old Whitlam guilt complex over East Timor that honourable members opposite- with the exception of the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) who is not in the chamber- are not prepared -
– Yes, he is.
– He is? I am sorry. Honourable members opposite are not prepared to raise the matter because of their guilty consciences. So that there is no question about the authenticity of what I am saying, I refer to Hansard Estimates Committee A of Thursday, 18 October at pages 332 and 333. I simply want to say this: Any country that is prepared to let 1 1 5 tonnes of Australian aid sit on the wharf deserves our contempt, and so does the Labor Party.
-Order The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I say to the accusation made by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) in regard to East Timor, that no one in this Parliament or in Australia is without guilt in our relationship with East Timor. The honourable member carries his guilt as I carry my guilt. But it is not a namethrowing situation in regard to the people of East Timor. It is degrading that the. honourable member should make the attack in the way that he did. The only way that we can overcome this problem is to make sure that we do face up to it. If the honourable member looks at the Hansard record he will see that only about 10 days ago I raised the issues that he mentioned. I wish to comment about the House of Representatives Estimates committees. I must say that as far as I am concerned I believe this debate on the Estimates is the greatest farce I have witnessed in the 21 years that I have been a member of parliament.
We have only three hours in which to discuss the proposed expenditure for 12 departments and the Parliament. For instance, there are at least three departments which I would like to discuss and make comments on. I would certainly like to talk about the Department of Administrative Services in respect of Commonwealth properties and how the influence of Commonwealth employees on urban and regional development can be used wisely. I certainly would like to say something about the foreign affairs problems relating to the people in South East Asia. But, of course, time will not permit this.
I want to concentrate my remarks on the estimates for the Department of Home Affairs if I can speak over the dirge created by Government members who are speaking while I am debating these Estimates. I particularly want to deal with the Australian Heritage Commission which is one of the relics of the Department of Urban and Regional Development and which has not been completely destroyed by this Government. One has to be grateful for the crumbs that fall from the table of this Government. We know that in many respects the Heritage Commission has not been given any real moral support by the Government. I must say that if honourable members looked at the history of the Heritage Commission, at how it came about, and if they looked in depth at the report on the National Estate and read some of the recommendations- it was probably one of the finest reports tabled in this Parliament- they would see that we were able to develop and introduce the legislation for the establishment of the Heritage Commission. I was fortunate in having the privilege to introduce into Parliament the second reading debate on that Bill. When that Bill was passed the Commission came under the joint administration of the then Minister for the Environment and Conservation and me as the Minister for Urban and Regional Development.
I quickly want to state the major task of the Heritage Commission. The major role of the Commission since its inception has been the compiling of the National Register of the National Estate. Other important roles such as public information, research, investigation and education have been neglected because of lack of funds. One of the sad situations brought about by this Government is the starving of funds for the Australian Heritage Commission. The Commission has also been hamstrung in compiling the Register. The forces which this Government represents- the multinational mining companies and other development-at-any-cost interestshave opposed and frustrated the Heritage Commission’s activities at every stage. They have objected to many of the indisputably wonderful areas that have been nominated to the Register. In particular the Queensland National-Liberal Party Government has objected to most of the Queensland proposals, including even half of its own national parks. This Government’s support for Australia’s heritage is so flimsy that it has left the Commission with a skeleton staff to continue the important work of establishing the Register. If we consult the annual report of the Heritage Commission we will see that there are merely two people to deal with all these proposals, all the objections and all other matters relating to the natural environment for the whole of Australia. There is one person to deal with the built environment and one for Aboriginal sites. I would like to draw to your attention, Mr Deputy Speaker, and to the attention in particular of those honourable members who represent Queensland in this Parliament, the role played by the Queensland Government in regard to the National Estate. What did this year’s Heritage Commission report have to say? On page 5 of the report the Commission says:
Losses from the National Estate
The Belle Vue Hotel, Cnr George and Alice Streets, Brisbane. The Commission advertised its intention to place the Belle Vue Hotel on the Register of the National Estate in March 1977. The Queensland Government lodged an objection to this intention but after a careful review of the matter on national estate grounds the Commission resolved to place the hotel in the Register because it was considered to be an important contribution to the group which included Parliament House, the Queensland Club and the Mansions, and that its significance was increased by historical associations.
The report goes on to state- and I particularly draw the attention of the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) to these remarks:
The hotel was demolished by the Queensland Government during the early hours of Saturday 2 1 April 1979.
We know that in the dead of night the Queensland Government used strong-arm tactics to get its way. It destroyed the whole concept of this beautiful man-made part of our National Estate. An enormous amount of destruction of the National Estate has been going on throughout the years, particularly those great years of the early 1950s, into the 1960s and the early 1970s. It was only due to the sensitivity of people on this side of the House that in fact something was done. The Labor Government authorised the inquiry under Mr Justice Hope which set up a task force which brought down this remarkable report. I commend every member on this side of the House as well as on the Government side to read this report and to see the sensitivity that is needed in dealing with such matters. This report requests that grants be made available by the Australian Government to the States for coastscapes. One has to raise one’s voice because of the arrogance of the Chair and because of the arrogance of honourable members opposite. One cannot hear oneself speak and that is why one has to raise one’s voice.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I object to the statement of the honourable member for Reid that he has to raise his voice because of the arrogance of the Chair. I think that is a reflection on the Chair and I ask that ;t be withdrawn.
– The Chair has been continually talking to people in the time that I have been speaking.
-Order! The Minister has the call. What is the Minister’s point of order?
– My point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, is that the honourable member for Reid said that he had to raise his voice because of the arrogance of the Chair. I consider that to be a reflection on the Chair and I ask you to rule on it.
-Fortunately, in this instance, the Chair did not hear the words uttered. I am grateful to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs for drawing my attention to the remarks. Might I add that, by and large, experienced members of the Parliament are not given full protection by the Chair, I think quite properly. I think the Chair owes it to younger members to insist on a bit more quiet. I am sorry if the honourable member for Reid thinks that too much conversation is going on. Perhaps the House will accept the fact that he has drawn attention to it, if indirectly.
– Thank you for your lecture, Mr Deputy Speaker. You have used up most of my time. My time is about to expire.
-Order! The honourable member for Reid is reflecting on the Chair and I ask him to withdraw that reflection.
-I will not be lectured in the way in which you have just lectured me, Mr Deputy Speaker. You know that you have used up my time deliberately and I will not withdraw.
-That is quite incorrect, and I warn the honourable member for Reid that if he does not apologise I will have to take action against him.
– You can do what you like, Mr Deputy Speaker. If you want to take action that is your business. The facts are that I would have withdrawn the term ‘arrogance of the Chair’, and I do so now, but I do not withdraw my remarks that you were speaking down to me and using up my time because you could see that I had only one minute left. In fact the last two minutes of my time were taken up by the deliberate role of the Minister and yourself, and the record will show it.
-That is a deliberate reflection on the Chair. I give the honourable member for Reid one more warning. He will withdraw or I will have to name him.
-I do not want to upset the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, and if it upsets you so terribly, I withdraw.
– I think the House has enjoyed this evening the thoughtful and sensible address of the honourable member -
– Take the plum out of your mouth. You are giving everbody the creeps.
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne walked out the door a little while ago during a quorum. He is an experienced member of this House. He knows that such behaviour is not correct and he knows that he should not do it. If that is not bad enough, he now reflects on an honourable member. I ask him to rise to his feet and withdraw the reflection.
– I will not repeat what I said to the honourable member for Holt, but I withdraw.
-I beg the pardon of the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes). He could not hear me quite clearly. He has been involved in the debate all evening and he has shown an enormous interest in it. I am glad he has made a tremendous contribution to the House. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) and the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) in point of fact turned their attention to one problem which we are facing tonight, and that is quite a clear one: Was the exercise of having these Estimates committees of any value or of any constructive use to this Parliament or not? That I think is the most fundamental point we have to consider. I do not object to other honourable members bringing forward their points of view on various appropriations, but I would have thought that this is one of the most fundamental things that this House has to decide. It was an experiment and the power of this House rests in the hands of the back benchers. If they are going back to their constituents and telling them- (Quorum formed). I have no good grounds to lose my patience with members of the Opposition who want me to have an audience at this moment. The honourable member for Lalor correctly pointed out in his speech that $20,000m is appropriated by this House.
– How much?
