31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth.
That as it is clear that unemployment is a long term problem in Australia, the Government should extend to the unemployed the same assistance as is given to any other disadvantaged member of the community. There is an urgent need to alleviate the financial hardship and emotional stress that the unemployed are suffering.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Dr Cass, Dr Everingham, Mr Holding, Mr Innes and Mr Young.
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 recommendations.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Blewett and Mr Burns.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament in Canberra assembled. The petition of certain citizens respectfully showeth:
That the right to work without discrimination on any ground including, inter alia, discrimination on grounds of race, ethnic origin, marital status and/or sex is a fundamental human right;
That it is both the duty and the responsibility of society to fully support those denied work and therefore those who are unemployed as a result of society’s inability to provide full paid employment should be guaranteed an adequate income without discrimination on any ground, including inter alia discrimination on grounds of race, ethnic origin, marital status and /or sex.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That appropriate and adequate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in Commonwealth employment, in employment of persons by statutory bodies and quasi-governmental organisations, in employment of individuals under federal awards, and in employment of all persons in areas over which Commonwealth and Australian Capital Territory equal opportunity legislation should have jurisdiction; and
That appropriate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in the provision of unemployment benefits to all persons without regard to race, ethnic origin, marital status and/or sex.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Blewett and Mr Haslem.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament will:
Reform income tax laws to allow the joint income of husband and wife to be equally divided between them for taxation purposes.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Chapman and Mr Humphreys.
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 in areas where homes are not connected to the Main Sewerage system and residents have to rely on pump-out septic tanks, these home-owners are increasinglyburdened with the costs involved with the collection of the effluent.
Your petitioners therefore pray that consideration will be given to allowing these charges to be tax deductable.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Edwards.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned, having great concern at the way in which children are now being used in the production of pornography, call upon the Government to introduce immediate legislation:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will protect all children and immediately prohibit pornographic child-abuse materials, publications or films.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Garland.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proportion of pensionable people within our community is increasing at a significant rate. The number of people of 65 years old will rise from approximately 8.5 per cent of the population as it was in 1970 to over 10 percent by 1990 and about 16 per cent by the year 2020.
That technological change is accelerating the trend towards earlier retirement from the workforce.
That the above factors make incentives for self-provision in retirement years a matter of great urgency if future generations of Australians are to be spared the crippling taxation which would be necessary to fund such provisions from social welfare.
That Australia is in urgent need of locally raised investment capital for national development and that life insurance and superannuation funds are important mobilisers of such capital.
Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that the Government will forthwith take the steps necessary to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodges.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Government has failed to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act to overcome the anomalous position of the self-employed person in relation to superannuation.
That this anomaly arises because the self-employed person must pay for superannuation provisions out of his or her after-tax income and is restricted by the Act in the amount of the contributions which he or she is allowed to make.
That the same situation does not exist for the employed person who can have large contributions made by his or her employer into superannuation benefits and such contributions are fully deductible by the employer.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Government act to achieve effective parity of treatment between the self-employed and employees in the matter of superannuation.
That the provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act in section 23ja (self employed persons fund) be amended to bring them into line with the provisions of section 23f (employees fund).
That a self employed person be entitled to an allowable deduction for contributions to a 23ja fund of up to 15 per cent of the taxpayer’s personal exertion income from selfemployment. This figure at 15 per cent is chosen as representing the total of employer and employee contributions which would be expected in a reasonable employee superannuation fund.
That, as five per cent of lump sums from an employees scheme is taxed, then a similar provision should be included for lump sums from self-employed schemes.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Humphreys.
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 continued use of animal ingredients in cosmetic products, and the inhumane use of animals in scientific research for cosmetic products is abhorrent and barbaric.
That the Industries Assistance Commission, because of the Commission’s terms of reference, seems unable to impose any regulation or recommend any regulation which might restrict the activities of Cosmetic Companies which produce cosmetics in which animal ingredients have been used, or for which animals were subjected to research.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will legislate to require comprehensive labelling of perfumes, cosmetics and toilet preparations to indicate:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Humphreys.
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Humphreys.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth submits:
That offshore oil exploration within the Great Barrier Reef region constitutes a serious threat to the richest and most varied living system on earth.
Your petitioners request that your Honourable House will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Humphreys.
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
There is a television transmitter proposed for the Town of Greenvale which will not provide television to the surrounding district.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
The transmitter be of sufficient strength to provide television reception to all areas within 160 kilometres ( 100 miles) radius of Greenvale at no extra cost to individual receivers.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Katter.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government increase its allocation for Pre-School education immediately to enable the provision of adequate pre-school services in S.A.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Young.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, of the Australian Parliament assembled. The Petition of certain citizens of N.S.W. respectfully showeth:-
Dismay at the reduction in the total expenditure on education, proposed for 1980 and in particular to Government Schools.
Government Schools bear the burden of these cuts, 1 1.2 per cent while non-Government schools will receive an increase of 3.4 per cent
We call on the Government to again examine the proposals as set out in the guidelines for Education expenditure 1980 and to immediately restore and increase substantially in real terms the allocation of funds for education expenditure in 1980 to Government schools.
And your petitioners asinduty bound will ever pray. by Mr Carlton.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of Australia assembled. This humble petition of the undersigned electors of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we, the undersigned, hereby express concern at the Federal Government’s undue influence on the role of the Australian Schools Commission.
We are firmly of the belief that the quality of Australian Education demands a National Body such as this, free of Government restraint, to monitor, research, and assess the different State Systems, and suggest recommendations aimed at improving the education of Australians.
Your petitioners therefore respectfully pray that your Honourable House of Parliament will consider there our request for the Federal Government to desist from setting prescriptive guidelines for the Australian Schools Commission and allow it to play its role as a National Educative Advisory Body.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Humphreys.
Petition to the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives. The signatories of this petition being concerned citizens of the City of Port Adelaide strongly object to the proposal to drastically alter existing freight handling arrangements and to abolish handling of parcels at Port Adelaide Dock Station because:-
Your petitioners therefore pray:- “That the Federal Minister of Transport, Mr. Nixon direct the Manager of the Australian Railways Commission, Dr. Williams, not to proceed with the proposal.”
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Young.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House congratulates the honourable member for Prospect on his personal courage in maintaining and proclaiming his conscientious beliefs, and further this House condemns and deplores the action of the Leader of the Opposition in sacking the honourable member for Prospect, because of the honourable member’s concern about communism and his persistent campaign against brutal and cruel violations of human rights by the Soviet Union.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House-
1 ) expressing its concern at the ownership of Australia ‘s media as amongst the most concentrated in the free world and that present interlocking media ownership has the potential to stifle and distort the free flow of information within the community;
noting that there have been three Royal Commissions into the Press in the United Kingdom since 1945 and a Special Senate Committee Inquiry into the Mass Media in Canada;
calls on the Government to establish, as a matter of urgency, a Royal Commission with the following terms of reference:
With the object of furthering the free expression of opinion throughout the media and the greatest practicable accuracy in the presentation of the news, to inquire into:
the control, management and ownership of the media including the interlocking relationships between press, radio, television and news agencies and the monopolistic tendencies operating;
the need for a Media Monopoly Commission to which all takeovers, mergers, amalgamations and closures of media must be referred;
the extent to which media companies stifle competition from their accreditation of advertising agencies and newsagents and the need to limit this control;
the extent to which the public’s right to a free and independent Press is endangered when media proprietors enter the ownership of non-media companies, particularly those which involve public policy;
the extent to which the Australian Broadcasting Commission is able and willing to report, analyse and interpret the true state of society;
the desirability of setting up newspapers under a charter similar to the Australian or British Broadcasting Commissions, either on a national basis or in each State and how such a paper or papers could be financed;
how existing State and Federal laws restrict the media from fulfilling their functions and the need for national uniformity in such laws;
the training of journalists and how this can be improved. The staffing of newspapers, radio and television stations. The need to ensure more independence for editors of newspapers, radio stations and television stations:
the dangers of the growth of syndication with Press Agencies supplying most of the media with overseas news, interstate news, Parliamentary news and court reports;
The need for special postal rates to encourage the growth of rural newspapers and specialist magazines;
how to ensure the minimum human inconvenience from automation and technological change within the media.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. If he is so adamant about protecting the rights of individuals under section 45D of the Trade Practices Act, does it mean that the same principle will be applied to protect the interests of individual wheat growers who wish to trade outside the monopoly powers of the Australian Wheat Board? In view of the vehemence with which the Prime Minister has moved to protect Mr Laidely, will he now move to amend the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act to protect the rights of individual wheat growers?
– I think the honourable gentleman does not really understand the nature of his own question. I would have thought that the honourable gentleman knew full well that as a result of growers asking for orderly marketing arrangements for Australian primary produce, whether it be wheat, wool or diary produce, successive governments have supported those orderly marketing arrangements, They have been supported by legislation in this Parliament. They have been supported by agreements between governments of all complexions, as I understand it, and the industry. Therefore it would be an absurdity to try to equate arrangements for the marketing of wheat or any other primary products under an orderly marketing arrangement with an agreement between a large and powerful -
– That is nonsense. It is the same principle.
-The Leader of the Opposition is now saying that the principle of the orderly marketing arrangements for wheat is the same principle as obtains when a large and powerful company and a large and powerful union get together to cut the throat of a small Australian businessman. If the Leader of the Opposition seeks to equate a principle that has been enshrined in the laws of this Parliament, following agreement between the whole industry and governments, with the brute force of a large company and a large trade union combining together to defeat and to destroy a small businessman, his sense of logic is strange indeed, and would mystify even his own left wing supporters.
-Is the Minister for Housing and Construction aware that because of union pressure the New South Wales Government has agreed to use Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board day labour staff to replace private contractors on water and sewerage reticulation works in new housing subdivisions? Was this matter considered in the recent housing costs inquiry?
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. This matter is not within the responsibility of the Minister. I placed a question on notice in relation to sewerage works in New South Wales and the Minister informed me that he could not give me an answer because it was the responsibility of the State. I therefore ask you to rule this question out of order as this is a matter for the State of New South Wales.
-The point raised by the honourable member for Reid has been in my mind. I was listening to the question to find whether there was some mention of finance coming from the Commonwealth to the States. If that was the basis of the question, I suggest that the honourable member for Dundas reveal it quickly.
-There are two aspects to the question, Mr Speaker. You have highlighted the aspect to which I am coming. What advice has the Minister received on the possible effect of these union and cost pressures on land prices in the Sydney area? Has the Minister given consideration to discussing this question with the Treasurer with a view to reviewing loan and other funds available from the Commonwealth to New South Wales to fund these additional union imposts?
– I was very concerned to learn a short time ago that the New South Wales Government has decided to cease using private contractors for reticulation work on new subdivisions in Sydney and that it will be using only union day labour forces employed by the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board.
This decision by the New South Wales Government is another slap in the face for the small business people involved in this type of work and for people employed by these contractors. It is also very bad news for home buyers and builders in the Sydney area.
