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 Burns, Mr Ewen Cameron, Mr Howe, Mr Keith Johnson and Mr Scholes.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament assembled.
The petition of certain citizens respectfully showeth:
Their support for and endorsement of the National Women ‘s Advisory Council
We call on the government to:
Continue to maintain the National Women’s Advisory Council and increase Federal Government support for its activities
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of Parliament assembled in the House of Representatives, Canberra the humble petition of the undersigned members or organisations listed below and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the thorough nationwide investigations by the Working Party highlighted the need to establish the National Women ‘s Advisory Council.
That we believe the Council consistently and democratically demonstrates its wide representation of the interests of all Australian women, as shown by the Draft Plan of Action for the 1980 National Conference to be held in Canberra in preparation for Australia’s participation in the United Nations Decade for Women World Conference in Denmark, July 1980.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Parliament will continue its support of the National Women’s Advisory Council and its recom mendations.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Short.
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:
We express our grave concern at the terms of the Human Rights Commission Bill 1979 and the Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill 1979.
We note that strong opposition to the form of these Bills was expressed by the majority of our elected Senators. We note that the Bills only escaped amendment because a number of our elected Senators who opposed the Bills could not be in the chamber when the crucial votes were taken.
We note that the Human Rights Commission Bill is totally inadequate for a number of reasons which include the fact that the Bill does not permit the Commission to investigate breaches of human rights which occur under State law, e.g. Queensland or Western Australia. Further there is no power to prosecute violations of human rights.
We note that the Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill 1979 is also gravely deficient in a number of respects including the fact that the Commissioner for Community Relations loses his independence, powers and staff.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Legislature will listen to the voices of the Aboriginal and Ethnic communities, women and other disadvantaged groups, who are opposing these Bills in their present form.
We call upon the Legislature to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. But most importantly in the name of Democracy we call upon the Legislature to send the proposed legislation back to the Senate so that all our elected Senators are able to be present and vote on the legislation.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of Parliament assembled in the House of Representatives, Canberra the humble petition of the undersigned members of organisations listed below and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That current laws relating to sexual offences against women are discriminatory against all women, and in particular against married women; and that current laws relating to sexual offences are ineffective and inadequate to protect married and unmarried women; and that we believe that both married and unmarried women should be effectively and adequately protected by law against sexual abuse.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That laws relating to sexual offences against women must be redefined to include all forms of sexual abuse against married and unmarried women, including all forms of coercion, physical, psychological, exploitative, extortionary and authoritybased, and including sexual harassment in any form, particularly at work and in educational institutions.
That evidence laws applicable generally to assault crimes must be acknowledged as applicable to sexual offences and the rules relating to corroboration in assault crimes must be made applicable to sexual offences.
That laws must be reformed so that accused persons are not entitled to abuse the criminal justice system; and furthermore laws must be revised to give greater protection to the victim and to minimise her distress.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That, 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. byMrKerin.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: that the price of LPG in Victoria has risen by $80 per tonne since November 1 978 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 Ruddock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament assembled:
The petition of certain citizens of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
Dismay at the reduction in the total expenditure on education proposed for 1 980 and in particular to Government Schools.
Government School bear the burden of these cuts, 1 1.2 per cent while non-Government school 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 Fisher and Mr O’Keefe.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned electors of Maranoa respectfully showeth: that the present Federal Government Policy of taxing fuel to the extent of maintaining world Oil Price Parity unfairly discriminates against the rural worker who has long distances to travel to work, the rural producer by causing his production costs to rise, the rural businessman who has to pay higher transport costs and the rural consumer who has to pay higher prices for his goods, rates and other services.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
The present Federal Government policy of taxing fuel to the extent of maintaining World Oil Price Parity be modified to exclude rural people from this tax.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr John Brown.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
This humble petition of the sportsmen and women and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Valuing the Olympic movement as an historic expression of all that is worthwhile in human endeavour and conscious of the important role competitive sport plays in maintaining health and the spirit of achievement in everyday life.
Honouring the high principles consistently pursued by the International Games Administration of keeping the movement free from religious, racial and political considerations.
Realising the Olympic movement owes its resilience and very existence to the citizens of the nations from whom spring the participants in the contests and that the survival of this movement is the cherished hope of all communities.
We the undersigned sportsmen and women and citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this humble petition respectfully pray that the Australian government do all in its power to ensure the participation of a full Australian contingent in the XXII Olympic Games to be held in Moscow, USSR, from 1 9 July to 3rd August, 1 980.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House completely rejects the statement of the Soviet Ambassador to Australia (Mr N. G. Soudarikov) on 17 February 1980 that the Soviet Union ‘never starts wars we are always fighting against aggressors’, and further this House censures the Soviet Ambassador for his arrogant and contemptuous attitude towards Australia and in particular his provocative public statement after a meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs (the Hon. Andrew Peacock, M.P.) when he said: ‘Russians are afraid of no one’.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he recalls saying in January 1 975: . . when political leaders say the present situation cannot he helped, that it is part of a world situation, they are expressing the futility of their own leadership.
I also ask the Prime Minister whether he recalls saying at his kerbside Press conference this morning again I quote him un-selectively:
Against the background of the kind of interest rates that have been present in the United States and the United Kingdom for a long time, it is not possible for the Australian economy not to feel some impact.
If both statements are correct, how long does the Prime Minister intend to continue his futile leadership? If not, will he now tell the House which statement was a deliberate untruth?
-Mr Speaker -
- Mr Speaker -
– If the honourable member for Blaxland intends to take some point of order about which Minister is answering the question I tell him that it is out of order to take the point of order. He knows that no such point of order can be made.
- Mr Speaker, you are becoming clairvoyant as well.
– Any Minister may answer the question.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I put this point of view to you: The statements were made by the present Prime Minister. The question can be answered only by him.
-The honourable member for Blaxland will resume his seat. There is no point of order and I ask him not to take points of order which have no substance.
– It is a measure of the desperation of the Australian Labor Party that, in looking for a decent political issue in Australia at the present time, it should seek to compare a statement, properly made by the Prime Minister at the beginning of 1975 about the nature of the performance of world leaders in the environment of that time, and suggesting that they threw up their arms and said that they could not make any contribution to the changing course of events we should remember, as I understood the honourable member for Blaxland, that that statement was made at the beginning of 1975 with a statement made about a specific subject, namely the comparative level of interest rates. I will debate with the honourable member for Blaxland any day about the comparative level of interest rates in Australia and other countries. To try to draw a comparison between those two statements and to make the totally provocative statement that the Prime Minister was telling untruths are a measure of the desperation of the Opposition -
Opposition members interjecting-
-The Treasurer will resume his seat. It is not my intention to allow the Parliament to be upset in this fashion by loud and continual interjections. Unless the Parliament is able to hear an answer in silence there is little point in the question being asked. Until I am satisfied that there is a reasonable prospect of the Minister being heard in silence I do not propose to call him. I now call the Treasurer.
– I conclude my answer by making the very plain statement that both statements made by the Prime Minister were absolutely correct and appropriate in their contexts.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In the light of the blatant disregard shown by the Federated Storemen and Packers Union of the decision of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the current wool industry dispute, can the Minister inform the House what actions are being taken by the Government and the parties involved to bring this damaging dispute to an end?
– On hearing this question I was reminded of what the Leader of the Opposition said on one occasion, namely, that unilateral action of this type ought to be condemned. I invite him to have something to say about the wool industry dispute seeing that he has a lot to say about other things. The fact is that this wool industry dispute is reaching very serious proportions. Last night the Government met representatives of the growers throughout Australia and discussed the issue. This afternoon the Minister for Industrial Relations and I are meeting wool brokers, growers, private traders and others interested in the wool industry. Opposition members might not be interested but a great many people in the electorate are interested. It is about time honourable members opposite started to wake up to the seriousness of the situation. The fact is that the wages of members of the Federated Storemen and Packers Union are protected by an arbitration and conciliation system. The fact is also that consequent upon appeal a Full Bench made a judgment on the level of wages that ought to be paid to these people. They are not prepared to accept the umpire’s decision, and that is the final umpire. There is no further umpire after a Full Bench. The only view one can take about the action of the members of the Storemen and Packers Union is that they are blatantly holding the country and the wool industry to ransom. There is no question about their intention. They are causing enormous hardship now for growers, who cannot be paid until the wool is removed from the stores and shipped. Some $150m worth of wool has been sold through auction, but the growers cannot be paid until it is moved. Another $ 1 50m worth of wool is held up and cannot be put into the auction system because the action of the storemen and packers has ground the auction system completely to a halt. Their action is causing enormous disruption to the ships that service this country. It ought to be noted that this matter is reaching serious proportions. The secretary of the Storemen and Packers Union, whose father was a respected member of this House, I must say seems to lack the qualities of his father. Nevertheless, I appeal to him to take another view of the action into which he has led the storemen and packers. The matter is serious, and this afternoon when the Minister for Industrial Relations and I meet the growers and other representatives of the wool industry, we propose to try to work out an appropriate strategy, an appropiate course to follow, for all those interested in the wool industry and in the future of this country.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to a recent report on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program PM referring to the alleged overpayment of ‘millions of dollars’ to pharmacists under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme? Is it a fact that a departmental inquiry has produced a report indicating a level of overpayment that approaches an annual rate- I stress annual- of $25m? Has a departmental estimate suggested that alleged overpayments aggregate in excess of $100m? Will the Government disclose publicly the precise nature of these reported overpayments, how they were detected, and the action the Government proposes as a consequence of the overpayments? Finally, given the parlous economics of a great many pharmacies, will the Minister undertake to allow Parliament to consider this matter fully before any action that might be contemplated by the Government is initiated in response to these overpayments?
-As the Leader of the Opposition would know, over a number of years various methods have been used to arrive at payments to pharmacists for prescriptions dispensed under the national health service. The method has varied from time to time. In 1972-73 an inquiry resulted in a base line being laid down, payments being made and determinations at subsequent times being made on the basis of that inquiry. In 1977-78 a new method of reaching a determination was brought in, with a committee comprising four departmental officials and four members of the Pharmacy Guild, and an independent chairman, Mr Justice Ludeke, making determinations in relation to payments. The determinations to be made by Mr Justice Ludeke are to be binding on both the Guild and the Goverment. The results of the inquiry have only very recently come to hand. Discussions are continuing between the Pharmacy Guild, the Government and Mr Justice Ludeke. When Mr Justice Ludeke makes his determination I will be in a position to make a full statement.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is it a fact that the Prices Justification Tribunal approved rises in the price of liquefied petroleum gas of $22 a tonne in April 1979, $19 a tonne in August 1979, and $105 a tonne in February 1980? Is it a fact that the hearings in April and August 1979 were public hearings but that the hearing in February 1980 was private? Does the Minister agree that the hearing which preceded the recent rise of over 60 per cent in LPG prices should have been public? Can the Minister inform the House what justification was given for such an extensive rise in the price of this essential product, which has now risen 180 per cent from $96 to $265 ex-refinery in Sydney over the last year? Is it also a fact that the PJT prices oil on the basis of the lowest world price for significant volume but prices LPG at the highest world price?
-The Prices Justification Tribunal determined increased prices for exrefinery LPG in April and August last year and in January this year based on the price received for the export of naturally occurring LPG. The April and August reports followed public inquiries by that body. The August report resulted from a reference to the PJT by the Government for it to examine oil company prices whereas the increase in January this year resulted from notifications of proposed price increases submitted to the PJT by the oil companies and the matter was dealt with administratively in accordance with normal established procedures. The price rises, and the particular rise to which the honourable member refers, are the direct result of the great increase in crude oil prices recently. It is, of course, the PJT’s function to determine wholesale prices of petroleum products, having regard to costs to refiners of imported crude oil and of indigenous crude oil feed-stock.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Did the Government refuse to issue visas for Russian buyers to attend this month’s Dubbo ram sales? Did the pastoral company, Dalgety, act as agent for the Russians at those sales? Did Dalgety buy 42 rams at prices of up to $5,200 on behalf of the Russians? Is the chairman of Dalgety, Sir William Vines, also chairman of the Menzies Memorial Trust? Can the Minister explain the logic of this situation?
-One thing I do not have any trouble in doing is explaining the ambiguous and utterly facile attitude of the Labor Party on the whole question of the Australian Government’s action on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It does not matter; members of the Labor Party can preen themselves on their picking attitude, but the fact is that they are left as fatuous as they sound on this matter. In respect of the specific questions -
Opposition members interjecting-
-It might be said, Mr Speaker, that I am being provocative, but you might quieten them down a little. The answer to the honourable member’s question is yes, yes, yes and yes.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs -
Opposition members interjecting-
-Oh, be quiet and give a person a chance to ask a sensible question. You are a rabble.
-The honourable member for Franklin will resume his seat. If the honourable member for Franklin asks his question the House will proceed better.
-Mr Speaker, if I may, I will commence again. I direct my question to the
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. Has the Minister seen a report that the Repatriation General Hospital in Hobart has received accreditation from the Australian Council on Hospital Standards? I ask the Minister to explain what this means to the hospital. Is it just another piece of paper dispensed automatically by some review team or does it have real significance in terms of patient care and standards of attention in the hospital? Further, is it just another example of what Tasmania can do?
– I have long been aware of the continuing interest in the Repatriation General Hospital in Hobart shown by the honourable member for Franklin, the honourable member for Denison and other honourable members. The hospital has been accredited. Not only the hospital in Hobart has been accredited but five of our repatriation general hospitals have applied for accreditation, have been surveyed and have been accredited. That says a lot for the standard of nursing care and treatment at those hospitals. The accreditation is done by an independent team which sets very stringent standards. The accreditation is a tribute to the hospital and to the staff. It is valuable also because the team makes suggestions as to how further to enhance the treatment and standards of the hospital. Later on, at a further accreditation it will be looking to see how those recommendations have been implemented.
The honourable member will be happy to know of some of the remarks that were made about the hospital in Hobart. Reference was made to a friendly, caring atmosphere prevailing through the entire hospital. Discussion with patients and relatives confirmed that the hospital and staff are held in high regard. It was also said that it was a very happy hospital which maintains adequate services for its patients, who speak well of the treatment they receive. That is the sort of treatment this Government believes ought to be given to our veterans, and that is the sort of treatment we are determined to maintain.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he stated on 22 February 1979:
The Government’s success in winding back inflation has been a pre-condition Tor the substantial progress in reducing interest rates.
Given the upward trends in both inflation and interest rates, does the Prime Minister now consider that statement to be inoperative?
-The honourable member for Fraser draws attention to a very important fact, that is, that there is a link between the rate of inflation and the level of interest rates. What the Prime Minister said on that occasion was perfectly correct. It is equally correct that because the rate of inflation in this country is significantly below the rate of inflation in a number of other countries, the effects of international economic development on the interest rates structure in this country have been less than they have been in other parts of the world. That is precisely what the Government has been saying all along. That explains the differential between interest rates, to which I referred in Question Time yesterday, and it explains why the interest rates structure in Australia has demonstrated remarkable restraint to world-wide economic development.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Has he received reports of a call for a boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games by Polish athletes? Does this not confirm world-wide feeling against the Moscow Games and establish beyond doubt that even behind the Iron Curtain the Soviet Union is facing a backlash against the 1980 Olympics?
-There is a good deal of concern behind the Iron Curtain and not only on the point raised by the honourable gentleman. During the General Assembly debate on 15 January this year the Rumanian permanent representative to the United Nations said, and having in mind that this is an Eastern bloc country behind the Iron Curtain I believe it was a courageous statement indeed: ‘The situation that has arisen in Afghanistan has caused great concern among the peoples of the world and is a serious threat to peace and the continuation of the policy of detente’. That Rumanian statement was uttered with great courage. But perhaps even more than that, there are newspaper reports which, if correct, indicate a growing degree of independence and courage in Poland on this matter. One report reads:
As protests continue in Kabul there seems to be some evidence that the resistance in Afghanistan is inspiring dissidents in Poland. We have received from Warsaw a declaration by the Polish Human Rights Committee, signed by Edward Wladyolaw Staniewesky, protesting about the treatment of Professor Andrei Sakharov in Russia. ‘We demand the cessation of the persecution on political and national grounds of all victims of repression’ it says, ‘including the Polish minority which is denied its national rights in the USSR’.
A further statement by the Polish Human Rights Movement says that participation of Polish athletes in the Moscow Olympics ‘would be an affront to the national dignity of a country whose citizens are struggling for two centuries for its independence, shedding blood for our freedom and yours’.
I believe, and certainly hope, that many people from Olympic federations, sporting federations and committees around the world will take note of that statement and of the fact that there is a spark of freedom even behind the Iron Curtain. They should do what they can to support it and bring the message home to all of the people of the Soviet Union.
-I ask the Prime Minister whether he recalls stating in Melbourne on 2 1 November 1977:
The single income family has special problems which will be taken into account in our tax reforms.
What special tax reforms has he since implemented for the single income family?
-Mr Speaker -
- Mr Speaker, I rise to a point of order. My question was directed specifically to the Prime Minister because he made the promise. No one else can answer the question for him.
-There is no point of order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
Mr HOWARD The honourable member for Hughes has drawn the attention of the House to a statement that was made by the Prime Minister in November 1977. It is one which I recall and which no doubt a large number of honourable members also recall. I can do a little better. On 2 1 November 1977 and, I think, on a number of other occasions both the Prime Minister and I have indicated that there are aspects of the existing taxation system which affect single income families in a way in which double income families are not affected. Let us be realistic. This matter has been the subject of considerable discussion and debate in the Press, and there is no reason why it should not be. No taxation system is ever perfect. No taxation system is ever without anomalies. I would be the last to suggest that our taxation system did not contain a great deal of anomalies and has not done so for a long time. I believe that there are aspects of the system which bear differently and disadvantageously on single income families. The extent to which those concerns can be accommodated and those distortions ironed out is always taken into account when governments are considering taxation changes. The honourable gentleman would be naive in the extreme if he thought that I would take the matter any further at this stage.
-The Minister for Primary Industry will be aware of the very long battle to introduce a scheme for plant breeders’ rights in Australia to encourage greater research and commercial development of grasses and crops. What information can the Minister give about the introduction and passage of necessary legislation to this end?
– There was, in my predecessor’s time, consultation with industry and with the Australian Agricultural Council about the introduction of a Bill dealing with plant breeders’ rights. It was proposed that the Bill would be introduced during this session. However, there has been a later development in that the breeders have come back to the Government seeking a fundamental change to the Bill as proposed and suggesting that instead of following the American style of legislation, which I think is called computer legislation, we look again at the legislation and consider grow-out legislation of the European type. When the deputation came to see me I informed it of the timetable that was proposed for the Bill as it stood, but the deputation pressed its point. I suggested to it that appropriately it should go back to the State Ministers for Agriculture as it was their responsibility for the ultimate carrying out of the program. If the deputation could get some support from the State Ministers for Agriculture I would, of course, be prepared to amend the Bill. So the situation rests at that point. I understand that the plant breeders have gone back to the State Ministers for Agriculture seeking their support for a fundamental change to the proposed legislation.
– I direct my question to whatever Minister the Prime Minister chooses to select to answer it.
-The honourable gentleman will address his question in the proper form.
– I address it to the Prime Minister.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Would it be possible for you to advise the members of the Opposition that if they direct their questions to the appropriate Ministers it would be of great assistance to the conduct of this House. Honourable members of the Opposition seem to be totally ignorant of this fact.
– I remind the Prime Minister of the following statements made by him in his 1 977 election policy speech:
We have reduced taxes . . . We have ended the big tax ripoff … We will encourage people’s initiative and enterprise, not batter them into the ground with punishing taxes . . . We will reduce the tax burden.
Given the emptiness of these statements so far, when will the Prime Minister announce substantial tax cuts to return to Australians some of the money he has ripped off them through the petrol bowser?
-I call the Treasurer.
– Why doesn’t the Prime Minister take the day off?
-The honourable member for Robertson is continually interjecting. I warn him to cease doing so.
– It is the grand panjandrum of Nareen we want to hear from, not the Treasurer.
-Is the Leader of the Opposition raising a point of order?
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Questions are being directed to the Prime Minister in his capacity as the head of the Government -
-There is no point of order.
– And the man responsible for these statements.
-I ask the Leader of the Opposition to resume his seat.
– Well, the grand panjandrum of Nareen should answer some of these questions.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is no point of order.
-I do recall the Prime Minister’s policy speech of 21 November 1977. It was a first class policy speech. The thing I best remember about it in the taxation area is that he announced with effect from that night the abolition of gift and estate duty in respect of near relatives. There was no promise about that; that was action. It was announced to take effect from that very night. That particular -
Opposition members interjecting-
-I must draw to the attention of the Leader of the Opposition and honourable members on my left that the Parliament will fall into poor reputation with the public if that continual noise persists.
– Not only was estate and gift duty from that moment abolished in respect of near relatives but, as every honourable member of this House knows, particularly those who have a concern for those who were affected by those particular duties, they are now a thing of the past so far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned. I am more than happy to respond to a question about this Government’s taxation record to remind the House of the fact that when we took over there were seven steps in the progressive rates scale. Now we have three simple steps of 32c, 46c and 60c. I also remind the House that there remains undenied the promise of the Leader of the Opposition about a year ago to increase the upper marginal rate of taxation in this country to 70 or 80 cents in the dollar. He talks about a taxation system that has incentive. The honourable member for Werriwa referred in his question to the words of the Prime Minister about the taxation system having incentive. What incentive would there be in a taxation system that contained an upper marginal rate of 70 or 80 cents in the dollar? The Leader of the Opposition made that statement more than a year ago. He has had plenty of opportunity to deny it, but the fact remains that it is part and parcel of the Labor Party’s platform.
As I said in answer to an earlier question, no taxation system in the world is without anomalies and our taxation system is no exception. The fact remains that the personal income tax system contains more incentive now than it did in the past. In Australia a person has to earn about $21,000 a year before he pays more than the rate of 32c in the dollar. Compare that situation with the situation which existed under the rate scales of the Leader of the Opposition in December 1975. The rate was 45c in the dollar for a salary of about $17,000. That is the sort of comparison that ought to be taken into account. I should remind all honourable members in this House that we all ought to preserve a sense of proportion about the level of taxation in this country. Australia happens to be one of the least taxed countries in the industrialised world. The average rate of taxation in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries is about 36 per cent of gross domestic product. The percentage of gross domestic product taken by taxation in Australia is less than 30 per cent.
– Humbug. Why don’t you tell the truth? Tell us about the level of real wages, real income.
-I warn the honourable member for Melbourne to cease interjecting.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker.
-I have warned the honourable member to cease interjecting.
– Well, you can warn me, but I am taking a point of order.
-What is the point of order?
Mr Innes- My point of order relates to the application of the Standing Orders of this House. You, Mr Speaker, have continually warned the Opposition for interjecting and have set aside the provocation that is emanating from the Ministers who are answering questions on the other side of the House. If you are to have control of this Parliament, the application of the Standing Orders ought to be even handed.
-The honourable gentleman has raised a point which is not a point of order. In fact, he says that he and others are entitled to interject if they regard an answer as provocative. One ought to bear in mind that the question might also be regarded as provocative. If a question is asked in a provocative sense, one must expect it to be answered in a provocative sense, even though that is playing politics, as one would expect in the House. What I must do is apply the Standing Orders and I will do so. I have warned the honourable member to cease interjecting.
-The honourable member for Werriwa asked me about the taxation performance and the taxation record of this Government. I intend to give the House a proper answer to that question. I intend to remind the honourable member for Werriwa that, as a result of the increase in the tax free slice of income, approximately 500,000 people in Australia no longer pay any tax. As a result of the taxation reforms in the corporate area, private companies now have a retention allowance of 70 per cent. I was talking earlier about international comparisons. Australia pays 29.7 per cent of her gross domestic product by way of taxation. The OECD average is about 36 per cent. We ought to preserve a sense of proportion. We ought to recognise that the rates of taxation in this country are relatively low by industrial standards. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition and some of his colleagues, who are always eulogising countries like Sweden, would like the taxation levels of those socialist countries. Perhaps they would like a taxation level of 53.4 per cent of gross domestic product, which is the situation which prevails in Sweden. I believe this Government has brought a greater degree of fairness, equity and incentive to the Australian taxation system and has fulfilled the aspirations properly raised by the Prime Minister in November 1977.
– The Minister for Primary Industry will be aware of the increasing significance of and challenges facing the Australian fishing industry. The Minister will also be aware of concern in some parts of the industry that practitioners and, in particular, the Australian Fishing Industry Council have not been properly consulted in vital negotiations for feasibility fishing studies or for the Japanese long line agreement. Will the Minister ensure that in future such consultations will take place and that the views of the industry will be accommodated as much as possible.
– The Australian Fishing Industry Council did raise with me the question of consultation on the feasibility studies that have been introduced to this point. I checked the records and found that there was more consultation than I had been given credit for. I have met the Australian Fishing Industry Council several times over the past few weeks. The exchange of views on various matters has been very worth while I have given the Australian Fishing Industry Council an assurance that I will keep it deeply involved in policy proposals of the Government as they come about.
– I ask a question of the Treasurer. It comes in response to his rather erratic reply in defence of the Government’s -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will ask his question.
-Erratic in fact. The last thing I would do would be to cast a personal slight on the Treasurer.
-The honourable gentleman will ask his question.
– I refer to the Treasurer’s reply to the last question in which he sought to establish a defence of the Government’s taxation policies and imply, if not explicitly claim, that the Government had been responsible for tax reform leading to an easing of the tax burden. Is it a fact that Commonwealth Budget sector revenue, as a share of gross domestic product, for this year will exceed 26 per cent, the highest for any year in the post-war period and probably in the history of this country? Is it a fact that Budget sector revenue by the Commonwealth includes taxes and other charges imposed on the community? Is it also a fact that since this Government came into office four years ago wages, salaries and supplements have increased by about 50 per cent, indirect taxes have increased by over 80 per cent and income tax has increased by over 90 per cent? By any objective measure, and on the basis of those facts, is it not established beyond any doubt that Australian families today are immeasurably worse off after tax in the real spending power which is available to them as a consequence of the savage taxation policies of this Government?
– It is a fact that if one compares- I think the Leader of the Opposition used the correct description- total Commonwealth receipts on the basis of the projections contained in the 1979-80 Budget, one will get the figure of about what the Leader of the Opposition mentioned. I was asked a question on notice on this subject by the honourable member for Gellibrand. I do not seek to quibble with that. Those figures are a matter of record. I think that the Leader of the Opposition also would know two things: He would know that prior to the election of the present Government there was a system of rebates so far as payments to families were concerned and he would know very well that the family allowance system was in effect financed out of the abolition of the child endowment system and the rebate system. If one is to make any proper comparison one has to make allowance for the fact that by that change there was, as it were, an artificial inflation of taxation receipts because all of that was transferred from the revenue side of the Budget to the expenditure side of the Budget. If one is to make any proper comparison of absolute tax levels between one period and another one has to make allowance for that.
The Leader of the Opposition quoted a figure for nominal increases in tax collections during the lifetime of this Government. I will have that figure checked. Quite frankly, off the top of my head I cannot confirm or deny whether it is correct. I think that even the Leader of the Opposition would have to admit that there was no year in the history of the Commonwealth of Australia in which the level of taxation increased at such an astronomical level as occurred during 1975. Any examination of the figures will show that the rate of increase of taxation during that period was the highest ever. The Leader of the Opposition was Treasurer for half that period. He will know that 1978-79 was the first year in over a decade that the real level of personal tax collections in Australia actually declined. The Leader of the Opposition will also know that the equity and fairness of a taxation system relates not only to the overall size of the tax take but also to the burden and distribution of that take.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. It is provided for in the Standing Orders.
-The practice of the House is to give the call to each side alternately.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. As Rhodesians go to the polls today, tomorrow and the next day, is he satisfied that the election there will be free and fair in terms of the Lancaster House agreement? The Prime Minister will also be aware of Press reports expressing concern for the safety of the Australian monitoring forces, civilians and observers whom we have in that country. Are those fears founded?