-I repeat, $20,000m. Sixty per cent of the total Budget is never examined by this House in any way. This is a first major effort by the back benchers to assert the sovereignty of Parliament. If honourable members go back to their electorates and tell their constituents that they are not prepared to serve on committees and examine this sort of expenditure they are in for real trouble. I can say without doubt that members of the public of this country are incensed at the lack of attention honourable members are paying to expenditure. This will rebound on us and on the credit of this Parliament. Let us be quite frank. The power of the Executive is increasing. It ought to be diminished. ‘
– Take your hands out of your pockets.
-The honourable member for Melbourne once more makes a personal observation. He is quite correct- no honourable member should talk with his hands in his pockets. Perhaps I have something of value in them. We have to say three very important things. Firstly, it was the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who was anxious and keen that there should be parliamentary reform. Let us get that right from the start. It was the head of the Executive himself who thought that the power of the Executive should be put under scrutiny by the back benchers of this House. If honourable members are not prepared to do their duty, that is their fault and the country will find out. Therefore, I have to ask: Were these committees of any value and were they successful? I would have thought that anybody who attended those committees would certainly have said at the end of the hearings that every Minister who attended answered every question to the best of his ability.
– What are you talking about?
– I attended a number of the committee hearings. I thought that the Ministers answered our questions adequately and sensibly. I found no objection during examination of the Foreign Affairs Department. At none of the committee hearings I attended did the Ministers not make a major effort to answer the questions put by the back benchers. The honourable member for Hindmarsh complained that those public servants present at the committee hearings did not attempt in certain cases to answer the policy questions. I must admit that after a committee meeting any public servant whom one asked about any problem answered courteously and correctly. I thought that they were out to help us. Are we, the back bench members of this Parliament, suddenly to turn around and pour scorn on the efforts of the Ministers who were at the committee hearings? This is the first time we have used the system in this House. Will we pour scorn on the public servants who did their very best at short notice? That would be a very uncharitable thing to do. If this House had any respect for itself and if the back bench members had any respect for their function they would realise that although these committees are not perfect in any way they are a genuine effort by the back benchers to control the power of the Executive. Is that not what we are all about?
– Perhaps the honourable member for Kalgoorlie is not here to consider the Estimates or to examine what is spent by the Executive.
– You talk to yourself.
-That is the finest contribution I have ever had by way of interjection in my life. I am glad that the debate is not being broadcast tonight. It is a great relief. Frankly we have to consider whether these committees are of any value.
– No value whatsoever. Abolish them.
– In that case all that I can do is to pay my respects to the Clerk of the House and to those who came to the committees and supplied us with information and who did everything in their power to assist us. At the same time I say that I considered that the contributions of the Ministers and those of the public servants were valid, valuable and helpful. If honourable members know so much about what is going on, if they know so much about the Executive and if they have all the information, why do they not go back to the old system? Why do they not sit down, take the money and do nothing?
– I never agree with the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) but he made one point a few moments ago to which I subscribe. To proceed with this type of committee system is an absolute farce. There is insufficient time for members to obtain the information they require, although they are able to ask Ministers questions. As a shadow Minister handling three portfolios I have asked questions of the responsible Ministers. They listen very attentively but I have never been side-tracked so much in all my life. When the answers are not forthcoming and the time for the committee hearings runs out we list the questions but they still remain unanswered. What contribution has that inquisition made to this debate? Absolutely nothing! It must be as frustrating for members on the other side of the House as it is for us. There is no questioning of the Ministers. I am not blaming them. They do not have sufficient time to deal with the questions asked.
– Where have you been all evening?
– I know where the honourable member for Holt ought to be. I put it to the House that the whole committee system ought to be overhauled if we are to make a positive contribution. Surely there is a better way for the people who take on responsibilities in the Parliament as representatives of their own constituents and the parliamentary system generally?
I now turn to one of the issues I am able to raise in the eight minutes remaining to me. I have to cover several portfolios. I have spent hours labouring over them in an endeavour to make a contribution to the debate in this House. For the past two years this Government has attempted to sell off the assets of the people of Australia. I asked the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) a question, and I referred to a situation which I think ought to be highlighted in this debate. This Government, not content with allowing its American friends to plunder this land for its mineral and oil reserves without a tax on super profits, has proceeded to sell off all manner of public enterprises in this country. The profitable Fawnmac group of pharmaceutical companies has been sold. The Government’s half share in the Ranger uranium project is to be sold, probably to foreign investors. Mary Kathleen is up for grabs. The Australian Government Engine Works has been placed on the market. Even Government enterprises established by previous Liberal governments have not been immune to the asset stripping operation. The Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, set up by the Menzies Government in 1965, is the next lamb to the slaughter.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his band of saboteurs are involved in selling off the assets of the people of Australia. Even the long-established domestic carrier, TransAustralia Airlines, is not safe. Government back benchers were pressing hard for its sale and the fight is not over. What will happen next? Will Qantas Airways Ltd be sold to Pan American World Airways? Will Australia Post and Telecom Australia be carved up amongst the Bell Telephone Company, the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation and
Standard Telephones and Cables Pty Ltd? The prospect is horrendous and treacherous to say the least. This madness has spread to the Australian Capital Territory. I have put a question to the responsible Minister about private enterprise expressing interest in the Government-owned Mugga Lane quarry and about the Commonwealth Brickworks already meeting with the chop. It is the Commonwealth Brickworks, of a range of items, that I wish to deal with in the very short available time this evening. The Opposition is extremely disturbed at the sale-
– What about the eggs?
– All the egg is on the honourable member’s face and and that will be more so after the next election. The Opposition is extremely disturbed at the sale of the brickworks and especially at the manner and direction of the sale. The brickworks have been sold on the cheap to a company with a long history of intimate links with the Liberal Party of Australia. I will detail those more serious charges in just one moment. The sale may also see the closure of Canbrick together; it already has seen the retrenchment of some of its staff. The company which literally produced the edifice which is Canberra has been sold lock, stock and barrel to any bidder, no matter what the price. The Government may as well put out signs in front of the brickworks saying: ‘Closing down sale of public enterprise at below price. First in will be best dressed’.
A company named Clifton Brick Holdings Ltd offered $3.6m for the brickworks. This figure compares most unfavourably with the $3m that the Government was asking for as only a half share in the company just two years ago. If one inflates the 1977 figure to today’s prices, it seems that the Government is selling the brickworks for very close to half its 1977 valuation of the company. Further, just five years ago the brickworks was rebuilt and expanded on a new site with the most modern and sophisticated equipment available. The cost of that rebuilding and expansion was $4.1m. The brickworks is a substantial asset. Its book value last financial year was $4.8m, but it was sold for just $3.6m. This matter becomes all the more disturbing when it is realised that the sale price for the brickworks was less than the brickwork’s liabilities. The Government’s proceeds from the sale are to be less than the Government’s debts associated with the brickworks. The Government is losing money selling Canbrick. It must consider the company less than valueless. The company’s goodwill, its assets, its market share, all add up to less than the Government’s liabilities in the company.
However, the situation just might not be as bad as it appears. The Opposition understands that the 1 979 price is free of all debt, whereas the 1977 price carried a share in the company’s substantial debts. Nonetheless, it seems that that brickworks could have been sold for substantially less-
– Who wrote this?
– The honourable member for Denison asked who writes my speeches. I write my speeches. Santamaria writes his. Nonetheless it seems that the brickworks could have been sold for substantially less than the valuation placed on it in 1 977- a valuation done by the departmental member of its board of directors who is, incidentally, a chartered accountant. This is a scandalous state of affairs. The Government appears to be making a gift of the Commonwealth Brickworks to Clifton Bricks. The situation becomes even more compromising when it is realised that Clifton Bricks has a long history of association with the Liberal Party. The company’s present chairman of directors is a former Liberal Party member of this House. Adrian Gibson represented the seat of Denison in this House from 1964 to 1969. Adrian Gibson’s father was one of Tasmania’s leading judicial tories, sitting on the Supreme Court of Tasmania for 17 years- another political appointment. The honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) moves out of the House.
– I raise a point of order. It is completely out of order for the honourable member to degrade this debate by making an attack of the nature of the attack he has made in the past few moments in respect of a former honourable member for Denison. As the present and continuing honourable member for Denison, I take the point that the honourable member is not entitled to read out Mr Laurie Carmichael ‘s defamatory statements.
-Order! There is no point of order. I ask the honourable member for Melbourne to confine his remarks to reasonable parliamentary language.