The honourable member for Dundas asked about the impact on housing costs. I am told that this decision could result in an increase in the price of land in Sydney of up to $3,000 a block, and that obviously would be a scandalous result for home buyers in the Sydney area. I should mention that the decision by the New South Wales Government is totally out of step with current practices being adopted by this Government and by governments in other States of the Commonwealth, the practice being to direct more work to the private sector and not to use day labour forces as they have been used in the past. We have done that because we know that it is a more efficient system to use the private sector, and it also reduces costs.
The honourable member for Dundas also asked about the housing costs inquiry. This kind of issue was considered by the housing costs inquiry. However, the decision made by the New South Wales Government, of course, was made after the report of the inquiry was handed down, so that matter was not discussed. But this kind of issue was discussed and general concern was expressed by the committee of inquiry.
The honourable member also suggested that I take up with the Treasurer certain matters concerning financial arrangements with New South Wales. I am certainly happy to refer that matter to the Treasurer and to have discussions with him. I believe that the decision taken by the New South Wales Government is a step backwards. It will add to the cost of houses in New South Wales. We already have a problem of cost pressures on houses in certain parts of Sydney and this decision will not assist the situation.
-I ask the Minister to draw his answer to a conclusion.
– It is another case of Mr Wran and his Government in New South Wales bowing to union pressure and neglecting the interests of the small man.
-I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Why did the Government direct the Attorney-General to initiate discussions with Mr Justice Staples to ascertain whether His Honour would be interested in a position with the Australian Law Reform Commission? Did the Prime Minister discuss at the joint party meetings of the Government methods of getting rid of Mr Justice Staples? Will the Prime Minister state unequivocally that Mr Justice Staples has been guilty of no wrong-doing or misbehaviour? Does the Prime Minister accept that the campaign of intimidation and abuse which the Government is waging against both -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to make an allegation in a question.
-Does the Prime Minister accept that the vilification of Mr Justice Staples and Mr Justice Moore is not consistent with the vital principle of judicial independence?
-The honourable gentleman would be aware that Mr Justice Staples has had a lifetime interest in human rights, law reform and the liberties and privileges of individual citizens. Against that background of a lifetime interest, which quite clearly Mr Justice Staples still holds and which burns fervently in his own heart, I would have thought that the offer by the Attorney-General of a possible position on the Australian Law Reform Commission was with respect to an office which Mr Justice Staples would hold with some honour and some pride.
-I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether during the recent parliamentary recess he opened in my electorate a building which is the first building in Australia to employ solar technology for its complete airconditioning and water heating systems? Was this technology developed in Japan by the Yazaki company? Is the Minister aware that Federal and State tax credits in the United States actively encourage the use of solar energy equipment by industry and by ordinary home owners and that in California, for example, tax concessions can be as high as 75 per cent of the cost of solar heating or cooling and hot water for the home? In the interests of promoting both energy conservation and the solar energy industry in Australia, will the Government review current industrial solar tax concessions to ensure that they apply to total solar systems rather than solar panels only? Will the Government also follow the United States lead by providing the maximum incentive possible to solar systems for the home?
– The honourable gentleman takes a very keen and personal interest in the concerns of the business community, both large and small, in the electorate of Isaacs and, of course, the employment prospects which the business community provides. I am happy to say to the House that I did recently open, in the honourable gentleman’s electorate of Isaacs, a very significant office block for Yazaki (Australia) Pty Ltd. That company is one of the largest employers in the honourable gentleman’s electorate. It is true to say, as he mentioned, that the building incorporates an air-conditioning and water cooling plant which derives a very high proportion of its thermal energy from the sun. That system has been developed by the corporation in Japan.
I might say to the honourable gentleman, and to the House, that solar energy has very significant potential in Australia. It is very important that its application should be encouraged as a significant part of this country’s energy program. The House, I am sure, is aware of the very significant contacts which are taking place on a free enterprise and government to government basis in developing solar energy both in Australia and with our partners. The House will recall the discussions which took place between the Australian Prime Minister and the Japanese Prime Minister on his recent visit to this country.
With regard to the particular questions which the honourable gentleman has posed, the Government is very much aware of the tax credits which apply in the United States. I might remind the House that this Government certainly has removed sales tax from solar appliances of all kinds. It does not go as far as the concessions which the honourable gentleman is seeking, but he does have my assurance that this matter will be listed for consideration in the Budget context. In recognition of the potential of the application of solar energy to an increasing number of important projects in this country, the Government has approved an appropriation of some $ 1.85m in the energy research appropriation which is under the jurisdiction of Senator Carrick.
-Can the Prime Minister give an unequivocal assurance that he has complete confidence in the competence and judgment of the President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Sir John Moore?
-Sir John Moore has served this country with distinction over a very long period. I have little doubt that he will continue to do so.
– Is the Treasurer aware of recent premium increases by four general insurance companies? If so, do these increases indicate a concern by these companies that they could have difficulties in meeting claims following years of underwriting deficits? Do these years of underwriting deficits follow the establishment of the Trade Practices Commission and the consequent abolition of the former tariff premium structures? Has the Insurance Commissioner, in his annual reports, drawn attention to the problem of continued underwriting of deficits? Does the Government believe, in all the circumstances and in order to guarantee adequate cover, that it should introduce legislation fixing minimum limits on premium rates or allow a return to the previous tariff system?
-The honourable member for Darling Downs asks a question of some importance and some substance. The matters he has canvassed in the question have been the subject of a considerable volume of representations to individual members. I am aware of the recent announcements that have been made by several insurers that they intend to increase their premium rates. I do not really think that it would be appropriate for me to comment on the commercial considerations which led to those announcements. However, by way of a general comment, I might say that premium changes and underwriting losses are not in themselves the only indicators of an insurer’s ability to meet claims. The overall results of an insurer can reflect a wide variety of factors, including the nature of the cover provided, investment income, the overall efficiency of the insurer, underwriting practices and claims experience.
The tariff arrangements referred to by the honourable member were discontinued several years ago following the introduction of the Trade Practices Act. I might mention, however, that an extension has been granted to 1 September 1980 in respect of existing arrangements in the insurance industry, following an application by the Insurance Council of Australia. In the view of the Government, this period of time will allow the Council time in which to rearrange its activities in the light of the Commission ‘s determination.
I believe that the Government should not take the type of action implied in the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question. I do not think it would be appropriate for the Government to introduce legislation, in effect, providing for minimum premiums. I do not think that is the sort of legislation which would be consonant with the type of free enterprise approach which I am sure the honourable gentleman evinces and to which I am sure the insurance industry as a whole commits itself. I believe that there are more factors than those mentioned by some of these insurance companies in determining the issue of underwriting losses. In all the circumstances, I do not think the interests of the public or of the insurance industry would be advanced by the type of intervention involved in minimum premium legislation. But I can assure the honourable gentleman that some amendments to the Insurance Act are under consideration by the Government at present.
-I draw the Prime Minister’s attention to this comment on Sydney radio on Wednesday morning, that is, yesterday morning, in which he said:
We condemn the terms of the settlement very strongly indeed, because they were taken in the absence of Mr Laidely, in the absence of his Association.
Is it not a fact that there was no place for Mr Laidely at the conference called by Sir John Moore because Mr Laidely ‘s civil action raised a sub judice issue which placed him outside the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission?
-That would seem to be a curious defence of the decision to exclude Mr Laidely from that conference. If that were so, how is it that Sir John Moore has now accepted that there should be a reconvened conference including Mr Laidely and the Australian Petroleum Agents and Distributors Association? Quite plainly, it was an error to have that original conference with Mr Laidely and his Association absent. It ought to be understood, I think, that the whole thrust of the questions from the Australian Labor Party on this subject is one which endorses the power of the Transport Workers Union of Australia and the power of large and powerful companies to dispose of individuals or small corporations and companies in this community as they wish and as they determine. That is a view that this Government, these parties and the Australian people will totally reject.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of a report that he is fanning the flame of the New South Wales petrol dispute in a desperate search for an election issue? Would such an issue have any relevance to a Federal election which may be held this year?
-Some people in the Labor movement- Mr Hawke and Mr Wran- suggest that this Government seeks confrontation with the union movement. The truth of the matter is that every time a major trade union goes on strike and inconveniences the people of this nation or the city of Sydney it is that union that is confronting the people of this country or the people of Sydney. If governments are not prepared to stand against that, since unions are large and powerful, how can individuals stand against it and how how can small corporations, small companies and family companies stand against it? If governments will not stand against that kind of thing, nobody can within this Australian community.
The tragedy is that over the last few days the Australian Labor Party has shown that it is fully prepared to see combinations of capital and combinations of labour join to destroy family businesses, small corporations and individuals seeking to carry out their own activities in a properly lawful way. If that were to continue it would change the face of this nation in a fundamental way, and that cannot be allowed. If Mr Wran- he was talking about confrontation and an election issue- is concerned that it might become an election issue, let him use his influence, let the Australian Labor Party use its influence; let him use his legislation to protect the people of New South Wales and his influence in the union movement to see that there are no more strikes and there is no more inconvenience to the people of Australia. Then it will not be an election issue. If the union movement goes on as it has, and if the Labor Party continues to support it as it has, this certainly will be an election issue.
– I ask the Prime Minister about the status of the Government ‘s import parity oil pricing policy and quote from recent statements by the Minister for National Development and Energy, the Minister for Finance and the Treasurer. When questioned about the passing on of the $2 a barrel Saudi Arabian increase the Minister for National Development and Energy said: ‘The next review will be made when the Government considers it appropriate’. The Minister for Finance said in Toowoomba on 12 March on the same subject: ‘Future increases will be passed on at the appropriate time’. But the Treasurer said at his Press conference on 6 March that the $2 ‘and other future rises will have to be taken into account on 1 July’. That is, of course, the date of adjustment under the announced policy. Can the Prime Minister tell the House which of the statements by the Ministers I have mentioned is Government policy? When will the $2 Saudi Arabian increase which has been operative from 1 January- I repeat ‘1 January’- be passed on to Australian prices? Will any rises from the April and June meetings of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries be passed on to Australian prices on 1 July, as has previously been announced and as has now been reiterated by the Treasurer? In short, is the Government going to have an import parity policy as it has stated, but with the distinction of having import parity prices?
-The honourable gentleman should well know that in an energy policy statement last June, in the middle of last year, the Government indicated that there needed to be some flexibility in the announcement of price increases as a result of OPEC decisions. No government would want to be tied absolutely to the precise timetable of the OPEC countries. By and large, the practice has been for the adjustments to be made twice a year. That practice is totally consistent with the statements of the Ministers.
– In the light of the continuing wool dispute and the grave effects that it is having on wool growers in particular, can the Minister for Primary Industry advise the House whether any arrangements can be made to provide an advance to growers while the dispute continues, it being noted that in some areas these effects are being aggravated by deteriorating drought conditions?