– I think we will have to reserve judgment until we get a report from the election observers. Australia is part of the Commonwealth team. We also have our own independent national observers present. They are there to judge and advise whether the elections are free and fair. It would be wrong to preempt that judgment at this point, as the elections are just starting. But let me say that there have been difficulties throughout Rhodesia. There have been concerns and breaches of the cease fire, probably by all parties, and breaches, to an extent therefore, of the Lancaster House arrangements. I think the Governor has had an extraordinarily difficult task. The extent of the bitterness in Rhodesia is probably hard for those of us in this House to realise. They have been fighting a guerrilla war for 1 5 years and it is not easy suddenly to set that aside and to adopt other habits. By and large the reports we are getting up to this point indicate that whilst there have been breaches of the ceasefire, there is no reason why free and fair elections in the terms of the Lancaster House agreement cannot and should not be held. That is the important point. A final judgment cannot be made until we have had the report from those who have been sent there specifically for that purpose and until that report has been examined.
It is worth noting- this is one of the encouraging signs- that there have been reports in recent days that a battalion of Nkomo ‘s army and a battalion of Mugabe ‘s army are being integrated into the official Rhodesian forces. Whilst that is only a small element of both their armies, the very fact that that has happened, the very fact that they, in a sense, are putting down guerrilla arms and taking up arms which are standard with those of the Rhodesian forces must indeed be one of the encouraging signs of events that are occurring in Rhodesia. Nobody has suggestedthe Government certainly did not seek to suggest- that when monitors and observers were sent to Rhodesia there would be no element of danger or risk to Australian personnel. Obviously the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Defence, where it is appropriate, are keeping very closely in touch with the situation to make sure everything possible is done to protect the security and safety of our Australian people in Rhodesia. The element of risk is plainly there and has to be recognised, as so clearly appeared in relation to Tony Joyce of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He knew in carrying out his responsibilities as a journalist for the ABC that there was an element of risk which, in his case, led to tragic and most unfortunate circumstances. We have to recognise that.
Against that, on the other side, we have to recognise the dangers through which Rhodesia has been passing over 1 5 to 20 years and look for real prospects for agreement and a final settlement that give the best hope for peace for the remainder of this century to southern Africa. If the Lancaster House agreement blows apart, if what happens as a result of the election is not accepted and the war continues, I am quite certain that the Soviet Union will put in arms, there will be Cuban surrogates, of whom there are no fewer than 40,000 in Africa at the moment, and there will be war over southern Africa, devastating not only Rhodesia but also the surrounding front line states. Therefore, if there is a risk in relation to some of our own people, it has to be set against the contribution Australia has thus far been able to make to the very large purpose of bringing peace to southern Africa.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Treasurer, following the answer he gave to my last question. Is it a fact that if allowance is made for the net effect on revenue in the Commonwealth Budget sector as a result of the introduction of family allowances, that is, in relation to the taxation structure and burden, the reduction of revenue by that sort of adjustment is no more than about 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product and that accordingly, by any measure, total Commonwealth Budget sector revenue this year will stand at a post-war record? In response to the Treasurer’s claim that the Government has sought to introduce equity and justice into the taxation structure and the distribution of its burden, is it also a fact that nonetheless, in the four years this Government has been in office, the tax burden for the top 10 per cent of income earners has been reduced and the tax burden for the bottom 10 per cent of income earners has been increased? What sort of equity and justice is it that the Treasurer proposes whereby the poor have to pay more so that the rich can pay less?
-If I could take the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question first, it is an odd sort of logic that seeks to compare low income earners and, by inference, levels of taxation, without making any allowance whatever for people who are no longer obliged to pay any tax at all. The fact is that one of the remarkable features of our taxation changes is the very large number of people who have been freed altogether from the liability to pay tax. The honourable gentleman asked me whether I agreed that, if allowance is made for family allowances, we get about 0.5 per cent. I thought it was closer to 0.8 per cent.
– No, the tax factor, not the net factor. Don’t juggle the figures. Don’t do a Malcolm Fraser on me.
-My understanding is that the figure is closer to 0.8 per cent, but that is something that can be very readily checked and the Leader of the Opposition ought not to get excited about it. In his earlier question the Leader of the Opposition asked me to look at Budget receipts as a percentage of gross domestic product. During the time between his first question and his second question I have had the opportunity to look at the papers attached to the last Budget. Interestingly enough, I find that the increase in tax collections this year over those for the previous year is 1 5.4 per cent, for the previous year again it was 8.9 per cent and for the year before that 9.7 per cent. That takes us back to the four previous years, where the respective increases were 25.9 per cent in 1973-74, 28 per cent in 1974-75, 19.7 per cent in 1975-76 and, to be fair, 17 per cent in 1976-77. As a proportion of gross domestic product, the figure for 1978-79 was 25.2 percent.
The final proportion of gross domestic product for this year naturally cannot be determined until all the receipts and the like have been calculated. If the Leader of the Opposition seeks to have an argument about the burden and the equity of taxation, he is pushing fairly heavily uphill to explain away the quite dramatic rise as a proportion of gross domestic product that occurred in Budget receipts under the Whitlam Government, of which he was Treasurer for part of its time in office.
– We grant the Government leave to proceed with the debate.
-The Leader ofthe House has proposed the suspension of Standing Orders. The Opposition has indicated that it is prepared to accede to the request for the suspension of Standing Orders. The Leader of the House may move his motion forthwith.
It would be apparent to honourable members and to the public that it is necessary for this House to express this opinion of the actions of the Opposition and of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) in leading the Opposition in the debate on the motion of the Government seeking to condemn the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. Yesterday, at Question Time, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) referred to statements made by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) which we all know are so close to those historic statements made by Neville Chamberlain prior to the 1939-45 War. As recorded at page 341 of the Hansard, the Prime Minister quoted the honourable member for Blaxland as having said:
Afghanistan is far away from our area of interest and Australia is i tt threatened, lt is extremely unlikely that the Soviet Unto., will attack Pakistan or Iran. After all, who would want Pakistan?’
The Prime Minister then said:
What splendid feelings those are! It is not only on that aspect that we must have some cause for concern. There has been a thread through the Australian Labor Party which, quite plainly, has wanted to find excuses for the Soviet Onion ‘s actions.
The Prime Minister continued:
If it has not been a question of finding excuses for the Soviet Union’s actions, it has been a question of finding reasons why we should do nothing.
If one studies even cursorily the debates which have proceeded in this House and in the other place one can see immediately the correctness of the Prime Minister’s assessment of the overall standing of the Opposition in this debate. That is not to say that there are not speakers on the Opposition side who have not sincerely expressed their condemnation of the Soviet invasion and who sincerely do not seek to make any excuse for that invasion; but rather, in seeking to condemn it, they have entered the debate on a basis whereby, if it were allowed by the Leader of the Opposition, there could be a bipartisan condemnation of that invasion and a bipartisan response by the Australian people. One can very quickly run a thread through the kinds of remarks that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition in the false piety with which he condemns the invasion. The shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Wriedt, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) -
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The Minister has referred to the Leader of the Opposition as having false piety. I do not think that remark is parliamentary.
-I notice that the Leader of the Opposition has not asked for a withdrawal. I am not sure that it is an unparliamentary expression. I call the Leader of the House.
– I was seeking to name those members of the Opposition, both in this House and in the other place, through whose speeches one can draw the thread of seeking to make an excuse for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Leader of the Opposition, the shadow Foreign Minister, Senator Wriedt, the honourable member for Blaxland, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding), the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown), the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), Senator Melzer and the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West), in the speeches that they have made to this Parliament, all sought to excuse the Soviet invasion.
– I take a point of order. My point of order is simply that the Minister is imputing to me motives which are untruthful. If he read my speech he would have seen that I quite specifically censured the Soviet Union for its action and -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I ask honourable members on my right to remain silent. I am sure that I recognise the voice of the honourable member for Denison and I ask him to remain silent. I will hear the remainder of the point of order made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports.
– The other point I wish to make is that all honourable members on this side of the House voted for a motion which condemned the Soviet invasion. To impute motives in this way is to impute dishonesty of intention. Therefore, I ask the Minister to withdraw because clearly there is a parliamentary record on which all honourable members on this side of the House have cast a vote -
-Order! The honourable member has made his point of order. My response is that if the Leader of the House, in speaking to the debate, puts a construction on what was done -
– He is not telling the truth. He is telling lies.
-The honourable member will remain silent. If he puts a construction on the matter, that construction is either correct or incorrect, and in the course of the debate people against whom it is alleged will have an opportunity to deny it.
– If the Minister is making statements which are completely untrue it invokes a response from this side of the House that the Minister is lying. There were ugly scenes in this Parliament yesterday -
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will be seated.
– If the Minister tells lies he will be called a liar. It is as simple as that.
-I ask the honourable member for Melbourne Ports to withdraw.
– I said that if he tells lies I will call him a liar.
-The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will withdraw.
– On what basis, Mr Speaker?
-I warn the honourable member for Melbourne Ports.
– If he tells untruths then -
-I warn the honourable member for Melbourne Ports that if he does not withdraw unqualifiedly I will name him. Does the honourable member for Melbourne Ports -
– I withdraw.
– One can find the kind of remarks made by the honourable member for Melbourne Pons not only in speeches in this House but also in public statements that he has been prepared to make outside. I quote simply from the record of the PM program of 5 February this year where he said:
The view that I prefer . . . was that (the invasion) was related to Russia’s concern about an Islamic revolution.
I continue my list and refer to honourable members and senators who have condemned the invasion and, I believe, meant it. These are the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin), the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) and Senator Wheeldon. I invite all honourable members of the Opposition to read the speech of Senator Wheeldon with care and concern. We all know that he refused to sit on the front bench of the Opposition because of the policies of the Opposition and he refuses now to sit on the front bench of this Opposition -
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I must remind honourable members on my left of two things.
-I warn the honourable member for St George that I will deal with him if he continually interjects. Honourable members on my left must understand two things. Firstly, their belief that a matter is not true does not establish that it is not true. The question of whether or not it is true is a matter for judgment of the debate and the issues put in the debate. The second point is that I will not put up with continual outbursts of rowdyism.
-Senator Wheeldon has refused to sit on the front bench of the Opposition. He has refused to sit on the front bench of this Opposition led by this Leader of the Opposition. I refer also to Senator Grimes and Senator Elstob. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), was prepared to acknowledge in a debate in this House that the results of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the results of the invasion by Vietnam of Kampuchea present, to the region in which Australia is situated, a very dangerous situation. All honourable members of this House and the Australian public should be thankful that there are members of the Opposition who are prepared to defy their leader and to come forth in this House and condemn the action of the Soviet Union in a way which they mean.
I would like now to refer to some of the statements that have been made by various honourable members. Let me take some things that were said by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) in the Sydney Morning Herald of 3 1 January this year. He said: the Soviet Union … is certainly … a threat to those nations which are unstable, are near its borders, and could in some way constitute some economic or physical threat to the Soviets themselves.
I suggest that the logic of that statement is to justify and excuse the invasion by a great power such as the Soviet Union of a smaller independent nation which the great power sees as an economic or physical threat to it. On 3 1 January, on Nationwide, Senator Wriedt was asked:
If the Soviet Government is confronted with the same position . . . as it was confronted with in Afghanistan, it will do the same thing.
Is that not a justification or an excuse for the invasion of Afghanistan? What is the man in the street to conclude from that statement by the shadow Foreign Minister? Looking at those two statements by the honourable member for Corio and Senator Wriedt, does that not constitute justification for the assertion by this Government that the crisis presented by the Afghanistan situation is potentially the gravest threat to world peace since the last war? It is noteworthy that, in all the condemnations by Opposition members of the inclusion of those words in our motion, they constantly omitted the word ‘potentially’. This was the point of the remarks of the Prime Minister, that potentially it represents the gravest crisis to the world since the last war. That does not detract from anything that happened over Cuba, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Vietnam or the Dominican Republic. I ask honourable members to listen to what was said by the honourable member for Burke during the debate. He said: . . in this troubled area-
I suppose it is a kind of throw-away line. He continued: it is not surprising that the major power should seek to stabilise the situation.
Is not that a justification for an invasion? Is not that an excuse for brutal aggression? Thankfully, in the same debate the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) said:
We reject completely the legitimate spheres of influence philosophy.
Is not that the philosophy that the honourable member for Burke was propounding in his speech, a philosophy which is rejected now by the honourable member for Robertson? Honourable members should listen to what was said by the honourable member for Robertson about an Olympic boycott. He said:
The Australian Labor Party’s view was that if a total boycott of the Games could be effected, or a near total boycott, it could certainly have some impact on informing ordinary Russians ofthe rest of the world’s views of their action in Afghanistan. But for it to be effective it would have to be a near total boycott, including West Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Japan . . . China, the United States and Australia.
Yet have we heard one word from the shadow Minister for sport, or from the Leader of the Opposition, getting behind the Government to produce an effective Olympic boycott which would shame the Russians for their brutal aggression in Afghanistan? Is there any statement in the speeches of any member ofthe Opposition which would come from a bipartisan policy of support for the efforts of this Government to produce an effective boycott which would back up what has already been said by the United States and this Government and has been clearly indicated by the other governments mentioned by the honourable member- West Germany, France, Japan, Italy and so on. Compare that with the statements by the Leader of the Opposition, one of which was:
I have said from the beginning that an effective boycott or the transfer of the Olympic Games . . . would have embarrassed the Soviet Union.
I repeat, can we find anywhere in his speech anything that would support the Government’s efforts to produce that kind of boycott? I need not repeat the statements, already quoted, of the honourable member for Blaxland, shameful as they are in the international situation which the world faces, reminding us so much, as they do, of those historic words of Neville Chamberlain.
I turn to what was said by the honourable member for Hunter. We know where he stands, of the pro-Russian sympathies that he has. All that he says about the Russian invasion is that it is a Soviet presence in Afghanistan. He even seeks to deny that it was an invasion, apparently being prepared to accept that the Soviet troops were invited to that country. If we turn to the speech of the honourable member for Parramatta we can see the hallmark of his philosophy and why he comes into this House to condemn the Government for its condemnation of the Soviet invasion. One has only to look at Hansard, at pages 257 onwards to confirm that. I regret the need in this House to have heard such a speech, in which the honourable member spoke of the ‘arch-priest of national divisiveness, the late former Prime Minister, Sir Robert
Menzies’. Is there any doubt where the sympathies of the honourable member for Parramatta lie? Is there any doubt about what he believes to be in the interests of patriotism in this country? He went on to say, with some piety:
We abhor the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Personally I condemn it. My party and I support effective measures that will curb Russia ‘s interest in future global aggrandisement.
Will he come forward now and stand up with the governments of Australia and of the United States of America in seeking effective measures which will condemn the Soviet invasion? The honourable member went on to speak of Soviet and United States imperialism, as if to denigrate the Australian Prime Minister’s efforts to alert the world to the danger presented by the invasion. He condemns and rampages against the United States support of South Vietnam. Yet, having condemned Russian imperialism and what he calls United States imperialism, he offers nothing in place of the action that has been taken by the Australian Government to match his own condemnation of the invasion. He suggests nothing to bring home to the Soviet people the world’s abhorrence, indeed his own abhorrence, of that invasion.
The honourable member for Parramatta said that the Government was just indulging in a political debate, just kicking the communist can, as Sir Robert Menzies was accused of doing years ago. Thank God for Sir Robert Menzies’ actions in the days when he was prepared to kick the communist can. If we cannot kick the communist can by condemning the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan then who will in this country? Certainly, the Leader of the Opposition will not do it. It is about time more people in this country were prepared, as are honourable members on this side of the chamber, to kick the communist can, to stand up and be counted amongst the nations of the world, to speak in condemnation of, and to act in response to, the kind of aggression that we have seen in the Soviet Union. I direct the attention of all honourable members, especially members of the Opposition, to the speech by Senator Wheeldon and invite them to compare it with that of Senator Melzer. There, if one could ever find one, is an attempt to excuse or justify the Soviet invasion much along the lines of that of the honourable member for Parramatta, the honourable member for Corio, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and others. Senator Wheeldon said:
What could have been more brutal than the smashing of the Government and the people of Hungary . . .
Who can excuse what happened in Czechoslovakia?
The honourable senator, referring to the Soviet Union, said: it claims to have been invited by the Government of that country.
That is, Afghanistan. He continued:
As one writer recently put it, the Government of the Soviet Union is apparently trying to have us believe that the President of Afghanistan invited it to come into the country so it could murder him.
Those words, of course, echo the words in this House of the Prime Minister of this country. Senator Wheeldon added:
I imagine that even the most ardent advocate of Soviet policy would find that a little difficult to accept.
Here is the essence of the motion that we have moved, that is, that this House is of the opinion that the Australian Labor Party, led by the Leader of the Opposition- who differs so fundamentally from Senator Wheeldon in the views that he expresses- is seeking to undermine the efforts of Australia and other like-minded nations to establish an effective response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan which would bring home to the Soviet Government and the people the grave threat to world peace of the Soviet action. I invite the Leader of the Opposition to join this Government in the effective measures which it has taken, and will take, to bring the matter home to the people of the Soviet Union.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– We have just heard what I assume was designed to be a flaying speech against the Opposition by the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner). I must say that we are appropriately speechless, almost stunned, but not because of the telling points of the speech; rather because of the poor way in which it was put together, most of all because of the obvious evidence of the problems that the Government has in mobilising a defence of its own administration, of its behaviour in high office. Let us recall how this debate got under way. Twenty-four hours ago, one full day past, a debate occurred in this House in which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had his reputation torn to shreds.
– I rise to a point of order. Is it appropriate for the Leader of the Opposition to refer incorrectly to the proceedings of the House yesterday? The claim made by the Leader of the Opposition bore no relationship whatever to the subject matter of yesterday’s debate or the outcome of those proceedings.
-There is no point of order. Indeed, the point raised is rather similar to that raised by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, which I overruled.
-The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs had 24 hours in which to prepare his defence ofthe Prime Minister yet, for all that, he displayed the grace of a winged duck threshing about on the ground trying to get airborne. The Minister, who is the Prime Minister’s faithful spaniel, failed to give a decent defence of the Prime Minister, even though he had 24 hours in which to prepare it. There was in his speech not one word in defence of the Prime Minister. His was an unrelated and erratic presentation that, in most cases, was out of context regarding what had been said by members of the Opposition. By and large, it vindicated what we have been saying- that there is a substantial degree of bipartisanship on this issue and that the dispute is about the appropriateness of responses. We repudiate the emotionalism of the Prime Minister and his haste to create a second Cold War atmosphere for Australia.
What is this all about? Twenty-four hours ago not one member of the Government would stand in defence of the Prime Minister. Such is his reputation, such is the affection that he has within his own ranks, that no one was prepared to come forward and stand beside him. What valiant heroes he has to cleave a pathway in defence of his reputation! All I can say is that they are not great warriors, but they are very wise. There is nothing there to defend. What is this exercise about that fails so dismally? It is an exercise to pump up the deflated reputation of the Prime Minister, one of Australia’s best known and most successful exporters of wool to Russia. Malcolm’s wool keeps the Russians warm’that is the slogan for the next election. The Prime Minister this morning, in a kerbside interview, referred to barnyard politics. We concede that the Prime Minister knows what he is talking about when he talks about barnyard politics. That is where he gets the hides that he sells to Poland to shoe the Russian army. It is right next to the wool paddock from which he gets the wool which is keeping the Russian soldiers warm in the bitter Afghan winter. That is the crux of this issue. It is the unfairness, the hypocrisy, which is explicit in the Government’s policy.
-Order! I will not permit the use of the word ‘hypocrisy’. I ask the honourable gentleman to withdraw.
-I withdraw, Mr Speaker. Here we have the Prime Minister, who is a very rich man, waxing richer by the export of his wool to Russia, and he washes his hands of responsibilities. He is not the first man to wash his hands of responsibilities with historically disastrous effects- not the first by any means- and he does so with the same character, the same qualities, within his makeup.
- Mr Speaker, I take the point of order that -
-The Leader ofthe Opposition will resume his seat.
– You won’t get an extension, Bill.
-The Leader ofthe Opposition will resume his seat.
– Honourable members on the Government side are taking up time so that I will not get an extension.
-The Leader ofthe Opposition will resume his seat.
– All I can say is that I am flattered that honourable members are so intimidated.
-The Leader ofthe Opposition is taking up his own time by not obeying instructions from the Chair. I asked him three times to sit and he failed to do so. I call the Treasurer.
– I put it to you, Mr Speaker, as a point of order, that this motion is about the attitude of the Labor Party towards the -
– This is a debating point that is occupying the time of the House.
-The honourable member for Corio will sit where he is supposed to. I call the Treasurer on a point of order.
– This motion is about the attitude of the Labor Party to the measures that this Government has taken in respect of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I put it to you, Sir, that the last three minutes of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition have been irrelevant to that motion and that on the score of relevance the Leader of the Opposition ought to be recalled to the motion.
-The Leader ofthe Opposition will resume his seat. I am aware of what the motion states. I am equally aware that the speech of the mover of the motion was concerned predominantly with the issue of Afghanistan and with attitudes expressed to the invasion of Afghanistan; and that was intruded into the motion. Had a point been made on relevance then, I would have drawn the attention of the Leader of the House to his motion and to what he was saying. It was not made. Therefore, I believe that it was the intention of the House to allow the debate to run wider than the strict words of the motion, and I so allow. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to confine his language to parliamentary language.
– I will do my best and I am sure that if I deviate you will help me, Mr Speaker. The Government in its motion declares that it is concerned that the attitude of the Opposition will do two things, that it will undermine community support for what the Government is trying to do it has more confidence in community trust of it than even its own back benchers have in the Prime Minister and that it will also undermine what the Government, the Prime Minister more specifically, has sought to do in his foray overseas, his round-the-world junket in his flying Nareen. Overseas he was so influential that in Los Angeles, the only place that noticed him, he got much less time than was made available to a dead Jimmy Durante.
-The Leader of the Opposition has now drifted far from the nature of the motion.
- Mr Speaker, I do not believe so, with respect. If we look at the motion we will see that we are accused of seeking to undermine the efforts of Australia and of other like-minded nations to establish an effective response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I put it to you, Mr Speaker, that it is part of the argument of rebuttal to point out that this man has had no impact overseas and that he is a paperweight in international affairs. In Los Angeles a dead Jimmy Durante commanded more time than a live Malcolm Fraser as Prime Minister of Australia. A snow report even equalled the time given to the live Prime Minister of Australia. Such is the impact and the international stature of this man. The facts are that he has made no impact overseas and that there is nothing to undermine.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I understood the honourable gentleman to be challenging your calling him to order. Mr Speaker, I think, with respect, that you ought to rule -
-The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I suggest that you should rule on the point of order that you yourself raised before the honourable gentleman proceeds.
– I will rule on it. The Leader of the Opposition’s having referred me to those words in the motion. I am bound to say that they are relevant.
-Mr Speaker, effectively this motion from the Government is an attack on the intelligence, the reputation and the common sense of the Australian people. We are being accused of undermining what the Government wants to do. What Government supporters are really displaying is their wrath because we have unveiled the hypocrisy of their policies in the inconsistency of their behaviour.
-The honourable gentleman will not use unparliamentary language.
– I meant the hypocrisy of the Government. The Australian people did not need us to point out the duplicity, the inconsistency, the unfairness and the self-interest that was motivating the Prime Minister whereby he sells wool to Russia for roubles; roubles ahead of runners, and is prepared to discriminate against athletes in this country.
-Order! When I told the Leader of the Opposition not to use a particular unparliamentary expression I heard it suggested to him from one of his supporters that he use the word duplicity. I can assure him that I will not permit the use of the word duplicity when it applies to another honourable member.
– We will be in monastic orders before long. The Australian public did not need any help from the Opposition. They made their decision as people of free and independent will in the community.
The Prime Minister having approached the Chair-
– Now he is trying to stand over the Speaker.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. Any honourable member has the right to approach the Chair.
-Mr Speaker, let me make this point: The fact is that the Government has attacked the Opposition for expressing a concern, not in opposition per se to an Olympic boycott, that an Olympic boycott would be unfair, futile and derisory, will give a counter propaganda victory to the Russians and ought to be repudiated. In that sense we have no hesitation at all in stating bluntly what our attitude is. If boycott measures are effective, we support them. That is the view of Australians, 70 per cent of whom indicated their views as such in a public opinion poll published in the 17 February 1980 edition of the National Times. People were asked whether they believed that athletes should be prevented from participating. Seventy per cent, or seven out of ten people, said that they should not be prevented.
Of course, the Prime Minister is seeking desperately to cloud the real issues. The real issues are that the Government has been far from honest in the way in which it has promoted this issue in the community. We are encouraged to believe, on the statements of the Prime Minister, that the world, and specifically Australia, is in dire peril because of events in Afghanistan. We should bear this in mind soberly and weigh it up. One response, which is not unreasonable if someone genuinely believes that, is to increase defence expenditure and to outline a program of acquisitions of new equipment over the next five years. Yet we find that in the five-year program from this year on the proposed acquisitions will result in a total level of” acquisition of new equipment for the Defence Force which is well below that proposed in 1976 in the White Paper for the five-year defence program then. Let us contrast the two periods. The 1976 period was a rather pacific period. International tensions were at a low level and there was no hyper-reaction from the Prime Minister about problems internationally. In spite of that the real level of expenditure for the five-year program from 1976 was proposed to be much higher than that proposed for the new five-year program.
– Read the amendment.
– I will do it when I get a chance.
– There ‘s one minute to go.
-Well. if my leader tells me that, I must. Now there is a much lower level than was proposed. In fact, the current five-year program is some $ 1,500m below the level outlined in 1976. The new program does not even overcome the backlog that has developed in the course of this year. The fact is that there is no bipartisanship with the Government on substantial matters because we do not know how to get bipartisanship with a tiger snake. Who could trust the Prime Minister? The community does not. Seventy per cent repudiate him on his proposals to boycott the Olympic Games but to grab all the roubles that he can from the sale of wool to the Russians. That is the unfairness of what this is all about. We propose to move an amendment. I move:
That is the crux of the issue, the double standards and the hypocrisy of the Government in the way in which it is presenting this issue. As always, those with great wealth will be immune from all sacrifice and all burden of surrender in the course of this great issue which the Prime Minister has proposed. But the unfortunate athletes, who have trained for several hours of every day of every year for the past four years in the hope that they will reach their peak and having reached the peak that they will not be able to regain on some future occasion, and in the hope of going to the Olympic Games, will be deprived for ali time of the opportunity of participating in the Olympic Games. If the Olympic Games go ahead we say unreservedly that Australia should participate. If there is an effective boycott, the Opposition supports it.
-The Prime Minister has indicated to me that he wishes to make a personal explanation.
– I had not thought to find Mr Hawke and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) as one in certain characteristics, but both have made an accusation that subsequent to the war between Russia and Afghanistan, wool from my family’s farm has gone to the Soviet Union. The last wool sale in which we participated was before the war began. A large part of what the Leader of the Opposition has said and of what Mr Hawke has said on other occasions is total and absolute nonsense. The Leader ofthe Opposition does it because he has no case. His last few words indicate the absolute and total humbug of the man.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am interested to see whether you query the parliamentary acceptability of the language of the Prime Minister.
-I listened to what the Prime Minister said. There was one word which he used finally which is lumped together with other words like hypocrisy and humbug which I ask the right honourable gentleman to withdraw. It is an unparliamentary expression historically.
– If ‘humbug’ is unparliamentary I certainly withdraw it.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister sought to undermine a point that I made in the course of my response to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner), that is, in relation to the sale of wool which has indisputedly gone to
Russia from Nareen. There is one way in which to test his credibility and that is to -
-The honourable gentlemen will resume his seat.
– Let him provide the proceeds -
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– For the Afghanistan refugees, a thousand of whom would be able to live off these proceeds.
-Order! I must say to the Leader of the Opposition that he demeans the standards of the House if he insists on speaking when I ask him to resume his seat. Unless all honourable members of the Parliament are willing to obey the Chair the House will come into disorder and into disreputation. The Leader of the Opposition has a responsibility to give leadership to honourable members who sit behind him. I ask him to do so.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
-I ask the honourable member for Port Adelaide to resume his seat. The honourable member for St George had earlier indicated that he had a point of order.
– I claim to have been misrepresented and seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-I will call the honourable gentleman to allow him to make his personal explanation at a later time.
– Why did you call the Prime Minister?