– I though that was most reasonable for me. Nonetheless, I believe that the individual who was responsible for that tirade has a penchant for opening his mouth and letting the wind blow his tongue about. The more he does that the more the people of this country will understand why he is not going to be the honourable member for Denison for-
– I raise a point of order.
-Order! If the honourable member does not direct his remarks to the Chair he will suffer from interruptions.
– I seek a withdrawal. I do not mind a man with an open mind saying that but a man with a vacant mind-
-Order! The honourable member for Denison will resume bis seat. I ask the honourable member for Melbourne to withdraw.
– I withdraw. I return to the point I made in the first instance. I think that the time available to shadow Ministers to present their material in a proper parliamentary sense is farcical. Unless something is done about this aspect of the Estimates committee system before next time around Opposition members will be wasting their time coming to Parliament to contribute to the Budget debate as the Government will ride roughshod over the parliamentary system and impose its will without any parliamentary democracy at all.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to refer to the estimates for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. As a general observation, let me say that I believe that, our immigration program is administered very fairly by a Minister who looks at cases impartially and tries to do the best he can for all the people who seek to bring in friends and relatives from overseas. However, I want to draw attention to a particular matter which is causing justifiable concern to a small but in many respects, significant community in Melbourne. I refer to the East Timorese community there. I suppose this applies to the East Timorese community throughout Australia. I have had dealings only with the East Timorese community in- Melbourne. Honourable members will recall that late in 1975 about 3,000 East Timorese were evacuated from their country during and after the conflict there. Since then a number of them have nominated relatives still in East Timor to come to Australia. I think the total estimated by the community is nominations in respect of 2,668 people who were in East Timor. The nominations of approximately 600 people were approved by the Department under the slightly expanded family reunion guidelines. As far as the Australian authorities were concerned, those people were eligible to come to Australia.
Last Thursday, I asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) what progress had been made in bringing those 600 people to Australia. He reported that to date 285 of those 600 people had come to Australia under the family reunion program and that an additional 85 people outside that group of 600 people had been reunited with their families under normal migration arrangements. The program of reuniting families has proceeded much more slowly than we would all want. Indeed, there were expectations last year that those 600 people would be reunited with their families by Christmas of last year. I wish to refer to one or two documents which indicate the sort of expectations which were current at that time. I refer to an article in the Melbourne Herald of 1 1 November 1978 which states:
A spokesman for the Minister for Immigration, Mr MacKellar, said there had been ‘some delays in arranging the mechanics’ of the visit.
That is, a visit of an Australian immigration team to Indonesia. The article continues:
But we will expect the Timorese to be reunited by Christmas’.
The article also states:
Action for World Development have published a 14-page report on the Timorese problem which claims that Indonesia was taking action to halt the migration.
The Indonesian Ambassador to Australia, Mr Nurmathias, has, however, denied the report.
It is entirely for the families concerned to decide whether they want to stay in Australia or return to East Timor.
Likewise, it is up to those now in East Timor to decide whether they wish to join their families in Australia, ‘ he said.
The spokesman for Mr MacKellar said that about 600 Timorese were expected to arrive here by Christmas.
Further, the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia was reported in an Indonesian newsletter late last year as saying that his Government did not object to anyone leaving Timor who wanted to, providing he went through the normal immigration procedure. Just in terms of the sorts of statements that were made late last year, East Timorese people in Australia had reasonable expectations that they would be reunited with their relatives by Christmas of last year. We all know that those expectations were not met. They were not met, apparently, because of difficulties of the Australian immigration team getting into East Timor to carry out interviews, to do the normal processing which is required of anyone who wants to come to Australia, and because various difficulties were put in the way of people wishing to come out of East Timor. I led a delegation to see the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in December of last year to discuss the problems that appeared to be arising at that stage in the final approvals. That delegation comprised representatives of the East Timorese community and also of the Catholic clergy in
Melbourne who had been active in assisting the community in Melbourne. Reports arose out of a subsequent Press conference which the Minister gave following meetings that he had with Dr Mochtar, the Indonesian Foreign Minister. The Age of 18 December 1978 stated:
At a Press conference on Friday, Mr Peacock indicated that Indonesia had agreed not to stand in the way of the 600 or so East Timorese eligible to come here under the Government’s family reunion guidelines.
Mr Peacock said it was hoped a batch of about 100 could be brought to Australia in time for Christmas.
Dr Mochtar said the Indonesian Government would be trying hard to help those eligible to get to Australia.
Once again, expectations were raised by the. statements that were made at that time. Correspondence that I received subsequently from the then Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, expressed expectations that the program of reuniting families would take place expeditiously. The Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs in a letter to me dated 15 January stated: . . that the aim would be for them to rejoin their families and relatives in Australia this year.
The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in a letter dated 3 April 1 979 wrote:
An Australian migration team travelled to Timor in December 1978 to process applications from the first group of persons in the eligible categories. On 13 and 14 January a total of 99 persons arrived in Australia.
I might add that I welcomed to Tullamarine airport the group of 27 East Timorese who came from Darwin through to Melbourne. The letter continued:
The remaining group of approximately 500 persons will be processed for entry to Australia under normal Indonesian and Australian migration procedures. While it has taken some considerable time for the first families to be reunited with their relatives in Australia, I am hopeful that the remaining groups, if able to satisfactorily complete migration requirements, will be able to join their families here in the near future.
Since that time there has been a trickle of people arriving. Those people have come from East Timor to Jakarta and in many cases have arrived on the doorstep of the Australian Embassy, made themselves known, have been processed at that point and then brought on to Australia. There have been reports of money changing hands in East Timor, not just for the cost of air fares from East Timor to Jakarta but apparently to pay various officials for the privilege of being able to get exit visas from Indonesia. Those sorts of reports, of course, are always difficult to confirm but they are too common to ignore. The situation that presently faces us is that 285 people out of 600 who were initially given pre.liminary approval by the Australian Govern^ ment, have come to Australia. The expectations that were given were that the 600 people would come out during this year, but in recent weeksindeed in recent months- that trickle of people from East Timor to Australia via Jakarta has completely stopped.
One wonders what could have happened with respect to the flow of people from East Timor. It appears that Indonesian authorities are making it extremely difficult for people to leave and they are not giving them approval to rejoin their families despite all the assurances that were given by Dr Mochtar and other Indonesian spokesmen in the past. I feel that I have some responsibility in this matter because earlier this year when the first group came to Australia I cautioned members of the East Timorese community in Melbourne not to make vigorous statements attacking any Indonesian authorities. I said to them: ‘While some people are coming out let us try to encourage that flow and not cause the Indonesian authorities to stop the flow of people from East Timor because of antagonistic statements made here in Australia. ‘ I must say in all fairness to them that they observed that advice. Despite that silence we find that the flow has been cut off. It is most reprehensible that the Indonesian authorities should take this action to thwart the very real desires of people to be reunited with their families.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to say a few words in support of some of the comments made by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates). He has consistently defended the rights of the Parliament with respect to the Executive. I think that is extremely important. I believe that if the Parliament is to carefully scrutinise the work of the Executive and make critical judgments about assertions that are made by the Executive, then it needs a mechanism such as the Estimates committees.
I want to cite briefly one example which relates to the unemployment benefit. In the past three years the Government has underestimated the amount to be spent on unemployment benefits by $44 1m. In 1976-77 expenditure on the unemployment benefit was underestimated by $161m, in 1977-78 by $ 154m and in 1978-79 by $ 126m. On the other side of the picture, there was an explicit statement in the 1978-79 Budget Paper No. 3, that it would be possible by implementing the recomendations of a review being carried out by the Department of Social Security to make a saving of $ 100m. That saving of $ 100m was to be made by pursuing the somewhat punitive policies of this Government with respect to sorting out, as it were, the genuinely unemployed from those who might be described as the chisellers and the bludgers. The Government’s having made that explicit statement, one could expect to find in this year’s Budget reports some indication of the extent to which that figure had been achieved. It is interesting to note that the Department was able to state very clearly the number of additional staff who were appointed as a result of that recommendation. I think it was of the order of 445. But when it comes to the question of just what that staff was able to achieve, we move away from fact and reach the situation of a considered reply which the Department provided in writing to me, as someone who requested that information. It stated:
It is not possible to quantify in monetary terms the effects that procedural changes stemming from the review of systems and procedures had on the Department’s expenditures but available information -
It was not provided to the Committee-
Indicates that savings of the order of $ 100m were achieved.
Even after a question was raised at the Estimates Committee hearing that statement was not substantiated in any way by the written answer that is provided. I believe that originally the statement that those savings could be achieved had no particular empirical reference and was just inserted in the speech.