– I have received representations from a number of members of parliament and grower organisations as to the possibility of the Australian Wool Corporation making advances to alleviate the financial difficulties that growers are now encountering as a result of the unfortunate and long drawn out wool dispute. I know that banks in some areas have been sympathetic to. the growers and have tried to assist them in a number of ways; but, as the honourable member rightly points out, a great many growers are still faced with the double difficulty of having their annual wool clip ready for sale and, being unable to sell it; and having to endure drought conditions and to meet increased costs caused by the necessity to purchase fodder of some sort.
This morning I have approved the making of arrangements under section 28A(3) of the Wool Industry Act to provide for advance payments to be made to growers from the Market Support Fund where a sale has been delayed or where wool has been sold and growers have not been able to receive payment. I am also seeking ways of alleviating the difficult financial position of some brokers and buyers who have purchased literally millions of dollars worth of wool and are unable to deliver it and thus obtain payment for it. As a result, they are under enormous financial strain. I hope to clarify that aspect of the matter also today. The negotiations are continuing. I do not think that they have been helped in the last couple of days by the return of the flying negotiator. Nevertheless they are continuing and I am still hopeful that a solution will be obtained. If it is not, certainly payments will go out just as soon as it is practicable for the Corporation to make them.
-Is the Minister for Industry and Commerce aware that by far the highest offer for the pharmaceutical company, Fawnmac, which is at present owned by the Australian people but is being sold by his Government, is that made by the multinational Glaxo Australia Pty Ltd- the company that is bidding for F. H. Faulding and Co. Ltd-at $6.5m? Has the foreign owned and controlled Glaxo made it clear that its intention is to shut the Fawnmac factory over two years, shift its operations to existing Glaxo premises and retrench 50 per cent of Fawnmac ‘s staff, namely, about 100 people? Is it a fact that if Glaxo acquired Faulding and Fawnmac there would be left only two Australian pharmaceutical manufacturers, thus increasing the foreign ownership of the industry beyond the existing 94 per cent?
– The honourable gentleman will be aware that it is not proper for Ministers to indicate what offers have been made, the details of any offers that may have been made, or indeed any details whatsoever about any matter that comes before the Foreign Investment Review Board. I said to the honourable gentleman in response to his question on Tuesday that the issues to which he has drawn attention will of course be thoroughly assessed by the Foreign Investment Review Board, as happens in all these cases. The Board has the matter under review at present. The issues will then come to the Treasurer, who in concert of course with Cabinet colleagues will take a decision. It is not proper for me, beyond that, to make any comment to the House, except to repeat what I said on Tuesday, that is, that the matters to which the honourable gentleman has drawn attention will be very much in the mind of the Board and the Government when a decision is made. It is not for me to indicate any ministerial disposition regarding the matter whatsoever.
-I ask the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs a question concerning Kampuchean or Cambodian refugees presently in Thailand and Vietnam who wish to be reunited with their families in Australia. Do officers of his Department have full and complete access to all refugees in Thai camps or are Australian teams from his Department unable to have access to some border camps for security reasons? If the latter is the case, will he request the Thai Government to guarantee the security of such camps? Additionally, have a number of Kampuchean refugees who are presently resident in Ho Chi Minh City, the old Saigon, in Vietnam made applications to be reunited with relatives in Australia? Is the Vietnamese Government denying officers of his Department entry to that country to process such applications? If entry is being denied to Australian officials, can the Minister tell the House why?
– The problem of IndoChinese refugees generally is a difficult one; it is a problem about which honourable members on both sides of the House, and the honourable member for Higgins in particular, have expressed concern. In respect of Kampucheans, wherever they are located, we have struck some difficulties. Certainly in respect of Indo-Chinese in Vietnam we are having difficulties with the Vietnamese Government which my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, is endeavouring to unravel. Some of the Kampucheans in Thailand are located in border camps and, for valid security reasons, the Thai Government has not allowed access to them by Australian teams or, indeed, teams from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Nonetheless, in respect of many of the Cambodians, Laotians and Vietnamese who are in Thai and Malaysian camps, we have active teams that possess lists of family reunion requests from Indo-Chinese people based in Australia. Not only do we have teams active there all the time but also the Indo-Chinese Refugee Association currently has representatives working with the Department in Thailand in particular in an effort to match up the lists with those persons who are in the camps to which we do have access. I am hopeful that in mid-April we will get the first arrivals of a known list of 600 to 700 Kampucheans who have close relatives in Australia. Provided that they satisfy the relaxed criteria which the Government has announced, I believe that we will see some of those people arrive in Australia. I assure the House that, despite some of the difficulties placed in our way, representations are continuing with the respective governments, especially the Thai and Vietnamese governments. We are hopeful of effecting a substantial number of family reunion resettlements this year.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. I draw the Minister’s attention to an answer given to Senator McClelland by the Leader of the Government in the Senate on 23 May 1979 in relation to the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. Senator Carrick said:
The question of an expansion or otherwise of runways at Mascot or a second airport in New South Wales, as Senator Douglas McClelland would know, will be a matter for joint consultation between the Wran New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Government.
He went on to say:
The ultimate decision in this matter will be a joint one between the two governments’ and therefore is one for the future once the evidence is before the governments.
I draw the Minister’s attention to the expressed opposition of the New South Wales Government to any extension of Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. Is the Minister aware of the concern of local residents surrounding Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport regarding the inordinate delay in the decision on any extension of Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport? Can the Minister explain whether the report of the Commonwealth members of the Major Airport Needs of Sydney Committee reflects the Government’s thinking? Will the Commonwealth Government force the extensions of Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport through, regardless of the wishes of the New South Wales Government and the local communities?
– This is a very interesting question, coming from a member of .the Opposition. He happens to be a member of a party that is in government in New South Wales and a party that is showing an extraordinary lack of interest in the future development of adequate air facilities in the city of Sydney. The Prime Minister wrote to the Premier of New South Wales three years ago and invited the New South Wales Government to provide State officials to join Commonwealth officials on a committee to be called the Major Airport Needs of Sydney Committee. That Committee met for three years, at a cost of well over S2m. My predecessor, the present Minister for Primary Industry, called upon the Minister then responsible in New South Wales to expedite a report from that officials committee. It was resolved that that Committee should report before Christmas last year. It is significant that when it became apparent that the joint Committee was going to make some positive recommendations, the New South Wales officials decided to withdraw from the Committee. In other words, they backed out of it.
– They crawfished out of it; that is a very good term. They left the Commonwealth officials, if you like, holding the can. It was a very courageous thing to do for the city of Sydney! I wrote to the then Minister for Planning and Environment, Mr Landa, seeking to have discussions with him. We had discussions and he washed his hands of the whole affair. We were told that we were going to receive a formal response from the New South Wales Government. I understand that the New South Wales Government finds it too hot a potato to want to hold or discuss.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat.
– It has left the thing in abeyance and it has not the guts to commit itself to a new airport, an extension of the existing airport or anything else.
-During the Minister’s answer, I called upon him to resume his seat. He took no notice of me and kept on speaking. I am prepared to believe that the Minister did not hear me. I draw his attention to the fact that when I ask him to resume his seat so that I may hear a point of order he should do so promptly.
– My point of order is that the Minister did not answer the question. He knew that the Commonwealth members of this Committee had been given one option only.
-There is no point of order.
– My apologies to you, Mr Speaker. I am afraid that the shouting that was going on was more than I could bear.
-i raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Would you restrain the honourable member for Barton? He has been attacking the Minister for Transport because the honourable member is a member of the Liberal Party and the Minister is a National Country Party Minister.
-The honourable member for Reid will resume his seat.
– On this question of Sydney Airport, there is no way at all that the Commonwealth Government can take a unilateral decision in this matter. This Government does require the co-operation of the State Government in the infrastructure requirements to service either a new airport and /or an extension of the existing one. So it has to be a joint responsibility. As I said in answer to a question the other day, we have other Premiers, including the Premier of South Australia and the Premier of Queensland -
-I ask the Minister to confine his remarks to Sydney Airport.
– Yes. I think that what I am saying is very relevant to Sydney Airport. Certainly the Premier of Victoria and those other Premiers are most anxious to develop major gateways from their capital cities to international centres. I am quite satisfied that, if the New South Wales Government continues to show such a gutless attitude, Sydney will lose its pre-eminent position as the major international airport in Australia,
– How many more deaths do you want?
– The honourable gentleman who interjects and looks so worried and uptight is one of the prime architects of the problem.
– While the Minister for Transport is in such an accommodating mood, I address my question to him in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a speech that I made in this House last night during the adjournment debate? Has the Minister studied the content of that speech? Is he aware that, in the course of that speech, I expressed extreme dissatisfaction regarding recent announcements by the Minister for Social Security on the funding arrangements under the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act? More specifically, is the Minister aware that I made an impassioned plea on behalf of the Ferntree Gully and District -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I remind him that the Minister is not responsible to this House for what the honourable member for La Trobe has said. I will give the honourable member an opportunity to put his question in order, and that is to ask the Minister for information about that for which he is responsible to the House.
-Will the Minister give an assurance that he will take up with the Minister for Social Security the question of funding for a hostel for the Ferntree Gully and District Association for the Mentally Handicapped on the basis that that project warrants funding by this Government according to priority and need?
– Yes, I am quite prepared to take that matter up with the honourable senator. I am certain that she will give it compassionate consideration, as she has given representations made by every member of this House.
- Mr Speaker, at some risk I direct a question to the Minister for Transport. I refer to the disturbing evidence that Ansett Airlines of Australia has embarked on a program of overcapitalisation which can be recouped only by substantially higher fares. I ask whether it is a fact that Mr Rupert Murdoch was extravagant in the prices he paid for Ansett shares in the recent share market raids and that this extravagance can be met only by higher fares? Will the Minister give a commitment to resist pressures for excessive fare increases at the expense of air travellers to subsidise the cost of this sort of unwise investment program and speculation? Will he also ensure that the 30 per cent Australian industry participation condition written into the contract for the Trans-Australia Airlines purchase of Airbus aircraft is also applied in full measure to the Ansett acquisition? Finally, will he ensure that all the data on which applications for future fare rises are made is made available to the Opposition for analysis, to reassure a public that might otherwise be cynical as to the possibility of across-the-breakfast-table deals being arrived at which perhaps unfairly favour Mr Murdoch?
- Mr Speaker, not everything happens at the breakfast table or at Breakfast Creek. Nonetheless it is a question that deserves a serious answer.
– If there were an asylum for the sane in the Country Party it would be eternally empty.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. I ask honourable members on my left, including the Leader of the Opposition, to remain silent while the question is being answered.
– There is no doubt that the Government will continue to approve air fare rises according to the criteria that have always applied in respect of applications for air fare increases. There is no way that the Government will be taking into account the capital value, or whatever, of the shares of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd or the price that partners or companies have paid for those shares.
The Government is concerned to ensure that there is equity and that there is a satisfactory basis for the present air fare structure. It is against that background that the Government has decided to undertake an inquiry into the air fare structure throughout Australia, and certainly on the major domestic routes. A number of members of Parliament, particularly from Western Australia and the Northern Territory, have been concerned, for instance, that there, is a considerable degree of cross-subsidisation on the shorter haul routes to the disadvantage of the longer haul routes in Australia.