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat. I will answer the honourable member for Prospect. I think that the honourable gentleman will be aware that I do extend to both the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister a tolerance that I do not extend to other members. That is the answer. The honourable gentleman will now resume his seat.
-I raise a point or order, Mr Speaker. During Question Time I informed you that I wanted to make a personal explanation at the end of Question Time. You did not give me the opportunity.
-I will call the honourable gentleman to make his personal explanation at the appropriate time and that is when I always call for personal explanations, at the end of presentation of papers.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is supplementary to the explanation given by the Prime Minister.
-There are no supplementary explanations.
-But there is a point of order about what the Prime Minister has told the Parliament.
-There is no point of order.
– He said that Nareen wool -
-There is no point of order.
– The Russians have been in Afghanistan for three years.
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat.
– Can I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker, about your own conduct of the affairs of the House?
– You allowed the Prime Minister to raise a point of order.
-He didn’t -
– I don’t think we need any help from you. You go back to your land sales. You allowed the Prime Minister to raise a point of order -
-No, I did not.
– Wait a minute. You are not a clairvoyant, as the honourable member for Blaxland has pointed out. I think that in utter courtesy you ought to hear me.
-I interrupted the honourable gentleman to say that the Prime Minister did not raise a point of order as the Leader of the Opposition has said. The Prime Minister asked my indulgence to make a personal explanation and I gave him that indulgence.
– Well, will you allow me to make a personal explanation in detail in response to it?
-I will allow the honourable gentleman the indulgence of making a personal explanation if it relates to the matter which has been raised by the Prime Minister. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that it was he who said what he did, which caused the Prime Minister to seek leave to make a personal explanation. I do not understand that the Prime Minister has made any accusations against the Leader of the Opposition. If he has been misrepresented I will hear him.
– I am asking for your indulgence in giving me the same treatment as the Prime Minister had.
-I will give him the indulgence if he tells me he has been misrepresented.
– But the Prime Minister did not do that.
-The right honourable gentleman did.
– All right, I do it then.
– All right, the honourable gentleman says he has been misrepresented. He may make a personal explanation.
Mr HAYDEN (Oxley-Leader of the Opposition)- The substantial thrust of the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in response to your indulgence to him, Mr Speaker, was to claim that my assertion that wool from Nareen was being sold to Russia was irrelevant because the sales took place before the war started in Afghanistan. As the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) has pointed out -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
-I will not hear the Leader of the House.
-As the honourable member for Port Adelaide has pointed out, the Russians have been in Afghanistan since 24 April 1 978.
-Order! The Leader ofthe Opposition is now arguing the matter.
– He has never been squeamish about accepting profits from the Russians before.
-I ask the Leader ofthe Opposition to resume his seat. I will call on the next speaker. I call the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is seconding the amendment. Surely he has the right to speak.
– The Australian Labor Party has repeatedly demonstrated to the Australian people its complete refusal to endorse any form of meaningful action against the Soviet Union in response to the invasion of Afghanistan. Indeed, the only clear line which emerges from the constant prevarications on this issue is a determination to oppose any significant initiative which this Government has taken.
-Order! I indicate to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that, on reflection, I realise that I have erred in relation to the Standing Orders. The amendment does need seconding. I indicate to the honourable gentleman that he can either now second the amendment and reserve his right to speak or he may be entitled to the call now.
-I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak in view of the fact that the Minister has already started.
-I appreciate that.
-We do not have to look far to find a reason for the soft line taken by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) on Afghanistan. He hopes in this way to avoid an acceleration of the crumbling of his personal support within his Party. Indeed, as the Premier of New South Wales said recently: … he’s just not getting his thoughts, his ideas, his concepts through to the public’, . . . ‘Maybe what he needs is someone there to help him project himself more deeply, more forcibly to the public . . . ‘
-I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How is a comment by the Premier of New South Wales relevant to the motion moved by the Leader of the House and which has been circulated? Would you look at the motion and let me know how the comment of the Premier of New South Wales is relevant?
-With respect, Mr Speaker, I think the Chair has allowed a wide-ranging series of comments about the Prime Minister of Australia. If members of the Opposition cannot take the same treatment, let them say so.
-Order! The wording of the motion is: ‘That this House is of the opinion that the Australian Labor Party, led by the Leader of the Opposition, . . . ‘. I think that would exclude the Premier of New South Wales. I uphold the point of order.
– Indeed, we do not have to look beyond the Leader of the Opposition himself to see the conflicting views on Afghanistan which have been expressed by the Opposition in this House and elsewhere. Last Tuesday we heard the Leader of the Opposition extoll the advantages of an effective Olympic boycott, and less than 60 seconds later he said that the Government should not be encouraging Australian athletes to take part in a boycott. This was not the first time that he effectively somersaulted on the Olympic boycott issue. A few weeks ago he said on television that he would support an international boycott of the Olympic Games. But he subsequently told a different constituency that
Labor supports Australian participation at Moscow, opposes any alternative games and proposes to fight the Government to the limit on this issue. Of course, we are all accustomed to the Leader of the Opposition posing as a man of straw, a political weathervane and a mouthpiece for whatever faction of his Party is judged to be in the ascendant at the time.
What a contrast the Leader of the Opposition is to the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who has led this Government to the two largest electoral victories in the history of this country. He is a Prime Minister who has the trust of the people of Australia and clearly is on his way to a further resounding victory in 1 980. It is that reality which causes in this House a paralysis of apprehension and uncertainty on the part of the honourable gentlemen opposite. The Prime Minister is a leader on an international scale, a man who has won the respect of the world for the Government’s policies and for Australia. Last year at Lusaka and this year in the capital cities of Europe and in the United States he made a significant personal contribution- a contribution on behalf of this Government and this country- to the process of maintaining international peace and order. By contrast, yesterday and again today, we saw the Leader of the Opposition, the shadow man who has been described by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions as gutless, initiating an attempt to bring Australian political debate down to his own level, down to a squalid contest of disorderly catcalling and rowdy personal abuse. No doubt the Opposition was glad to have this opportunity to demonstrate its acknowledged expertise in this form of political activity.
What is the Australian Labor Party ‘s policy on Afghanistan? That is a difficult question. In the perception of many Australians there is not such a policy. On the subject of trade sanctions, the Leader of the Opposition said this:
It is not very wise to declaim against Russia on a range of products, especially farm products, when we are not the only country in the world capable of supplying Russia.
On the other hand, Senator Tate has said:
I support entirely, as does the Labor Party, the decision by the Australian Government not to fill the shortfall in the supply of wheat to the Soviet Union.
Sections of the Opposition have announced that Australia should not be selling wool to the Soviet Union. On the other hand, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) says that those on his side of the House will not be so glib as to say that we could have a trade boycott. I will not venture to speculate here as to which of these gentlemen speaks for the largest proportion of the Australian Labor Party. Speculation is what we would need to be involved in if we were to attempt to define the Opposition’s policy on Afghanistan. Of course, the Leader of the Opposition has given a reason for all this monumental vagueness of policy. The reason, in the minds of some members of the Australian Labor Party, is that Afghanistan does not matter. The Leader of the Opposition has assured us that Afghanistan is 15,000 kilometres from this country and that the boundary of our interest in threats to international peace should be drawn only a few thousand kilometres from our coastline. Naturally, in considering this advice we must bear in mind that the Leader of the Opposition comes from Queensland. The city of Perth is not 15,000 kilometres from Afghanistan; it is only 8,800 kilometres from Kabul. But perhaps Perth does not matter either. After all, Perth is some 3,300 kilometres from the Queensland coast- obviously too far away to worry about as far as the Opposition is concerned.
That is not the only area where the Opposition has demonstrated a completely complacent attitude to recent world events. The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) told us that the Soviet Union has not invaded Afghanistan, it has merely established a presence there. What a presence, Mr Speaker. Let me add that if this is the type of presents which the Soviets bestow on their neighbours, it is no wonder that its endowments are received without enthusiasm. Indeed, there are many thousands of dead, many hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, who might have been excused for wishing that the Soviet Union had retained this particular present for its customary use- suppressing the periodic restlessness of its existing satellites in Europe. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) is also on record as a Soviet apologist of some note. He informs us that we must expect the Soviets to attempt to assert influence on neighbouring nations.
There should obviously be some prize for euphemism amongst the gentlemen opposite. Creative flights of fancy of this order should not go unrecognised. The Soviet Union, according to some members of the Opposition, has not invaded Afghanistan and has not even established a presence there; it has merely asserted influence.
The Leader of the Opposition has also provided us with his own unique style of reassurance regarding Iran. Last week he told the House that no one could be certain that Soviet paranoia would not lead it into the northern provinces of
Iran. But that is no problem. The Opposition apparently is prepared to let the Soviets have that particular area rather than allow the matter to strain a friendship. It obviously feels that appeasement failed to work with Hitler simply because it was not carried far enough. If the Leader of the Opposition finds this approach to his meek and conciliatory tastes, he obviously has a supporter in the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). That honourable gentleman has told the people of Australia that the Soviets are most unlikely to attack Pakistan or Iran.
– That is right.
– The honourable gentleman agrees. After all, he went on, who would want Pakistan? For that matter, who would want Afghanistan? That is the type of international strategic analysis which the Opposition is offering to the Australian people at this time. ‘Who would want Afghanistan?’, it asks. The Government’s reply is: It is self-evident who wants Afghanistan. Who has moved 80,000 troops into that country as part of an attempt to take it over? If members of the Labor Party in this House and elsewhere cannot understand the strategic importance of Afghanistan it is no wonder that they cannot at the same time understand the strategic importance of Pakistan. I might add that even in that disingenuous exposition the honourable member for Blaxland stopped short of alleging that nobody would want Iran. After all, there must be some limit to even the Opposition’s perception of public credulity.
It is obvious that in these last few weeks the Opposition has been engaged in an attempt to disguise the Labor Party’s incapacity to agree on a response to Soviet aggression and its invasion of Afghanistan. It is seeking to do this by attacking and attempting to undermine every facet of this Government’s firm response to the Soviet invasion. The only way in which the Opposition can hold its disparate, disarrayed and, so far as its leader is concerned, disenchanted ranks together on this issue is to produce a party line which is so vague, so meaningless and so conciliatory to the Soviet Union that the Labor leadership can continue to enjoy the support of certain elements within the Party. The Prime Minister has referred to a thread through the Australian Labor Party which has wanted to find excuses for the Soviet’s or to find reasons for doing nothing about their actions.
I think that the origins of this state of affairs are obvious. The Opposition’s political leadership is so weak, so faltering and so clearly committed to the art of the shifting compromise that it is incapable of facing its own splinter groups with any degree of firmness and resolution. The plain fact is that the Opposition is so internally divided that it is simply unable to produce for the Australian people a clear policy on Afghanistan. It is attempting to conceal this incapacity behind a smokescreen of apologies and excuses for the Soviets. We are told that we should not condemn Russia for its actions; that after all, it is paranoid. That is akin to saying: ‘You have to excuse my brother; he is a thief. The implication is that the Soviets will not improve their behaviour in the future. We should expect to see them occasionally overrun a neighbour, enslave an independent people and kill thousands of local patriots who are so inconsiderate and ignorant as to be prepared to defend their homeland. The Opposition assures us that this type of behaviour is normal and to be expected of paranoid nations. What a ludicrous conception that is and what contempt it shows for the Australian people to expect them to swallow the line that has been put forward.
The problem before us is not the lack of explanations for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; the reasons are all too obvious. The real concern behind the Opposition’s actions is how to hold its fragmented ranks together when this final straw is added to the load of internal divisions and controversies. That is a problem that it will have to solve on its own. The Australian people want no part of this tortuous logic and these spurious arguments against taking a firm line on Afghanistan. Indeed, the spectacle of a long-established and significant political party qualifying this country’s regional security simply to support its own internal cohesion is not one that sits well with the great majority of Australians.
For its part the Government wants to see an end to the Opposition’s continuing series of concerted attempts to prevent the nations of the world from responding effectively to Soviet aggression. We urge that all honourable gentlemen on both sides of this House should join in condemning the Opposition’s tactics of go slow and prevarication by supporting the motion before the House.
– I raise a point of order. Mr Speaker, yesterday you ruled, and Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice shows, that the use of the word ‘prevarication’ is unparliamentary. To refer to it again is to smear all members of the Opposition. Since it is offensive to me, I ask that you instruct the Minister for Industry and Commerce to withdraw it.
-I did not attach any offence to the use of the word.
– It is dealt with on page 445 of Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice.
-The honourable gentleman would have to tell me the way in which it was used in an offensive manner.
– The Minister, in concluding his speech, accused the Opposition of prevarication. The word is referred to on page 445 of Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice as unparliamentary language. It was, I think, your practice, sir, and that of other Deputy Speakers in the last session of the Parliament to require members of the Opposition to withdraw that word as it is unparliamentary language. I ask that the same kind of approach be applied in this case.
-I will look up my earlier rulings. I will hold the Minister in suspense for the moment as to whether he will be required to withdraw the words used.
– I support the amendment to the motion. The amendment clearly indicates that what we are discussing in this debate is the double standards of the Government. Why has this debate been brought on today? It is about a matter that could have been debated yesterday. Yesterday was a disastrous day for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), as everybody knows. In the course of Question Time he gave an illustration of some of the mischievous statements that he has been making to the Australian people. The big issue today is the credibility of Malcolm Fraser. That is the issue. But we are again debating what is allegedly wrong with the Australian Labor Party. This is an old ploy.
Let us look at what the people of Australia think about this matter. Let them bear in mind that today the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) again wanted to raise as a matter of public importance the issue of the need for tax cuts because of the increased burden of taxation that has occurred under the Fraser Government. It is very significant that that matter will not be brought on for debate today because of the moving of this motion. He tried to raise the same matter last week, but we had to discuss Afghanistan last week as well. We are not going to have any domestic issues debated in this Parliament while the Russians are in Afghanistan. That is the way to get Malcolm Fraser reelected. Let us look at what the double standards clearly show.
– We want them out.
-The honourable member wants them out but he is doing nothing about it. Let us look at the Government’s response to the situation in Afghanistan. Why does the Government not ban wool sales to the Soviet Union? The Government cannot do that as some of its supporters are involved in those sales. That shows the double standards of the Government. Let us examine the findings of an impartial judge- a public opinion poll. The poll asked:
Do you believe Mr Fraser is making the Games a party political issue?
To that 58 per cent said yes. It also asked:
Do you personally believe it is right or not right to continue trading with the Soviet Union while boycotting the Olympic Games?
To that 68 per cent said that it is not right. It also asked:
Do you think the Australian Government should or should not prevent athletes who want to compete in the Olympic Games from participating?
Seventy per cent said that it should not prevent them. Where is the Government’s credibility? Let us come to the point made about the need for a bipartisan attitude on the part of the Opposition. Where at any stage has the Government indicated to the Opposition that it wanted a bipartisan policy on this issue? Where has there been any consultation or any offer of intelligence reports? I am reminded by Senator Button that the sub-committee of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence that is inquiring into the situation in the Middle East was to meet with representatives of the Office of National Assessments on Thursday but that meeting has been cancelled. What has the Government done about achieving a bipartisan policy from the point of view of the Opposition? Let us look at how the Government’s credibility is suffering now. I do not want any groans from the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner). He is in enough trouble already. An indication of the international reputation of the Prime Minister is an article in the Malaysian New Straits Times of last Thursday.
-The honourable gentleman laughs about the reference to the Malaysian New Straits Times. Malaysia is a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations and he thinks that it is funny to refer to it. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) is running around that area like a lap dog asking the countries there to support him on Afghanistan.
– Whose imports you don’t want.
-I am not dealing with that question at the moment. I am talking about the Minister for Foreign Affairs being there and not here to debate any of these matters. He is running around the ASEAN area and honourable members opposite laugh because I refer to Malaysia. That will be well reported in Malaysia. Let us look at what the Malaysian New Straits Times says about him. It says:
But the spectacle of Mr Fraser popping in and out of Washington and Western Europe proclaiming imminent disaster in loud tones and suggesting defence co-operation with South East Asia is enough to raise the hair on ASEAN necks. ASEAN wants a stable balance of power, but not to be sucked into some grand design for the forward defence of Australia. ASEAN must walk a careful line between the super powers and respect the sensitivity of the regional powers of India and Vietnam. Our integrity can best be assured by developing our own resilience.
How does that stand up from the point of view of the Government’s credibility in ASEAN? How is it that the Minister for Foreign Affairs runs around talking to the Foreign Minister in Singapore on the basis that he must support the Government’s stance on Afghanistan because it is important for the defence of ASEAN. The day after the Minister for Foreign Affairs was in Singapore, the Pol Pot regime, which is recognised by the Government and which is causing genocide in Kampuchea, sent its Deputy Prime Minister, Ieng Sary, there and he was obviously welcomed on the basis that the Australian Government favoured the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea. Can the Government not see what it is doing to the whole region to the north? Does the Government not know that a million refugees are up there now? Does the Government not know that super power involvement is there already?
Last night I heard the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) come in here and talk about human rights. In the same process he said: ‘Well, I know there are some problems in the region to the north. The question of the Pol Pot regime is virtually a matter of some problem, nevertheless Vietnam is a much greater problem, therefore we continue to recognise the Pol Pot regime. ‘ This is a regime that has murdered three million people. As a result, at the present time, we now have a war going on in Kampuchea between the Pol Pot and Vietnamese forces. In the whole process we have the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and the Prime Minister doing two separate things allegedly in unison. The Prime Minister ran around as a messenger boy to Europe on two occasions and to Washington on two occasions to suggest a boycott of the Olympic Games. That will not happen and the Government knows it will not happen. Our athletes will be in Moscow in July and members of the Government will be shown up for the phoneys they are.
At the same time the Foreign Minister is running around ASEAN countries trying to drum up support for the same cause on the basis that we will support those nations if they continue to recognise the Pol Pot regime. The Australian people realise that our greatest danger is to the region to our north. If Australia had a government that was prepared to do something about the matter, it would initiate the proposition now that Kampuchea should be made a neutral country. It would be taking some overt action to call international conferences to get the big super powers- they are big- of China and Russia, out of Kampuchea. The Government would also be working towards trying to get Vietnam to become part and parcel of ASEAN. But the Government does not want that. It does not want any solution to these problems. A debate is dragged on, for the second time, on the basis that there is something wrong with the Labor Party.
The issue is clear cut from our point of view. We put it on record. We oppose the invasion of Afghanistan and that is clear. We have also proved that it is a double standard if we say to the Australian people: ‘You should not go to the Olympic Games, but I want to sell my wool, my meat and my wheat because they are not effective as a boycott’. The Australian people will not accept that. They know the Government is a hypocrite. On that basis the Government will not be able to get away with its proposal. What are we to do about standards? We have seen that the New South Wales maize growers want to sell 25,000 tonnes of maize to Russia. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) says: ‘They are not going to do that. They are not going to sell the maize. They can sell the wheat, they can sell the wool and they can sell the meat, but they cannot sell the maize because I am against that as that is one of the things that Carter says is not to be sold’. How silly can one be? That attitude will cost the New South Wales maize growers Sim at least because the price was going to be $136 a tonne and the best offer from Japan is about $92. There are the Government’s double standards on this issue. Why will it not stand up and talk about that. If Malcolm Fraser owned the maize, very likely it would be sold. It is the same thing, but just a different name.
The question now is this: Why is it that the Government adopts these double standards? The people of Australia now know that the Government is not really fair dinkum about this issue at all. The Government is really saying:
Look, we do nor want to interfere with trade’. But if Carter can interfere with trade, why cannot the Australian Government? The real issue is this: The Government does not want to upset the people whom it thinks will support it. That is where we come to what is the basic problem in the Government’s present strategy. It is a problem to divert the Australian people from the domestic pressures they now have.
If we look at the interest rate in the markets today we see that it is about 1 1.2 per cent and going up all the time. It means that the home owner who has to repay the mortgage will be up for another $ 1 1 a week. The Government is dead scared of that situation. When we ask a question about the Government’s policy on liquified petroleum gas we get an answer that includes Afghanistan. That is the way it goes in this place at the present time. Why is it that all the Government’s policies in relation to the tax burden, tax relief and, most importantly, the question of fuel prices and what the Government is doing for inflation, have failed. There is the situation of the interest rate which the Government has not been able to maintain, and the inflation situation which the Government has not been able to maintain. Today we get this spurious motion that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has failed to adopt a bipartisan attitude.
Let us make it very clear that any worthwhile Opposition anywhere in the world knows that it must act in accordance with public opinion. Public opinion in Australia has identified the Government for what it is. It is a sham to suggest that the Government can say to the Australian people that the biggest problem is Afghanistan, when the people are very worried about the regions to the north from where two or three million refugees could be coming within a matter of months. A war is going on in that region. There is super power involvement. But our Foreign Minister is running around saying: There is nothing to worry about. We still recognise the genocidal regime of Pol Pot. ‘ That statement will not stand up to scrutiny. It will not stand up to history because the problems of that region are on the Government’s doorstep.
Last night the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) came into the House in a belated effort to retrieve the debacle of the earlier part of the day, when, as was said, his Prime Minister’s credibility was in tatters. He came in here last night and again raised an issue on the basis that something was wrong with the Labor Party. All those other issues which I have mentioned are really not considered in the intelligence of international affairs. There has been just a tirade of abuse. When the Leader of the Opposition gets up to reply a motion is moved to gag the debate. This is the standard of debate. Is it any wonder that when members of the Australian public are asked in public opinion polls what they want to do about this matter they say: ‘Continue the trade with Russia because we believe you. From the point of view of trade it must continue. Do not, by the same token, say that you will not let the athletes go to Moscow on the basis that that action will do the Russians some damage’. People are asking: ‘What are you doing to us as a nation? What about our safety as a result of what is deemed to be a massive influx of refugees? What about the war to the north? What about your taking some initiative instead of running around virtually being one of the lieutenants for Carter in his efforts to be selected in August next as the candidate for the Democrats?’ This is the real problem in the world.
One does not see the same concern in Europe. At the present time the French are making their own arrangements, thank you very much, and they will participate in the Olympic Games. There have been discussions with Vance and others which clearly indicate that the European Economic Community will not accept the Carter philosophy of a boycott. Thatcher in the United Kingdom has said that the athletes are at liberty to do what they wish. So, part of the world which really matters- I can understand that the Government would not figure in this matter- can see that Carter is adopting a domestic policy which will be to his political advantage in the forthcoming few months. The European world in particular has to live with its neighbours and it will participate in what it deems to be reasonable operations from the point of view of trade or sport. That is the fundamental issue which the Government will not face up to. We could understand if the world said: ‘We are all going to boycott the Games. We are all going to boycott trade ‘. But the world is not doing that. The big issue, and the big mistake in what the Government is about is these famous words: ‘Detente is dead ‘. Detente is the only thing that is saving us from annihilation. Let us look at what Willy Brandt said. He makes the point:
I believe we should be careful not to mix things that should be differentiated. Of course, the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan is a very serious matter. But it shows that the world is still suffering from too little rather than too much detente and that we must do everything in our power to promote detente beyond Europe. In any event, reason speaks against playing these events against the efforts to effectively limit armaments.
That is what Willy Brandt said. How long does the Government think we will last if it continues to escalate the armament race? Escalation of the armament race will be the position once detente is abandoned. Yet a statement was made here last week which stated: ‘Detente is dead. Fraser the great military man is marching again.’ He marches with the stride which the Malaysian newspaper, the New Straits Times described as popping in and out of Washington, worrying more about Australia- but what about us. These are the matters for which the Government deserves condemnation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This motion is about the response of the Australian Labor Party, and in particular the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), to what the Government has done about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. One could be forgiven for thinking that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) was taking part in another debate. Rarely in the course of his speech did he touch upon the motion. Rarely in his speech did he address the question of whether the response of the Labor Party to what the Government has done over Afghanistan is proper and appropriate for a responsible Opposition. Over the past two days we have seen the Opposition lay bare in a very crude and obvious fashion its tactics for the remainder of the parliamentary year. It is quite obvious that, in good, plain and simple Australian terms, the Labor Party is going to play the man and not the ball for the rest of the year.
It is quite obvious that in plain simple terms, the manic response of the Opposition to anything done by the Government will not be a constructive alternative. It will simply shout ‘liar’ at the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) or his colleagues. In case there should be any doubt about it, I say to the Opposition, through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that that tactic will fail as miserably this year as it failed last year. I warn the Opposition that if it believes it can establish itself as a credible alternative government simply by shouting innuendoes and untruths at the Prime Minister, it is doomed to an even more abysmal failure and defeat at the end of this year than was likely a few weeks ago.
We have not had any constructive alternative proposals from the Opposition so far as Afghanistan is concerned. All we have had is blinding confusion, an array of contradictory statements which have left the Australian people absolutely unable to determine where the Opposition stands. Where does it stand on the question ofthe Olympic Games? The Leader of the Opposition has said time without number, and he has not denied it, that an effective boycott of the Olympic Games would be very good because it would drive home to the people of Russia that their Government had done a very objectionable thing. There is no argument about that. That is what the Leader of the Opposition said. In the next breath, of course, he said that we should not do anything at all to bring about that effective boycott. His deputy came into the House and quoted with gloating approval an editorial from a newspaper in Malaysia criticising the quality of the Prime Minister’s visit overseas. He did not say anything about the editorials in the Melbourne Age, a newspaper not always glowing in its praise of what this Government or this Prime Minister does. He did not say anything about the editorials in the Sydney Morning Herald or the Australian. He did not say anything about what those newspapers had said. He rummaged around to find an editorial that was critical of what the Prime Minister had done, and with smug satisfaction said: ‘This is what the visit amounted to.’ Then with equal smugness and complacency he leaned over and said: ‘Don’t you worry over there. Our athletes will be in Moscow and you will all look ridiculous. ‘
How does that sit with the professed attitude of the Leader of the Opposition that a boycott of the Olympic Games would be an effective response? How can one believe that the Opposition has a consistent attitude towards a boycott of the Olympic Games when on the one hand the Leader of the Opposition says, ‘If we could bring about an effective boycott, that would be a very good thing’, and then the Deputy Leader of the Opposition says in gloating terms, ‘I hope our athletes are in Moscow and I hope you all look ridiculous’? Just where do they stand? The fact is that the Leader of the Opposition is, as the bookmakers say, somebody who wants to bet on the race when it is over. The Leader of the Opposition wants to be in a position to say, if there is an effective boycott: ‘I supported that all along. I think it is an excellent idea and I am very glad that it has been effective. But for heaven’s sake, don’t ask me to do anything to make it effective. Don’t ask me to commit myself. Don’t ask me to get off the fence. Let me have it both ways. Let me say to the Australian people: “Yes, an effective boycott is a great idea. It will bring home to the Russian people just how strongly we feel about this issue.” But for heaven’s sake, don’t embarrass the Labor Party by asking it to state an attitude. Don’t embarrass the Labor Party by asking it to get off the fence. Don’t embarrass the Labor Party on a foreign affairs issue because it is on those issues that we are most sensitive. ‘
Nothing has divided the Labor Party, in its history of more than 80 years, quite so much as a foreign policy issue. As honourable members on that side of the House know only too well, ever since the middle 1 950s the Labor Party has literally shuddered in its boots at the prospect of a foreign affairs issue because it brings out all the latent hatred, mistrust and confusion inside the Labor Party. It brings to the surface all the lack of conviction about the real interests of this country. It brings to the surface the ideological commitment of so many people in the Australian Labor Party towards the internationalist view of world affairs. It makes it necessary for somebody like the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), who normally tries to identify himself with the dominant right wing of the Labor Party, to go before the left wing Young Labor League in New South Wales as president of the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party and say: Forget about Afghanistan. Who cares about Afghanistan? Where is it? Forget about it. ‘ It also makes it necessary for that darling of the moderate right wing of the Labor Party, the New South Wales Premier, to get onto the same track. At the very same conference the Premier said:
First, there was the story on the front page of the Financial Review headed, ‘Towards a Khaki Election’, then there were the stories floated by the Prime Minister’s office about the reintroduction of conscription.
That is another deliberate untruth told about the Prime Minister and his office. Mr Wran went on:
No wonder Mr Fraser wants a khaki election. And it is our job- at every level of the party- to see that he does not get it- to see that the next election is fought- and won- on the real issues, not the phoney issues.