Industries Assistance Commission- On-farm Training Scheme-Institute of Public Affairs -Telegrams: Delivery Charges- Immigration- Multicultural Curriculum
-It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to raise tonight the question of a Press release which has been put out by Mr Ray Aitchison, the Executive Director of the Australian Confederation of Apparel Manufacturers. In this Press release Mr Aitchison makes quite an extreme attack on the Industries Assistance Commission following the issue of its draft report on the textile, clothing and footwear industries. When the draft report was first issued a few weeks ago Mr Aitchison ‘s organisation attempted to have the
Government abort the process of public hearings on this report and asked the Government to reject the draft findings without further consideration. The Government very sensibly rejected this appeal and decided to proceed with the ordinary processes of the inquiry. Mr Aitchison and his organisation have been appearing in these hearings. But not content with going through that process, once again they have made an outrageous attack on the integrity of the Commission itself. I would like to quote a little from Mr Aitchison ‘s document. It states:
Prejudiced reports and antagonistic public inquiries by the Industries Assistance Commission.
Later on the document states:
That it had become well known that the Commission was following an economic policy of its own, irrespective of what government was in power.
Mr Aitchison refers later to the irresponsibility of the Commission. He said even further:
The Confederation suggested that the Government should examine recent IAC reports to ascertain if it had adopted the outrageous ploy of bringing out its recommendations in the blind and then picking and choosing from public evidence to obtain vague reassurance to government concerning the likely social and employment impact.
I believe that crude attempts like this to damage the Commission are a reflection not only on the worth and integrity of the Commission but also a reflection on the intelligence of members of this Parliament. Over the last 20 months or so that I have been a member of this Parliament I have taken a particular interest in industrial matters. I have read many of the reports of the Industries Assistance Commission. In general, I have found that these reports have been well argued. In general, I have found that the submissions made by industry groups when they attack these reports are less well argued. It is not always the case. Some industry groups put very good arguments and do, in fact, address the arguments put by the Industries Assistance Commission. But the Australian Confederation of Apparel Manufacturers is outstanding in the fact that it in no way attempts to refute the specific arguments when it speaks to members of Parliament but makes generalised attacks on the process and on the integrity of the Commission.
It is not expected that everybody will agree with the reports of the Commission. I can understand that industrialists will find these inquiries irksome and time-consuming. But some price has to be paid for the public support which eventually comes out of these hearings and inquiries. The whole purpose of the Industries Assistance Commission is to recommend to the Government. It does not make the policies as Mr Aitchison claims. Its object is to recommend to the Government on what measures the Government might take to support those industries, either by bounty, tariff or some other means whereby public moneys or private moneys in the form of tariffs, duties or extra prices paid in shops might be given to those industries in order to support their employment against imports from countries where the cost of labour may be less, or for other reasons the price of manufacture of those goods might be less. This is a perfectly reasonable process.
I can fully understand that industries which feel themselves to be under some threat- this is particularly true of the clothing, textile and footwear industries- can survive only behind tariff barriers; that these would feel very concerned whenever they were being looked at by the Industries Assistance Commission. But it has to be said in all fairness that the public discussion of the amount of support that is to be given must be supported by this Parliament. This Parliament therefore must support the Commission and its integrity. It does not necessarily have to accept all its arguments but it must reject this kind of emotional outburst of which Mr Aitchison is guilty in this particular case.
-Tonight I wish to refer to an article that appeared in the Farmer and Stock Owner Journal in South Australia. It is an article by the Chairman of its Education Committee, Mr Garth Polkinghorne. In the article Mr Polkinghorne states:
A couple of years ago, largely as the result of UFS initiative, a scheme was devised to help train people who were, or intended becoming, farmers.
Because farming is essentially a practical business and farmers are practical people and because the basic idea came from farmers it was decided that the best place to do the training was on farms with farmers doing a lot of the teaching.
There are some things though that are not readily taught on farms. So periods were set aside where a group of trainees could be taught some theoretical topics that were directly related to farming and other practical things that might require equipment not always readily available.
Out of all this evolved a pilot “On-Farm Training Scheme” centred at Cummins on Eyre Peninsula which involved 26 young farmers and their employers and which is now nearing completion.
The organisation was conducted by the Department of Further Education using its staff and some from the Department of Agriculture and Roseworthy College.
This pilot scheme has proved to be a tremendous success and a large part of this success is because the trainers were paid to be involved in the training, to off-set the disadvantages of employees being away from the farm for several weeks each year.
These funds were provided by the Federal Government under the NEAT scheme.
And here lies the rub.
By providing funds for a pilot or trial training period there is an implicated inference that if the pilot was successful (and careful analysis has shown that most, if not all aims were achieved), the training system would be extended to other areas of SA so that other trainees could be involved.
In May of 1978 we began negotiating with the Federal Government.
NEAT money was not available for a continuation of the scheme- it was meant for a special category of unemployed people.
Then in conjunction with Qld., NSW and WA we saw Mr Street, MHR, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, seeking funding equivalent to CRAFT which applies to secondary industry.
This applies automatically to people who employ indentured apprentices, a system not suited to the agriculture industry.
Shortly after this meeting there was a Federal Cabinet reshuffle and this area became the responsibility of Mr Viner, the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs.
We received Mr Viner ‘s reply on May 2, 1979 some 12 months after beginning negotiations.
He said we should align ourselves with formal apprenticeship- after we had gone to great lengths to explain why this system was not suited to the farming community in SA . . .
While all this was happening, the DFE had applied to the Federal Government for TEAS funding for on-farm training.
This Tertiary Education Assistance Allowance is paid to many people in the community while they are receiving training.
We know that some potential stenographers are getting it; so are some students at Roseworthy College and even in the “trade” field there are city people being paid the TEAS allowance.
On September 17 we learnt that the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, had said “no” to TEAS for on-farm training.
In summary therefore- we can’t get NEAT, we can’t get TEAS and we don ‘t want CRAFT.
The trainees in the Eyre Peninsula course will graduate this month but after nearly 18 months of negotiation, frustration and political prevarication we are no further advanced as far as Federal Government assistance is concerned.
I am most upset about this and so is the education committee, but we will continue to try and get training funds for primary industry in SA.
The heading of the article is ‘How to get the Canberra runaround in one long, hard lesson’. The first paragraph states:
If you don’t like jogging, are not interested in politics or in training, don’t read any further for this is the tale of the political runaround.
I am sure that these people who are interested in fostering this on-farm training for young people in South Australia would fully agree with what Mr Polkinghorne, the chairman of the education committee of United Farmers and Graziers of South Australia Incorporated has to say on this matter.
-I also wish to refer to the attack by Mr Aitchison on the Industries Assistance Commission. I am glad that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) is also offended by this attack and has chosen to raise it before me. As a result, much of what I would have said has already been said by the honourable member for Mackellar. I think that it does the textile and clothing industries little service to have the Industries Assistance Commission attacked in the manner in which it has been attacked by their spokesman, when surely their spokesman had the alternative of attacking the calculations and arguments that the IAC used in its report. If, in fact, the industries believed that those calculations are in error and that there has been an error of logic or of data, it is within their capacity to make other calculations and measure the cost to the Australian community of protecting these industries differently and in the public forum to defend their arguments. That is a very reasonable process. The whole IAC inquiry procedure is designed so that that is possible.
Mr Aitchison says that the method is demoralising. I submit that it can only be demoralising to an industry that has demonstrated that it is costing the Australian community more than perhaps the Australian community might wish to bear. It is surely necessary that that cost be measured so that the Australian community, through prices and subsidies, knows what it is paying for the protection of those industries. It is surely necessary that the cards be placed face up on the table. That is all the Industries Assistance Commission does. It is a type of court except that it deals with much higher figures than the High Court of Australia. The Government takes the decision as to what protection will or will not be afforded a particular industry. It is a pity that Mr Aitchison should be arguing in effect that that decision be taken in the absence of public, clear and intellectually sound evidence.