– This has nothing to do with the question. Do you think you understand it; or should I write to you?
– You are not the only one who is burdened with comprehension. The Leader of the Opposition engages in a lot of frivolity. He is not interested in the answer to the question. Somebody has drafted this question for him. He probably does not understand it. I will endeavour to give him an answer which he may understand. A fares inquiry undoubtedly will have some bearing on the issues he has raised in this question. In regard to another part of his question relating to offsets, I can say that certainly the Government will ensure that those conditions are adhered to. I understand that there has been contact between the principals of Ansett, the Department of Productivity and the Minister for Productivity. Those discussions are taking place to the satisfaction of the Minister for Productivity and of the Department.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware of Press reports of recent months in both the Sydney Morning Herald and the Blue Mountains Gazette alleging that there are military waste dumps in the Blue Mountains area within the electorate of Macquarie? Can the Minister say whether there is any truth in the Press reports, which are the cause of concern amongst many residents of the Blue Mountains area?
-I call the Minister for Defence.
Honourable members interjecting;
– The Minister will resume his seat. I am sure that the House can adjust itself to the sartorial splendour of the honourable gentleman. I ask that honourable members listen to the answer in silence.
– I suppose it had to happen that I would be sat down before I said a word. I am sorry that I have not read the Blue Mountains Gazette. I hope that the honourable gentleman will not feel too disconsolate over getting that news. With respect to the serious part of my honourable friend’s question, I can tell him that these rumours about ordnance in the Blue Mountains have persisted for many years. I can recall Mr Tony Luchetti, the distinguished predecessor of my honourable friend, adverting to that subject over a long period. My understanding is that at the end of World War II, in about 1 946, stocks of ordnance together with mustard gas were destroyed in the Blue Mountains area. Nevertheless, rumours persisted, as I say, over the years. Last year the Department of Defence carried out tests in the area using very sensitive chemical means. Those tests confirmed that the stocks had in fact been destroyed. As a consequence of that I can give the honourable gentleman an assurance that no stocks are present there. It remains for me to say that I hope that the Blue Mountains Gazette will publish those glad tidings.
– Pursuant to section 33 of the Honey Industry Act 1 962I present the annual report of the Australian Honey Board 1 978-79.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Does the honourable gentleman wish to make a personal explanation?
-He may proceed.
-Yesterday during a debate on a matter of public importance concerning Cockburn Sound the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) misrepresented my view. I quote briefly what he said:
The honourable member for Fremantle wants a nuclear free zone around Fremantle.
That is true. He continued.
He is engaged with a whole lot of half wits in that city who want a nuclear free zone.
A little later he said:
That is the sort of nonsense that the honourable member and his colleagues in the Fremantle Council have been going on with. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am happy to report to you that they were absolutely abolished.
Whatever that means. He then went on to say:
They were sent away packing because there are some sensible elements in Fremantle who did not want to be associated with this nonsense.
In fact, what the honourable member was referring to, presumably, was the set of decisions taken by the City of Fremantle on Monday evening. I just take the opportunity to point out that the honourable member misled the Parliament in associating me with certain decisions which were not taken by the Council. I wish to point out, if I may, what decisions were taken. The City of Fremantle intends to sponsor a conference on the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace and to set up a committee with the United Nations Association of Australia. In fact, in Fremantle the question of a nuclear free zone has simply been deferred and will be considered by the Council at a later date. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a news item which accurately reports what happened at the Council meeting last Monday evening.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Was leave granted?
-Leave was not granted.
– Who refused leave?
– I did.
– You made the attack and you refused leave. You gutless cur!
-Mr Speaker, I ask the honourable member to withdraw that remark.
– I did not distinguish the words that were used by the honourable member for Blaxland. I did not hear the actual term used. It is not my practice to inquire from an honourable member what he said because, if offensive words were used, it only occasions him to repeat them. The House will judge whether the honourable member for Blaxland was acting in accordance with the practice of the House.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. On this occasion a practice has been repeated whereby members of the Opposition shout offensive words at honourable members on the Government side. It seems to me that the Hansard record will incorporate those words but there will be no retraction. It seems to me that it is important that people be aware of the style of language used. I ask for those words to be withdrawn. The words used were ‘gutless cur’.
-The honourable member for Macarthur against my wishes repeated the words. I do not appreciate the honourable member for Macarthur ‘s taking my indulgence to the point he did. I warn him that if he does that again -
– Name him.
-I will not name him but I will have to do what I can to indicate to him my displeasure.
– I wish to move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Fremantle incorporating in Hansard a correct record of the proceedings of the Fremantle Council.
-The honourable gentleman will have to put his motion in writing.
The honourable member for Corio having submitted the motion in writing-
-I have received in writing from the honourable member for Corio a motion which seeks to move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Fremantle incorporating in Hansard a correct record of the proceedings of the Fremantle Council. I am afraid I cannot accept the motion because there is no Standing Order which can be suspended for the purpose of incorporating material in Hansard. The practice is for a request to be made. If leave is refused, the request cannot be proceeded with. I can not, therefore, accept the motion. It may be, if the honourable member for Fremantle chooses in the personal explanation which he is making with my indulgence to read the article, the problem would be overcome.
– With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, I point out that the honourable member for Fremantle has shown to me what he sought to incorporate. He said it is a correct record of the proceedings of the Fremantle City Council. What he showed me is a newspaper report. Therefore, there is no way in which this House, or the honourable member for Swan can know whether that is a correct record of the proceedings of the Fremantle City Council.
-The honourable member for Fremantle may speak on a personal explanation with the indulgence of the Chair.
-Responding to the point of the Minister -
-No. I ask the honourable gentleman to proceed within the limits of the indulgence that I have given.
-Just on the question of the authenticity of the report, I have been in touch with the City Manager of the City of Fremantle who has authenticated the report. The report is headed ‘Peace-zone move in Fremantle’. If I may read the report -
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Leave has been refused to incorporate this material in Hansard. Of course, that refusal of leave would be overturned if the honourable member with your indulgence was to seek now to read the newspaper report. I suggest that it is an improper use of the forms of the House and of your indulgence for him to be allowed to do that.
-No. It is my practice to allow a member who is making a personal explanation the opportunity to state where he has been misrepresented and then to state what are the facts. I cannot judge whether the facts as stated by the honourable member are true or not. But I can permit an honourable member the indulgence of the Chair to state what he believes are the true facts as distinct from what he was said to have said.
– The following report headed Peace-zone move in Fremantle ‘ appeared in the West Australian of 1 8 March:
The Fremantle City Council is likely to co-sponsor a conference on the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace with the United Nations Association of Australia.
The council agreed last night to accept an invitation from the United Nations WA branch to form a joint committee to discuss arrangements for a conference representing about 20 nations bordering on, or with a vital interest in, the Indian Ocean.
If satisfactory arrangements can be made the conference will be held in Fremantle in September.
Cr N. Marlborough said that the conference would raise the level of awareness in WA of the United Nations commitment to the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace.
The council will also press for the United Nations ad hoc committee on the Indian Ocean to meet in Fremantle.
A move by Cr D. J. Whittington to have Fremantle declare itself a nuclear-free zone was shelved. But the debate on the issue is likely to be introduced again later in the year.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
That grievances be noted.
-Today, I draw the Parliament’s attention to a situation that devolves on a number of Commonwealth public servants, in particular those who are recipients of superannuation. This Government has recently introduced a variation to its old game of kicking the old people in our society. The rules of this game are based on that older premise of ‘divide and rule’. First it was the turn of the pensioners to be kicked when this Government removed twice yearly indexation of pensions. This was done at a time when there was a growing body of authoritative evidence which suggested that quarterly indexation should be considered. The evidence supported the argument that it would be in the interest of the economy generally to maintain the buying power of the increasing number of age pensioners.
Twice-yearly indexation has been restored because of pressure from pensioners and the Government’s own backbenchers. An important point which emerged from that debacle was that for the first time pensioners were seen to have some political clout. Now it is the turn of the superannuitants to be kicked by the Government. I might bring to this Parliament’s attention the fact that the Government’s own employees, Commonwealth public servants, are required to contribute to the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. They have absolutely no option and no choice in the matter and when they retire they receive the worst of both bargains.
On 14 November last, I made a speech in this House pointing out the anomalous situation which existed among superannuitants under various superannuation schemes. On that occasion I brought the attention of this House to the fact that some recipients under the Federal Government’s own superannuation scheme were disadvantaged vis-a-vis those under State government and State authority schemes. Under Commonwealth superannuation arrangements, it is not possible for a person to refuse all or part of a cost of living adjustment to his superannuation pension in order to retain his entitlement to fringe benefits. I also pointed out that the most affected were fourth division public servants, those who joined the Service late in life, those who, for one reason or another, retire early from the Service, and the surviving spouse of a superannuitant whose entitlement, as honourable members are aware, on the death of the spouse falls to five-eighths of the pension. In other words, those people on the lower economic rungs are once again those hurt most.
I did not suggest when I spoke before that it was desirable that State government superannuitants should have to forgo a cost of living adjustment in order to maintain fringe benefit entitlements. After all, those adjustments were introduced purportedly to maintain the standard of living of superannuitants- a standard of living which was increasingly being eroded by inflation. What I did suggest was that at least State superannuitants had the option to work out for themselves whether it was better for them to forgo a cost of living adjustment or whether they wished to take the cash instead. That option was not available to the Commonwealth’s own employees who are in Commonwealth Government superannuation schemes. In the interests of equity I suggested that the option should be available to Commonwealth superannuitants. Now I find that rather than extending this freedom to its own employees this Government has taken the extraordinary step of denying that freedom to those who previously had it.
I am pleased to see that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) is at the table because it was the iniquitous decision of his own Department which caused this right to be taken away from some people in receipt of superannuation pensions. Fringe benefit entitlements will now be withdrawn from all superannuitants regardless of whether they are Commonwealth, State or local government employees or people in private superannuation schemes who receive a cash weekly payment. This entitlement will be taken away from them regardless of whether they accept the full cost of living adjustment.
The decision to cancel fringe benefits will be based on the assumption that the entitlement barrier has been passed if the full adjustment carries them over it.
– Who made the decision?
-The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs made this decision. He made it regardless of any decision the superannuitant may wish to make about whether he will accept or refuse that adjustment himself.
On 9 January this year, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs issued a policy decision which denied its pensioners a freedom. The pensioners involved were people on war pensions. Some time shortly after, because of the action of this Department, the Department of Social Security decided to enforce an existing but loosely enforced regulation giving it the same power to deny its pensioners this freedom. No longer will a person in poor health, who owns his own home and who needs a telephone to keep in touch with his family and doctor, be able to make a decision whether he should stay with fringe benefits or forgo the cost of living adjustment. He will be forced to join a medical benefit fund. He will probably be forced to give up the telephone- his link with the outside world- in order to pay his rates and to keep a roof over his head.