In other words, Mr Wran reckons that Afghanistan is phoney. Tell that to the people of Afghanistan. Tell it to the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), who had this to say on 19 February:
It is quite clear that the Olympic Games in Moscow should be boycotted, not only because of what has happened in Afghanistan, but also because of the type of country the Soviet Union is . . .
The honourable member for Prospect did not think it was a phoney issue. He did not think Afghanistan was a far away country that could be forgotten or ignored. He thought what the Soviet Union had done was reprehensible and ought to be the subject of effective action. As we go again and again through the responses of the Labor Party we find only one thing emerging, without ambiguity and without confusion. One thing alone emerges from their response. They are morally embarrassed by any foreign affairs issue. If there is one thing that terrifies members of the Labor Party it is the prospect of having to come out into the open and argue about foreign affairs. They are absolutely incapable of making up their minds where they stand. Their Leader believes and says that an effective boycott of the Olympic Games would be a very good thing. Then he sets about undermining the attempts being made by the Government of this country which his foreign affairs spokesman has said has the right to make decisions while it has a mandate from the Australian people, to bring about an effective boycott.
How can we believe that a person is a credible leader of a political party when he says he believes in something and then works to make sure that that thing does not come about? How can we believe that he is talking about live, real political issues in Australia at the present time when the stock in trade of his parliamentary performance over the last few days has been vitriol and personal abuse against the Prime Minister, something that I think will bring him great disgust not just from supporters of the Government but also from many of his own supporters. A classic illustration of that came about during his speech earlier today when the issue of wool sales from the Prime Minister’s property was raised. The issue is very simple, as the Prime Minister has explained and as I will repeat. I can tell members of the Opposition that it will be repeated again and again until the effect of the Opposition’s handling of the truth on this matter is effectively countered.
The last wool sale involving the Prime Minister’s clip took place on 22 November, which happened to be a month before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. For the benefit of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), we are protesting against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan on 24 December; we are not protesting about the fact that previous wool sales from anywhere in Australia have taken place. So again and again we find absolutely breathtaking contradictions between members of the Opposition regarding their attitude towards the actions that have been taken by this Government.
I believe, and I am sure that the overwhelming majority of the Australian people believe, that the response that this Government has taken has been a very measured and appropriate response. I believe that the visit overseas by the Prime Minister, far from being something that ought to be the subject of gloating reference based upon one newspaper editorial, which no doubt the Deputy Leader ofthe Opposition or his research staff spent days and days trying to find, and far from being the butt of sarcasm and criticism, ought at the very least be the subject of critical analysis and review by the Opposition. If the Opposition seriously wants respect from the Australian people as an alternative government, it should behave like one. It should not just rely on personal abuse. It should not just throw mud.
It should not just get up in this Parliament and use as its stock in trade the word ‘liar’, which is what it has done over the past couple of days. It has not offered any alternative policies to those being followed by the Government. It has not tried to analyse constructively the policy statements made by the Government. All it has done is hurl personal abuse at the Prime Minister. As I said earlier in my remarks, just as that tactic failed completely last year, it will fail completely this year. We on this side of the House have, I believe, an appropriate response which is in sympathy with the views and the aspirations of the Australian people towards what has happened in Afghanistan. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who spent a quarter of an hour regaling us, said on 1 9 February, in a debate on Afghanistan, when talking about the Association of South East Asian Nations area:
That is what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said only eight days ago. Well, if we are in a dangerous position by having the Soviet Union in the ASEAN area, how is anybody on the other side of the House seriously going to argue that we can call the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, which is the first occasion on which the Soviet Union has gone out of the Warsaw Pact area since the end of the Second World War, a phoney issue’ as Mr Wran called it? How can Afghanistan be dismissed, as the honourable member for Blaxland has done, as being a far away, irrelevant, totally indifferent country? Again and again we have these divisions within the Labor Party, not only involving the leftleaning faction of the party represented by people like the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), but amongst those like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Blaxland who normally regard themselves as ideological allies. The honourable member for Blaxland says that Afghanistan is a far away, remote country that nobody cares about while the Deputy Leader of the Opposition says that it is very dangerous to have the Soviet Union outside its own sphere of influence. So the Labor Party is desperately divided on this issue apart from the other issues on which it is normally divided. We have to understand one simple thing: The tactic of personal abuse and vilification has been used in the past by the Labor Party and will be used again by the Labor Party to try to divert our attention and the people’s attention from one very stark fact, and that is that the Labor Party is a miserable and an inadequate alternative to the present Government. That attempt will fail in the future as it has failed in the past.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The Minister’s time has expired.
-We have heard another instalment in a squalid and weak attack by a poor Government and a weak Prime Minister who was not prepared to come into this chamber and move the motion himself; he had a third-rate barrister and a second-rate land developer come in here and do it for him. What is the whole basis of this debate today? This is not the first time that the issue of Afghanistan has been debated. It was the subject of 2lA days of debate last week. It is the subject of debate today because the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was rattled yesterday at Question Time, not by any name-calling or cat-calling, but by four legitimate questions- three questions on interest rates and one question on liquefied petroleum gas. They were the things which rattled the Prime Minister because he has come to realise that the khaki election is no longer on. A Bulletin article carries the headline ‘Khaki begins to fade as an election winner’. That is the truth and the Government realises it. Why was the Prime Minister rattled? He was rattled because of three questions on interest rates, which he could not answer and on which he could not defend his Government, and because of a question I asked on LPG, a question which embarrassed the Government. The Government has raised the price of that commodity for half the people who live in rural Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! I ask the honourable member to come back to the question before the House.
– I am going to the basis of this debate. There is now no longer conversion of vehicles to LPG in Australia. But there was one question on Afghanistan, only one, and that was asked by a Government back bencher. The Prime Minister, in answering that question, maligned me with a selective quote from an answer I gave on petrol pricing to a journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald. He then went on to attack the Opposition by saying that we were soft on the Soviet invasion. In fact I have never seen a back bench look more stunned or more dejected with the performance of a Prime Minister than I saw on that occasion, and I have been a member of this place for 10 years. The truth is that nothing happened. The banner headline in today’s Age reads: ‘Hayden flays Fraser’. Headlines in the Australian Financial Review, the Adelaide Advertiser and the Australian, in fact the lot, say the same thing. The Prime Minister lost the round so the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) sneaked in here last night with a cowardly and vicious attack which could not be replied to because the Government moved the gag. That is the quality of this Government. What has it done about the Soviet invasion?
– You are wrong. Here is the headline.
– I am talking about the one half way down the page, you dummy. Can you not read it? What has this Government done about the Soviet invasion anyway? What is the result? All it is back to is an Olympic boycott. There is no commercial boycott. There is no boycott on wool, which is the principal commodity of the trade. There is no boycott on wheat. The military aid we gave to Tibet some years ago to help Tibet hold back the Chinese invasion consisted of blankets, because wool is a strategic material, and we all know it. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) talked about the Prime Minister selling his wool on 22 November. Senator Wheeldon asked a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Carrick) on this issue in September. He asked:
Has the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs seen newspaper reports that there are 20 companies of Soviet combat troops in Afghanistan . . .
He went on to ask about the Government’s concern on this issue. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) replied:
I have had no independent verification of these reports, but have no reason to doubt their validity.
The Minister went on to express the Government’s concern about the instability in Afghanistan. The Government knew about the situation then, but what did it do about it then? Were there any approaches to the Soviet Union? Were Government Ministers going round South East Asia talking about the build-up of troops in Afghanistan? Of course they were not. Was the Government taking any diplomatic initiatives? Of course it was not. The Government waited until the invasion actually took place and then and only then, when it saw the prospect of political capital, did it get on its hobby-horse about it. The fact that the Government was advised of the Soviet build-up in September 1 979 by a senator of Australia and that the Government is prepared to ship to Russia the wool that the Prime Minister sold on 22 November- wool which is still on the wharf- demonstrates the lack of credibility of this Government and the complete humbug with which it has approached this issue of Afghanistan.
The Government has no policy. There are no embargoes. The Government talks about lifting the cultural links with the Soviet Union. I know that the Soviet Union wants our culture; it is desperate for it! The Prime Minister, in his address last week, said that the Soviet Union will not have ministerial visits. When we got through all the miserable, mundane initiatives that the Government is supposedly taking against the Soviet Union, what did it come down to? An Olympic boycott. The Government talks about an appropriate response and about human rights, yet it watched 300,000 people slaughtered in Timor. That powder puff of a Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock), who prides himself on knowing every foreign minister in the world and regards foreign policy as having good social relations with his opposite numbers in other countriesregardless of their politics and the abhorrence of their actions- watched the incorporation of these people in Timor into Indonesia. Four days after the United Nations carried a motion condemning Indonesia the Government recognised the incorporation of Timor into Indonesia.
The Government talks about human rights. As has been pointed out by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen), the Government is still recognising the murderous communist Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea. Yet the Government talks about human rights and examines the attitude of the Opposition. We will not let the Government examine our attitudes because our attitudes stand up. The Opposition has condemned the Soviet invasion. We are talking about the responses. If there is to be any response there can be no response other than a substantial response. By its own admission this Government has said that as trade sanctions will be effective, it will have no bar of them. It gets back to the Olympic boycott.
What is so dangerous about the Olympic boycott is that the major body of world opinion- the United Nations, which overwhelmingly condemned the Soviet Union in that supremely important motion of condemnation by that most supreme international body- is swept aside.
What is now important is the question of who will go to the Moscow Games. If the Soviet Union pulls off a successful Moscow Olympic Games it will be vindicated. When in fact the spotlight should be put upon the United Nations’ motion of condemnation, this Government is putting that condemnation at risk by its tomfoolery in playing at getting an effective boycott of the Moscow Games when there is no definition of ‘effective’ when 34 nations boycotted the Montreal Olympics, and 23 nations boycotted our own Olympics in Melbourne in 1956. By any definition there can be no such thing as an ‘effective’ boycott. If the Games take place in any shape or form the Soviet Union will stand vindicated, when it has no right to be vindicated. The United Nations’ proposal is just crushed underfoot under the body of world opinion with this crazed concentration upon the Olympic Games. When we look at what this Government will do we find this great, glaring gap of credibility.
My honourable friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition raised the question of maize. Someone else raised the question of rams. What is the difference between maize and rams and wool and wheat? What is the difference of principle upon which we have asked the Government to enunciate? On television the other evening Mr Hawke confronted the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon). He asked one simple question: ‘What is the difference in principle between maize and rams and wool and wheat?’. There is no difference. The only difference is that the Government’s rural constituency will remain affected if wheat and wool sales are touched. The Government is not prepared to do this. The Government chides the Opposition on the position of Afghanistan. It chides us about our sense of responsibility and it quotes selectively. It cheats upon the integrity of people on this side of the House. In my own case, at every stage I have condemn-d the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but I argue only as to the response.
– I take a point of order. The accusation of cheating on the part of this side of the House is unparliamentary. I ask for it to be withdrawn.
Opposition members interjecting-
Honourable members on my left will remain silent to enable the Chair to deal with the matter. The Chair did not see the expression as being one that required a withdrawal because of its collective nature.
– This Government talks about bipartisanship. There has been no advice to the Opposition from the strategic assessment which is available to the Government through its organisations.
– Not even an offer.
– Not even an offer. There has not even been an attempt. That does not go in Britain, the United States or West Germany. But in Australia it is to be kept an issue only for the Liberal and Country Parties, as though it is their little private issue. Only those parties could keep the advice to themselves. Only those parties could market the issue and start dredging up the communist can. But when they were advised in that regard two months before by Senator Wheeldon they sat and did nothing. Yet they talk about credibility. But the truth remains: What is the intelligence behind the whole issue? The intelligence behind the issue is that the Labor Party continues to hold up in the public opinion polls, despite the goings on of the Prime Minister. Why? It is because the domestic issues are still telling. We have double digit inflation; interest rates back where they were in 1975; unemployment at over half a million, double what it was when the Government came to office; billions of extra taxes including indirect taxes on petrol, cigarettes and liquor and other sales taxes; and we have had drastic cutbacks in Government services. The health scheme is in chaos. Thousands of Australian families are no longer covered for health protection. No wonder the Government wants to divert the issue on to foreign affairs. It took the Governor-General, in his Australia Day message, to stick up for the unemployed. The Governor-General had to address himself to the question of the unemployed because the Government decided to wash its hands of the proposition altogether. When we examine the credibility of the Government and we ask this weak Prime Minister questions about his credibility, he has another Minister answer for him. We have all the broken promises: To maintain Medibank, broken; tax indexation, broken; wage indexation, broken; to reduce interest rates by 2 per cent, broken; to reduce unemployment within 12 months, broken; and to have propriety in Government. Eleven Government Ministers have either been sacked or have resigned. Another broken promise. It promised to give tax cuts. The Government gave them and took them away five months later. It promised them again a month ago but reneged on that promise. Another broken promise. Promise after promise has been broken.
We have seen the Government’s strategies. The first strategy was the investment-led recovery, then the consumer-led recovery and then the export-led recovery. All those failed. Do honourable members remember the tax-led recovery and the wage-price freeze which failed? We now have the resources-led recovery. That also will fail. But now the biggest recovery of the lot is the Russian-led recovery. All the money and hopes of the Government will be put on the Russianled recovery because that is what it hopes will save it.
I invite honourable members to look at the American magazine Business Week. In this week’s edition there is the headline: ‘Australia, a bleak year despite the mineral boom ‘. The cocks are crowing about the fact that Australia is in for another dose of inflation, another dose of unemployment, that retail sales are down, savings bank deposits are up, and the motor industryAustralia’s major manufacturing industry- is falling apart. This Government has forfeited any right whatsoever to be the government of this country. The Government has no credibility on any basis of objective assessment on the management of the economy. The Government asked for three clear years. It has had four years and is now in its fifth year, yet it wants three more years.
– I take a point of order. The honourable member clearly is not debating either the motion or the amendment. He is debating a different subject altogether which, even tenuously, cannot be related to the matter under debate.
– I take a point of order. The substance of the motion is that the Government is trying to dodge the domestic issue. That is why it will not discuss our urgency motions.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will remain silent. He is using the time of the honourable member for Blaxland. I must rule on the first point of order. The point of order is such as to have some credibility. The honourable member has been testing relevance. I ask him not to expand the points that the Chair was prepared to accept as relevant.
– I will conclude that part of my speech on this note. On any basis of credibility and on any of the economic issues that I have mentioned, the Government stands condemned. There is an attempt now to shift the debate back on to the international issue and to talk about the Olympic boycott and all the rest. There is nothing which can come as any tangible response from Australia at this stage to the Soviet invasion.
The Prime Minister made a mindless tour through South East Asia and a mindless trip through the northern hemisphere which brought no results. We even had the Prime Minister saying to the world that the United States would use tactical nuclear weapons in Iran, just as he said in Southern Africa when he leaked the Lancaster House proposals and nearly completely blew apart the Rhodesian settlement. Then he said that we would be at war in three days. He cannot be trusted out of the country, much less in the Parliament.
This sleazy, snivelling attempt by the Government to put this debate up today is only a smokescreen for the Prime Minister’s failure in the House yesterday. He stands condemned in front of the Parliament, the Press Gallery and the public, as a Prime Minister leading a government out of control, without any economic direction, without any credibility for its continued existence. The Government is trying now to get back on the phoney issue of Afghanistan on the basis that there is something wrong with the Opposition. We condemn the Soviet Union and will continue to condemn it, but we are not selling wheat and wool to it. We are not prepared to take Russian roubles while we sacrifice Australian athletes according to a double standard such as has been adopted by the Prime Minister. If he has any integrity left he will boycott the sale of wool by Australia to the Soviet Union.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr NEIL (St George)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek to make a personal explanation. I claim to have been misrepresented. Mr Speaker said that he would give me the call but he has now left the Chair.
-Under the circumstances, the honourable member may proceed.
-Earlier, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) stated that no Government members had spoken yesterday in support of the Prime Minister. I would like to point out that both I and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) spoke in support of the Prime Minister; also that not one Labor member rose to defend the Leader of the Opposition when I pointed out that he was a weak, vacillating and panic-stricken leader.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I join this debate with some relish because I have no hesitation in totally supporting the motion before the House. Indeed, had I been the draftsman it would have been in much stronger terms. In my judgment, there is nothing more shameful than a political party, in this case the Australian Labor Party, seeking to make cheap political capital when the national security is at stake. There is nothing more contemptible than a Leader of the Opposition, even a temporary Leader of the Opposition, who seeks to divide a nation when national unity is of the essence in the eyes ofthe world. Where the motion uses the words ‘undermine the efforts of Australia’ I would say that a more appropriate wording would be ‘white ant’ because if we have ever seen a party of white ants with red faces we see it when we look across the chamber at the Australian Labor Party. It is appropriate in 1 980 for the people of Australia to make the judgment that the people of Great Britain made in the 1930s. But in this case the people of Australia will decide who are the Churchills in their Parliament and who are the Chamberlains. They will not need to look very far or ask too many questions in order to find the answer.
It is appropriate, since I mentioned Sir Winston Churchill, that I quote to Her Majesty’s Opposition his words of 21 September 1938 when he said:
He went on but one month later to say that the world: . . should know that we have passed an awful milestone in our history . . . and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies: Thou are weighed in the balance and found wanting and do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden times.
With those words of Churchill ringing in our ears, would the people of Australia like to ask which party has been fair dinkum, to put it in Australian terms, in opposing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? The Government parties, under a strong and determined Prime Minister, have been totally united. Her Majesty’s Opposition- I emphasise those words in view of something that I will be saying later- is in total disarray. Left is split from Right. Contradictory statements come out day by day. Let me remind honourable members of the words of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) when asked at a Press conference on 31 January:
Do you see any threat to Australian security as a result of events in Afghanistan?
The Leader of the Opposition said:
No, I don’t. And I think this has been gravely exaggerated. Afghanistan is 15,000 kilometres from this country.
The sons of threats that we’ve got to look at … are ones which are likely to arise . . . within a few thousand kilometres of this country’s shoreline, not 15,000. . .
If I may give the Leader of the Opposition a simple lesson in geography, the distance from Kabul, in Afghanistan, to Perth is 8,800 kilometres. But what sort of an alternative Prime Minister is it who measures the national security of Australia, the defence of this country, in kilometres, a person who thinks that Afghanistan is so far away that it does not matter, a person who clearly has not applied his mind to the strategic importance of the invasion of Afghanistan.
– What mind?
– My colleague says: ‘What mind?’. Moreover, I believe that he is derelict in his duty as Leader of the Opposition, as the alternative Prime Minister of Australia, in not applying his mind to the problems involved. Secondly, he has done this country, in my judgment, a great disservice. Over and over again he has made statements which, on a fair reading, can only be interpreted as apologising for, explaining away and in any other manner lowering the seriousness of the situation and the guilt of the Soviet Union in its brutal invasion of Afghanistan.
I should not, and I will not, introduce party politics into a debate involving national security, but I refer to a copy of yesterday’s Courier Mail and the headline ‘Hayden row: Resign or ruin Party’. I am not concerned about the future of the Australian Labor Party- it ought to be called the Apologist Labor Party- but I am concerned about the future of Australia. I call on the Leader of the Opposition to resign his position, resign from this Parliament, in view of the statements that he has made over the past four weeks. I take an unusual role because, in my Bar days, I was usually defence counsel and today I am prosecuting. I intend to get a conviction out of the Leader of the Opposition’s own mouth by quoting six comments made by him which demonstrate his absolute failure to appreciate the seriousness of the situation. Whether he intends it or not, his words have given comfort and support to the Soviet Union. The words that I intend to read are taken from page 226 of Hansard of 2 1 February. The first comment to which I take exception is:
This was not a thrust for a ‘ warm water port ‘.
– How naive can you get?
– It was more than naive. It was dangerously delinquent, because it runs contrary to the top military advice of the West, and to the opinions of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, ANZUS, the United States and indeed Australia. I repeat, the Leader of the Opposition said that this was not a thrust for a warm water port. Let the people of Australia judge that.
– He was told to say it by the left wing.
– Indeed, my colleague is so right. The Leader of the Opposition, as we all know, has been cultivating the pro-communist left wing within his own party and within the union movement in Australia for some considerable time. There are a few IOUs floating around. His second comment was:
The assertion that the Soviet Union may have been moving to control the West’s oil cannot be sustained.
That is an interesting situation if we recall the percentages that were given in this House only last week. Tell that to the people of the United States, the people of Japan, the people of Europe, indeed the people of Australia. They will say: ‘Who on earth said that? He needs psychiatric treatment’. It is an untenable proposition to suggest that the Soviet Union would not be interested in gaining control of the West’s oil supplies. If it could cut ofl” those supplies it could strangle the Western democracies and bring their economies to their knees. His third comment was:
The Soviet Union ‘s military capability to interdict oil destined for the West has not been significantly enhanced by invading Afghanistan.
What a nonsensical statement! By gaining possession of Afghanistan the Soviet Union is now but a few hundred kilometres from gaining control of the straits through which the oil supplies of the West flow. For the Leader of the Opposition to say that the Soviet Union has not significantly enhanced its situation is absolutely unsupportable on the evidence. Fourthly, the Leader of the Opposition said:
Soviet aggression then seems to have been a result of perceived weakness to the south, rather than a confident step in a steady expansionist drive.
If he is writing a history of war and if he is saying, in effect, that it was other than a confident step in a steady expansionist drive, then he seems to have forgotten that since 1945 the Soviet Union has spread its tentacles and has extended its boundaries into every section of the globe.
The Leader of the Opposition says in effect that Afghanistan does not count. In that approach his remarks are very similar to those of his colleague, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), to whom I will refer in a moment. What was the next thing that he said? He stated:
The problems for the West in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf do not, however, stem primarily from Soviet behaviour.
Whom is he blaming? Is he blaming the rebels who are fighting back? Is he blaming the 9-year- old and 10-year-old kids in Afghanistan who are taking up rifles alongside their fathers and fighting in the hills and mountains? Is he blaming the civilian population of Afghanistan which objects to having 95,000 Soviet troops in its territory? Last but not least, is he blaming the people of Afghanistan who are objecting to having poison and deadly nerve gas used against them? Is he blaming the United States of America? Why did he not say so? Because in the Leader of the Opposition ‘s public statements he has been pandering to the Soviet Union. If he can get an opportunity to stick it into the United States of America, he will do it again and again. I commend to him that he goes back through Hansard and reads the speeches of a great Labor leader, the late right honourable John Curtin, to see what he had to say about Australia and the United States in defence of the West. The last comment I want to make in relation to the Leader of the Opposition’s deplorable performance in this Parliament is this. He said:
The tanks and troops … of the Soviet military machine do not appear to be enough to subdue Afghanistan.
The Soviets have 95,000 troops there. They have helicopter gunships there. They have tanks and planes there. Yet in Australia we have a man who leads a major political party and who says: It is not enough. Put a few more in, fellows. You will not knock these Afghanistan people off’. I believe that is one of the most reprehensible statements ever made by a political leader in the history of this country. When we look at the honourable member for Blaxland, our future Labor Prime Minister until last week when he was slaughtered by our Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), who crucified him at Question Time, what did he have to say? He said:
It is so far away from our area of interest and Australia is not threatened, so we should leave it to the big powers
. it is extremely unlikely that the Soviet Union will attack Pakistan or Iran. After all, who would want Pakistan? Or for that matter, who would want Afghanistan?
Shame on the honourable member for Blaxland. He has destroyed himself politically for ever and a day. There are members opposite who welcome an increased Soviet involvement in our area. A senior and respected member of the Australian Labor Party followed me in a debate in this House on 8 March 1979. 1 had spoken about Indonesia and I had warned that Indonesia was at risk of falling under the influence of the Soviet Union. This very senior and very experienced member of the Australian Labor Party, with a lifetime in foreign affairs for the left wing of the ALP, said:
I do not apprehend any fear for Australia should Indonesia come under the influence of the Soviet Union.
– Who said that?
-The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). That is the voice of the Australian Labor Party: ‘Come forward, Soviet Union; we do not apprehend any fear if you do so’. In the time that is available to me I want to make two further comments about the Leader of the Opposition. Who is he, of all people, to make the vicious attack which he made on the Prime Minister? I do not know whether it was a breach of parliamentary privilege, but I have seen newspaper reports in the Courier Mail, the Canberra Times and the Sun Herald referring to a member of this House as a twitchy rat. I do not want to draw out the matter, but a twitchy rat is how a senior member of this Parliament- the Leader ofthe party opposite- has been publicly referred to in the Press. I will say this: He is weak, vascillating and apathetic. His performance in respect of this invasion has been so shameful that I am now going to say under parliamentary privilege something that I have said already outside parliamentary privilege, because I was not -
-I interrupt the honourable gentleman to tell him that it had better be parliamentary.
– It is indeed, Sir.
-Whether it is said inside or outside.
– It is indeed, Sir, and I am deadly serious, because when I use words bordering on treason I back them up with authority. I back them up with authority on this occasion.
– It had better be good authority.
– If the honourable member would just like to listen for a few minutes to Halsbury Laws of England he will be a little wiser about the laws of treason and he might be a little wiser about the duty of a subject of Her Majesty the Queen and of a member of Her Majesty’s Opposition with respect to the law. I simply quote–
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker.
– The honourable member knows what is coming.
-The honourable member for Denison will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Melbourne Ports.
– I interrupt the honourable gentleman at this stage to seek advice from the Chair. There can be no more serious accusation against a member of Parliament or anybody else than to imply that he is guilty of treason. To suggest that clearly raises matters of privilege. If they are matters of privilege, they ought to be dealt with in that way and not in the cavalier way in which the honourable gentleman is proposing to raise the issue.
-I hear the point of order. It is not a question of ruling on it. I have already indicated to the honourable member for Denison that he must not transgress the rules of the Parliament.
– I am speaking on authority and I will not transgress the rules of Parliament. I refer the House to Halsbury’s Laws of England, third edition, volume 10. The fourth definition of treason states that a person is guilty of high treason who:
Levies war against the Sovereign in her realm, or is adherent to the Sovereign’s enemies in her realm, or gives them aid or comfort in the realm, or elsewhere.
Further on one will find the following:
The Queen ‘s enemies are foreign states in actual hostility against her. Whether a particular state is in actual hostility or not is a question of fact for the jury, who may judge of the matter from public notoriety.
It is not necessary that there should be any formal declaration of war. I will repeat that, and I hope that members of Her Majesty’s Opposition will note what the law is. It is not necessary that there should be any formal declaration of war, but if one continues to give comfort and support one will be guilty of treason as was -
-Order! The honourable member for Denison will remain silent. The honourable member for Denison has transgressed upon the rules of the Parliament in terms of relevance to this motion. I fear that he is going to transgress even further. There can be no purpose in his saying what he has said unless he is going to make an accusation against a person. I warn him that such an accusation will be most serious and that I will handle it in the form that it deserves.
-Mr Speaker, can I continue?
-The honourable member’s time has expired.
– They have effectively taken the time. I will say outside the House what you stopped me saying in the House and I regard you as a bunch of traitors, the whole lot of you.
-The honourable member for Denison continued to speak after he had lost the call and after his time under the Standing Orders had ceased. I warn him, as I have warned other honourable members of the House, that if he does that again I will name him without further ado.
- Mr Speaker, I ask you to ask the honourable member for Denison to withdraw his statement in which he described members of the Opposition as a bunch of traitors. It is a highly offensive and unparliamentary remark and it ought to be withdrawn.
-I did not hear him use those words. Did the honourable member use those words?
– I did, Sir, and I am afraid I mean it.
-We have a continuing problem in this House and have had for some time. In the past it has been ruled that if an accusation is made against a group it is not unparliamentary, whereas if it were made against an individual it would be unparliamentary. The difficulty is that if I permit it to go, every person who feels that he is part of the group would be obliged to stand and deny it. Therefore, I am of the view that in such a serious instance as this I should call upon the honourable gentleman to withdraw even though the words were used against a group. I ask the honourable member for Denison to withdraw.
- Mr Speaker, can I -
– No. The honourable gentleman will withdraw unqualifiedly.
– I have no alternative, but I withdraw.
– You weak mug.
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide will withdraw.
– I withdraw.
– I wish to raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With the greatest of respect, I do not think that the honourable member for Port Adelaide, of all people, should have said what he said and then in such a cavalier manner have withdrawn it.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I called on the honourable member for Port Adelaide to withdraw and he did so.