Australia is suffering and has suffered for many years a low rate of growth. It is argued by many people that one of the principal causes of that low rate of growth and the reason our real standard of living is slipping behind that of other countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and even more rapidly slipping relative to the other members in our part of the world, is that we have this high protection system. The cost we are paying for protecting these industries is affecting our standard of living, not marginally, but very seriously. It is affecting our capacity to defend ourselves and to defend the future of our children. It is arguable that that may or may not be the case. But the issue should be argued on the economic principles involved and the data involved. If” Mr Aitchison wishes to do that, I, the Commission and every other reasonable Australian would be very happy to listen. But in attacking the Commission, accusing it of bias, not presenting evidence on the issues and not coming forward with another acceptable and equally arguable set of figures, Mr Aitchison is throwing his own case into considerable doubt. Every cost is borne by someone else. If the clothing and textile industries are costing the Australian family as much as the IAC calculates that they are, that cost is borne by other industries through the higher wages that they must pay. It is destroying employment in those other industries. This must be measured so that the Government takes a decision on a very major part of the Australian economy in the light of sound information. That is what the IAC is about.
– This evening I would like to talk about a rather interesting organisation in New South Wales called the Institute of Public Affairs. I am pleased to see that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) is in the House this evening because I am sure that he will know some of the people I intend to speak about. This organisation has been in existence in New South Wales for a number of years. It has run some rather crackpot campaigns on occasions on various issues.
– Some very successful ones too.
– At present the organisation is starting to take a very moralistic tone and it is starting to indicate that it has some influence on the Liberal Party of Australia. I am pleased to see that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) is interested in speaking up on this matter. I hope that the organisation does not have any influence over him because it would be very unfortunate for a number of the less better off people in this community. The Institute of Public Affairs is very careful about what it stands for and, in fact, it is very careful about anyone knowing who is in it. In its major publication- which is its program of action for 1979- it lists a number of things as being amongst its objectives. One of those is to maintain the right of free speech and peaceful assembly. That, of course, is something we would all accept. We would all accept that that is a very fair proposition.
Government members interjecting.
-Before the baying members on the other side of the House get too involved, they ought to be very careful about what this little organisation considers should be free speech. The honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) said tonight that he did not mind a person with an open mind, but he did not like someone who had nothing in his mind. He used words to that effect. This organisation has some very fixed ideas on matters. One of its objectives is to assess the impact of radical teaching in education. If it was only to assess it, that would be fair and reasonable, but it goes on to say: ‘and how it should be countered’. It goes on to say that it will be running a program to ensure that there is no such thing as compulsory unionism and that it will be dealing with a number of constitutional matters that it hopes will be disseminated throughout the schools. From what the Institute says one could infer that the Government will be able to provide assistance. I hope that the Treasurer, who is telling us tonight what a great organisation this is, will not be providing any Government money for this organisation to put its rather perverted ideas into the schools in New South Wales. The organisation is trying to make out that it is non-political and non-sectarian. But one remembers the rather hysterical campaign that the organisation ran when the referendum was held in New South Wales to consider whether there should be a democratic election of the New South Wales Upper House. Being a rather secret organisation, it was not all that interested in having democratic elections in the New South Wales Upper House. In reply to a letter written to a person inquiring about the organisation, it said:
This brochure gives names of our council.
It puts the following words in parenthesis:
There are no ordinary members.
But I note that Mr J. H. Valder has taken over as president in recent months. He is a man very well known to the honourable member for Mackellar and the Treasurer. Of course, one raises the question of who elects these members of the organisation and what purpose one has in electing them. I might say that there are some well known members. They include Sir David Griffin who is another well known non-political person; Professor Hogan, a man well known to the Treasurer; Sir John Pagan, a man well known to both the honourable member for Mackellar and the Treasurer as he was instrumental in them coming to this House; Mr Valder and Mr Simpson, who is the well known non-political director of the Civic Reform Association, which is the local Government front of the Liberal Party in New South Wales. But the interesting area that this Government and this Parliament should be very carefully looking at in respect of this organisation is where it says:
Bearing in mind this developing situation, one is forced to ask several questions-
It is referring to the welfare spending in this country. It goes on:
Do the elderly have an inalienable right to live off decreasing numbers of working population? Should the relatively affluent be permitted to arrange their affairs so as to be able to live entirely off the pension?
Mr Samuel points out:
Those are the sorts of ideas that this organisation, which is very well connected with the Liberal Party, would like to see the Government adopt. I think that we may even hear the Treasurer and the honourable member for Mackellar espousing those views. Think of their idea of sin and how people should pay. They said:
It should be noted that only 48 per cent of widows’ pensions . . . were paid to those whose husbands had died; 52 per cent went to deserted wives, divorcees, et cetera.
In the opinion of the Institute of Political Affairs -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This is a terrible situation.
-The honourable member will not make a habit of speaking over the Chair when he has been notified that his time has expired.
– I apologise, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am a little bit deaf.
– I would like to raise a matter tonight that is of grave concern to a lot of people in outback Australia. I refer to delivery charges for telegrams. In this respect I would make a plea to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) that he look seriously at the question of delivery charges of telegrams, particularly in regard to those people who operate the outpost radio network in the outback of Australia. I am referring in particular to the Royal Flying Doctor Service network, which has been established at no cost to Telecom Australia and at no cost to Australia Post, and to the outpost radio, which also has been established at low cost to Telecom or Australia Post.
It has come to my notice that as from 1 October there will be charges applying to telegrams emanating from outpost radios and delivered to other parts of Telecom’s network.
Where these telegrams are addressed for delivery by the fastest means practicable, including messenger delivery, the charge is $2.20; where addressed to a telegraphic code address, $1.80; where addressed to a telephone number, $1.70; where addressed for delivery by mail, $1.50; where addressed to a telex number, $1.30; and where addressed to another outpost radio, $ 1 . 20. That is an incredible list of charges for people who live in very remote areas, at great risk to themselves and to their families, who have to put up with all sorts of hardships and who bear the loneliness of life in the outback.
I ask the Minister to give very serious consideration to lifting these charges, or convincing Telecom to lift these charges. There is no charge for a telegram delivered to the outback radio and there is no difference between a telegram delivered to the outback radio and a telegram emanating from the outback radio. The outback network, established and run by the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, is a catchment area for telegrams for the Telecom network. That catchment area was established at no cost to Telecom. It was established at great cost to the individual and to public donors to the Royal Flying Doctor Service. I believe that it is an injustice for these delivery charges to be imposed on people using that outback network.
I would like also to raise another matter on behalf of people living in very remote parts of Australia. Believe me, I know all about this. At the present time there is no plan that I am aware of to make available to those people any part of the Access 80 program that is going to be available to others on the telephone network from May of next year. As honourable members will be aware, as of May next year, all telephone subscribers will be able to make a local call to their local service centre for 10c per three minutes of time used on that network. No such equivalent concession is to be available for people living in very remote areas and who are using the outback radio network. I again voice a very loud plea, on behalf of the people who are living in those areas, who use those networks, who have supplied those radio sets, and who are part of that Royal Flying Doctor Service- a catchment area for an enormous amount of income for Telecom- that they be given some consideration when final plans are made for the Access 80 program next year.
I ask for a very much reduced rate for telegrams for people who are contacting their local service centre for the essentials of life. They must establish contact with their local service centre. They send their store orders, fuel orders, mail orders and school-of-the-air educational sets through the mail service. These people ought to be given some consideration in the Access 80 type concessions by Telecom next year. Again I would ask the Minister to bring this matter up with Telecom in the hope that some of the enormous charges will be alleviated for people using the outback network and the outpost radio as their only means of communication in this country of ours. This is the only means that they have got of contacting the outside world. It is the only means that they have got of sending a store order to their local service centre so that it may be delivered through the outback mail service.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would like to congratulate the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) on clarifying a position which the Opposition has reiterated on many occasions, that is, that the standard of living of the Australian population is dropping continuously. It is dropping in a real sense and in a relative sense as compared with Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries and with other countries in this area. I agree completely with him although not necessarily with his conclusions as to the reasons for that particular drop. My own view- which is a very self-evident point- is that the drop is due to actions by the Government, in a very broad sense and not just on one particular issue.
I would like to ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter which I received from Seweryn A. Ozdowski, a lecturer in the Department of Sociology in the University of New England, in which he is asking for help from Australia in allowing his wife ‘s sister to visit from Poland.
The letter read as follows-
I am writing to ask you for help because you have shown a deep interest in and undemanding of the human rights problem in the communist-dominated countries and are a member of the Sub-committee on Human Rights in the Soviet Union.
Till 1 973I was living in Poland and working as a Research Officer in the Institute of Legal Sciences, Polish Academy of
Sciences in Warsaw. In September 1973, while visiting West Germany, my wife and I chose freedom and as a result we migrated to Australia in 1975 and since 1978 we have been Australian citizens.