– And at great cost.
-Yes, at great cost to the community and the individual. In the past, people received the pensioner medical card if the Department did not take up the option. Obviously if we operate in a system which includes fringe benefit entitlements there has to be some point at which those entitlements can be fixed. What I object to is that one group of people is disadvantaged because some years ago they were compelled to pay into a particular type of superannuation scheme or in retirement they made the mistake of opting for a pension type payment rather than a lump sum payment. Remember that we are not talking about those on higher incomes. We are not talking about the people who receive the reasonable superannuation payments that are received by parliamentarians. We are talking about single people on $40 a week or married people on $68 a week.
I ask honourable members to remember that superannuitants pay tax on their pension. It is legitimate, for instance, for a person on a pension, who perhaps works a few hours a week, to decide to forgo some of that work in order that he or she can keep within the fringe benefits level. A public servant who receives his superannuation under the iniquitous rules brought in initially by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will now not be able to do that. It is also quite legitimate for some people to put their money into a new car, home improvements, a holiday, or even give it away as a gift, to maintain their entitlement. The choice is theirs. It is even legitimate to put money into non-interest bearing bank accounts.
The honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield), to his credit, brought this to the attention of the Parliament on 28 February. If there was ever a crook scheme that is one. It is an example of the funneling of public money into private enterprise. It is not only building societies which do this, as the honourable member for Barton brought to the attention of the House, it is the Government’s own bank- the Commonwealth Bank. In a letter which I received from the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) earlier this year he suggested that it was inappropriate for the Government to effect any change that would be inconsistent with the provisions of the Social Services Act 1947. The Commonwealth Bank obviously does not agree with the premise of the Minister for Finance because it provides interest-free bank accounts for people on pensions.
The banks say they are offering a service to their elderly customers. In fact, the banks are getting the use of their elderly customers’ money without paying interest on that money. Interest is paid by the Government in the form of pensions and fringe benefits. Taxpayers’ money is indirectly subsidising private enterprise with once again low and middle income earners bearing a disproportionate amount of the burden. None of those options are open to persons on a fixed superannuation pension. They have no lump sum to divert. A rise in income of a dollar or so, which takes a person just 10c over the cut-off point, means that he or she losses the fringe benefits which could be worth up to $20 a week or even more, because of the way costs of living are escalating. That person’s standard of living is being eroded by a system supposedly designed to maintain those standards. A person has no power to stop this erosion.
The Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) boasted on 21 August last year that the Fraser Government has continued to accord a high priority to income security and social welfare needs. The question that should be asked is: Whose income security and whose social welfare needs? It is bad enough that pensioners’ incomes are eroded every six months, just so they can be topped up again by the Government as a handout. It is positively criminal that people who have for years put aside part of their income in the belief that they were saving for a secure old age should have to live in fear that the next cost of living adjustment could cost them in the vicinity of $20. This Government seems hell bent on turning honest people into liars and welfare cheats. The Government forces people on unemployment benefits to hide the fact that they do occasional work; students on the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowance to say they are not working, to enable them to keep studying; and it forces supporting parents into the same position.
The Fraser Government has continued to accord high priority to income insecurity. Its welfare policy is an exercise in social control and manipulation. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has shown this House, on the opening day of this session, that he considers the use of fear as a legitimate political control- fear of another world war to justify his international grandstanding; fear of unemployment against the work force and fear of the loss of income against unemployed pensioners and students. Fear allows the Government to cheat people of their rights. This Government has demonstrated the most shortsighted, penny pinching attitude to social security. It has shown the most blatant disregard for its victims- the people from whom it has been taking the money. On behalf of my constituents, I demand that this latest assault on individual freedom of people be abandoned.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This is a grievance debate and all true Australians should grieve for what has finally happened to a once great democratic political party, the Australian Labor Party. Yesterday we saw the final seal of doom set on the Australian Labor Party as it was throttled by the extreme left wing. We saw- as is the right of the Australian Labor Party to elect from amongst its members- two persons appointed to the shadow Ministry. They are both persons who are identified as being with the Left of that party. On previous occasions the Labor Party’s factions have usually voted in such a way as to ensure that at least one member from the Right and one member from the Left were elected where equal numbers were to be chosen. Where unequal numbers were to be chosen then there would be a bitter power struggle between the factions to obtain a majority. It is unheard of, in an election in the Australian Labor Party between the two factions, that one faction- in this case the left wing- should be dominant and take 100 per cent of the openings that were available.
We have seen a number of right wing members of this House completely rejected by their colleagues for preferment to the front bench. The honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones), who had a very high reputation for ability in the community before becoming a member of this Parliament, is known as a right wing member of Parliament. The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown), known as a member of the predominant group of the right wing in New South Wales, was rejected by the Federal Labor Party. The honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin), a former senior member of the Australian Labor Party, a person who is knowledgeable on defence matters, was rejected by the Australian Labor Party for preferment to the front bench. These men were dumped and swept aside by the avalanche of influence of the left wing which has seized control of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and which has seized effective control of the Australian Labor Party. In the words of one of the most respected members of the Labor Party, the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), one of the criticisms made of him by the Leader of the Opposition when informing him of his move from his position as shadow Minister for Health was this:
Mr Hayden said I was too concerned about communism and the effect of left wing rhetoric on our electoral chances.
Since when was concern about communism a disqualification for high political office in Australia? We have reached a disgraceful and dangerous situation in which a member of the Labor Party has been criticised by his own leader for being too concerned about communism. He has been crucified, fired, demoted and dismissed from his position on the front bench, because of his concern about communism. This is more serious in principle even that the great split of 1955 or thereabouts. The honourable member for Prospect has said that he was concerned about the effect of left wing rhetoric on the Party’s electoral chances. He is obviously concerned about a lot more than the effect of left wing rhetoric. He is concerned about the effect of left wing policies of the Australian Labor Party.
We all know that the Labor Party is controlled, at least as far as its left wing is concerned, by the trade union movement. There are many trade unions which are dominated and run by communists. That is a known fact. The Labor Party, throught the left wing, has become influenced by the Communist Party. Today we stand with living proof of the final demise of a once great, moderate and reasonable Australian Labor Party. If honourable members need to hear more quotes from Labor Party members, they only have to look at what Senator Georges said in the Senate on 6 March. What member of this House would not be absolutely sickened by the statement of Senator Georges. He said:
With all its limitations, there is more dignity and morality in the Soviet Union than there is in our own society . . .
What sort of a statement is that to be made by a member of the Australian Senate who believes that the dignity and morality in the Soviet Union are at a higher level than in Australia? This shows the depths to which the Australian Labor Party has sunk. We have seen the split developing inexorably over the past 18 months. The former Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, at least had the strength somehow to keep the left wing in line. The new Leader of the Opposition is utterly weak and has sold out to the Left. There are more statements by Labor Party members. Mr Hawke, a former President of the Australian Labor Party and the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, told the ALP National Conference delegates on 19 July, according to a report in the Melbourne Age, that he now feels he cannot trust Mr Hayden. He was reported as also saying on that date that the Leader of the Opposition was gutless and that he no longer had any regard for him. He described the Leader of the Opposition as having sold out to the Left.
– ‘A gutless sell-out’, he said.
– Yes, it was a gutless sell-out. It was reported that Mr Hawke also described the Leader of the Opposition’s deal with the Left ‘as a dereliction of leadership’. He further said that the Leader of the Opposition went to water. On 22 July last year, Mr Hawke was reported as saying: ‘As far as I am concerned, Hayden is dead’. Mr Hawke was also reported as labelling the Leader of the Opposition as ‘a lying …. with a limited future’. He further said that the Leader of the Opposition was a temporary leader. There is a further report quoting the leader of the left wing in this House, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), as saying to the Leader of the Opposition: ‘We have the numbers to roll you’. The left wing has finally rolled him. If honourable members on this side of the House attack and expose what has happened to the Labor Party, as we believe it is our duty to do in the next eight or nine months, and if the media competently expose these matters fully as I believe they will eventually do, I have absolutely no doubt that the Australian public will reject the Labor Party at the next election with absolute horror and revulsion.
We all know that the right wing members of the Labor Party are in deep fear and horror of what is happening in their own party. Right wing members of the Australian Labor Party- or what is left of them- call the left wing of the party ‘the corns’. That is how they speak of the left wing. They know even more than we do what is happening in their own party. They know that in Queensland the Labor Party is splitting because the Leader of the Opposition is leading a movement to destroy the right wing. There will not be two Queensland Labor parties before long; there will be three. To add to the sell-out by the Leader of the Opposition to the left wing in Adelaide we have the Queensland situation; we have what happened yesterday; and we have the complete and utter sell-out by the New South Wales Premier, Mr Wran, to the Transport Workers Union a week ago, when he absolutely caved in to left wing union militancy. Mr Wran once said: ‘Some of my own members think I am a cream puff’. The fact is that that is quite true. Mr Wran is, by his own admission, a cream puff. He completely sold out to the Left.
So, since 1955 we have had the dramatic split in the Labor Party. We have the inexorable move to the left. There are published statements by the leaders of the left wing in this country that their aim is to forget about wining State elections and to forget about winning Federal elections in the short term. Their aim is to stack the Federal Labor Party with left wing members and to preselect left wing candidates for Federal elections even if their party suffers destruction at the polls. It is in their interests to have reduced numbers in this House while they keep stacking it with left wingers. Their published and announced hope is that one day by some error of judgment, this Government will be voted out, on the basis that governments are voted out rather than in. Then one day this ogre of a left wing dominated Labor Party will be sitting astride Australia, waiting to destroy it with its policies advocating immunity for trade unions from any law and from any penalties and all the juggernaut policies the Left would bring about to destroy Australia.
We are dedicated to keeping the Labor Party out of office for 20 or 30 years, if need be, until it eventually purges itself of its left wing and procommunist elements. The public will never wear the Labor Party until it purges itself of those elements. The Labor Party is in disrepute; it is in decay and it will be destroyed electorally. The sooner it destroys its left wing the better because right now the Left has the Labor Party throttled.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have only 10 minutes in which to speak in this grievance debate. What the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) has just said is rot; it is rubbish. He is a frightened man. He knows that he will be defeated at the next election. That is the position.
Today, I wish to speak of the human tragedy of the unemployed. The Australian Bureau of Statistics February unemployment figures were released last week. Honourable members will be aware that these figures have been described as static- ‘static’ meaning not moving, staying the same. It is apparent that this Government is claiming some sort of victory for this. I am frankly amazed that any government could be pleased with unemployment figures that remained stable at 442,400 or 7.2 per cent of the work force. This represents almost half a million people- individuals with rights and dignity. Each has the right to work. So do the 69,000 people seeking part time work and so do those who have dropped out of the race for a job, those who are disheartened and those who just cannot make the grade against the 19 other people with whom they are competing for each and every job available in this country.