– Well, I will deal with you outside the House, Mick.
– Take that rosette out of your pocket first.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat.
– You are the nearest thing to a communist that we have got here.
-Order! I indicate to the honourable member for Denison that I will not permit threats of the nature that I have interpreted that to be. It is not only provocative language but it is also an insult to the Chair. I ask the honourable member for Denison to apologise to the Chair.
– I apologise, Mr Speaker.
– The honourable member for Denison -
-Is the honourable member for Robertson raising a point of order?
– Yes. As the honourable member for Denison sat down he referred to the honourable member for Port Adelaide as a secret member of the Communist Party.
-I did not hear that.
– I think that the first claim made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) about the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union has already been dismissed by all commentators and all politicians in this country. That claim was that this is the greatest crisis since World War II. We have not heard any member of the Government use that term in this debate. Obviously, the first term used by the Government or by the Prime Minister was used to arouse hysteria over the Russian intrusion into Afghanistan. If we were to replace the word ‘Afghanistan’ with the word ‘Vietnam’ we would have again all the Government speeches we heard before in the 1960s. Again it is a question of which party is the most patriotic. Let us make a test of which party is the most patriotic. Were the Liberal Party and the National Country Party patriotic because 510 young Australians lost their lives in Vietnam, or was the Australian Labor Party patriotic because it said Australia should never have been involved in Vietnam? Who is right in 1980 about that question? Who will be proved right about the Russian intrusion into Afghanistan?
I asked last week: Who advised the Prime Minister to take off in his Boeing 707 in a jaunt around the world to speak to President Carter, President Giscard d ‘Estaing, Chancellor Schmidt and Mrs Thatcher, the Prime Minister of Great Britain? Who advised him that Australia had an influence equal to a super power, which sent the Prime Minister spiralling around the world in order to use the voice of Australia to beat up the cold war again? No more disgraceful statement has been made in this whole debate since the Russian invasion of Afghanistan with its troops than the statement made by the Prime Minister who declared to the world that the Parliament in Australia had declared detente dead. He said: ‘I declare detente dead’. These are the words of the Prime Minister. They are not the words of the Chancellor of West Germany, nor the words of the President of France, nor are they the words even of the President of the United States. They are the words of the Prime Minister of Australia who was telling everybody that we are going back to the early 1950s where, perhaps, we can beat the cold war into a hot war.
This is the fifth day of sitting of this Parliament. It is the fourth day on which we have discussed Afghanistan. It is the third occasion that the Government has refused to discuss interest rates or housing loans. It is the third occasion in five days that the Government has refused to discuss domestic issues. But the Government brings on, without any notice, with the Ministers getting up here with prepared speeches, a discussion on Afghanistan again. Members of the Opposition and the public are entitled to be cynical about the Government’s attitude to this question. Not only did the Prime Minister say that detente is dead and that this is the greatest crisis since World War II, but he also told us that there could be war in three days. What kind of a maniac would go around the world telling people that there could be war in three days? We are not fighting wars with bows and arrows any longer. We are now fighting wars with weapons so destructive that it is almost incomprehensible as to what they could do. But the Prime Minister of Australia tells us we could have war in three days.
On the plane on the way from the United States to Europe the Prime Minister leaked that the United States had told him that it would use tactical nuclear weapons in the Persian Gulf area. The United States denied it. Someone on that plane going from the United States to Europe was telling lies about what the United States had told the Prime Minister and his party on their visit. The United States did not say it would use -
– How do you know?
-Because the Press secretary to the President of the United States declared that they had not said that in any discussions with the Prime Minister. Someone was telling lies about what was said. The lies did not finish there. When the plane got to Europe someone on the plane leaked to the Press that the Chancellor of West Germany, Helmut Schmidt, had asked Mr Fraser to return to the United States to again see President Carter and express the views that he had expressed to the Prime Minister. German diplomats throughout the world, including in Australia, are making it clear that no such suggestion was made by Chancellor Schmidt to Mr Fraser. This was another grotesque, diplomatic lie in the whole facade of trying to pump up the Russian invasion of Afghanistan into our role of what we can do in this part of the world.
Not only are we not a major economic or military power or super power in this world, but also we are not even the largest democracy in our region. The largest democracy in our region is India. India is saying things quite different from what we are saying. In the last few weeks India has had such visitors as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the President of France and diplomats from all countries of the world. India is printing in its foreign affairs magazines the communiques released by Mrs Gandhi and other visitors. Let me read four or five lines of what the Secretary-General of the United Nations and Mrs Gandhi said in their communique. They said:
The UN Secretary-General, Dr Kurt Waldheim, has supported the stand of the Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi, that the Afghan crisis must be defused to avoid a bigger super power confrontation. Addressing his first press conference after return from his visit to New Delhi and Islamabad, Dr Waldheim warned against the disastrous consequences of further military escalation and of cold war replacing detente, which, he said, was so painfully built up over the last decade. He said one should shun hysteria and refrain from the action-counteraction syndrome in dealing with the Afghan crisis.
The same sort of sentiment was expressed by President Giscard d ‘Estaing and Mrs Gandhi after his visit. What relationship do we have with India that we can discuss our concern about our region? The Foreign Minister of this country, the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), has been shadow Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs since 1972. With the advent of the Afghanistan crisis he made his first trip to India. Mrs Gandhi asked him: ‘Is this your first trip? You have not been here before.’ She is entitled to know whether we are serious about the region or whether we are just exploiting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan for our own political purposes. Mrs Gandhi saw the Minister from Australia for 20 minutes. She saw Mr Peacock for 20 minutes. She spent more time with Muhammad Ali two days later than she spent with the Foreign Minister of Australia. That is how much respect we have got here.
What member on the Government side of the House has mentioned the word Afghanistan before? Not one. We are not putting on the rubbishy rhetoric that members of the Government are putting on. Not one member on the Government side has ever mentioned Afghanistan, but all of a sudden they are concerned. The Prime Minister said in a personal explanation after Question Time: ‘The accusation that I am selling my wool to the Russians since the invasion is incorrect’. He said that he sold his wool last November just before the invasion. The fact that the wool is still in Australia and has not been sent does not matter to the Prime Minister. But if he looks at all the briefings that he has received, whether from the Office of National Assessments, the Department of Foreign Affairs or any of the security forces of this country, he will know that there have been thousands of Russian troops in Afghanistan for two years.
Of course, he is not going to take the same stand on trade with Russia that he took on trade with Vietnam. In relation to Vietnam, this Prime Minister, the then Minister for the Army and the then Minister for Defence, put up his hand in Cabinet and said: ‘We will not trade with North Vietnam’. The Government stopped the export of a product from an abattoir. It did not stop Australia from trading in millions of tons of wheat, bales of wool, lead, zinc and rutile and all the other things that are bought from us by the Soviet Union, but it stopped the export of one product from a Victorian abattoir. That product was tallow. The Australian Government stopped a Victorian abattoir from sending tallow to North Vietnam. But now the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), the mouth from the south, says that members of the Labor Party are traitors and we are not as patriotic as members opposite because we will not ban the Olympics. Why should we ban the Olympics while the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street), the Prime Minister and a whole host of back benchers are sitting on their farms sending their products to the Soviet Union? What a bunch of hypocrites!
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I refer to the comment that ended with the words: ‘a bunch of hypocrites’. I refer honourable members to page 52 of the House of Representatives Hansard where the following words are recorded:
We on this side of the House will not be so glib as to say that we could have a trade boycott. We have not said it. It would be ridiculous.
That was stated by the honourable member who is now making a speech. That is hypocrisy at its worst.
-It is not a point of order.
– That has always been my view. That is my view and in line with that view I am saying that we should not boycott the Olympic Games. The Government is making Ministers millionaires and our athletes poverty-stricken. It has a different attitude to its Ministers. How can honourable members opposite sit behind the Ministers and watch them pour money into their pockets from the sale of their products to Russia while at the same time they say to the athletes: You can’t go’? One of the honourable members opposite said last week: ‘We have a very serious request from the West. There are 12 Russian dissidents who say that it would be a good thing if we boycotted the Olympic Games’. The honourable member opposite said that we should listen to the Russian dissidents because it is important that we back their cause, and so it is. But I tell the House that we have some dissidents in Australia, people who are circulating petitions asking members of parliament to send the kids to the Olympics. I will name a few of the dissidents. They include Dawn Fraser, the greatest sportsperson this country has produced, Kevin Berry and John Devitt. Honourable members should just remember those names because they are now the Australian dissidents. They are the people who are saying that we should go to the Olympics. All the time we have this sham of the Liberal and National Country Parties who say: This is the way we are going to fight the Russians’. Ships are unloading in Leningrad, Vladivostock and all the other ports around the Soviet Union. The Soviet workers must be whistling Waltzing Matilda as they unload the wool, the wheat, the silver and the lead while Government Ministers line their pockets.
Why do honourable members opposite not make a decent decision and face up to it? What influence do they think it will have if we do not run, swim or jump in Moscow in August of this year? They are prepared to take the easy option. The easiest option to this Government is not to go to the Olympics. How fortunate it is for the Government that the Olympics are to be held in Moscow this year. What is the Government going to do after the Olympics? Probably it will keep out the basketballers or the volleyball players. It will be doing things that will not injure the personal gain of its Ministers. It will make sure that they do not have to go without a quid. If ever any government this country has ever seen has self-interest as its prime motivation it is this Government. Even the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt), who is sitting at the table now, knows that he will benefit from our continuing to trade with the Soviet Union. He can put up his hand and say to one of the kids in Australia: ‘We know that you have been training for four or five years, but bad luck. This boycott suits our politics. ‘
Government members do not want to talk about interest rates; they do not want to talk about petrol prices; they do not want to talk about housing loans; they do not want to talk about domestic issues; they want to keep talking about whether the Labor Party is patriotic or whether they are more patriotic than it is. They want to keep talking about whether in fact they are taking the right attitude to the Russians in Afghanistan. They have to keep that issue alive because that will do them more political good than any other move they can make. They can do it for as long as they like but the fact is that their policy is faltering with the Australian public. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) tells us that we ought to adopt different attitudes in the House. From my observation, the best day that we have had in the House since 11 December 1975 was yesterday, because yesterday, for once and for all, the Prime Minister was established as the greatest liar who has ever stepped into this Parliament.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will withdraw that comment.
– I withdraw. There is an attempt by this Government to make sure that we will not discuss domestic issues before the next election. It may get its khaki election. I doubt very much whether it will be stupid enough to introduce conscription before the election, but should it win on this issue at the next election there is no doubt that it will reintroduce conscription. Government party members are so brave. They all put their hands up to sacrifice the kids in just the same way as they did in relation to Vietnam. That is where their spines are. They push 20-year old kids from Australia-they sacrifice them at the Olympics, sacrifice them in Vietnam and sacrifice them in Afghanistan. We will continue the tactics of yesterday right up until the next election.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
- Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-The honourable gentleman has not participated in the debate.
– No, but something was said about me.
– Then at the end ofthe debate I will call the honourable gentleman to put the matter right.
– I rise to support the motion moved this afternoon by the Leader of the House (Mr Viner). Perhaps it is appropriate that I should follow the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). If political thinking were classified as advertising the honourable member for Port Adelaide could be subject to prosecution for exaggeration. I know that he is an optimist. He has been into the electorate of Lyne. The unfortunate thing is that he has been encouraging the Labor candidate there to think that he has a slight chance in the forthcoming election. I realise that many members of the Opposition have to be extreme optimists in order to be here, but I think that is carrying things to a really unreal conclusion.
Quite seriously, I wish to refer to one of the factors relating to this motion and to what has happened in this House. I think it is something that everyone in Australia has to look at. I fully appreciate the fact that one has to be careful when one is getting on in years a little not to look back and say: ‘Well, things are not like they were when we were younger’. But there is reason for serious consideration of the political situation in Australia today. It appears to me that some members of the Opposition have almost a death wish never to be members of a government and never to be able to form a government. If one looks at what has happened in recent years, one realises that one of the weaknesses of any democracy is the weakness of an Opposition. That has been the situation in Australian politics for a long period. As I have said, that should cause the people of Australia a great deal of concern.
There was an article in one of the newspapers regarding the performance of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) both in the House and in the country. The article called him the champ, which is perfectly correct, and talked about how easy it was for him to be able to defeat the Leader of the Opposition in the ring, using a boxing match as an illustration. I cannot quite accept that illustration because, to my mind, the Prime Minister would have to be the greatest shadow boxer in the world to have any success against the Leader of the Opposition in the ring, as every time the Leader of the Opposition climbs up onto the steps to get back into the ring someone in his own party or organisation kicks the stairs from underneath him. He has yet to get into the ring to engage the Prime Minister with any strength or capacity. This is not good.
Unfortunately, this carries through to the economic situation in which we in Australia find ourselves. We have problems and difficulties with our unions and their leaders. Some sections of the industrial wing of the Australian Labor Party are doing everything they can to undermine the economic strength, progress and development of this country. I say quite seriously that if this country is to progress and if we are to achieve those things that it is possible for us to achieve, because of the great advantages that we have, there will have to be a change of outlook by something like 90 per cent of the members of the Opposition, the unions and the left wing people in this country. They are doing everything they can to undermine the progress and development of this country in the twentieth century. That is one of the elements of the debate this afternoon. It is one of the elements that has been indicative of the debates and discussions in this House.
I hesitate to quote a member of the Labor Party in an endeavour to show how he thinks because I know, firstly, that it presents difficulties and, secondly, that sometimes it is unfair as one can quote that member out of context, but I have had quite an association with one of its members, Senator Wheeldon, who is a senator from Western Australia, and I want to quote him. He was the Chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on an occasion when I was a member of it. There were many occasions on which I disagreed with him and there were many times when our thoughts and considerations were exactly opposite, but I think that the words that he used in the speech he made in the Senate in regard to this matter should be considered very seriously by many Australians, particularly by members of his own party. He said:
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is inexcusable. It is a monstrous action of imperialism which the Soviet Government has taken against a neighbouring country. I do not believe that anybody would criticise an Australian government or the government of any democratic country for taking strong action to show its disapproval and condemnation of what the government in Moscow has done. It is an outrageous piece of behaviour. It is a piece of the most rampant aggression that one could imagine. What has happened is that a small country neighbouring the Soviet Union has been invaded. The people of that country are being subjected to brutality and armed intervention and are being placed in the position where they will be reduced to an appendage of the Soviet Union, a colony of the Soviet Union. It is an action which is contrary to principles of international law and contrary to principles devoted to the preservation of world peace.
I believe that the statement which was made this month at the meering of the Socialist International, the international body of social democratic and socialist parties throughout the world- an organisation to which the Australian Labor Party is affiliated- is a completely appropriate one. It states that the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan has violated international law as well as the sovereignty and right of self-determination of that country. The Socialist International condemns the intervention of the Soviet armed forces in Afghanistan and calls upon the Soviet Union to withdraw all of its troops from that country. I think that is the only position to which any civilised person who believes in democracy and in equitable and just relations between nations would subscribe. Condemnation can be the only consequence of the Soviet action in Afghanistan.
There are some things which Senator Wheeldon said and which I do not agree with, but that is a basis for approaching the matter. All the fobble-bobble in the world from the Opposition cannot disguise that fact. Members of the Opposition can say: ‘You should not do this, that or anything else’, and they can say in words that they condemn the actions of the Soviet Union but it is only by stopping the participation of Australians and others in the Olympic Games that we will give tangible expression to our obvious opposition to the actions of the Soviet Union. That cannot be denied.
I know that there are problems and difficulties. President Carter did say that if the Soviet Union took certain action the United States of America would go ahead with the Olympic Games. I know that it will pose problems if we stop them training and then suddenly turn round and say that it is all right for them to go because certain things have happened. That brings me back to the fact that our participation in the Olympic Games is an indication of our acceptance of the Soviet Union’s policy. If we dissociate ourselves from it we are at least producing evidence of our strong disapproval of the Soviet Union’s actions.
I have had the great privilege of being able to go to Kenya on four or five occasions. It is rather an indictment of certain sections of Australian thinking that we are fiddling and muddling about with this matter whereas a small country like that has said what action it will take. We have to give a lead. It is no good saying: ‘If you do it, I will do it’. It is like a kid going out into the backyard and saying: ‘I will play if you are going to play, but I will not if you are not. If you don’t do it in the way I want I will take. my bat home’. Australia has to support the Prime Minister by saying where it stands on the matter.
One of the proudest moments of my time in this House, irrespective of politics, was when the late Sir Arthur Fadden said: ‘This policy is correct and no matter what the reaction is I certainly will stand by it’. Some of the older members of this House may recall that he once said about a meeting of his friends that he could have it in a telephone booth and it would not be overcrowded. He stood firm on an economic decision. He said: ‘If we lose seats it does not matter. What matters is the future of this country’.
-Who was that?
-That was the late Sir Arthur Fadden. The honourable member has many of the same characteristics of the late Sir Arthur Fadden. Surely these things are important. The views expressed in a public opinion poll can change in five minutes. There are certain things that a government has to stand firm on and say: This is where we stand’, irrespective of what may be said in public opinion polls or anywhere else. In the time that I have been a member of this Parliament- there are others who have been here longer- I have seen public opinion polls say this or that has been going to happen and it has not even looked like happening.
Senator Wheeldon also spoke about a particular time that many people may have forgotten when he said:
But that is only one episode in a long chronical of similar actions of the Soviet Government. What could have been more brutal than the smashing of the Government and people of Hungary. In 1956 the Soviet Union destroyed a communist government in Hungary.
He went on to say that by devious and dishonest means the Soviet Union took the Premier out of the way and then finally annihilated him. It turned round and by employing a ruthless dictatorship took over a country that was endeavouring to show a degree of independence. I had the privilege of being at the United Nations in that particular year. A motion of the United Nations was carried unanimously when the United Nations was a little bit more important than it is today. What effect did that resolution have? The Soviet Union told the United Nations to go and jump in the lake. It told the United Nations something else but if I said what was actually said you, Sir, would rule my remarks as unparliamentary. This is the same type of thing as far as any resolution of the United Nations or anything else that we can do is concerned. In regard to trade, I still think we should keep that factor and action fluid. But the one thing that the Soviet Union will see is the lack of participation of countries in the Olympic Games. This I believe, as I said earlier, is the one thing that can have a more damaging effect on the Soviet Union than anything else.
Let us have a look at what has happened in regard to the human rights of individuals in the Soviet Union. Has any protest, motion or action had any effect? I would be prepared to say that if one goes to the Soviet Union and talks to the people one would find that they would not even know that the United Nations had passed a resolution, they would not even know that this or that or something else had happened. If we do not participate in the Games there has got to be an explanation and there has got to be a reason for our not being there. If the major countriesthis is on the conscience of the major countriestake this action they will be taking action on something that will have the effect of showing this is where we stand and this is where the line has to be drawn.
One other thing that I must confess rather amazes me is the number of people who say that sport and politics should not be mixed. Did those people say that when they stopped South Africa participating in cricket, tennis and football and all of the other sports? Many of us said: ‘Look, let these people come because we can talk to them. Let them come because their government is taking some action and we are hoping to encourage them to take further action ‘. But these people said: ‘No, let us have nothing to do with them at all’. Is it not strange that these ratbag left wing elements in that party and in the unions are now suddenly piously and sanctimoniously throwing up their hands and saying: ‘Do not let us participate in the sport and politics mixture. Let us keep it out, and let us have sport without polities’. I support the Government and I hope that we continue to take this stand in this situation.
-The honourable member’s time has expired.
-One must acknowledge that this Government has an almost infinite ability to bob up once it has been knocked over by the Opposition. We saw the Government totally humiliated by the Opposition yesterday and now it has provided us with an opportunity to do so again. We will do so again if we have not already done so by this stage in the debate. The most amazing thing about this debate is that the Government has brought into the House a motion relating to a debate which took place for all of last week and ended up last week with the passage of the motion. That resolution, which was passed by this House without opposition from this side of the House, did exactly what the Government wanted. It condemned the invasion of Afghanistan and called on the Russians to withdraw immediately from Afghanistan. Any one would think, listening to the contributions of the people from the Government side who have spoken and particularly that outrageous speech from the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), that we had opposed that proposition. In fact, if anybody cares to look he will see that we proposed an alternative motion. It was an alternative form of words to those contained in the Government’s motion which said similar things in slightly less hysterical terms.
We do not dispute the basis on which the Government is wanting us to agree with it. We do condemn the invasion of Afghanistan and we call for the immediate withdrawal of the Russian troops. To listen to this debate today one would think that the Opposition had welcomed that invasion. It was rather extraordinary and indeed unique to have the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) quoting with some approval a resolution of the Socialist International. I am sure that that is a first for the honourable member for Lyne. It is a pity he did not go on to say that the Socialist International is not prepared to abandon detente and that is the important question in this whole debate. It is a matter of keeping that question in proportion. It is a situation of not scuttling the idea of detente which has been so studiously worked for by many world leaders for many years. That is a very important difference between the attitude of this side of the House and of the Government.
What did we have as far as the Government was concerned? We had the most outrageous of all the Ministers in this outrageous Government come into this House and propose a motion to us immediately after Question Time. That Minister, the Leader of the House (Mr Viner) is so pathetically sycophantic that he will completely disregard the truth. His speech amounted to a series of misrepresentations, distortions and fabrications. He attempted to quote, misquote and quote out of context speeches of honourable members on this side of the House and indeed of Labor senators in another place without regard to accuracy or truth. I must say that this debate as unnecessary and trumped up as it is, does give me an opportunity to place on record my position regarding the question in Afghanistan. It will be noted that I was not able to participate in the debate last week. I interpolate and say that I had prepared two speeches last week- the third was this week- on taxation and the plight of small business. Because of pre-occupation with the Afghanistan situation I did not have an opportunity to contribute to debates on those important matters simply because the Government was not prepared to have debates on them. The reason I was not able to be here for the end of the debate and indeed to vote was because it was necessary for me to return to the Kimberleys in Western Australia to ensure that members of the Liberal Party did not, once again, conspire to deprive the people of Kimberley from exercising their vote in the State elections on Saturday last.
– Did you win?
-Indeed, we did. We won the seat of Kimberley and we would have won it three years ago had it not been for the activities of Liberal Party operatives including, I might add, the brother of the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Chaney) who engaged in a plot to deprive Aborigines in the Kimberley of exercising their right to vote in the State election at that time.
– What absolute nonsense.
– It is not absolute nonsense. The brother of the current -
- Mr Speaker -
-Is this a point of order?
- Mr Speaker, I think it is quite irrelevant in a debate on this topic, which has been very wide-ranging, to be discussing Aboriginal votes in the Kimberleys.
-I must say to the honourable member for Fremantle that I do find the connection tenuous.
-Mr Speaker, with the greatest of respect, I know that you were pre-occupied with important consultations with the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott), but I was explaining my absence at the end of the debate last week when the vote was taken on the question of Afghanistan.
-I am sure the honourable gentleman was making only a passing reference. He should now continue speaking to the motion.
– Indeed I was. However, I am moved to say that when the opportunity presented itself again yesterday for a debate on the question of human rights it was extraordinary to find the Government unprepared to debate the question of human rights in the Soviet Union seriously. We had the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) participate in that debate without making any reference to the question of human rights in the Soviet Union. I would be very surprised if he had even read the report. But it is important in the context of the whole matter of human rights to consider what the Liberal Party has attempted to do in the Kimberleys. Even on this occasion there were a couple of attemptsunsuccessful, I am happy to report- to prevent several hundred Aboriginal people from participating in the ballot.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Apparently the honourable gentleman did not hear you a moment ago. He is still wandering from the track. He is now talking about Aboriginal votes in Western Australia.
-The honourable gentleman will remain relevant to the motion.
-I will. The Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) is a well-known exponent -
-The honourable gentleman will return to the motion and make no comment about the point of order.
-It is relevant to this debate because it is the Minister for Home Affairs who, in retaliation against the Australian sportsmen, is prepared to confiscate their passports to prevent them going to Moscow.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Am I permitted to make a personal explanation?
– When I finish, would you? You know the rules.
-I will call the honourable gentleman at the appropriate time.
– The honourable member just made a really outrageous statement.
– You are an outrageous Minister. Sit down.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Fremantle to moderate his language. There is no point in casting insults such as that at a man.
– The Minister does try my patience, but I will attempt to contain myself. In this debate today we have had speeches from the
Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner), the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch), and the Treasurer (Mr Howard). What on earth they have to do with it I do not know. Where was the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr MacKellar)? Where was the Acting Minister for Defence (Mr John McLeay)? Where indeed was the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)? The Prime Minister who apparently manufactured this debate in order to try to respond to the humiliating treatment he received here yesterday, is not even prepared to participate in the debate. He sends in the Ministers who are responsible for key economic areas. The only reason they want to debate this question is that they cannot get a look in on the issues that are supposed to concern them. They cannot get a look in on the questions of employment, the economy, and industry policy because the Government is not prepared to have a debate with the Opposition, or anyone else for that matter, on those important questions. The only chance they get to enter into debates is on matters such as this spurious motion that has been presented to us by way of a diversion.
The only thing this Government is concerned to do is to manufacture public panic in this country. It is trying to escalate hatred for the Soviet Union. It did so all last week and apparently is going to do it for the rest of this week as well. This motion suggests that there should be a bipartisan approach to the problem in Afghanistan. With the greatest of respect, I should have thought that if there was going to be a bipartisan approach to this question, the first thing the Government would have done would have been to give the Opposition access to the Government’s own strategic assessment.
– You cannot be trusted.
-I will deal with the honourable member for Denison in a minute. I should have thought that the Government would have been prepared to do that. It is clamouring for bipartisanship. I should have thought it would have given members of the Opposition a briefing from the intelligence units which advise the Government. Why did we not get a briefing? We did not get it because the Government did not want us to know what it had been told. It did not want us to know -
– You cannot be trusted. That is the reason.
-Order! The honourable member for Denison will remain silent. The honourable member for Fremantle will ignore the interjection and continue his address.
– The official strategic assessment of this country, supplied by the Office of National Assessments, has been on the front of a newspaper for everyone to see. The Government did not have to trust us. Its prime intelligence unit leaks like a sieve, and that is where the country’s security is placed. It is placed in the hands of an organisation which leaks like a sieve. In any event, let me return to the motion. The Government would not give a briefing to the Opposition because it did not want us to know what ONA thought. It did not want us to have the ONA assessment. It wanted us to know only what the Prime Minister thought. The Prime Minister did not want to be embarrassed and humiliated by having trumpeted before the Australian people the fact that he disagreed with the assessment of the organisation he himself established. He established it because he thought the intelligence services in Australia were inadequate. Now, a year later, he has turned around and called it a complacent organisation. He has rejected its advice in favour of his own crazy obsessions about the international state of affairs. He is not prepared to listen to anyone who disagrees with him.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, it is clear that the Government is not really all that keen on this debate as there are only five Government members in the chamber. Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was referring to the Government’s entirely inconsistent position on the question of Afghanistan. I refer to the remarks of the honourable member for Denison who spoke about half an hour before I began my speech. It is his view that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is designed for two purposes: Firstly, it is aimed at threatening the oil fields which supply the Western economies, and secondly, it is designed to threaten the sea routes which carry the oil from the oil fields in Iran to the Western economies. Therefore, by inference, it is a threat to the whole of the security of the economies of the West. It is interesting to note that the analysis of the honourable member for Denison is entirely inconsistent with that of the Office of National Assessments. It is entirely out of touch with the views of the ONA which does not agree with his position at all. But even if his position is correct, why is it that France does not agree with him? Why is it that West Germany does not agree with him? Indeed, if it is correct, why is it that the Government’s response is not more consistent with that analysis?
Let us look at what the Government has done. What has been the real action taken by this
Government in relation to the so-called threat which is manifestly clear as a result of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? All we have seen is a highly publicised trip overseas by the Prime Minister. It is clear that the Prime Minister had some ground to make up in relation to his standing internationally. We know that last year the Prime Minister went overseas and tried to intervene in a number of international affairs. But we discovered at the end of the year that the President of the United States, President Carter, would not even see him. Giscard d ‘Estaing vetoed the Prime Minister’s attendance at the meeting in Tokyo. Mrs Thatcher would not trust him because of the way in which he behaved in Lusaka and even Mr Muldoon of New Zealand refused the offer of a ride home on the Prime Minister’s aeroplane after the Lusaka meeting. So the Prime Minister did indeed have some fence mending to do overseas. That is what this exercise is all about- to try to salvage his greatly diminished reputation in the eyes of the rest of the world.