Since we left Poland, the Polish authorities have started a continuous harassment of our families living in Poland. Just to give you a few examples: my father was forced into an early retirement; my parent’s flat was twice searched without warrant by political police and numerous books were confiscated; my sister, Maria, was refused entry to the University for one year; my father and my brother, Stanislaw, were interrogated several times by the police as to what we are doing in Australia; our correspondence has been opened regularly; my parents were three times refused passports to visit us, first in Germany, then in Australia; my brother Stanislaw, twice and my sister, Maria, once were refused passports to travel abroad without any apparent reason; and soon.
Because of all these harassments, I did a hunger strike in Martin Plaza in Sydney in March 1977 which was extremely successful: the harassments stopped and my parents were able to visit us in Australia.
However, it now seems that the Polish authorities are returning to their old practices because of my current publications concerning the workers’ participation system in Poland. Just recently we invited my wife’s sister, Magdalena OTUSZEWSKA, born on 18th April, 1947 and living in Poznan, ul. Kossaka 18/7, to visit us in Australia for a few months. We bought her return air ticket and she was granted an entry visa by the Australian authorities. However, the Polish authorities refused to issue her a passport without any apparent reason, which is contrary to the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Helsinki Agreement, both documents signed by the Polish Government, not to mention the humanitarian aspects of this issue. My inquiries at the Polish Consulate General in Sydney and numerous letters to the Polish authorities in Warsaw have brought no result Officers at the Consulate argued that it is not their area of responsibility, while the authorities from Warsaw have not so far replied to even one of my letters of inquiry ( I sent the first letter in December 1978).
The decision to refuse to issue a passport for my wife ‘s sister seems to be final: her appeal to the Ministry of the Interior was unsuccessful and the Polish legal system does not provide any avenue for a legal challenge of such decisions. Consequently I would like to ask you for help in this matter. Could you please write letters to the Polish authorities (relevant addresses are attached) inquiring why Magdalena cannot visit us in Australia? I do firmly believe that your letter will be successful because Polish authorities do not like bad publicity (for example, my hunger strike), and even if your letter of inquiry does not bring immediate success in the case of her passport, it will restrain the Polish political police from the new escalation of harassment toward my and my wife’s families.
Thanking you in anticipation and looking forward to hearing from you in due course.
Yours faithfully, (Seweryn A. Ozdowski)
P.S. I attach my Curriculum Vitae to give you a fuller picture of myself and of my work. I am a law-abiding citizen and not at all political extremist. But, please understand me, I cannot be passive when a totalitarian government harasses my close relatives, because of my decision to become an Austraian citizen and because of my current work.
-I thank the House. I have a second matter to raise. I state quite clearly that I am not necessarily expressing the view of the Opposition on this particular issue; I am expressing my own point of view, one which I have held for a very long time. The matter was drawn to my attention when I recently saw a handout from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) in which articles from the ethnic press are summarised. I saw an article by one Milan Riznic dealing with the multicultural curriculum. He opposes that curriculum. It is generally accepted by politicians in this country that one should not criticise that proposition. The reason that I am game to criticise it is because I came to this country in my teens from a nonEnglish speaking country. I believe that I have a worthwhile view to put before the House on this particular issue. We are being carried away by the proposition that we should encourage multiculturalism. As a pluralist, as a small ‘I’ liberal and as a libertarian I very strongly support the proposition that for practical purposes people should be allowed to do whatever they like, to speak any language they like, provided that it does not interfere with other people. That is a different proposition from arguing and trying to persuade people that multiculturalism per se is a good thing for them. It is my view that in many cases it is not.
It is very difficult for a child with an average intelligence quotient to cope with two languages. It is easy enough for people who are outstandingly bright to do so but it is not easy for the average child. If we say positively that those children should be encouraged to do a lot of their schooling in a language other than English they will never get a fair share of the cake that is available in Australia and which ought to be available in Australia for all who are permanent residents. That is my very strongly held view. We are doing those people a disservice if we cave in to well organised but, as Mr Riznic put it, numerically insignificant pressure groups. He refers to ‘selfelected ethnic councils’. We are caving in to pressure groups who have a definite interest in keeping particular languages prominent in this country.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday.
The following notices were given:
Mr Nixon to present a Bill for an Act to approve an agreement relating to sugar and certain sugar products made between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland, and for other purposes.
Mr Killen to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Naval Defence Act 1910.
Mr Killen to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Defence Act 1903, and for related purposes.
Mr Killen to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Air Force Act 1923.
Mr Viner to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Evidence Act 1905.
Mr Viner to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Judiciary Act 1903.
Mr Viner to present a Bill for an Act to make provision with respect to the High Court of Australia.
Mr Newman to present a Bill for an Act to authorise the construction by the Pipeline Authority of a pipeline from Young to Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga in New South Wales.
Mr Newman to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1949.
Mr Staley to present a Bill for an Act to amend the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Act 1978, and for related purposes.
Mr Staley to present a Bill for an Act relating to the grant of financial assistance to the States and the Northern Territory for and in relation to schools.
Mr John McLeay to move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament: Relocation of Royal Australian Navy Research Laboratory to Pyrmont, NSW.
Mr John McLeay to move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of crop adaptation laboratory, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Black Mountain, Acton, Australian Capital Territory.
Mr John McLeay to move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for consideration and report: Rehabilitation of Radio Australia faculties Cox Peninsula, Northern Territory.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 30 May 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There are three main categories of benefits organisations registered under the National Health Act, namely, companies (limited by guarantee), friendly societies (which are registered under State law) and the Health Insurance Commission (Medibank Private) which is registered under Commonwealth law (i.e. Health Insurance Commission Act). Friendly societies generally take two forms; the majority are attached to lodge movements (e.g. Manchester Unity) with the remainder of an industrial nature being employer/employee orientated.
The benefits organisations are governed by boards of management (directors) who may or may not be contributors and who generally act in an honorary capacity. The actual functions of an organisation are generally earned out by executive staff who are responsible to the board of management.
All health insurance organisations registered under the National Health Act are non-profit bodies. The income and expenditure of the medical and/or hospital funds they conduct are controlled under the provisions of sections 67 and 68 of the National Health Act.
Having regard to the above, it is realistic to say that contributors, who may or may not have voting rights in the election of boards of management, can be regarded as the owners’ of the registered benefits organisations, to the extent of their benefit entitlements under the rules of the particular organisation and the fact that under the provisions of the National Health Act dealing with the winding up of a medical and/or hospital fund, the Federal Court is required to make such order as it considers to be most advantageous for the’ interests of the contributors ‘.
AMA (NSW) Health Fund Ltd
The board of management is elected at the annual general meeting. Each director is elected for a three-year term with one-third of the board retiring each year.
All contributors are entitled to vote at the annual general meeting. The board of management appoints the executives.
Cessnock District Hospital Contribution Fund
The board of management of the District Hospital controls the fund.
The executives of the fund are appointed by the board of management.
The Commercial Banking Company Health Society
The board of management consists of seven persons, four of whom are appointed by the company and three are elected by society members at the annual general meeting for a three-year term.
The executives of the fund are appointed by the board of management.
Commonwealth Bank Health Society
The board of management consists of seven persons, four of whom are appointed by the corporation and three are appointed by the Commonwealth Bank Officers’ Association. Each appointment is for a one-year term.
The executives are appointed by the board of management except the chairman who is appointed by the managing director of the corporation.
Government Employees’ Medical and Hospital Club
The board of management is elected at triennial meetings at which all contributors are entitled to vote.
The executives are appointed by the board of management.
Health Insurance Commission
The members of the Health Insurance Commission (which administers Medibank Private) are appointed by the Governor-General. They are appointed for a period not exceeding five years. The Governor-General may specify the term of apointment in the instrument of appointment (Health Insurance Commission Act 1 973 sections 10-11).
The Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia
Members of the board of management are appointed by and from members of the association at the annual general meeting.
The association consists of representatives nominated by constituent bodies comprising specified hospitals, societies and corporations which nominate representatives who become members of the association for an indefinite period.
The members of the association appoint the executives at the annual general meeting for a term of one year.
Independent Order of Odd Fellows of the State of NSW
New South Wales District, No. 85, Independent Order of Rechabites, Salford Unity, Friendly Society
The Kurri Kurri Maitland Hospital Contribution Fund
The board of management is made up of four directors from each of Kurri Kurri District Hospital and Maitland Hospital.
The Board of management annually appoints the executives.