The Commonwealth Employment Service January unemployment figures for my electorate of Sydney show that there are more than 12,000 of my constitutents- in fact, 12,455 all told- who cannot get a job. They represent 7 per cent of people who are electors. Let us compare these figures for Sydney, a blue ribbon Labor electorate, with those of the blue ribbon Liberal electorates of Berowra and Bradfield. The electorates of Berowra and Bradfield combined have 138,400 electors. The Hornsby Commonwealth Employment Service, which has up to now serviced the areas in those electorates, recorded for January an unemployment figure of 1,419. This figure represents only one per cent of electors enrolled in Bradfield and Berowra. That figure of one per cent is not very great when compared with the 7 per cent unemployed in the electorate of Sydney, and compared with a national average of 7.2 per cent. There are not 20 people for every one job in Liberal electorates, but there are in Labor electorates.
With these figures in mind, do we need to ask ourselves why this Government has been unconcerned about unemployment? No, we do not. The electorates of Government members are not suffering from unemployment. Government members are not losing votes because of unemployment in their electorates. The hardship and suffering of the unemployed is not close to the hearts of Liberal members. They do not have constituents coming daily into their offices asking for help in obtaining a job or asking for bus fare to get to an interview. To Government members, unemployment is simply numbers and statistics to juggle and to artificially deflate. But to Opposition members, unemployment is not numbers; it is not statistics. It is real people- 442,400 real people- who cannot find work. Some of those people, particularly men and women over 50, have not been able to find work in over a year. Others, especially the young, cannot find work for half a year or more.
The time of reckoning has now arrived. No longer can the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) seek to confuse the public with misleading facts and figures. No longer can he hope to generate a false sense of optimism by introducing yet another schooltowork scheme, or support scheme or apprenticeship scheme. The voice of the community is now speaking. The opinion polls are telling it as it is. Sixty per cent of Australians believe unemployment to be a more important issue than inflation. The latest economic blueprint of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has missed the point. His tax cut sweetener was so paltry that we can dismiss it out of hand. His little economic statement did nothing for those really in need. The Government is working so hard at trying to keep its deficit down and its oil revenue up that it is forgetting that a government, a Budget and an economy do not run just for the sake of running. They run for the people of Australia.
This Government has concerned itself with cutting costs, balancing Budgets, introducing austerity measures and increasing revenue and decreasing handouts. On paper, this may look very tidy and very balanced- neat rows and columns of figures to gladden the hearts of all accountants. But who can count the human cost? Who can estimate it? Not the dollar signs we see gleaming in the Treasurer’s eyes every time he passes a service station. Not Government members whose electorates are virtually untouched by unemployment. The human cost is only truly known to those who are unemployed, those who have spent some of the best days, weeks, months and years of their lives in the fruitless search for a job.
In October last year, State Liberal leaders came to Canberra to ask the Fraser Government for increased funds for capital works to enable the States to embark on major job creation projects. Cuts in Federal funding to the States have forced the postponement of many projects. But who is responsible for engineering and agreeing to these cut-backs? Certainly it seems that not all Ministers of the Fraser Government concur with austerity measures. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), a former Minister for Health and now Minister for Transport, was recently quoted in the Dubbo Liberal as saying that the State electoral district of Castlereagh was ‘one of the most productive areas of the State, yet it has some of the worst facilities in the State, and the people have been badly served by hospital and ambulance services ‘.
The honourable member well knows that inadequate hospital services in the State electoral district of Castlereagh have not a little to do with the massive cutbacks in the hospital development programs. In 1975-76 this program was allocated $37.7m in Federal funds. Under Fraser cutbacks, this program had a nil allocation of funds in 1978-79 and in 1979-80. Since we are in an election year, we may see a change of heart from the Cabinet on capital works funding. Services such as those the honourable member for Gwydir proposed for Dubbo may receive funding this year which, under the ordinary austerity circumstances of the Prime Minister’s policies could not be expected. Yet can we really expect a loosening of the purse strings from the Fraser Government? Its record on job creation so far is not much cause for optimism. Its strategy for the unemployed has been to introduce a maze of schemes, which have appeared to be designed more to confuse and harass the unemployed rather than to offer them support or the promise of employment.
No amount of assurance from this Government that it is truly concerned about unemployment will now convince anyone that this is true. The setting up and dismantling of schemes, the injection and withdrawal of funds, the continual about-faces by this Government have been all too frequent. These actions have caused confusion and greater problems for the unemployed. Who can have faith in a government which has clearly shown it has no idea of what it is doing and no real, effective manpower planning policies? What stand for policies of this Government are a joke. They are poor consolation and no substitute for jobs.
I suggest that this Government set itself the task of channelling funds into job creation programs. Clearly, the Government’s schemes are too complicated to operate effectively and too costly to administer in light of their limited benefits and the fact that they do not ensure work for the people who are brave enough to make use of the schemes. There has been a total failure to communicate between Ministers of this Government. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland) is aware of the grave shortages of tradesmen in industry. The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs is aware that young people are desperate to get apprenticeships. Meanwhile, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Macphee) embarks on a recruiting drive for tradesmen overseas. These three merry men would have a comedy act going if they were not dealing with what is a terrible human tragedy.
This Government’s schemes have been failures. There is ample evidence to demonstrate this. Funding has been slashed because schemes were unworkable because of their complexity, or open to abuse. Naturally the about-faces have ensured that none of the schemes have ever operated successfully. The National Employment and Training Scheme, originally a Labor initiative, has been destroyed by this Government. In the last Budget its funding was slashed from $ 117.8m to $67.8m. The Special Youth Employment Training Program was slashed from $82.6m to $28m. In yet another about-face last December SYETP came in for a facelift. Perhaps one of the honourable members of the Government could explain why a scheme such as this had its funding cut in August because of what the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs described as employer abuse, and then had its funding increased in December? Apparently, by December, employers suddenly became honest.
I am pleased that the Government’s friends, the employers, had become more co-operative by December. Judging by the statistics, they have not co-operated very successfully with the Government in apprenticeship schemes. The number of indentures being cancelled is growing. In 1977-78, 1,813 indentures were cancelled; in 1978-79, 2,536 indentures were cancelled. The number of completed apprenticeships is falling with each successive year. This is despite the varied attempts by this Government to encourage employers to take on and keep apprentices. The Government knows that its policies are failing. Its response has been to offer employers a present of $1,000 to take on extra apprentices. Our revered Prime Minister, in his New Year message to the nation, said:
We must never allow ourselves to be driven into pessimism, panic, defeatism and gloom.
Fine words, when it is his policies which have driven many people into pessimism, panic, defeatism and gloom. In the same speech the Prime Minister admitted that unemployment was still too high. Still! When, in his 4% years in office, has it not been too high? When, in his generosity and wisdom, has he done anything constructive to relieve the situation of the unemployed? It is time that the Prime Minister and his Government accompanied all their fine words with fine actions and fine policies. Let us see some of the petrol revenue dollars go on something other than paltry tax cuts. Let us see some generous and worthwhile handouts go to job creation and capital works.
- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– If the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les
McMahon) is really concerned about the problem of unemployment he might look, firstly, at the policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in relation to apprenticeships- the blockages to the National Training Council’s program and its hopes of improving apprenticeship programs by the policies of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He also ought to look at the principal unemployment creating mechanism in Australia today; that is, the set of industrial awards that have been negotiated under the auspices of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
The term ‘grievance ‘ was never more aptly applied than it is today to the overwhelming feeling of the Australian people about the growing tyranny of trade union power within the Australian community. This morning we were treated to. another dissertation by Mr Hawke, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions for the time being, who had come, not from the petrol queues of Sydney but from the calm tranquillity of Geneva, to lecture those who had been in the petrol queues about where the basis of our problems lies. He said this:
This is one thing currently that’s undermining the authority of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission its the hypocrisy of the Fraser Government.
He went on to say: . . there’s no evidence that the community as a whole is unhappy with the arbitration system and the unhappiness is being generated and deliberately provoked by this provocative man, this mean man Mr Fraser . . .
You could have fooled me. Perhaps the news that was getting through to Geneva was a little different from the news that was getting through to the people sitting in the petrol queues of Sydney, or to the farmers who had paid the wages to have their wool crop sheared and were still waiting to receive the money that they had earned over the previous 12 months. Perhaps this news had not reached Geneva and had not reached this arrogant man who came back to give us his version of events. I turn now to the question of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, whose function is to resolve disputes. Its function is limited under the Commonwealth Constitution. In this House yesterday the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) truthfully said:
All that Sir John Moore is charged with under the Constitution is the settling of disputes and that is what he did last week. He settled the dispute and the people are back at work.
When Hitler wanted Czechoslovakia there was a dispute and Mr Chamberlain went to Munich in the hope of settling it. The dispute was settled, the Germans went into Czechoslovakia and the people of Europe went back to work. But for how long did they go back to work? Since 1969 the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has resolved disputes according to a one-way process. There is no corporation or individual proprietor in Australia that can afford in any way to defy a judgment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The laws are there to require corporations and individuals to meet the decisions of that Commission. Those laws can be enforced and people can be put out of business if they do not comply with the law.
No law which currently operates in Australia satisfactorily can oblige a union or its members to accept the decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The most recent example of this is in the wool industry dispute in which there is an absolutely clear-cut case of what has happened to the Commission since 1969. A. decision was made by a Deputy President appointed by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) in an aberration some years ago- or maybe it was not in his view. The decision was appealed, under the rules which are agreed by all parties, to the Full Bench. The Full Bench made a decision, reduced the award that had been made by Mr Justice Staples, but still granted a substantial increase in wages to the workers of the Storemen and Packers Union. Mr Simon Crean, who is the spokesman for that union, has told us again and again on television, night after night, that the reality is that the union is not accepting that decision. The reality is that no civil power, legal power or government power in this country can force the union to accept that decision. It has been suggested that people might take their own wool and put it on ships, transport it in trucks to the wharves and load it on ships. But Mr Crean says arrogantly night after night: ‘The reality is that they cannot do that because just as we bullied the Commission, just as we bullied the employers, the Government and the public we will also bully those who would transport the wool to the wharves and we will also bully those who might possibly load it on to ships. We will also ensure that the bullies in the Seamen’s Union stop people from sending it anywhere. ‘
– Who said that?
-That was said by Simon Crean of the Storemen and Packers Union who, night after night, says: ‘This is the reality of industrial power’. If that is the reality, if that is the morass into which the Australian Labor Party wishes to put all matters relating to industrial law, if that is the toothless and hopeless area which is supposed to swallow up not only current industrial disputes but also trade practices disputes such as are governed by section 45D of the Trade Practices Act, we want none of it. To consign yet another area of people’s liberties to the industrial law, to the morass of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission- that process of socalled conciliation and arbitration, which moves in one direction only- is to deny basic civil liberties.