Let us look at the Government’s real response in terms of its commitment to upgrade defence. We find that it was absolutely pathetic. Apart from a couple of items, there was nothing new in what the Government said. All we got was a commitment to get another frigate at some time in the future, probably not before five years. There is no timetable in relation to the tactical fighter force jets; in fact, we do not even know for sure what aircraft will be selected. We do not know what the replacement for HMAS Melbourne will be. HMAS Melbourne continues to float around the world, aimlessly and for an unspecified time, as some sort of latter day Marie Celeste. We do not know what her replacement will be when in fact she is a very important part of our naval fleet.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-May I remind honourable members, if they had not gathered this from listening to the speech of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins), what it is we are debating this evening.
– You didn’t hear the beginning of it
– I was here before the suspension of the sitting for dinner. I heard the beginning and the end and there was nothing in between. The House is debating this motion moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Viner):
That this House is of the opinion that the Australian Labor Party, led by the Leader of the Opposition, is seeking to undermine the efforts of Australia and other like-minded nations to establish an effective response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan which would bring home to the Soviet Government and people the grave threat to world peace of the Soviet action.
Let us look for a moment at the seriousness of the present situation. We have had a lot of debate today not really directed to the real issues. It is important that we remember that at this moment there are in excess of 90,000 Russian troops in Afghanistan. About 800 people were killed this week during an uprising in the city of Kabul. President Tito of Yugoslavia is gravely ill. We all know that Yugoslavia is a critical nation in the European balance of power and that there is a grave possibility that the Soviet Union might find it necessary to move into Yugoslavia if it has the same kinds of feelings about Yugoslavia after Tito that it appears to have had about Afghanistan in recent times. I regard that as an extremely grave possibility.
Let us look at the situation since the end of World War II. The movement into Afghanistan is the first movement of Soviet troops outside the Iron Curtain since that catastrophy. It has also been done in the context of a vastly changed balance of might between the Soviet Union and the United States. In this respect, I absolutely agree with the assessment of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of the seriousness of the situation- that it is a totally different threat from those we have faced since the Second World War, and for those two reasons. Therefore, it is a matter of very great concern.
The Government’s response to this is the measured and sober statement of the Prime Minister which is recorded in Hansard and which has been published in the Press. None ofthe contentions in that statement have been seriously questioned by the Opposition. Most of the Opposition’s questioning has been in relation to various interpretations of what the Prime Minister is supposed to have said, various things that are supposed to have been said by him or to him when he was abroad, and the absence of Press comment in certain overseas centres when he was abroad. It is a pretty poor show if this Parliament is going to rely for its judgment of the seriousness of issues or contributions on judgments made by certain journalists in certain foreign places about what our Prime Minister said. I lived in London for many years and during that time I hardly saw anything in the newspapers there about what was happening in Australia. But I did not assume for that reason that nothing that happened here was of importance. The Prime Minister’s statement stands; it can be read. It can be challenged and it can be argued; but it is a sober statement. It does not go overboard and in no way could it be matched with the Opposition’s response which appears to be based entirely on an assessment of the 1980 political situation in Australia.
As evidence of this I quote something that was said in the House the other night by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), the chief Opposition Whip, a former minister in the Whitlam Government and a person, I would have thought, of some importance in the Opposition. The honourable member for Hughes said this:
I was interested to read the National Times survey commissioned on Thursday last, 24 hours after the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on the Afghanistan issue. The question was asked:
Do you feel the recent Soviet actions affect you personally or not?
Some 26 per cent of Australians surveyed answered yes. Some 67 per cent answered no.
I was reminded of the kinds of questions that Mr Baldwin used to ask when he went back to his constituency in the Midlands during the 1930s. He got the same sort of response. The honourable member for Hughes continued:
The following question also was asked:
Do you think the Australian Government should or should not prevent athletes who want to compete in the Olympic Games from participating?
Some 24 per cent said that they should be prevented.
Some 70 per cent said that they should not. I believe that the Government should think again.
I make two comments in respect of that finding. The first is that people were being asked whether they thought athletes should be prevented from going to Moscow. The Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) has said quite categorically that nobody would be prevented from going to Moscow. Therefore, one could say that it is not surprising that a large number of Australians thought that athletes should not be prevented from going to Moscow. But they were not asked the question about an actual boycott of the Olympic Games against any sort of background. Nonetheless, the answers in these public opinon polls obviously had a profound effect on the way the Opposition treated the matter of the 800 people who were killed in Kabul this week, the 90,000-odd Soviet troops in Afghanistan, and the potential threat to Yugoslavia following the death of President Tito.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has taken a similar approach to that of the honourable member for Hughes. In a Press statement on 22 January he said:
An effective boycott of the Moscow Olympics undoubtedly would be a major psychological weapon deployed against the Soviet Union.
One would think that one could go through the rest of the Press statement to see this argument developed and to see what the Leader of the Opposition was going to contribute to try to bring about such an effective boycott. Later in the same Press statement he said:
In particular, an effective boycott would depend on the support of Great European sporting nations such as France, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and the Scandinavian nations.
I agree with that statement. Further down in the statement he said:
It is the clear wish of the International Olympic Federation that the Games go ahead in Moscow as scheduled.
The carefully-considered viewpoint of the world’s most representative international sporting body needs to be given due weight in the context of the boycott.
All of these questions should be analysed carefully and assessed before a decision is made on whether or not there should be a boycott.
The Federal Government should also consider the impact of a possible backlash against the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane in 1982 if it moves precipitately to initiate or join a boycott.
If the matter of the invasion of Afghanistan is treated seriously, if there is a serious international situation, if we are concerned about the integrity of Yugoslavia following the death of President Tito, surely we are not going to be raising as a major factor whether or not there will be a backlash against the Games in Brisbane. In the same Press statement the Leader of the Opposition went on to say:
In these circumstances, a sanction directed at the Moscow Olympics could prove to be more damaging to Australia, and particularly to the State of Queensland.
I am the last person to express no concern about the finances of the State of Queensland, or of the admirable campaign that has been run to get money for those Commonwealth Games. But, quite honestly, we have to have some sense of proportion. This was not supplied by the Leader of the Opposition when the decision, made by the International Olympic Committee, was obtained. On 13 February he made a statement in which he said these things which have to be remembered throughout the whole of this year and beyond:
The decision made by the IOC was inevitable.
It is reassuring that the Committee has responded coolly and rationally in an atmosphere of intense provocation.
It has made an intelligent and rational appraisal of fundamental issues despite the hysteria that has been deliberately whipped up around its meeting.
In the circumstances there is virtually no likelihood that any effective boycott can be mounted against the Moscow Games.
In that statement there is no expression of regret whatsoever. In fact there is an expression of great satisfaction in the decision by a body which bears no responsibility whatsoever for the life and death of citizens of the world, which takes it totally out of the area of politics and out of the area of decision making of national governments who bear this responsibility. It shows an absolute abdication of responsibility. This afternoon in this House the Leader of the Opposition continued with this outrage by saying:
If there is an effective boycott we will support it.
We will observe the next world war to see who comes out on top and we will support them! In the Second World War: We will observe to see whether Tokyo or Berlin comes out on top and we will decide what happens before we take any effective action! This is really incredible. All that I would like to say is that those who are virtually hoping that a boycott will not succeed ought to remember this: The honourable member for Hughes, in his speech to which I referred earlier, incorporated in Hansard a table of the conflicts that were occurring around the world at the time of the various Olympic Games. Of course, there have been many Olympic Games when there have been conflicts. One could even say that our own Games in Melbourne helped people to forget what had happened in Hungary earlier that year. In that total table of Games which was incorporated there was no case in which the host country for the Games was currently in a state of occupation of another territory and actually killing people at the time. Should anyone go to Moscow in July if the killing is still going on? If we are getting the same reports as we had this week–
– Should you sell them wool and wheat if the killing is still going on?
– I will get to that in a moment. Should anyone be going to Moscow this year if people are still being killed in Afghanistan? Will the Opposition continue to express satisfaction at the failure of a boycott if people are still found dead in the streets of Kabul? Will all those 10c pieces that have been collected from the workers, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, all be going to the support of Mr Brezhnev as he continues to have blood dripping from his hands, with people still dying in the streets of Kabul? This is totally unsatisfactory. The Leader of the Opposition, having failed to take action to gain support for something with which he basically agreed, went further. At a national youth conference in Surfers Paradise last Sunday, at which I was also present, he said this:
The rapid defence build-up of the next few years is predicted on a significant expansion of defence manpower. On present indications, this might not be achieved by the Fraser Government without some resort to conscription.
He added the following:
I phrase this very carefully. I don’t want to run any risk of overstatement.
Honourable members should note the very careful little statement to try to offset the enormity of what had been said, after the Government had made clear statements denying this rumour that had been circulating. The Leader of the Opposition went on to say:
This is a question which your Council and the other youth bodies -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member for Bendigo will withdraw that remark.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, with due respect, I did not open my mouth. If it is possible, I must ask that you withdraw that comment.
-I do apologise if I incorrectly identified the honourable member who offended against the Standing Orders. The honourable member for Mackellar may proceed so that he is not further disadvantaged.
-The Leader of the Opposition went on to say:
This is a question which your Council and the other youth bodies should look at very carefully.
Talking about conscription he said:
I feel this is an area where you should start to conduct some research, and to work out attitudes and responses to a resumption of conscription in one form or another.
Again there is this careful little safety clause which says that this is very much a contigency approach, but it would be unfortunate indeed if preparation were not made to meet it. Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask you: What is the duty of somebody who is the alternative Prime Minister in this House, when there is a grave international crisis, and when a reasonable statement is put forward by the Prime Minister as to how it should be dealt with? Is it the normal response of that person to come out and say that there are certain things with which he agrees, such as an effective boycott, and to do nothing about it? At the same time, is it reasonable that he should raise totally unrealistic fears on the part of those who might feel personally affected in order further to undermine the policy of the Government in meeting this crisis? All that the Leader of the Opposition has done is to treat this desperate issue as one purely for the 1980 election politics and to indulge in personal attacks on Ministers to try to divide that nation and to give comfort obviously to those in the Kremlin who in 1974 took a calculated decision about the Games and continue to make a calculated decision on the amount of help that they will receive from people like the Leader of the Opposition.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This is the most contemptible motion that I have ever seen proposed by the Government in the 1 1 years that I have been in this Parliament. Just before the suspension of the sitting we heard one Government supporter, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), go very close to accusing honourable members on this side of the chamber of being traitors.
– Well, that is true.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wonder whether you heard that interjection by the honourable member for La Trobe.
-The Chair did hear the remark but could not identify its source. If the honourable member who made the remark acknowledges his fault I require him to stand and withdraw.
– I withdraw it.
-The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has talked about having a bipartisan attitude on the question of Afghanistan. This debate has nothing to do with that whatsoever. It has a lot to do with the sort of headline that appeared in yesterday’s Melbourne Age: Hayden Flays Fraser’. After yesterday’s debate and the debacle of last week’s debate it has been perfectly obvious to Government supporters that, in the public’s view, they are losing this debate. Because a newspaper such as the Melbourne Age has come out and told the Australian people what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) did to the Prime Minister he has had today to find some way in which to rally the troops behind him. This is about squeezing the last drop of political blood out of Afghanistan. It is about dividing the nation and dividing the Parliament.
Earlier today the Leader of the House (Mr Viner) quoted the statements of a number of honourable members including my own. I would like to repeat what I said in the House last Wednesday. I will not read it all. I said in part:
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan the Australian Labor Party joined with the Government in condemning the outrageous interference and aggression towards that country.
I said further:
The aggression of the Soviet Union has served to remind us just what sort of country we are dealing with. It is a country in which basic human rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to strike, free elections and a free Press are totally denied to its people. It has not hesitated to use brutal military force, as it did against Hungary and Czechoslovakia when it felt that one of its satellites was taking an independent line. Honourable members should make no mistake about the Opposition’s resolve toward the Soviet Union. We hold it in deep, full and abiding contempt. When this recent outrage by the Soviet Union occurred and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) called for embargoes and boycotts, our first reaction was that the Prime Minister really believed what he was saying about the Russians’ aggression and was prepared to call upon all Australians to make sacrifices. Economic, cultural and sporting embargoes were to be imposed that would be shared equally by the Australian people.
What really has happened? I do not harbour any inflated views about Australia’s position in the world. If ever that was brought home to me it was brought home on my recent trip to the United States. I was in Hawaii just before the Prime Minister arrived, and in Los Angeles just before he arrived. I went to Mexico and came back. He had just left. I went to Washington just after he had left and was back in San Francisco. The American people would not have had a clue that he was there. It is not because he is Mr Fraser, although that probably has something to do with it. No Australian Prime Minister would get much coverage in the United States, least of all this one. There was not a word in the media. One would not have known that we were in the country.
When I came back I read the Australian newspapers. One would have thought that only three national leaders in the world were considering the question of Afghanistan- President Carter, Mr Brezhnev and Prime Minister Fraser. What a laugh! We just do not rate. We are a very ordinary, middle order power. For our newspapers to present it in this way is, frankly, laughable. We now know that it was done for one reason and one reason only. This Prime Minister needed an issue in order to take the disastrous economic policies of this Government off the front pages.
The Prime Minister desperately needed a khaki election. The old faithful- foreign affairswas trotted out because it has been such a winner in the past. Government supporters said: ‘Let us repeat the success of the 1950s and 1960s- of the Petrov affair; of the 1 963 election and the confrontation with Indonesia, in the course of which we had to rush out and buy all those Fill aircraft; of the 1 966 election; of Harold Holt and the Vietnam election; of the downward thrust of China, a people whom we now find are our staunchest friends and allies. How long ago was it that if a Labor Party member even went near China he was considered a traitor? Now Government supporters are falling over each other trying to rush there. They love the Chinese; they are wonderful people. Recently we had the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) doing a bit of kite flying for the Government. He was going to have six weeks conscription for every Australian. This is the last throw of the dice as the Government goes down the chute. Unemployment has reached 473,000, Inflation has reached 10 or 11 per cent. Interest rates are up again today. Car sales are down again today. The stock market is falling. For the last week we have been told what great economic managers this mob are. It is a joke.
During the debate last week we were fascinated to hear that unless we agreed that this was the greatest crisis since World War II we were traitors. What about the Berlin airlift? Was that a crisis that could have led to World War III? What about Hungary? Was that any different from this crisis? Was not Hungary just as bad? What about the Suez crisis of 1956? Could that not have brought about World War III? What about the Cuban missile crisis? We were told for days that the world teetered on the brink of war. In my view the Cuban missile crisis was a much worse crisis than is the present one. What about the Six-Day War of 1967? What about Czechoslovakia in 1968? What about the Yom Kippur War of 1 973? I will agree that the present crisis is one of a series that have occurred but to say that we are wrong when we do not agree with the Government that it is the only crisis is nothing short of absurd. It may be a debating point. We can argue the merits of each crisis, but the arguments that Government supporters put forward last week were patently ludicrous.
The whole crunch, the reason why honourable members on this side of the House are so critical of the Government, comes down to three things- wool, wheat and rutile. That is why the Australian people now hold the Government in complete contempt. It is happy to boycott the Olympics but not one cent will Government supporters give up from the pockets of its friends and business associates. They say: ‘Oh, no; sell them wool, sell them wheat, sell them rutile’. Everyone is talking about wool, but I happen to think that rutile presents the worst case. From rutile comes titanium a low weight high strength material that is used in the construction of jet missiles and planes. Do Government supporters have any understanding of why the Australian people are swinging against them? If they cannot see it, God help them. I have talked about this matter to hundreds of people, most of whom are not Labor supporters. They say that the Government is off its rocker, is not fair dinkum. That is why the polls show that 70 per cent of the people do not agree with the Government’s policy. Anyone who questions the gung-ho rhetoric of this Government on Afghanistan is now to be labelled as a traitor. That is what it amounts to.
Let me turn to the subject of the Olympic Games. It comes down to this: The only people to carry the can are the athletes. When the question was raised as to whether the athletes should get compensation for their efforts we were told; Steady, whoa back. We will give the wool growers, the wheat growers and the sand miners compensation if it comes to that, but not people such as young Peter Hadfield who spent $12,000 of his money, with his wife, last year in training’. He is about the fifth or sixth in the rankings of decathlon athletes in the world and has a great chance of taking out a gold medal for Australia. He did not even receive an Olympic Games grant, not even a miserable $2,500. 1 repeat, he is one of the finest athletes that this country has ever produced. Will the Government compensate the athletes for the time, effort and money they have expended? I repeat, last year Peter Hadfield spent $12,000 in Europe just to bring glory to this country. So far, the only major nations to withdraw from the Olympic Games have been the United States -
– They haven’t done it yet.
– The honourable member for Corio is quite right. The United States Government has instructed that this be done and I think it may be sure that it will be. Other countries are China, Chile, Kenya -
– Saudi Arabia.
-We have just had a brilliant interjection by the sporting spokesman for the electorate of Dundas. He referred to Saudi Arabia- a truly powerful sporting nation. I do not know very much about that country’s sporting achievements.
– I am sorry to interrupt, but really the Leader of the Opposition did point out that it was not whether it was the major powers, as long as there was an effective boycott.
-The Honourable member for Bendigo must not engage in specious points of order or the Chair will be required to deal with him.
-Let us look at the countries which have not yet withdrawn. I am talking about the big sporting nations. Great Britain has not withdrawn. Japan has not withdrawn. France has not withdrawn.
– It will.
-I would not hold my breath about France withdrawing. I do not think that France has ever withdrawn from anything if there has been some advantage in it for France. Canada has not withdrawn. In fact the new Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, has indicated that he does not want Canada to withdraw. West Germany, the best sporting nation outside the United States has not withdrawn. Brazil and a whole range of countries have not withdrawn. Neither does the Australian Olympic Federation want to withdraw. So the chances of an Olympic boycott are virtually nil. I have not heard anybody mention in this debate the hypocrisy of the United States- I have the greatest respect for the United States- in continuing with the winter Olympics at Lake Placid while at the same time withdrawing from the Moscow Olympics. If the Americans really believe this was a matter of great international moment and if they want to punish the Russians, why did they not cancel the Games in their own country and say: ‘It is off, we do not want the Russians or the East Germans?’ They are the two most powerful winter sporting nations. They took 1 8 of the gold medals in the winter Olympics. No, that did not happen. The people of this country have a basic common sense and they have shown by their reaction to the behaviour of Government supporters that they regard them as a bunch of humbugs and a bunch of hypocrites. They are not terribly amused also by the performance of the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) and the rest of the Government in the coercion that is being used.
– He made you look an idiot.
– I hope he has a few more victories like that. We will walk into government next time. The Minister for Home Affairs said: There has been no coercion. They can go if they want to. We have just heavied the Commonwealth Bank to pull out $500,000. We have given them half a million dollars for the Olympic Games but we do not want them to spend it on the Olympic Games’. Recently in the House he said that there was only one organisation in this country responsible for foreign relations and that that was the Government. He said that if the Government did not want our Olympic Games team to go, he believed it would not go. If that is not heavying or coercion, I do not know what is.
There has been talk that Qantas Airways Ltd will not be allowed to fly our athletes to the
Games. There has been talk about sponsors being written to and being leaned on. All I know is what I read in the newspapers and there has been very strong evidence that this has occurred. Even if that has not occurred, all the other things I have said are certainly correct. We have reached the situation of absolute absurdity. As I said previously, the people hold the Government in contempt because of what it is saying. They will not swallow its cant and humbug when it says: ‘Let the athletes be the ones who make the sacrifice’, while it continues to sell wool, wheat andfutile to the Soviet Union.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, in this debate the Government, led by a man who called our athletes traitors, obviously is insincere.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, with your indulgence, I point out that because the Government has agreed at last to allow one of our matters of public importance to come on we did not divide on that question, even though we want to draw to the attention of everyone that the Government brought on this debate and is now gagging it.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Hayden’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.
That all words after ‘That’ (first occurring) be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: this House is of the opinion that the Government should be condemned for not seeking a bi-partisan policy in relation to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and for its deliberate attempts to seek political advantage by the adoption of double standards in sanctions against the Soviet Union’.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the motion (Mr Viner’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Committee of Inquiry to examine Commonwealth and State Meat Inspection Systems 1980.
– Pursuant to clause 11 of the Sugar Agreement 1975 I present the annual report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee 1978-79.
– For the information of honourable members I present the ‘Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme: Recommended Rates of Assistance at 3 1 January 1979’.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. Last night in the debate on human rights in the Soviet Union, as recorded on page 379 of Hansard, the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Peter Johnson) said this about me: the claim was made by the honourable member that the membership of delegations from this country to the USSR was influenced by the Prime Minister. Two delegations go there from Australia each year. The fact is that there is an open vote by the Government parties as to their membership of those delegations. I cannot answer for what happens on the other side of the House, but the Government has exerted no influence over the Opposition ‘s membership of those delegations.
This is, of course, not the point that I was making in my speech. I draw the attention of the House to what I said which is recorded at the beginning of page 369 of Hansard. I said:
The Government talks a lot about the Soviet Union. It does very little about the Soviet Union. The most shameful act that has ever been perpetrated by any government in this country was in 1978 when the Soviet Union informed our embassy in Moscow that it had invited a parliamentary delegation from Australia, but that no member of the subcommittee dealing with human rights in the Soviet Union was able to participate in that delegation. This Government, to its everlasting shame, did not tell this Parliament.
-Order! I regret interrupting the honourable member but the level of conversation in the chamber is far too high. I take the opportunity of reminding the honourable member that he is entitled only to explain the precise point on which he was misrepresented.
-I am purely quoting from the Hansard. I am not debating anything.
-The honourable member must not debate the matter.
-I am not trying to. I am just quoting. I continue:
As it happened, the people who were elected by both sides of the Parliament to go in that delegation did not know anything about the restrictions placed on the membership by the Soviet Union. The delegation did not include any members of this sub-committee. It is a very great pity and it is to the Government’s everlasting shame that, by not telling the Australian Parliament, it played into the hands of the Soviet Union by allowing it to dictate who should be the members of a parliamentary delegation to the USSR.
I just emphasise that the honourable member for Brisbane obvioulsy misunderstood what I was driving at. I did not suggest for one minute that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) -
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect has made his point. He has acquainted the House of the manner in which he was misrepresented.
– There was a failure on the part of the Prime Minister to notify the House of the -
-Order! The honourable member is not entitled to debate the matter further.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. I refer to the Hansard record of yesterday’s debate. At page 347 the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) is recorded as referring to me and to some matters that occurred yesterday afternoon. This happened while the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was answering a very gentle question which I had put to him. The honourable member for Prospect had this to say -
-Will the honourable member come quickly to his point?
– The honourable member said:
Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. This is in answer to a question from the honourable member for Lilley, who has thought better of it and left the House.
That was quite incorrect. I shall finish in one sentence, Mr Deputy Speaker. I left the House, by arrangement, for a very simple reason- to check on statements by Opposition leaders who had consistently explained away Russian expansionism by referring to some action by the United States, Britain, France or Australia.
-Order! The honourable member has made his point.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-If the honourable member seeks to make a personal explanation he may do so.
-On page 18 of today’s Age the second last paragraph of the report in the name of Simon Balderstone which is headed ‘Target for abuse ‘ carries a paragraph stating:
Mr Morris, (ALP, NSW) shouted ‘pig’ across the chamber.
I made no such statement. I have discussed the matter with the reporter who wrote the article. He has explained to me the circumstances which led him to believe that I had made that statement. He has offered his apology and I have accepted it. I just mention the matter for the record.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Most certainly, Mr Deputy Speaker. During the debate which has just concluded the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) waved in my direction and said: ‘You are all lining your pockets from your farms and your mines’. I want to make it clear that I own no mine and no farm. In relation to me -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. You should not allow personal explanations in respect of collective accusations. That is the ruling from the Chair.
-The honourable member is quite correct. He anticipated my ruling by a split second. The honourable member for Dundas will resume his seat.
– On a point of order -
-Order! If the House comes to order it will facilitate the proceedings ofthe House.
– A point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. As I made quite clear, the honourable member for Port Adelaide waved in my direction as he made his remark. If he cannot be believed in relation to me I do not know how he can be believed in relation to anybody else.
-I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Port Adelaide just made a vulgar gesture towards the honourable member for Dundas. I ask that this vulgar oaf apologise to the House and to the Chair.
-Order! Over the last day or two, possibly, the House has engaged in everything but pointing the bone. I think we might let the matter rest.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. In a report in this morning’s Melbourne Age I am reported as having called the Prime Minister a bloody ox’. Those honourable members who are literate enough to be able to read will notice from Hansard that the word I used was ‘big’. I did use the word ‘bloody’ in the second sentence relative to wool. I used it as a proper adjective, not as a swear word.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation as I have been misrepresented.
-If the honourable member wishes to make a personal explanation he may proceed.
– Earlier today the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) quoted a section of an article that I have had published in the Melbourne Herald. He claimed that the particular point which he quoted proved that I was an apologist- to use his term- for the position of the Soviet Union in relation to its invasion of Afghanistan. I make two points. Firstly in the third sentence of that very article, the following is stated:
He chose to quote a section of the article -
-Order! The honourable member is entitled only to state in precise terms the manner in which he was misrepresented by quoting, not by extension of debate.
– That was a quote from my article. The point I am making is that if the Minister had been concerned to quote my article accurately and not to distort it he would, of course, have referred to that particular sentence. He chose deliberately not to do so. He selected a quotation which portrayed exactly the position put by his own parliamentary colleague the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) the other night. However, he chose to make the accusation about me. I want the record put straight because this, I suppose, is typical of the Minister.
-Order! I think the honourable member has made his point.
– If I could just make this point. The Minister, having seen the full article, could draw the conclusion that he was trying to foist on the House only if he was endeavouring deliberately to mislead the House. I cannot say what the Minister was -
-Order! The honourable member is now exceeding the indulgence relating to his misrepresentation.
– With great respect to the Chair, it seems to me to be appropriate to point out that this is the standard of conduct of the Minister, who has misquoted a personal letter from one of my colleagues -
-Order! That may be the opinion of the honourable member but it does not reconcile with the opinion of the Chair. The honourable member is required to resume his seat.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Not exactly Mr Deputy Speaker. I seek your indulgence. I wish to explain that a communist can has appeared on my desk today. I do not know where it came from. I did not put it there. I do not intend removing it; but it has been kicked to death.
-Mr Speaker has received letters from the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) and the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107, Mr Speaker has selected the matter which, in his opinion, is the most urgent and important, that is, that proposed by the honourable member for Gellibrand, namely:
The need for tax cuts to relieve the increased burden of taxation that has occurred under the Fraser Government.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– It is quite obvious that the Government is scared to debate economic issues in this House. For a week and a half it has stalled Opposition motions on the economy, preferring to debate Afghanistan, and now it has brought on this issue at 9 o’clock on a Wednesday night hoping that no one will notice. We assure the Government that people will notice. They have noticed already what is happening in the economy, particularly what is happening to taxation. They will also be well aware that it is an incontrovertible fact that the Fraser Government, which came to office loudly proclaiming its determination to reduce significantly the burden of taxation, has instead greatly increased it. Under Fraser taxes have increased to the highest -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member will address the Prime Minister by his correct title.
– Under the Fraser Government taxes have increased to the highest level in our history. Furthermore, this overall result has not been achieved by a uniform distribution of the increased tax burden; rather it has been achieved by increasing taxes heavily on low and middle income earners and reducing taxes on high income earners. Under the Fraser Government the poor pay more and the rich pay less. I ask the House to take note of some examples of the Fraser Government’s myriad promises to cut taxes. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in his 1 975 policy speech, said:
We will encourage people’s initiative and enterprise, not batter them into the ground with punishing taxes.
He also said:
We will reduce the tax burden. One of the most significant contributions to prosperity will be our personal income tax reforms.