The Lysaght Hospital and Medical Club
The board of management are contributors to the fund elected at the annual general meeting by contributors. Board members are elected for a three-year period with one-third of the number retiring each year in rotation.
The executives are appointed by the board of management
The board of management (council) comprises 24 persons- 12 medical members and 12 contributors’ representatives- who are appointed for a period of three years.
The method of election of medical members of the State executive committees (Le. New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania in which the organisation operates) is by ballot Medical members of MBF whose registered places of address are in the State in respect of which such executive committees exist are entitled to vote in such elections. The medical members of the State executive committees are elected for six years with SO per cent of the number retiring every three years in rotation in each State of the three States.
The council appoints contributors’ representatives (prominent citizen contributors appointed by invitation) to the respective State executive committees (on the recommendations of the respective committees).
Each State executive committee nominates, from its members, persons to constitute the council. The number of persons to be so nominated are:
NIB Health Funds Limited
The board of management is elected by voting members at the annual general meeting for a period of three years with one-third of the number retiring each year in rotation.
Voting members are those who have subscribed to the company and undertaken the guarantee required under the Companies Act. The executives are appointed by the board of management
New South Wales Teachers’ Federation Health Society
The board of management is elected by the NSW Teachers’ Federation Council which consists of approximately 180 members of the Federation elected by postal ballot of all members. Board members are appointed for two years and retire on a rotational basis.
The executives are appointed by the board of management
NSW Railway and Transport Employees’ Hospital Fund
The board of management is elected from members after nomination is endorsed by twenty-five members for a twoyear period with half the board retiring each year in rotation.
The board of management is the executive and those entitled to vote at the annual general meeting are contributors who are employees of NSW Public Transport Commission (Rail, Bus and Ferry Division) and NSW Motor Transport Department.
The Phoenix Welfare Association Limited
The board of management consists of nine persons who are elected by contributors at the annual general meeting for a three-year term on a rotational basis. To be eligible for election to the board, a member must have ten years service as an employee of Stewarts and Lloyds Ltd.
The board of management is the executive.
Reserve Bank Health Society
The board of management comprising five persons is chosen as follows:
The board of management is also the executive.
The Store Hospital and Medical Fund
The board of management of the fund is the board of management of the Newcastle Regional Co-operative Limited which is elected at the annual general meeting of the cooperative for a period of two years with half the board members retiring in rotation.
Members of the co-operative vote for the board of management which is also the executive of the fund.
The Sydney Morning Herald’ Hospital Fund
The board of management is elected from nominated contributors by contributors for a period of two years.
All financial contributors are entitled to vote for the board of management which is also the executive.
Western District Medical Benefits Fund
The board of management consists of the ten duly elected representatives of the Western Division of the Coal and Shale Employees’ Union who are elected for periods of three years.
Union members are entitled to vote for the members of the board of management which is also the executive.
The Wollongong Hospital and Medical Benefits Contribution Fund
The board of management of the Wollongong Hospital also controls the fund.
The executives of the fund are appointed by the board of management.
Australian Natives’ Association
United Ancient Order of Druids
The Ancient Order of Foresters in Victoria Friendly Society
Army Health Benefits Society
Members of the committee of management, all of whom are contributors, are appointed by the Chief of the General Staff. The chairman and members of the committee ‘shall hold office during the pleasure of the Chief of the General Staff”.
The officers (executives) of the society are appointed by the committee of management with the approval of the Chief of the General Staff.
Cheetham Hospital Benefits Fund
The fund is governed by a committee which consists of a president, a vice-president, a secretary, a treasurer and an assistant treasurer. The committee is elected at the annual meeting of contributors of the fund each year, and hold office until the next annual meeting.
All financial members are eligible to attend and to vote at the annual meeting.
Should a casual vacancy occur on the committee, the committee may fill same by appointing a person who will hold office until the next annual meeting.
Geelong Medical and Hospital Benefits Association Limited
The board of the Geelong Medical and Hospital Benefits Association is made up as follows: 8 representatives of the contributors, who hold office for 4 years each; 3 representatives nominated by the Geelong Hospital Board of Management;
I representative nominated by the Geelong Pharmacists’ Association; 1 representative nominated by the Geelong Branch of the Australian Medical Association.
The contributors of the Association are advised of the annual meeting of contributors in accordance with the Memorandum and Articles of Association and two representatives of the contributors retire each year and an election is held. The contributors are the only people allowed to vote for the contributor representatives.
The Board of directors appoint the executives.
Grand United Hospital Benefit Society (Incorporating The Grand United Order of Oddfellows) in Victoria Friendly Society
The Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society, Victoria, District No. 1
Health Insurance Commission
See entry under New South Wales.
The Hospital Benefits Association Ltd
The Board of Directors comprises 24 members of which 16 are elected by members of the company and 8 are elected by contributors.
Directors are elected for periods of three years and retire by rotation.
The general manager and deputy general manager of the organisation are appointed by the board of directors.
The Victorian District Independent Order of Rechabites Friendly Society
Independent Order of Odd Fellows of Victoria
Latrobe Valley Hospitals and Health Services Association
The members of the board of management are elected from the contributors by the contributors.
Members are elected for a three-year term.
The Constitution of the Association provides for the formation of an executive sub-committee consisting of the president, two vice-presidents, treasurer and immediate past president, the office bearers being elected annually by the board of management from these contributors elected to, and, comprising the board of management.
Salaried administrative executives are appointed by the board of management
The Mildura District Hospital and Medical Fund
The board of management is elected by contributors.
Of the six board members, two face election at the annual meeting of contributors in August of each year.
The public officer is appointed by the board and he in turn is responsible for the appointment of all other staff.
Naval Health Benefits’ Society
The committee of management consists of a chairman and four other members of the Society each appointed and hold office during the pleasure of the Chief of Naval Staff.
The committee may at any time or on the requisition in writing of fifty financial members call a general meeting of the Society, stating the objects for which the meeting is called.
The committee appoints the executives of the fund.
The Order of the Sons of Temperance National Division Friendly Society
The Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australasia Grand Council, of Victoria.
The Irish National Foresters’ Benefit Society
Commonwealth Public Service (Queensland) Credit Union Health Benefits Society
The Society is administered by a board of directors elected by members of CPS Credit Union present at the annual general meeting. The board consists of nine directors with three retiring each year on rotation. The board appoints a public officer and a management committee consisting of at least four board members.
The Grand United Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society
The Queensland District, No. 87, Independent Order of Rechabites, Friendly Society
Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australasia, in Queensland (The Grand Council)
Health Insurance Commission
See entry under New South Wales.
Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited
See entry under New South Wales.
M.I.M. Employee’s Health Society
The management committee comprises two officers (including the chairman) appointed by MIM Holdings Ltd, and at least seven officers elected by contributors at annual area general meetings. Executives are appointed by the committee.
Professional and Technical Officers’ Health Society
The Society is administered by a committee of eight persons, four of whom are nominated by the Professional and Technical Credit Union Ltd, and two by each of Queensland Professional Officers’ Association and the Professional Officers ‘ (Qld) Credit Union Ltd.
Queensland Teachers’ Union Health Society
The committee of management comprises nine members elected by relevant union members, the QTU Secretary, and a manager/public officer. Elections are held annually with three members retiring each year.
The Advertiser Provident Society
Advertiser Provident Society HBF has a board of ten members. Nine are elected by contributors and one is appointed by Advertiser Newspapers Ltd. Four members retire one year and five the next All contributors can vote for board members. The secretary and assistant secretary are also elected.
Health Insurance Commission
See entry under New South Wales.
The Mutual Hospital Association Limited
Mutual Health Association Limited is incorporated under the Companies Act The one hundred shareholders can vote at the election of directors. Two directors face re-election by rotation each year. Appointment of senior executives is confirmed by the board of directors.
National Health Services Association of South Australia
National Health Services Association appoints directors by three methods. Each contributing society may nominate one director plus an additional director for each complete 5,000 members. These nominations are made by the elected representatives of the society’s lodges. Three directors are elected at the annual general meeting. Any financial member can vote for these positions. The board of directors can elect up to six further directors. An executive committee of seven directors is appointed to carry on the business of the Association. Senior executives are appointed by the board of directors.
SA Police Department Employees’ Hospital Fund
SA Police Department Employees’ Hospital Fund has a management committee of up to fourteen members elected annually by the contributors. The secretary is appointed by the management committee.