If my neighbour wants half of my land, under the existing law my neighbour cannot claim it. Under the law I can defend my rights to my property. Under the industrial law, if somebody wants half of somebody else’s property the matter goes before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. There is a conciliation, so-called, and there is an arbitration. Under that process half of the person’s entitlement is taken away. How does one negotiate or conciliate matters of fundamental liberty and principle? How far can this be taken? All I say is that those who believe that what is happening this week, what happened last week or what will happen next week will see the end of this problem, that the panorama unfolding on the television screen will somehow miraculously, by the end of 1980 or 1981, result in a resolution of the problem, are mistaken. Much more fundamental issues are involved.
If we go back into our history we see that in the early stages the barons became too powerful and oppressed the people. Kings arose to redress that imbalance. The kings set up a system of common law but eventually they also became too powerful and parliaments arose to assert a right on behalf of the people that they not be oppressed. Later corporations arose, but they also became too powerful and oppressed the people. Then the trade union movement, in common with social reformers, arose to redress the power of the corporations. The corporations are currently subject to a wide body of law which is enforceable. Since then the trade unions have gone beyond their normal and original wise and good objectives and have also become too powerful. Given the great sweep of history, it will be extremely difficult to redress that imbalance of power. We see the parliaments defied. We see the courts defied. Also defied is an instrument of the Parliament, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, set up under the Constitution, and we see no clear-cut way of resolving the matter.
We are told that all of the sanctions which normally apply to any body of law are unenforceable and since 1969 that appears to have been the case. I do not believe that the problem will be resolved until we can get back to a system in which all are equal under the law. It is all very well to say that might is right and to talk about the reality of the situation. Every day the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) lectures us on what is correct under the concept of might is right, but until we get back to the point at which everybody in the country, every power group, every interest is subject to the same rule of law we will not solve the problem. What we do today, tomorrow or next week is but part of the long process of history. All I can say to those honourable members opposite who have surrendered abjectly to the power of the unions is that they will face a long fight with us; that we will stand for people’s rights and for the equal rights of all under the law. I speak on behalf of all who stand in petrol queues and probably will do so in the future.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to raise some matters concerning the rights of individuals in respect of which the Government has not given much protection. I am rather disappointed that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) had to leave the table during the grievance debate because the matters that I raise are directly under his administration. I hoped that they would have been considered important enough to evoke from him some sort of public response. I listened the other day when, in response to a Dorothy Dix question from one of the Tasmanian members, he spoke glowingly of the audit report on the repatriation hospital in Hobart. I am not denying that that report was excellent. As a matter of fact, I am the vicepresident of the board of management of a substantial hospital, whose executive director was a member of the audit team. He assures me that it is of a very fine standard.
A Minister must also be prepared to respond to queries that are raised with regard to aspects of his administration which are not so pleasant. This is particularly so in a period when a lot of sabre rattling and talk of defence are going on. It is essential that a government, a people, shows appreciation for the service that has been given by its servicemen in the past. Lip service is not enough. Practical action is important.
Information on the matter that I am raising has been circulated, I believe, to all members of this House by the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association of Victoria. It has also been circulated among the media, but so far has evoked no response or comment anywhere.
The Association is very disturbed that the promises made over a number of years by various governments, that they would ensure that exservicemen and their dependants would be well cared for and recompensed for injuries and accompanying ill-health occasioned by war service, have not been kept. The Association is completely disenchanted with the present Government’s policy of dishonouring those promises. It comments that over a long period inroads have been made in relation to compensation for exservicemen. I might add that the Association also comments that it is to the credit of the Whitlam Government that, during its short term in office, it did much to commence to restore the rights of war veterans and their dependants. That Government acknowledged its statutory obligation to look after veterans.
Possibly the most damning thing that happened in this field was the withdrawal of free medical services to the spouse and children of veterans, without any compensating scheme or mechanism being provided. We know that the Whitlam Government introduced Medibank, which solved some of those deficiencies. But now Medibank has been completely wrecked and no further action has been taken to benefit these people. They complain that there are long delays in gaining admittance to repatriation hospitals. I would like specific details of the situation to be provided by the Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs.
– Whereabouts? Not in Sydney or Melbourne.
– I will respond to my honourable friend from North Sydney because he ought to be very interested in this. As I have stated, the submission is from the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association of Victoria so it would, one assumes, be speaking of the Victorian scene in particular. But the matters it raises are ones of general principle which apply to its particular group. It states that waiting lists are long but this is inexcusable when the Government should surely have been able, from statistical sources, to plan for the future.
There is another matter that the Association is concerned to take up with the present Minister. I will read its statement on this matter because I think that that is the simplest way of describing its concern. In the Association’s letter to the Minister, it says:
Veterans are perplexed at the variance in content of your statements of concern for veteran welfare, with your repeated statements that veterans must accept a share of reduced benefits and rights in these inflationary times, with what seems a contradictory statement in the Parliament (Hansard page 2372) that the Service Pension is given at 60 years of age as compensation for the indefinable preaging of veterans as a result of war service, which, I might add -
Here it is referring to the service pension- is subject to a means test. Thus negating the truism as enunciated by you as to its origin being compensation.
In talking about the problems of ex-servicemen, we do have difficulty in measuring that indefinable pre-aging and the indefinable effects of stress. Often they are disadvantaged because of this. The Association expresses its concern about the nature of dealing with appeals. It finds that the quasi-judicial systems seems to intimidate rather than provide a system which is free.
– The Association says this, does it?
– Yes, the Association says this in its letter to the Minister. The Association is complaining that it should be an easy system free of legalistic trappings.
– The Labor Party altered it.
– My honourable friend from North Sydney (Mr Graham) says that the Labor Party altered it. Yes, the Labor Party altered it by giving ex-servicemen for the first time reasons for the rejection of their appeals. So, those exservicemen knew the grounds for rejection and had some chance of putting up a case for fresh appeal.
I turn now to some of the more specific points mentioned by the Association in its supporting table. It points out that the pension rates for the totally and permanently incapacitated started to reduce after the Labor Party lost office in 1949 and continued to do so. They reached their lowest point ever in 1978 when the Liberal Party was in power. The Association makes the comment that although indexation has been restored, recognising some form of injustice, it has not solved the inequitable distribution of money to those people who gave service to Australia so that they get their compensation. The Association submits also that the relative purchasing power of the TPI pension should be restored to something in the order of the weighted average wage in 1920.
When we look at some of the more specific matters- it is to the shame of this Parliament that we have not looked previously at some of these aspects- we see that wives’ allowances were granted in 1920. These allowances were fixed at 22.5 per cent of the TPI pension. It is now 3.66 per cent. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs claims that it has not been increased because it is now covered by social security. That is incorrect. The service pension does not cover those TPI people on equivalent service pensions whose wives are not working. The wives are looking after their husbands; thus they are unemployable. The Association suggests that the purchasing power of that allowance should be restored.
I have spoken already of the removal of medical, hospital, dental and ancillary services to wives and dependants, the effect that that has had and the effect that the destruction of Medibank has had. In the submission of the Association, questions are raised about domestic allowances, education allowances, the service pension, recreational and transport allowances, attendance allowances, geriatric services and so on. It points out the erosion of all these privileges. I raise this matter in the Parliament because all honourable members have received this submission. The media has received this submission also. No one has spoken up for the Association and the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) has not responded to it. Although I have not been able to state the complete case, it is about time that the Minister took a comprehensive look at what his Department will do for these veterans and report to the Parliament so that honourable members can discuss it and offer opinions in order that we can see, with all this talk of patriotism, what the Government is really about.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, everybody in this House would like to see better employment opportunities. They would like to see a higher demand for labour than has existed in recent years. Even though honourable members are united in that wish certain facts deserve to be acknowledged. Quite simply they are these: During the past year there has been the best demand for labour and the highest increase in employed positions in the Australian workforce since the beginning of the first oil crisis. I take that as the point at which to begin as it is quite crucial.
There is a common feature about all economies, including the Australian economy and other industrialised economies, since the end of 1973. Since the first oil crisis these have been the best signs of hope. What are those signs? Firstly, the number of people in employment in 1979 was in excess of 150,000 more than it was during the previous year. Most significantly, the number of males in employment was 80,000 in excess of what it was in the previous year. For example, in the previous six years the figure only increased by 60,000.
I want to say one or two things about this important matter. Up to the end of last year, people in employment, in excess of what could have been foreshadowed according to the trends since 1973, were something in the order of 15,000 males and in excess of 30,000 females. That is the long term position. It ought to give Australians a lot of hope for another reason which is far more important. Quite simply, the structural barrier to increased employment has been altered. Previously there had to be a greatly increased amount of output in Australia for a long time before there was an increased demand for people in employment. That relationship has been altered. In other words, changes in the output in Australia are reflected very quickly in an increased demand for labour. Those increases in output have to occur for a short time before we get that increased demand for labour. In the total Australian economy, we do not have to run as far, or as quickly, in order for there to be more job opportunities. That is good.
I am concerned also about the distribution of those opportunities which is important. We cannot ignore it. Mussolini, in his own way, was probably the best sloganiser of the 1920s and 1930s. He suffered an unfortunate fate in 1945 but he did give the world a system of political organisations whch we have to be very careful does not grow upon us by stealth. This was the system of corporatism, big business and big unions, lt was aided and lubricated very much by its own bureaucracy. One has to be careful that there is not in Australia a repeat performance of that kind of situation. That can occur under private enterprise as it can occur under socialism.
In the few minutes left to me, I will deal with the distribution of those employment opportunities. I seek the leave of the House to incorporate a table in Hansard which will show the increase in the Australian employed workforce from 1973 to 1979.
The table read as follows-
Mr KEVIN CAIRNS I will give one or two details from that table. During the period 1973-79, depending on what base is used, the Australian employed workforce increased by between 5 per cent and 6 per cent. It varied very much between the States and the Commonwealth, from a low of something like 2 per cent to a high in Western Australia of over 13 per cent, or a high in Queensland of over 1 4 per cent. Other States fell between those figures. Have the opportunities at all levels of employment accompanied the relative contribution to the employed workforce gained in the various States? They have not. This is what I am concerned about today.
A series of data is available on the placement of university graduates in Australia and this data simply shows that opportunities are not being given to people in the various States of the Commonwealth according to the wealth being produced in those States. In other words, in States where there has been a very greatly increased employed labour force the opportunities for people to exert an influence at all levels of private enterprise are not reflecting themselves. I am concerned particularly at the position of Queensland and Western Australia because they stand out. As I have indicated their rate of growth of employed labour force has been several times in excess of what has occurred in the rest of the country. Like opportunities have not been given, for example, to university graduates in those States according to the wealth being produced in them or according to the profits available to private enterprise in those States. I say that this distortion is a function of the centralisation and the increasing centralisation of private enterprise. I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard a table relating to the placement of university graduates.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. I want to refer to one or two points in that table. When one looks at the placement of university graduates by State in 1972 and later data from 1975 to 1979 one comes up with these figures: Of those still seeking to obtain employment at the beginning of May in the year succeeding graduation, consistently over that period, the greatest number still seeking employment comes from Western Australia and Queensland. When one has a look at the proportion of these graduates who have to go into the Public Service, although they are private enterprise States and although private enterprise is making enormous wealth in them- one only has to look, for example, at the profits of Utah Mining (Aust.) Ltd- there is a distortion there. Those States have to have the greatest proportion of their graduates going into public enterprise of any of the States. There is not an appropriate distribution of employment opportunities. I will not give the House the figures because of time limitations and because these figures will be incorporated in Hansard.