There can be no doubt at all that the Government has repeated often its promise to reduce the general level of taxation, but the opposite clearly has been the case. The tax burden has been very considerably increased. This is undeniably so both in overall terms and at the level of the individual for most Australians. If we look at the Commonwealth tax receipts as a percentage of gross domestic product for the three years of the Labor Government we see that they averaged 22.5 per cent. In the first three years of office of the Fraser Government total Commonwealth tax receipts as a percentage of gross domestic product were 23.4 per cent, which is significantly higher than Labor’s figures. If one looks at 1979-80 and uses the Budget estimates the figure becomes 23.8 per cent. Those figures were given to us today by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in answer to a question on notice which I put to him in August of last year.
We can see that Federal taxes under the Fraser Government have been at a notably higher level of gross domestic product than they were under the Labor Government, especially in 1979-80. They are budgeted to be at the highest level ever. Furthermore the 1 979-80 level will be even higher than the budgeted level. This is because oil taxes will be well above Budget estimates as a result of the latest oil price rise, which gives the Government an extra $440m in the second half of 1979-80. Taking account of this additional revenue and assuming that the Government does not cut taxes in this financial year, total tax receipts as a percentage of gross domestic product in 1 979-80 will rise to 24.2 per cent compared to the average for Labor of 22.5 per cent. That is far and away the highest figure in our history.
How has this substantial increase in the tax burden occurred under this Government which promised substantial tax cuts? It has come about firstly because of the substantial increase in the burden of income tax, which in turn is attributable to two factors. Broken promises in respect of income tax account for those two factors. The income tax surcharge was a broken promise. It was introduced in November 1978 after the Government had cut taxes for the purposes of the 1977 election. The tax cuts lasted for nine months. In November 1978 a one and a half cents in the dollar surcharge was introduced for that year. This temporary surcharge, as it was described at the time, was continued at a reduced level in this financial year at 1.07 cents in the dollar. Therefore, this broken promise has substantially added to the tax burden. The second broken promise related to tax indexation, which was introduced in 1976 and which was a basic promise of the 1975 election. I wish to quote what Mr Fraser promised in 1975. He said:
We will fully index personal income tax for inflation over three years.
Talking of tax indexation he said:
It . . . will make government more honest with your money. It will no longer be able to rely on the secret tax increase of inflation.
Despite these assurances tax indexation has never been fully introduced by this Government. In 1976-77 the Government gave us 93 per cent of tax indexation. In 1977-78 it was 80 per cent. In 1978-79 it dropped to 35 per cent and in this current year there is no tax indexation at all. Clearly the Government has never fulfilled this promise. It has progressively reduced the extent of indexation until now it has been completely abandoned. Despite assurances to the contrary, the Fraser Government has relied very much on the secret tax of inflation- to use its words- and has clearly decided against making government honest. The cost of these broken promises is a higher level of income tax overall than ever before in our history. It means that personal income tax receipts as a percentage of gross domestic product have gone from 12 per cent in the three years of Labor to 13.1 per cent for the first three years of the Fraser Government. They will be 13.3 per cent this year. They are going up all the time.
For wage and salary earners in particular there has been a large increase in the tax burden. Net pay-as-you-earn taxes- that is, taxes paid by wage and salary earners- as a proportion of wages, salaries and supplements paid have gone from 16.3 per cent in the three years of Labor to 18.5 per cent in the three years of the Fraser Government. They will be 19.4 per cent this year according to Budget estimates. They are far above the level set under the Labor Government. These points have all been in general, broad terms, but what does this mean for the individual? What it means is that there has been a substantial increase in the tax burden for almost everyone. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard two tables which deal with the increase in the tax burden over that period.
The tables read as follows:
-I thank the House. These tables show what has happened to the increase in the income tax burden resulting from the Fraser Government’s changes to the income tax schedules between 1975-76 and 1979-80. The first table deals with taxpayers without dependants. It shows for a person who earned $6,000 in 1975-76 and had an increase in his pay at the same rate of average weekly earnings over that four year period, which was 46 per cent, that his growth in money tax is 57.8 per cent. The tax of a person who had an income of $50,000 in 1975-76 and whose income increased by 46 per cent in line with average weekly earnings has gone up by only 36.2 per cent. That is a tremendous difference. There is almost a constant decrease in the growth in the money tax as the income increases. What this means is that the people at the bottom end of the scale- for a man who was earning $6,000 in 1975-76 and who is now earning $8,800 it is $2.36 a week- are paying more in tax than they would have been paying under Labor’s scales. At the top end of the scale, someone who was earning $50,000 a year in 1975-76 and who is now earning $73,000 is paying $49 a week less than he would have paid under Labor’s scales. The cutoff point is somewhere around $15,000. Everyone earning below $15,000 who has no dependants is paying more tax than he would have been paying under Labor’s scales. The same situation applies, with slightly different figures, for taxpayers with a dependent wife and two children, which is covered by the other table which I incorporated in Hansard.
These figures show not only that there has been a large increase in the overall income tax burden but also that it has been quite inequitably distributed. The poor pay more and the rich pay less. Additionally, despite higher taxes there are fewer public benefits because of the Fraser Government’s cutbacks on public expenditure, especially in regard to health insurance. In 1975-76 all Australians were entitled to free or near free medical cover. Today they pay many dollars a week for medical insurance. Taxpayers are now being forced to take out medical insurance in the order of $4.20 a week for 100 per cent medical cover for a single person or $8.30 for a family. These figures are like an additional medical tax. They are not paid to the Government, but in comparison with the situation in 1 975-76, we can treat them as a tax. They greatly exacerbate the loss of welfare for people when compared with the situation in 1975-76. Furthermore, although the tax schedules have been made increasingly inequitable, that does not give a true picture of the tax burden at various income levels. The explosion of tax avoidance which has occurred has meant that many high income earners do not even pay the reduced levels of tax imposed on them by the Fraser Government. In 1978 the President of the Taxation Institute of Australia, Mr Pascoe, stated:
During the past year or two tax avoidance became a big business in Australia.
He is saying that 1977 and 1978 is when tax avoidance became a big business. It was not when Labor was in office, but when this Government was in office. We find that some $400m is outstanding in tax which has been the subject of tax avoidance schemes and $250m is provided in this year’s Budget for additional loss of revenue through tax avoidance. All this is tax avoidance by high income earners and it means that the high income earners are not even paying the reduced rates of tax which this Government has kindly allowed them to pay if they were to pay their taxes as originally intended. Also there has been a massive increase in petrol taxes. The tax rise on oil has been explosive under the Fraser Government. The crude oil levy has increased from $257m in 1975-76 to $2.5 billion in 1979-80, an increase of 875 per cent. When we add on the increased excise on refined petroleum products we find that there has been an increase of a little under a billion dollars in petrol taxes to $3.5 billion in 1979-80, which is a rise of almost 250 per cent in four years. Petrol taxes have risen from 4Vi per cent of total tax receipts to 9 per cent in this period. Petroleum taxes now raise more revenue than company income tax.
So it is clear that under the Fraser Government every petrol pump has become a tax office. Every cent rise in the price of petrol, because of increased petrol tax, raises almost an additional $200m. This tax is grossly inequitable. A litre of petrol costs the same regardless of income. Whether one is a millionaire or on the minimum wage one pays the same tax. This clearly has contributed to making the tax system less equitable. A large increase in this form of tax has increased the inequity of the tax structure which was already very inequitable.
An article which I have not got time to go into and which appeared in the Australian Economic Review of the third quarter of 1979 demonstrated that the tax structure in 1975-76 was already inequitable in that for the middle 75 per cent of taxpayers it was proportionate if one took into account all taxes, including company tax, and the way that they were paid by people eventually through higher prices. In the middle 75 per cent of taxpayers the proportion of income paid in tax was the same. It was only for the high income levels that it went up. The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research went on in the Economic Review that I mentioned to make the point that with the changes made by the Fraser Government in income tax, with the inequitable increases in indirect taxes, and with the explosion of tax avoidance, we now had an income tax structure which was regressive. For the main group, which is the middle 75 per cent of taxpayers, the proportion of income paid in tax reduces as income goes up. That would be even more so now than when the Economic Review wrote the article last year because of the additional large increase in petrol taxes which have occurred since that time.
What should be done about this? We say, firstly, that the Government should abandon its oil taxing policy, but if it persists with that oil taxing policy the very least it should do is immediately cut taxes as promised by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) earlier this year by the amount of the additional tax the Government has been levying since the end of December through the increased crude oil levy. Such a tax reduction should be made in a way that will offset the highly regressive impact of the crude oil levy. So the Government should cut other indirect taxes or increase subsidies such as health insurance. Of course, the Government is doing the opposite. It has been reducing subsidies for health insurance. Alternatively, if it is going to reduce income tax the greatest percentage reduction should be given to the lowest income groups because they are the people who are paying far more tax under this Government than they were under the Labor Government. There is no guarantee the Government will do any of that, but those are the forms in which we suggest the tax cuts should come. Such measures would do no more than redress the inequity that has resulted from the latest oil tax rise. There is, in addition, a pressing need to restructure the total taxation system so that the burden of taxation is reduced for lower middle income earners, and to ensure that high income earners are made to bear the share of taxation that they have the capacity to pay. The gross inequity of the tax system that has developed under this Government is nothing short of a national scandal and the next Labor government will ensure that equity is restored to the tax system.
– I enjoy following the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) mainly because I must say he speaks fairly reasonably and, unusually for members of his party, without any vestige of personal abuse whatsoever. I might say that I find it a pleasant change to listen to a serious and sensible debate in this chamber from the opposite side of the House rather than to hear the sorts of things we have heard consistenly today, in particular the astonishment I had just a little while ago hearing a former Speaker of this House saying with pride that he had called the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) an ox.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I ask you what is the relevance of that remark? It is also an untrue remark but that does not surprise me. I expect that from a man regarded as a liar, anyhow.
– It is not untrue. Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. He did call the Prime Minister an ox and he proudly stated it again tonight -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member for Macarthur will resume his seat. The honourable member for Macarthur on the point of order is required to be relevant to the debate. He has tested the patience of the Chair to its fullest extent. I was about to admonish him. The point of order was well taken. The honourable member for Corio I am almost sure made a remark which he would wish to withdraw.
– I withdraw the remark. But I find the remark made by the honourable member for Macarthur also offensive and I require that to be withdrawn.
-Mr Speaker, how can I withdraw something that he just said?
– He is placing an interpretation on what I said in this House and he is not entitled to do that.
– All right, he did not say it proudly, he just said it.
-Order! The Chair cannot see at first glance that a withdrawal is required.
– I repeat that it is a pleasant change to hear the honourable member for Gellibrand speaking without personal abuse, which other honourable members are proud to do in this House. Nonetheless, there are some problems with the speech of the honourable member for Gellibrand. I would like to deal with a few of them. I am certain that these were not deliberate statements of untruth and I am certain that when I point out to him where he has made mistakes he will recognise those mistakes. For example, for him to say that tax avoidance began under this Government and to quote an authority is a deceptive style of debate which I am unaccustomed to hearing from the honourable member for Gellibrand. I wonder whether he remembers when the Curran affairs began, in what year that matter came before the courts and in what year that decision was handed down. It was the greatest bit of tax deception that the Opposition failed to do anything about. The Labor Treasurer at that time said, ‘We will do something about that naughty, wicked device’, and did exactly nothing. That is the record of the Labor Party in tax avoidance and tax evasion and for its members to come into this House and pretend with this holier-than-thou attitude that nothing happened in relation to tax evasion until we got into power is straightforwardly nonsensical. The honourable member said that the whole problem of tax avoidance and tax evasion only began- he quoted an authority- after we came into power. That is arrant nonsense. This Government has done a great deal to correct the three years of idleness of the Opposition when it was in government and when it introduced no major anti-tax avoidance legislation whatsoever. That they come in and talk that sort of nonsense is disappointing. It is disappointing to hear that from the honourable member for Gellibrand. It is also disappointing to hear from the honourable member for Gellibrand the comment- the incorrect comment- that the poor are getting a worse deal and the rich are getting a better deal under the present Government. When he talked about the lower income groups he conveniently omitted to mention, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) did today, that there are 500,000 people in Australia who are not paying tax solely because of changes in the tax scales under the present Government. Of all the people who have benefited from the changes in the tax scales under this Government, it is the lower income groups -
– The lowest.
– The lowest income groups, that is right, who now pay no tax whatsoever. Of course, they would have paid tax under the Hayden tax scales.
– Rubbish, the honourable member says. I thank him very much for that interjection. It prompts me to remind the honourable member that 500,000 people are now not paying tax, the bulk of whom would have paid tax under the Hayden scales, and I have already got approval from the Opposition to incorporate in Hansard a table which demonstrates the changes in the tax scales that have taken place under the present Government. It is interesting to see the dramatic reductions in the rates of tax that have taken place under this Government because of changes to the Hayden tax scales. The Opposition may say: ‘We would have changed them in the meantime. The Hayden tax scales introduced in 1975 would no longer be in operation’. In fact that is patently untrue. The Opposition has fought two elections. In those two elections it had the opportunity to say that it would reduce those tax rates. On both occasions it refused the opportunity. The Labor Party decided that it would not do so. In fact, in the 1977 election a specific statement was made: ‘Not only will we not go along with the LiberalNational Country parties’ policies on tax reduction, we will also maintain those taxes because we think it is wrong to reduce personal income tax’. It said positively that it thought it was wrong to reduce personal income tax. It had another system, a system of mucking around with payroll tax. It was a crazy system which would not have worked. Frankly, for members of the Opposition to come into this House and talk about an excessive level of personal income tax when they have had two opportunities to say that they would reduce it is arrant nonsense. I have here a table showing weekly payasyouearn taxation instalment deductions that would have taken place under the Hayden tax scales if the Labor Party were still here. Thank heavens it is not, because we have chopped those tax scales. I have compared those figures with the weekly tax scales now being paid under this Government’s scheme. I seek leave to incorporate the document in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
– This is not one of those crook prospectuses you used to write for those crooked mining companies, is it?
– As I have said, this is the sort of personal abuse on which the Labor Party relies. I am getting it into Hansard for the honourable member, just to demonstrate to the people of Australia that the only line of attack many members of the Opposition can sustain is personal vitriol, abuse on a personal level. We cannot discuss any matter of major importance in this House without personal abuse. Not only is there a consistent policy of personal abuse, but it is personal abuse in the knowledge that that abuse, those insults, those attacks, are totally without foundation, cannot be sustained, are malicious and deliberately untrue, and aimed at denigrating this House as well as the people in it.
It is a determined policy of attack on the principles under which this House is run. It is denigration of the democratic process which is a deliberate and determined policy by some members on the other side who, having found that they cannot achieve their objectives within this House because the public of Australia will not support them, are prepared to go to any lengths whatsoever to achieve those objectives outside this place by denigrating and diminishing the capacity of this House to run the country.
There is no doubt that tax cuts are needed. There is always a need for tax cuts. The big question is this: How many governments set about seriously to achieve those tax cuts? Every government is under continual pressure to do things for people. At the same time, every government is under continual pressure not to spend people’s money doing those things. It is interesting to note the different methods of achieving those objectives. How do various governments succeed in holding back tax rises? This is where the basic hypocrisy in this matter of public importance develops. The Opposition refers to ‘the need for tax cuts to relieve the increased burden of taxation that has occurred under the Fraser Government’. There has been no government in the history of Australia under which the tax burden has not increased. Not one government in our history has achieved a reduction in taxes because governments are continually doing more and more things. Many people do not support that proposition. They do not want it to happen. In fact, this Government has come under increasing pressure because it has cut back so many of the expensive projects, projects that involved the spending of taxpayers’ money, that were introduced under the Labor Government.
Let us see how successful we have been, when compared with the Labor Government, in cutting back the rate of rise in tax. We can see which Government is serious about it. For example, we can see that the Labor Government had a massive rise in income tax collections while it was in office. In three years there was something like a doubling of total tax collections. That is not just personal income tax but all taxes. There was a doubling of tax collections in only three years. In four years under the present Government that rate has been reduced to only 6 1 per cent. The runs are on the board. There is clear evidence of the dramatic cut-back in the rate of rise in tax, remembering that every government that has existed in Australia has increased taxes. What would the Opposition do if it got back into power? Would it continue to increase taxes? Let us face it. It did that when it was in office. The history of it is all too clear. Let me quote what the Leader of the Opposition said in the F. E. Chamberlain lecture on 2 March 1979. This is what he said about what Labor would do with taxes:
The challenge to traditional democratic socialism has been expressed in a number of deeply dispiriting doctrines.
One example is the rapid spread of philosophies based on lower taxes and smaller government.
That is a very dispiriting proposition to members of the Opposition, the dispiriting proposition that there should be lower taxes and smaller government. No wonder members of the Opposition are dispirited by that prospect. It means that they cannot build their empires, they cannot buy their votes with handouts, which is what happened in the Whitlam years. The Leader of the Opposition wenton:
Fraserism was one of the earliest expressions of these philosophies-
That is, the dreadful philosophies of lower taxes and smaller government- although Mr Fraser’s practice has been rather erratic.
This is the heart of it:
This son of approach strikes directly at the conventional democratic socialist notion that equality and equity can only be assured by a stronger public sector.
How do we get that stronger public sector? I am indebted to the honourable member for Gellibrand for telling us. The year before last he said this:
If Labor does not gain office until next election then by 1983, when we could next hope to gain office, we would face a mammoth task in rebuilding the public sector -
That is the beloved public sector about which his Leader spoke- and maybe an equally mammoth task in convincing the electorate that it should pay a higher level of tax to enable us to do so.
Which is the high tax party? They are the people who not only have a record of doubling total tax collections in only three years, which we have cut dramatically, but who also say to the Australian people: ‘If you are foolish enough to put us back, we promise, we undertake, to rebuild the public sector. We promise, we undertake, to make you pay a higher level of tax to enable us to do so. ‘ Apart from all that, we have heard some nonsense from the honourable member for Gellibrand about the proportion of tax receipts. We heard him claim that total tax receipts as a proportion of gross domestic product amounted to 23.8 per cent and that this was a record, that it was disgraceful and that it was terrible. If the Hayden tax scales still existed that proportion would be 28.6 per cent. I repeat: 28.6 per cent. In fact total tax receipts are only 23.2 per cent when we account for the family allowance. I stress that our tax rates are lower than those in most other countries. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the total tax revenues of various countries as a percentage of GDP.
The table read as follows-
The data in each case refers to the fiscal year ending in 1 977. In Australia ‘s case, the relevant fiscal year is 1 977-78.
-That table shows that Sweden’s total tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is 53.4 and that Australia is way down the list, with only five Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations having a higher total tax rate than Australia ‘s.
– I beg your pardon; lower than Australia’s.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We are used to the fact that the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) is a shonkey accountant. We have become used to him making some fairly–
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I trust that you will seek a withdrawal of that remark. Apart from the fact that it is untrue, I am not an accountant.
-I think the honourable member for Fremantle might withdraw the remark. It is a personal reflection on the honourable member.
-I withdraw the word accountant’.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I again take a point of order.
Honourable members interjecting-
-If the House would be more subdued in its behaviour the Chair would have greater opportunity of hearing the precise remarks made. Apparently the withdrawal again offended the honourable member for Macarthur. Did the honourable member for Fremantle withdraw without qualification?
– What I said, Mr Deputy Speaker, was that we were used to the honourable member being a shonkey accountant. He said that he was not an accountant so I withdrew the word ‘accountant’.
-Order! The honourable member is exacerbating his misdemeanour. I ask the honourable member to withdraw.
– It is the typical personal abuse. Keep it up. It is your normal style.
-Order! The honourable member for Macarthur is not assisting the proceedings.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I will withdraw whatever the honourable member for Macarthur wants me to withdraw. But in the process of making his speech he made some ludicrous comparisons -
Motion (by Mr Hodges) agreed to:
That the business of the day be called on.
Debate resumed from 20 November 1979, on motion by Mr John McLeay :
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Commonwealth Grants Commission Amendment Bill that we are now debating opens the way for the Government to give to the Grants Commission a reference to inquire into aspects of public financing within the Australian Capital Territory. As the shadow Minister for the Capital Territory and as the spokesman for the Australian Labor Party on this matter, I welcome the Bill. I also welcomed the announcement by the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) some six months ago that there would be an inquiry. That act was laudable. It is pleasing to see that the machinery of this Government is so well oiled that after a mere six months a simple short piece of enabling legislation is ready for debate by the Parliament. Nonetheless, the Bill is now before the House and is subject to scrutiny. Scrutiny of the Bill proves to me that it has been prepared- at least if explanations are not forthcoming from the Minister- in a very sloppy way indeed. It contains only two important paragraphs, the remainder being consequential or machinery amendments, and it would seem that even the legality of those two paragraphs is open to question.
Amendments to an Act must be within the ambit of the original or principal Act. That ambit is defined by the title of the Act and the title of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1973, as amended, is:
An Act to establish a Commonwealth Grants Commission to make recommendations concerning the granting of financial assistance to the States and to the Northern Territory in certain circumstances.
I emphasise that the title refers to the States and to the Northern Territory. The title makes a point of not mentioning the Australian Capital Territory or any of the other Commonwealth Territories. I also make the point that when an amending Bill relating to the Northern Territory was introduced the words ‘Northern Territory’ were included in the long title. I understand that there is a difference in terms of what might well be the local authority in terms of local government and the status ofthe authority in the Northern Territory vis-a-vis the authority in the Australian Capital Territory. However, it would appear that some argument could be raised in that the Australian Capital Territory could be deleted or there could be some restriction in carrying out the functions spelt out in the Bill.
The Bill we are debating specifically concerns inquiries into public financing of the Australian Capital Territory. Such inquiries are clearly not within the province of the Grants Commission, as the Act and recommendations concerning its public financing are clearly not within the ambit of the title of the principal Act. I draw the attention of the Minister for the Capital Territory, or whichever Minister will reply in this debate, to the fact that if we can be assured that this is not necessary the amendment will not be necessary.
– Are you referring to the title?
-It is the long title.
– Not necessarily, and it would be confusing if you made it.
– I bow to the superior legal knowledge of the Minister. He assures me that this amendment is not necessary. We will simply test the situation during the Committee stage. If we can be assured by the Minister that may well satisfy us. I hope that in the future he will stand by the decision and the information that he has given to the Parliament. As we indicated before, the Act appears to restrict the ambit of the Commission in carrying out its functions vis-a-vis the Australian Capital Territory. If that is correct, we would have some criticism of the way in which the legislation was drafted. If this is not the case, perhaps we can be satisfied by an explanation from the Minister.
We also think that the Bill is inadequate not just in substance but in spirit. The Bill proposes that the Commission, upon reference to it by the
Minister, be empowered to inquire into matters relating to the financing of works and services within the Capital Territory, with the rider that these works and services must be similar to those provided within the States by State or local government bodies and authorities. This is a much more restrictive form of wording than that empowering the Grants Commission to examine State or Northern Territory finances. But the Opposition accepts that this is largely a necessary result of the fact that the Australian Capital Territory is a non-self-governing body. Canberra’s total finances are gathered together in purely notional accounts. The Australian Capital Territory has no separate budget as such and the elected representatives of the Territory do not control its purse strings. What the Opposition does not accept is that any Grants Commission inquiry into Canberra financing should examine only aspects of that financing related to what are normally State or local government functions. The Australian Capital Territory has a unique place in Australia, containing as it does the national capital. Within the Australian Capital Territory many millions of dollars are spent by the Government to enable Canberra to fulfil its national functions. To look at State and local governmental activities only without examining Commonwealth responsibility towards Canberra is a futile exercise. All are parts of one whole. Should one section not be examined the remainder cannot be seen in perspective.
To give a specific example, the Commonwealth Government and its authorities do not pay rates as such within the Australian Capital Territory. They make a contribution to the municipal accounts for general services, water and sewerage services, but these contributions have never been anything but voluntary and remain unchecked so far as being fair or otherwise in the circumstances. The Government pays no general rates for municipal services on its millions of dollars worth of property in the Australian Capital Territory. In lieu thereof the Commonwealth contributes $2.9m towards expenditure on municipal services, This is only 1 1.9 per cent ofthe estimated expenditure on municipal services. Until this year the Government contribution was just $2m, which was only 9.3 per cent of estimated expenditure. It is questionable in the extreme whether the Government owns only 1 1.9 per cent of rateable value in the Australian Capital Territory, and whether it receives merely 1 1.9 per cent of the worth of the municipal services that are provided in Canberra. Of course the same story applies with water and sewerage rates.
Estimated expenditure and receipts on water and sewerage services are calculated and the Commonwealth contributes 15 percent and 14.4 per cent respectively of the expenditure on each budget. Once again, no independent check has been applied to determine whether these ersatz rating procedures are adequate or accurate. In fact, procedures are so poorly organised and dominated by the Federal Government that on the same day as the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the Capital Territory announced that there would be a Grants Commission inquiry, he announced also that rates in the Australian Capital Territory would rise, on average, by 14 per cent, an impost of $43 on the average Canberra ratepayer. Under the proposed Bill, any true evaluation of Canberra’s accounts does not appear likely. The Bill does not give the Grants Commission specific powers to examine Commonwealth finances within the Australian Capital Territory or, indeed, powers to examine Government charges and imposts such as those represented by municipal rates. Similarly, the Commonwealth refuses to add to the notional Australian Capital Territory municipal accounts the 1.75 per cent of income tax receipts which is available throughout the remainder of the nation for local government purposes.
Clearly the public funding of the Australian Capital Territory deserves a full and proper inquiry. The parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory called for a Grants Commission inquiry as long ago as 1973. But the wheels of industry grind along ever so slowly. For some years the Canberra Times has been editorialising for just such an inquiry. There has been a lot of public debate about it. People have been pushing for many years to have such an inquiry take place. An inquiry should not be restricted in the sense that it will not deal with the whole ambit of costs to the citizens within the Australian Capital Territory. The Australian Labor Party has sought this inquiry also for many years. Six months after the Minister for the Capital Territory announced that an inquiry would go ahead, the Government now brings forth this enabling legislation- restrictive in its sense, as we see it- which, in all likelihood, will prevent the wide-ranging inquiry that is so justified in this situation.
For too long the people of Australia have seen Canberra as a city cosseted by governmental activity and unnecessary expenditure. When one considers the national capital purposes of Canberra this claim becomes very doubtful and, in fact, the reverse may be true, should the Government not be contributing its fair share towards the running costs of the city. Only a wide-ranging public inquiry by the Grants Commission can reach the truth in this matter. Yet this Government appears to be hamstringing the only possibility of such an inquiry. Without an amendment to the Bill that becomes a danger. The possibility of having an inquiry should not be put at risk. I believe that the legislation now before us ought to be withdrawn and redrafted specifically to allow such a wide-ranging inquiry and also to remedy the omission of the Australian Capital Territory from the title of the Act. Unfortunately the scope of any such inquiry is not just hamstrung by restrictions placed on its terms of reference within the legislation.
The legislation proposes that a reference to the Grants Commission may be provided only by the Minister for Administrative Services. Given the non-self-governing nature of the Australian Capital Territory, this is an unfortunate but unavoidable state of affairs. The Opposition accepts that as it is the state of affairs that exists at this point in time. However, it is only at the Minister’s whim that any inquiry will be wide-ranging or, indeed, that there will be any inquiry at all. I would hope that the Minister, in reply to what we have said- if that is his intention- will answer some of the questions that we pose on the ambit of the terms of reference contained in the Bill. I would ask the Minister also to repeat the statement that he made last August that there would be a Grants Commission inquiry into the public financing of the Australian Capital Territory and to give an assurance that that inquiry will have the widest possible terms of reference. I should like him to assure the House also that the inquiry will report before the next Budget. Before the inquiry is convened the terms of reference should be floated for public debate.
In my opinion the terms of reference should permit the fullest possible analysis of Commonwealth financing in the Australian Capital Territory. Any inquiry should produce proper accounts for the Territory and determine fair and just Federal subventions to those accounts for the purposes of municipal rates. Should the people of the Territory have to wait- it will not be long- until the Labor Party is returned to the Treasury bench in this country before a proper inquiry gets under way, then at this point in time the Opposition gives an undertaking that, if there is any restriction, there will be a wide-ranging debate held in accordance with the principles that I have outlined. There should have been an inquiry some years ago. Certainly it should have occurred before the self-government referendum held in the Territory in 1978. A full examination of Australian Capital Territory finances and the ability of the Territory to generate revenue may well have made a considerable difference to the results of that poll. In that election people voted not knowing what the price of self-government might mean. People and interests friendly to the philosophy of this Government torpedoed selfgovernment for the Australian Capital Territory with specious claims about the impossibility of local self sufficiency. As it is now, any inquiry should report before the next Budget to enable rationalised funding for the Territory to be implemented for the coming financial year. There should never have been an increase in municipal rates on the same day as the Minister announced an inquiry into local finances. There should have been a stay of the announcement by the Minister.