SA Public Service Association Health Benefits Fund
SA Public Service Association HBF has a five-member board elected by a biennial meeting at which all contributors can vote. The secretary of the Association is the secretary of the Health Fund. The Secretary appoints senior Health Fund staff.
*The South Australian District, No. 81, Independent Order of Rechabites Friendly Society
*The Albert District, No. 83, Independent Order of Rechabites, Salford Unity
The Hospital Benefit Fund of Western Australia Incorporated
The Board of Management consists of a chairman and six nominated members and six elected members. The six nominated members are nominated by the three constituent bodies being Royal Perth Hospital, Fremantle Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital for Children. Each constituent body may nominate two members.
The other members of the Board are elected at the annual meeting and hold office for a term of three years. The two elected members who have been in office longest shall retire each year but shall be eligible for re-election.
The executives are appointed by the board of management.
Friendly Societies Health Services
Friendly Societies Health Services is under the control of representatives of the various affiliated societies.
Members of lodges of societies elect their board of directors in conference or at lodge. The boards of directors in turn elect their representatives to the annual general meeting of Friendly Societies Health Services.
Each affiliated society is entitled to four representatives of whom two at least shall be members of the affiliated societies’ board of directors.
The representatives so appointed shall constitute the annual general meeting.
One representative from each affiliated society is duly voted to the committee of management of Friendly Societies Health Services at the annual general meeting.
The committee of management (of Friendly Societies Health Services) decides its executive.
Health Insurance Commission
See entry under New South Wales.
Health Insurance Fund of WA
The board of directors consists of six financial members elected by the members of the Fund. Directors are elected by a ballot of members present at the annual general meeting and are proposed and seconded by financial members of the Fund. Two directors retire every second year. Retiring directors are eligible for re-election. One member is co-opted by the board.
The board of directors appoints the executive.
Goldfields Medical Fund (Incorporated)
The committee of management is elected by members annually and consists of three representatives of the Kalgoorlie United Friendly Societies, two representatives of the Boulder United Friendly Societies, five representatives from feeforservice members, two representatives from the Coolgardie Medical Fund and one representative from the following:
Australian Workers’ Union, Boilermakers’ Society, Carpenters ‘ and Joiners ‘ Union, the Chamber of Mines of Western Australia, all of whom must be contributors to the Fund.
The committee of management appoints the executive.
Associated Pulp and Paper Makers’ Council Medical Benefits Fund/Hospital Benefits Fund
The board of management consists of twenty-five members, twenty-one elected by contributors and four appointed by the company. One-half of the members retire each year at the annual general meeting.
The board appoints the executives.
Coats Patons Employees’ Mutual Benefit Society and Hospital and Medical Benefit Association
The board of management consists of twelve memberseight elected by contributors and four appointed by the company. One-half of the members retire each year at the annual general meeting.
The board appoints the executives.
*Druids Friendly Society of Tasmania
Health Insurance Commission
See entry under New South Wales.
Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited
See entry under New South Wales.
Queenstown Medical Union Ancillary Benefits Fund/ Hospital Benefits Fund
The board of management consists of nine memberseight members elected by contributors and one member appointed by the parent company. One-third of the members retire each year at the annual general meeting.
Executive staff are appointed by the board.
Rosebery Medical and Medical Ancillary Benefits Society
The rules of the organisation provide that the management committee shall consist of not less than six members or more than ten members appointed from the Board of Management of the Montague Medical Union. Members of the Montague Medical Union which comprise a high proportion of the contributors to the organisation are endued to vote for the board of management. One-third of the members retire each year at the annual general meeting.
The executives are appointed by the board of management.
St Luke’s Medical and Hospital Benefits Association
The board of management, which consists of ten members, is elected at the annual general meeting. Any financial member of the Association is entitled to vote on nomination for director.
The executives are decided by the board.
The board of management decides its executive.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 5 June 1 979:
What was the (a) number of and (b) total amount paid on (i) claims involving 40 per cent of medical expenses, where the 40 per cent amounted to less than $20 and (ii) claims involving a refund of $20 or more, during each month since 1 November 1978.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Notes- 1. It has been estimated that these statistics comprise approximately 84 per cent of services in the 40 per cent/$20 category. (Some organisations have not yet been able to provide data in a form which is fully compatible with the Department of Health’s computer system).
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 25 September 1979:
What were the teenage unemployment rates in (a) metropolitan and (b) non-metropolitan locations in (i) Australia and (ii) each State as at 31 May in each of the years from 1976 to 1979, inclusive.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Statistician has supplied the following table, which shows estimated unemployment rates obtained from labour force surveys. For 1976, figures for May on a basis comparable with that of current figures are not available in the detail required. Estimates for August have therefore been substituted. The estimates are subject to sampling variability. Information on sampling variability, definitions and timing of the surveys are published in The Labour Force, Australia(6203.0).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 21 August 1979:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
As part of the review pensioners not receiving the concessions who are eligible for fringe benefits were also advised of the conditions and were invited to apply if they felt they may have an entitlement. While it is not possible to identify the numbers of people who received the concession as a result of the invitation to apply, present indications are that there have been a significant number of new applications resulting from the review.
In the last Budget, fringe benefit limits were extended and this will result in additional persons becoming eligible for the telephone rental concession.
An additional $1.2m has been included in the Budget estimates for 1 979-80 to cover the increased numbers of persons qualifying for telephone rental concession.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 12 September 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Bureau of Statistics conducted a questionnaire survey in September 1978 which covered people aged15 years or more throughout Australia. People were considered to have a hearing problem if they reported having trouble hearing what people say.
The report disclosed that 7.4 per cent of the population surveyed have a hearing problem.
The reported relative incidence, as a percentage of population, among adults in each State or Territory is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 25 September 1 979:
– The Minister for Science and the Environment has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Received on or before 1 June 1979.
CRA Exploration Pty Ltd.
Northern Pastoral Services Ltd.
Northern Territory Chamber of Mines Inc.
Wyoming Mineral Corporation.
Kratos Uranium N.L.
Noranda Australia Ltd.
Electrolytic Zinc Co.
Darwin Bus and Motor Service.
Minatome Australia Pty Ltd.
Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd.
Pancontinental Mining Ltd.
Project Mining Corp Ltd.
Utah Development Co.
Australian Mining Industry Council.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Department of Transport.
Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
CSIRO Division of Entomology.
CSIRO Division of Land Use Research.
CSIRO Division of Tropical Crops and Pastures.
Office of the Supervising Scientist.
Australian Atomic Energy Commission.
Jabiru Town Development Authority.
National Trust of Australia (Vic.)
Darwin Bushwalking Club.
Environment Council NT Inc.
Kakadu Society of Australia.
Northern Territory Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs Inc.
Royal Australian Institute of Parks and Recreation.
Australian Conservation Foundation.
Mr D. Tulloch, Northern Territory.
Dr P. Springell, Northern Territory.
Mr G. Eupene, Northern Territory.
Prof. H. Messell, University of Sydney.
Prof. D. Mulvaney, Australian National University.
Dr H. Coombs, Australian National University.
Mr L. Barnett, Northern Territory.
Mr J. Pittman, Northern Territory.
Received after 1 June 1979.
Boothy ‘s Safari Tours.
Cooinda (Opiz Enterprises).
Department of Trade and Resources.
Department of Administrative Services.
Department of Employment and Youth Affairs.
Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.
Department of Post and Telecommunications.
Department of Health.
Department of Housing and Construction.
Department of Defence.
Department of Industry and Commerce.
Department of the Chief Minister (Northern Territory).
ACT National Parks Association.
Landrover Owners Club of the NT Inc.
Mr G. Miles, Northern Territory.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 10 October 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 1 1 October 1979:
Will the Commonwealth Government establish a standing Government/Industry Committee for the general administration of the Australian Fishing Zone as recommended in section 7.S of the report of the working group established by the Australian Fisheries Council; if so, will the Committee be comprised of 2 representatives from the Commonwealth Government (his Department and CSIRO), 2 representatives from the State Governments and 2 representatives nominated by the Australian Fishing Industry Council.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Fisheries Council approved the establishment of an Australian Fishing Zone Committee in November, 1978, with the following membership:
2 representatives from the Commonwealth Government;
2 representatives from the State Government, to serve on a rotational basis;
2 representatives nominated by the Australian Fishing Industry Council, one to represent the catching sector and one the processing sector.
The Committee’s first meeting was held in February 1979 and it has met four times to date. A report of the Committee’s activities in 1979 will be made available later this year.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 October 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19791024_reps_31_hor116/>.