In accordance with these principles I give an indication to the Minister that at the Committee stage the Opposition will be moving the amendments that stand in my name. I would be pleased if he would give an explanation- as he indicated across the table in the course of my speech- in regard to the long title, the status of the Bill without the amendments, and whether or not the Bill in its present form contains the terms of reference and covers the necessary ambit and meaning to carry out wide-ranging investigations.
-I am not as pessimistic about this matter as is the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes). I am delighted that the Commonwealth Grants Commission has been given some work to do in respect of the Australian Capital Territory. I have looked through the second reading speech made by the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr McLeay). I can appreciate that some of the terms of that speech may be rather narrow but I am encouraged, in looking at the history of the Commission, to remember that it has built up expertise through experience and, in a sense, through the application of case experience in evaluating economic relationships. Having noted what the Commonwealth Grants Commission has been doing since 1933, once it has investigated certain features of the Australian Capital Territory I am confident that it will be doing more in the future rather than less. For example, one could look at a particular paragraph of the Minister’s second reading speech and say that it was drawn very narrowly. The paragraph to which I refer reads:
Residents of the Australian Capital Territory are required to pay municipal rates and State-like taxes in a manner similar to residents ofthe rest ofthe nation. The Commonwealth, in determining the recovery of costs incurred- (Quorum formed). Apparently the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) wanted to announce the fact that he had returned to the House. I note that he is now leaving it again. The body which is to carry out these investigations has over the years developed a great deal of expertise, expertise that has been quite particular to the functions that it has served. It has also pursued flexibility in what it has done. That was manifest in 1974 when, under continued pressure from States, fuelled often by a deliberate misunderstanding of what it was doing, it changed its whole procedures in such a way that it would not be liable to endemic and consistent misunderstandings. I am confident that when such a body begins to investigate matters in the Australian Capital Territory those investigations, given its expertise, will not simply end there. After all, the Commission comprises people such as Professor Mathews, Mr Lane of the University of Queensland and Mr Justice Else-Mitchell, with whom I have clashed in the past. They have developed great expertise and I do not believe that it ought to be ignored.
One or two questions ought to be asked and I hope that the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) will be in a position to answer them. To what extent will this body, in investigating the references to it on the Territory, just accept the market in the Territory as it is. To what extent will it make judgments as to the market which supports the standard of living? I know that all of these questions will be answered when the Minister for the Capital Territory winds up the debate. He has been sitting at the table agog with excitement and interest, noting every word that has passed across this chamber. (Quorum formed).
In light of the principles which the Commission will bring to its task I ask: Will its investigation of a particular service in the Territory represent just a cost-benefit analysis of that service or will it merely look at the service in terms of the principles of cost recovery? They can be very different, as is the case with a number of Commonwealth instrumentalities. The honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey) is an expert in the cost recovery process for airline operations in Australia, for example. To what extent will a judgment be made as to the effect of the enormous differences between household incomes in the Territory and those of the rest of Australia. The differences can be so enormous that they cannot be simply wished away. For example, household income in the Territory is often 20 per cent and more above that obtaining in other States of Australia. Under those circumstances, to apply principles of cost recovery, without bearing in mind the very different levels of household income would be to miss a great deal. I know that the Minister would be reluctant to give instructions to the Commission, or make precise requests in terms of those principles, but in conversation with its members I hope that he will ask that they be borne in mind. There will undoubtedly be a number of matters of judgment which ought to be considered and not put aside.
I ask further: To whom are the charges made? Why ought the charges to be made in respect of the units that would utilise the service? Which generations will bear the charges made? For example, if there were in the Territory a national project which had enormous local spin-off effects, how would the cost recovery process be assessed? I know that it is often said that if there is a national project in the Territory it must be regarded as such, and the spin-off effects which benefit the people of the Territory ought to be totally ignored. To do so would be to be unjust to the people of the rest of Australia and of the Territory itself. Both of those matters should be considered and the Commonwealth Grants Commission- especially the one that will be asked to do this work- being such an excellent body, will be able to make judgments and the appropriate calculations.
If a service which assists private enterprise in the Territory is required and it is made available, how will judgments be made concerning it? For example, some of the Bureau of Statistics services have a particular application to the Territory and can be localised for the benefit of business. That is a service which, in a State, one could never accomplish. For example, an examination of retail trade in an area of a couple of hundred thousand people could never be achieved in Victoria or elsewhere. If a charge is to be made in respect of that, it ought not to be ignored. I have spoken for sufficient time. I merely say in other words that because a decision here is not made only because the Australian Capital Territory has a local authority but is made because it is a national capital, that ought to enter into the calculation as well. I refer the Minister for the Capital Territory to the fourth line of proposed new sub-section 16B (2) which states, in part: by the Commonwealth or an authority of the Commonwealth that are of a similar kind to works and services provided, in respect of a State, by the State or an authority of the State, or, in respect of a part of a State . . .
To what extent is that restrictive and to what extent would that exclude many of the works and services which exist in the Australian Capital
Territory and which also benefit the people? I finish by saying that I am an optimist concerning this matter. I am pleased that the Commonwealth Grants Commission is considering the Australian Capital Territory. I do not know whether its consideration will be as narrow as the Bill intends it to be, but once it has got into the area I hope that its work will be expanded. To that extent it would be to the benefit of Australia. After all, in its consideration of the standard of living and the provision of services in any part of Australia it might accept the market as it is or it might make judgments as to the value of increased production which supports a market. If its consideration is on the former basis it can be very narrow, because the market which supports a standard of living can be very artificial. If it is on the latter basis and if the latter basis is investigated, it would be to the advantage of this House and of the Australian Capital Territory.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
– I regret that, as a result of the childish action of the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), I move:
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I understood that an agreement was made that there would be two speakers from either side. Is this permissible? It is a disgusting exhibition which prevents the two local members- the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) and myself- from having something to say about a piece of legislation which is vital to the future of Canberra. It is a disgusting exhibition.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The person who occupies the chair is never aware of any agreements which may be reached between the Government and the Opposition. I am afraid that I must put the motion which has been moved.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr V. J. Martin)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I seek leave to move the Opposition’s three amendments together.
– I move:
So we have lost five years although the present Government promised self-government in the leadup to that election and in all subsequent elections except the last one. That is consistent with this Government’s record of breaking promises, of course. It failed to eventuate despite promises by previous Ministers, particularly Minister Staley who promised all sorts of things and who, I think, tried very hard to get selfgovernment and to get the Grants Commission to work out some sort of formula for the financing of Canberra. He was let down, of course, by Cabinet and nothing materialised. Instead, the people were treated to a shoddy referendum which the Government knew would be defeated before it embarked on it. It was defeated because of the lack of clarity and precisely because of the failure of the Grants Commission to clarify what the financial arrangements for Canberra would be. The people were afraid of what selfgovernment would mean in financial terms. The Government failed to explain what it meant and the referendum was rejected.
It also reflected a lack of confidence in the sincerity of the Government in what it was trying to do. The Government failed to grant selfgovernment and failed to carry out the recommendations of the Joint Committee regarding the Grants Committee and to give people what everybody else in Australia has and is entitled to have- self-government and access to the Grants Commission- including the people of the Northern Territory. After five years of government by people who treat promises that they make during elections with complete contempt and several ministries later, the people of Canberra do not have self-government. We still limp along with no firm arrangements and with a very ad hoc idea about how the city is to be financed. Of course, decisions are made by ministers and treasurers and prime ministers on local issues and quite often on domestic issues for which they have no direct electoral responsibility. They are not elected by the people of Canberra. Yet they make all sorts of decisions, even local government decisions.
This Government has shown itself to have complete disregard for the welfare and viability of the national capital. Instead of having a national capital and seat of government of which we and the nation can be proud, it now suffers a reputation which is a disgrace to any government and is a far cry from a reputation which any national capital and seat of parliament should enjoy. I do not want to list all the shortcomings of the Government and the problems that now confront Canberra, but I will mention a few. Canberra experiences high unemployment. Almost 9,000 people are unemployed or 7.3 per cent which is higher than the national average on yesterday’s figures. Thirty-six per cent of the unemployed are in the 15-19 age group. The same group comprises only 20 per cent in the national average so the figure is almost twice as high.
The building and construction industry has been gutted. The work force has been reduced by half. Apprenticeships have been terminated. The
National Capital Development Commission’s new works budget is now down to $ 13.7m this year which is an all-time low. It has come down from about $120m. Many major projects have been promised but none has eventuated. There is to be no casino, about which there has been a lot of talk. No new post office has been established although the Australian Post Office has been ready to proceed for a couple of years. There has been no bus interchange and no Casey University. Of course, it is extremely doubtful that that will get under way at all because there is a lot of opposition to it from within the Government itself.
The Government has sold off a lot of Government enterprises including the brickworks, the Government sawmill and now, I believe, it is considering selling off the very successful and very profitable Mugga Quarry. The Mugga Quarry has provided building material for nearly all of the main buildings and roads in Canberra. It is a profitable enterprise and, I understand, it is about to be sold off. Public Servants have been subjected to all sorts of intimidation and threats and staff ceilings which have, of course, restricted their opportunities. These Government enterprises would have been retained if we had locally elected people who were responsible to the local people. They would have been retained if they had been paying propositions and would not have been sold off to private enterprise.
The Minister has spoken a lot about broadening the base of Canberra’s economy. This is very commendable. What has he done? How sincere has he been? One small local industry, the egg industry, is now under threat. This week eight people have been sacked because the Minister has failed to increase the egg quota for the Australian Capital Territory. The Minister has been fiddling with this problem for two or three years. He has to come to grips with it. He has to stop this erosion into the few small industries we have and to try to retain the little bit of industrial employment we have in Canberra. I know that he has a difficult problem in this respect but he has been putting it off, hoping it can be resolved. In the meantime, State egg marketing boards have been standing over the Canberra consumers. They are now trying to prevent Canberra producers from producing eggs for Canberra. Although all sorts of commitments were made about increasing the egg quota, it has not happened. I think it is time the Minister did something about it. Hundreds of small businesses and some larger ones have become bankrupt and many others are in severe financial difficulties.
The Totalisator Agency Board is in difficulties and this has put pressure on the Canberra Trotting Club Incorporated, the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club Incorporated, the racing clubs and many other sporting enterprises.
As I said, this legislation is long overdue. I hope that the Grants Commission will now move quickly to overcome the neglect of the Government in taking so long to come to grips with this quite simple amendment. There has been an unfortunate delay and the people of Canberra have suffered in the meantime. The Grants Commission, for its part, has had five years’ notice. It knew that it would be required to carry out this task and I hope that it will respond quickly. It will be interesting to see whether the Commission is able to come up with suitable recommendations before this Government is thrown out of office at the end of this year. I might say that if the Grants Commission placed the Australian Capital Territory on a similar footing to the less populous States of the Commonwealth, the Australian Capital Territory would not require any greater subvention than these States if due allowance was for the expenditure in Canberra on the national capital aspects and the seat of government aspects. The Department of the Capital Territory has done a lot of commendable work in separating those charges which can be attributed to the local community and those which can be attributed to the role of Canberra as the seat of government and as the national capital.
I should like to give these figures regarding per capita grants: The per capita grant for 1978-79 for Tasmania, for instance, was $ 1 ,036 per head. If we apply the same per capita grant given to Tasmania and multiply that amount by the population of Canberra that means a subvention of $228m for Canberra. I think it is only fair that the matter be approached in that way. I think we should be given the same access to funds as people in the rest of the Commonwealth. I refer to general revenue grants, capital purpose grants and specific purpose grants. That is the measure of the money that would be made available to Canberra. I hope that the Grants Commission will be able to have a good look at this matter. I hope that it will look very closely at those costs which can be attributed to the national capital and to the seat of government functions of Canberra and then develop a formula so that the administrators of Canberra will know where they stand and will not be just dependent on ad hoc decisions of a particular Minister for the Capital Territory, a particular Treasurer or a particular Prime Minister. There will be a well established formula so that as the population of Canberra grows the grants from the Grants Commission will grow. By that means people will be able to budget on a sound planning basis. They will know where they stand and they will be able to make responsible decisions. That has not been the case in the past.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-It is a pity that I have to deal with the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) who seems to have joined that band of knockers, the people who want to destroy the economy of Canberra by attacking it all the time. It is a great pity that, for electoral purposes, he is doing this. If he wants to talk about things such as the Totalisator Agency Board, I can tell the people a pretty sorry story. Let us identify the things that are destroying the TAB. One is the competition from the other forms of gambling and the other is the expensive building that the TAB built. Both of those decisions- that is, the decision to introduce poker machines without holding a referendum and the decision to build that building- were made in the time of the Labor Government. The TAB is in trouble today simply because of those stupid decisions which were made without reference to the effect they would have on the capacity to sustain a TAB in the Australian Capital Territory. As to unemployment, if we look at the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures we will find that since last year unemployment in the Australian Capital Territory has actually fallen. According to the Commonwealth Employment Service figures unemployment has gone up marginally by 200. There is very little reason for the honourable member to complain that disaster is around the place. Disaster is not around the place.
So far as the egg quota is concerned, I have been very active as Minister for the Capital Territory. I do not apologise for any time that has been taken. In the meantime, the honourable member for Fraser apparently has been taking another strange attitude. He has decided to look after private enterprise instead of looking after the consumers of Canberra. He has suddenly become a great champion of the private enterprise sector and has forgotten the fact that the ordinary consumers of Canberra have been getting the advantage of cheap eggs. I should have thought that his function as the member for Fraser was to look after those consumers who elected him. However he can rest assured that private enterprise, in the form of Parkwood Eggs Pty Ltd, is very secure in the Australian Capital
Territory. Decisions which that company makes to put people off have nothing to do with egg quotas. They must have something to do with something else. On my understanding Parkwood Eggs is increasing the number of birds in its sheds so the honourable member should not tell me that the sackings are a result of the egg quota. The difficulty that we face in that area is well known. It is a difficulty with which I am dealing. Getting back to the subject of this debate -
– It is quite important.
– It is important. We are debating the Commonwealth Grants Commission Amendment Bill. May I say first of all that the Government has not treated these amendments in other than a proper fashion. We have taken them up with Parliamentary Counsel. Parliamentay Counsel assures us that it would not be appropriate to amend the title by adding the words ‘and the financing of the Australian Capital Territory’. On no construction is the Bill doing that. It is not financing the Australian Capital Territory; it is only authorising an inquiry. Parliamentary Counsel has informed the instructing officers that it is not necessary to make that amendment. As to the other two amendments proposed by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), Parliamentary Counsel again says that if those amendments were made they would have the effect of limiting the inquiries that could be undertaken under the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act. It is not intended to make the inquiry a restrictive one. Just how far the inquiry can go into such matters as national buildings is a matter for determination on the basis of the definition in that sub-section which talks about services and works provided by States or local government.
Let us take the case of the National Library. In saying this I answer in part the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). No doubt if some part of the National Library provides a service to the Australian Capital Territory, that is a service which may be provided by a State and to that extent it could be taken into account. Really, the sorts of issues that the honourable member for Lilley raised are matters which can be undertaken in the ordinary course, depending on the extent of the inquiry on particular matters that is submitted by the Minister of the day to the Grants Commission. Parliamentary Counsel says that if we accepted the Opposition’s proposed amendments they would have the effect of limiting the inquiry rather than extending it. The words ‘matters relating to the financing of works and services provided in respect of the Australian Capital Territory, ‘ are very wide. I know that the definition is there but the words ‘matters relating to the financing of works’ are very wide. A lot could be taken into account from them. What really is important, of course, is the width of the reference which the Minister puts in.
– It being 10.30 p.m. I shall report progress.
-I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I require that the question be put forthwith without debate.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr V. J. Martin)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott)- by leaveread a third time.
Debate resumed from 11 October 1979, on motion by Mr Hunt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Before starting the debate on the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Amendment Bill I think it is appropriate to point out why the Opposition opposed the motion to negative the adjournment tonight. The Government brought in a frivolous motion this afternoon, spent a lot of time on it and then tried to avoid an adjournment debate when private members have a chance to raise issues. As long as the Government does that we will oppose the motion which negatives the adjournment. The Government introduced this legislation in about October last year. The Opposition supports the amendments contained in the legislation. It may be appropriate to remind the House that the basic aim of the Bill is to bring about amendments which were recommended by an inquiry which was called the Reid-Nossal inquiry into the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. The report of the inquiry was tabled in this House in May 1978 and, basically, the Government has accepted the recommendations in this report.
For those of us who have followed the question of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories it has been an issue for some time, as to just what the Laboratories could do, what functions they could perform and how they could improve their function. The principal amendments to the Act have the effect of expanding the role of CSL to enable it to produce non-biological as well as biological pharmaceutical products. I suppose that has been the main issue. The Bill clearly distinguishes between the commercial activities of CSL and the so-called national interest activities, that is those carried out at the direction of the Minister with the Commonwealth meeting the costs of these national interest functions. Until now the profit which CSL made in its commercial activities had to be used to cover the national interest activities and there was never any money left for expansion. It allows an increase in the number of commissioners and makes a number of machinery amendments.
Ever since I have been in this House other people have made the point that there ought to be a removal of the biological restrictions on CSL and the Reid-Nossal report recommended along those lines. There are a number of reasons for this. One of them is the lack of scientific precision in classifying certain products as biological and non-biological. There are substances such as hormones and so on which do not easily fit into one or the other category. Just as importantly there are many biological and non-biological products which have very similar therapeutic goals and CSL should have the freedom to produce the most effective product. It does not have this freedom at the present time.
The new legislation certainly helps CSL. It does, of course, mean that CSL could, in theory, go into the production of any therapeutic goods and therapeutic products. The legislation provides that CSL can engage only in commercial activities in relation to pharmaceutical products on the basis that a regulation must be tabled in Parliament and Parliament could disallow that particular regulation. One of the reasons why the previous Minister has looked kindly on CSL is because of the production of the publication called Inside CSL. The last issue that I have seen is the September/October issue. It is a four page collection of photographs of the Minister. Only five of them are in this particular issue. But 1.2 photographs per page is not a bad average. It certainly helped CSL in its success in persuading the Government to take the appropriate course. I congratulate CSL on this. I suppose CSL will now have to have five photographs of the present Minister in the next issue of Inside CSL.
One of the points that ought to be made is the related question of the Fawnmac group of companies which was purchased by the then Whitlam Government when the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) was the Minister for Health. The Fawnmac group of companies is now up for tender. The Government has said that it will sell it. I understand that one of the tenderers for Fawnmac is in fact CSL. I hope that the Government will look at the tender from CSL and look at the basic advantages, if any, of acquiring Fawnmac and keeping it under government control.
– What did the Whitlam Government pay for it?
-One of the important points about the position -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member for Isaacs is not entitled to keep interjecting.
– I am asking a question. What did you pay for Fawnmac?
-Order! The honourable member for Isaacs has been warned before. Interjections are disorderly. He repeats his offence. If he does it again he will be named.
-One of the reasons for -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I have asked a question of the honourable member for Prospect -
-Order! The honourable member for Isaacs knows that that is not a point of order. I warn the honourable member for Isaacs.
– If the honourable member for Isaacs asks at Question Time tomorrow, I will be pleased to answer. One of the reasons for the purchase of Fawnmac by the Government was to produce some competition in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry in Australia and to enable the Government to have access to certain figures and information which was previously available only to the private pharmaceutical companies. The question of pharmaceutical manufacturing is an important one. Those who have taken some interest- I am sure that the honourable member for Isaacs has not- will be aware of the so-called Ralph report which was tabled in this House about three or four months ago. It followed an inquiry which was set up by the Department of Health or the Minister for Health and the Ministry for Industry and Commerce. It made some very valuable observations and it made a lot of recommendations which would significantly alter the method of selling pharmaceutical products in Australia. I hope the Government will come back with some recommendations or some reply or response to the Ralph report very soon so that we will be able to see just what we can look forward to- if this Government were returned to office- in regard to pharmaceutical manufacturing and the distribution of pharmaceutical products.
I think it is fair to say that in the last few years, whilst the pharmaceutical manufacturing companies have made a lot of money- they made huge profits in the 1950s and 1960s- those profits have gone down. The pharmaceutical manufacturing industry is a very important industry as far as Australia is concerned. Even now, having been run down, it employs a significant number of people- something approaching 10,000 people. About 13,000 to 15,000 people were employed in the industry before. We are ideally situated with technology and the technical know how which is available in Australia- a large number of people have gone through universities and so on- to be pharmaceutical manufacturers for a large area in South East Asia and in the Pacific area. We have not been able to take up the challenge, so to speak, to provide these pharmaceuticals for those areas. There are a number of reasons for that. I do not want to go into them at this time tonight but I do think that the Government ought to be looking sympathetically at expanding the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry in Australia. As I said a few moments ago, it is an important industry. There was a lot of prejudice against it, and I think some of that prejudice is still justified in relation to some of the pharmaceutical manufacturers. However, I do not think their profits now are anywhere near the excessive levels that existed in the 1960s. If we want the industry to continue, if we want to employ people in Australia, and we are always looking for industries which will absorb our school leavers and so on, we ought to be looking at this sort of industry which requires highly skilled technical people. I commend the Bill to the House as a step towards ensuring the continuation of CSL as a commercially viable institution.
-The Bill to amend the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act has been long awaited by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories management and Commission and has been achieved only after years of constructive lobbying and independent inquiry. I note from the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) the support of the Opposition for the amendments before us. I believe that everyone in the Parliament supports the need for CSL. However, doubts have been expressed from time to time by many people about the request by CSL to be allowed an expanded role because it could be impinging on the commercial pharmaceutical market, which should be left to the private sector. This doubt, and the need to resolve the issue of the biological products restriction, led to an independent inquiry being established by the then Minister for Health in October 1977.
The inquiry also provided the opportunity to examine several other problems raised by CSL and others about the financing and structure of the CSL organisation. The Minister was fortunate to obtain the services of two outstanding Australians, Sir Gustav Nossal and Mr John Reid. Their backgrounds in medical research and industry produced a nice balance in philosophy and expertise. They were also prompt with their report. The Government members health and welfare committee took considerable interest in the report and on two separate occasions discussed the recommendations at length with the two inquiry members. On behalf of the health and welfare committee, I wish to record our appreciation for the courtesy they extended to us. The committee made certain recommendations to the Minister and to the Government on the Reid-Nossal recommendations.
How does the legislation we are discussing follow the recommendations of Reid and Nossal? Recommendation three, which is the inquiry’s major recommendation, is to remove the biological restriction. The Government members committee was impressed by the arguments put forward that the now outdated and restrictive concepts in 19a, the biological restriction concept, should be removed. The health and welfare committee has been assured on a number of occasions by Dr Neville McCarthy of CSL that that organisation does not intend suddenly and massively to enter the general pharmaceutical market. Nevertheless, the committee recommended that any intended pharmaceutical product be prescribed and thus subject to parliamentary scrutiny. This is really nothing more than the 1961 legislation provided because 19A in that legislation also has the prescribed restriction. However, the committee has been further reassured by the words of the previous Minister for Health, now the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt), who said in his second reading speech:
The Bill provides that CSL can engage in commercial activities only in relation to a pharmaceutical product that is prescribed in regulations made under the Act which are of course disallowable by the Parliament, or a product which comes within a class of pharmaceutical products so prescribed.
The second major amendment relates to their recommendation on 19A and 19B, that is, that the research and finance activities, including those done in the national interest, should be clearly distinguished. Everyone who has been associated with this CSL issue will be pleased that the new legislation clearly distinguishes between those two; that is, between the commercial or 19A activities and the national interest or 19B activities, that the determination or distinction will be made by the Minister, and that, where it is a 19B activity, it will be financed by the Government. Reid and Nossal also recommended that the Director-General of Health should make the determination on the national interest. The health and welfare committee considered that the Minister rather than the Director-General should make the determination as this was more in keeping with ministerial responsibility and parliamentary accountability. I am pleased that in this legislation we have provided for ministerial determination. The CSL management believes that the distinction between the commercial and national interest activities that has now been arranged is more rational and will make CSL a more commercially oriented organisation. The previous arrangement was a significant disincentive against CSL’s maximising profit. With the change, it will be possible for CSL to obtain its capital for commercial activities in the loan market.
Recommendation 2 1 of Reid and Nossal was that CSL should adhere to the code of good manufacturing practice. A check with the National Biological Standards Laboratory has confirmed that CSL has now been included. Recommendation 32 refers to the lack of cooperation between CSL and those responsible for the construction of the Australian National Animal Health Laboratory, or ANAHL, at Geelong. CSL has expertise in the production of vaccines, including foot and mouth disease vaccines, which of course is the major purpose of the Geelong laboratory. I understand that two of its experts are returning from Indonesia, where they have helped to establish a production facility for foot and mouth disease vaccine. I understand also that there is now good co-operation on this question between the two organisations. Recommendation 35 refers to additional commissioners, and to doubling the number of commissioners from four to eight. Reid and Nossal also recommended increasing the number of commissioners, and the recommendation has been accepted because it will provide better geographic representation. The health and welfare committee agreed with the increase, but added that this provided an opportunity to allow additional expertise as well as geographic representation. There are other amendments following on from the Reid-Nossal recommendations which relate to the Government’s accepting the cost of foreign aid, parts of CSL work, and updating the contract amounts the CSL management can accept.
To conclude, I want to reiterate the support of the Government members health and welfare committee for these amendments, which are overdue. I want also to record that this Bill is a good example of a case being made for change, of a well conducted independent inquiry, of adequate consultation, of scrutiny of a report by members of Parliament and now the passage of amending legislation with the support of both sides of the Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Adermann) read a third time.
The Parliament Motion (by Mr Adermann) proposed: That the House do now adjourn.
-In the one and a half minutes left to the House tonight, I want to explain that while the Government brings in futile motions, as it did today on Afghanistan, putting back its own legislative program, the Opposition will not in any way go along with the negativing of the motion that the House adjourn at 10.30 p.m. We will vote for the adjournment on every occassion. We have onethird of the numbers of the Government and we have to work three times as hard as any Government members. It is wrong that after 10.30 p.m. we should be required to debate Bills such as the one that has just gone through this Parliament. I give notice that on every occasion on which futile motions are brought in by the Government we will adopt that attitude. We are not sorry that the Government took the stupid actions it did today. That one backfired, and every time it does that, putting back its own legislative program, we will not co-operate. We will vote for the adjournment at 10.30 p.m., an hour which is already late for any sensible consideration of Bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following notices were given: Mr Scholes to move:
That before any action is taken to relocate any existing facilities of the Parliament, the (a) Library and (b) Joint House Committees prepare and present to this House a list of facilities currently operating in (i) the Parliament building and (ii) outside Parliament House, together with the Committees’ assessments of the level of priority for the operation to be located in Parliament House and the need for access to the facilities by Members of the Parliament.
Mr Adermann to present a Bill for an Act to establish a Honey Research Trust Account, and for related purposes.
Mr Adermann to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Honey Industry Act 1 962.
Mr John McLeay to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Senate (Representation of Territories) Act 1973.
Mr MacKellar to present a Bill for an Act to approve the making by Australia of a further payment to the International Development Association.
Mr Garland to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Bounty (Rotary Cultivators) Act 1979.
Mr Garland to present a Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of bounty on the production of certain drilling bits.
Mr Garland to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Distillation Act 1 90 1 .
The following papers were deemed to have been presented on 27 February 1980, pursuant to statute:
Customs Tarin” Act- Orders- Developing CountryNo. 14(1979). No. 1(1980).
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 29 August 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (l)and(2)-
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 25 October 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 November 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 20 February 1 980:
How many persons are employed in the Defence and Works Division of his Department and what are their divisions and classifications.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
47(asat21 February 1980)
Information Needs of Migrants
-On 21 February 1980 Dr Cass asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs:
The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 February 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1980/19800227_reps_31_hor117/>.