When one looks at the placement within private industry and commerce itself, those two States get the smallest proportion of their graduates into private industry and commerce compared with the rest of Australia. This is in spite of the fact that they are leading the way in the rate of growth of production and wealth within their own borders.
– In a sense it is because of it. It is in relation to capital intensity.
– That is a part of the reason. Being capital intensive does not mean that opportunities have to be centralised.
– Why not?
-A computer technology does not have to go hand in hand with centralisation, but that is another point. I would suggest that various things need to be examined. Attempts should be made to have a better distribution of opportunities in private enterprise from top to the bottom where wealth is produced and where administrative centres are being developed. That is not occurring. In other words, if this does not occur people will think twice about supporting private enterprise. One of the great evils of socialism has been its centralisation. If private enterprise develops centralisation tendencies, many of those who want to support private enterprise will have to think twice about the proposition. So centralisation of capital without heeding its effects is not on. There are social effects of what is happening with respect to centralisation. Opportunities are not being distributed according to where the wealth is produced or to where executive decisions are being made. The greater wealth is not being developed according to the opportunities which are available.
I suggest that if there was more nett wealth being produced, there ought to be an appropriate and an accompanying increase in the opportunities for those with talent at all levels to exercise their talents in those areas. It is not occurring in Australia at the moment. One of the results from the rash of mergers that has occurred in enterprise is that there has been the centralisation and the centralisation cannot be allowed to occur without having in mind the social effects of what is occurring. Chambers of commerce or confederations of industry ought to take an interest in this because it concerns the basic structure in which they operate. If they do not take account of it they can be responsible for the free movement of capital for a very grave structural imbalance in the Australian economy which will hurt people and it is those people who are required ultimately to support private enterprise both as to its effects and to its distribution of appropriate opportunities.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In today’s grievance debate I want to raise further questions about the British nuclear weapons tests that were conducted in South Australia from the early 1950s to the early 1960s. In particular I would like to open up the question of the effect of those tests on the health of Australians who were involved in the weapons testing program at that time. I raise this matter because I have received further evidence which I present to the House that people who formerly worked at the weapons test sites have since contracted cancer and some of them have died. I also raise this matter because there is more and more evidence in the United States that many have suffered as a consequence of the Nevada nuclear weapons tests. Yet, in this country the Fraser Government still refuses to acknowledge that there have been people whose health has been affected by such tests. It even refuses to carry out or follow up any studies of health by the Australian personnel who worked at Maralinga and Emu.
Last year I was approached by a Melbourne woman concerning her continued attempts to gain fair compensation for herself and her children for the death of her husband in 1966. The woman’s late husband, William Jones, had been a member of the Army from 1952 to 1965 when he was discharged as medically unfit for military service. He died of carcinoma nine months later in 1966 at the age of 39. Mrs Jones says that her husband was sent on a secret mission for several months from his home base at Puckapunyal to Woomera in South Australia in late 1953. She says that his crew took a tank to be placed in the blast of an atomic explosion. She believes that after the explosion he went back to bring the tank out, but it did not work; so he remained in the blast area for two days waiting for parts. There is evidence to support her story in the book Blast the Bush by Len Beadell. It is the story of the first atomic test at Emu on 15 October 1953. Mr Beadell says that a Centurion tank was transported to Emu and placed close to the bomb with a dummy inside to test the effects of the atomic blast. I believe that Mrs Jones’ claims should be examined and investigated.
After her husband ‘s death, Mrs Jones applied for compensation for herself and her five children on his behalf. After a long battle she was finally awarded compensation, in 1974, under the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act. The delegate of the Commissioner for Employees Compensation determined that the disease William Jones had suffered from constituted a disease due to the nature of his employment with the Army. I want to stress that aspect. It was a metastatic carcinoma of bone. He also determined that William Jones’ death resulted from a disease due to the nature of his employment. I seek leave to have these two determinations incorporated in Hansard.
The documents read as follows-
COMPENSATION (AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES) ACT 1971-1973
William Charles JONES, also known as William Cameron JONES
Ex 3422 1 - Warrant Officer
Department of Defence (Army Office)
In the matter of the claim of William Charles JONES also know as William Cameron JONES for compensation in respect of muscle weakness upper and lower limbs.
On the evidence before me including specialist medical opinion, I find that the condition of metastatic carcinoma of bone and carcinomatous neuropathy suffered by the said William Charles Jones also known as William Cameron Jones constituted a disease due to the nature of his employment by the Department of Defence (Army Office) within the meaning of section 10 of the Commonwealth Employees ‘ Compensation Act 1930, as amended;
NOW THEREFORE, in pursuance of the provisions of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 1971-1973, including sections 4 (2) and 104 ( 1) of that Act, I hereby determine:-
the determination dated 30 October 1964 is hereby revoked.
the said William Charles Jones also known as William Cameron Jones contracted a disease namely metastatic carcinoma of bone and carcinomatous neuropathy in circumstances under which the De- partment of Defence (Army Office) would have been l iable to pay compensation under the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act 1930, as amended, and the Department of Defence (Army Office) is therefore liable to pay compensation in respect of the said disease in accordance with the provisions of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 1971-1973:
Delegate of the Commissioner for Employees ‘ Compensation 2 Apr 1974
COMPENSATION (AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES) ACT 1971-1973
William Cameron JONES (Deceased), also known as William Charles JONES-Warrant Officer
Department of Defence (Army Office)
In the matter of the claim of Audrey Bessie JONES for compensation in respect of the death of William Cameron JONES, also known as William Charles JONES, formerly Warrant Officer, Department of Defence (Army Office).
1 ) On the evidence before me, I nowfind that the death of the said William Cameron Jones, also known as William Charles Jones, on 9 January 1966 resulted from a disease due to the nature of his employment by the Department of Defence (Army Office) within the meaning of section 10 of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930, as amended.
NOW THEREFORE, in pursuance of the provisions of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 1971-1973, including sections 4 (2) and 104 ( 1 ) of that Act, I hereby determine:-
the determination dated5 May 1972 is hereby revoked.
the death of the said William Cameron Jones, also known as William Charles Jones, on 9 January 1966 resulted from a disease in circumstances under which the Department of Defence (Army Office) would have been liable to pay compensation under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930, as amended.
the Department of Defence (Army Office) is therefore liable to pay compensation in accordance with the provisions of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 1 97 1- 1 973.
the dependants of the said William Cameron Jones, also known as William Charles Jones, are:-
Audrey Bessie Jones, widow;
Terrence William Jones, son, born 13 July 1954
Leanne Patricia Jones, daughter, born 3 January 1959
Tracy Darlene Jones, daughter, born 29 October 1962, and
Rick Cameron Jones, son, born 29 October 1 962.
the amount of compensation payable to the said Audrey Bessie Jones in accordance with the provisions of sections 43 (3) and 104 (4) of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 197 1-1 973 is $8,600.
the amounts of compensation payable in accordance with sections 5(1), 43(5) and 104(8) of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 1971-1973:
in respect of Terrence William Jones are$2.25 per week from 10 January 1966 until 8 November 1967,$2.45 per week from 9 November 1967 until 2 December 1968,$2.50 per week from 3 December 1968 until 23 June 1970. and $2.80 per week from 24 June 1970 until 13 July 1970.
in respect of Leanne Patricia Jones, Tracy Darlene Jones and Rick Cameron Jones, are $2.25 per week each from 10 January 1966 until 8 November 1967, $2,45 per week each from 9 November 1967 until 2 December 1968, $2.50 per week each from 3 December 1968 until 23 June 1970, $2.80 per week each from 24 June 1970 until 24 May 1971, and $5.00 per week each from 25 May 1971 until a date to be determined by the Commissioner or his Delegate. and I further determine:-
the amount of $8,600 shall be paid in a lump sum to the said Audrey Bessie Jones; and
unless otherwise directed by the Commissioner or his Delegate the weekly amount payable in respect of Terrence William Jones, Leanne Patricia Jones, Tracy Darlene Jones, and Rick Cameron Jones, shall be paid to the said Audrey Bessie Jones.
the amount payable in accordance with the provisions of sections 44 and 104 ( 10) of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 1 97 1 - 1 973 in respect of funeral expenses is $ 1 20 and the said amount shall be paid to the said Audrey Bessie Jones.
Delegate of the Commissioner for Employees ‘ Compensation
– I thank the House. Let us examine the evidence these documents present. The delegate has determined that some factor in William Jones’ Army work caused him to get this cancer. If Mrs Jones’ story is accurate then we can conclude only that this factor was radiation at Emu. If her story is denied by the authorities then we must also be told what was the factor that led to the delegate’s determination. But the evidence as it stands suggests that William Jones was a victim of radiation at Emu and that this was reluctantly admitted even within the bureaucracy. One of the features which stands out in this case is the frustration and secrecy which confronted Mrs Jones throughout her struggle. William Jones tried to get compensation for his illness before he died, but failed. Mrs Jones says that she then first sought compensation as far back as 1968, but from the start she was hampered by secrecy. Everyone associated with her late husband’s trip to Woomera had been told to keep quiet. They were too scared to say too much and the Army was not about to offer any information. That is the sad situation in these sorts of cases. The Army had little concern for Mrs Jones and the children she was struggling to bring up. She persisted, despite knockbacks, until 1974, when she won the determinations to which I have referred. Eight years after her husband’s death a lump sum of $8,600 and small weekly payments for each child were awarded, and I am pleased to see that the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson), who is sitting at the table, is listening intently to this speech. But the Army then haggled for three and a half years over how much should be paid for William Jones’s medical expenses and lost wages. The amount of $585 that was awarded is still disputed by Mrs Jones. But 12 years after her husband’s death she has had enough. Mrs Jones still feels that her husband’s life was worth more than the compensation she received in 1974. Why has Mrs Jones had to battle so long for fair compensation? Why has there been so much delay and frustration? These questions should be answered.
We also must ask how many other people who worked on the weapons tests have cancer. How many of them have sought compensation? How many have been too intimidated to try? There is evidence that other people have been affected. In 1977 I was approached on behalf of a group of former Commonwealth police who had worked at Maralinga in the 1950s and 1960s. I was told of four of their colleagues who had died of cancer and two others who were dying of cancer. At that time I made the information public in a Press statement. I have since been informed that these people know of others who worked at Maralinga and who are now suffering from cancer. There have been other disturbing reports in the Press. In 1 978 I asked the then Minister for Health to institute a follow-up health study among all those who had worked at Maralinga during the weapons tests. This is what had been done in the United States. But he refused with the stock reply that the monitoring procedures were stringent and no one was exposed to dangerous radiation. I have since asked him to explain in what way the situation differed from the United States weapons tests but he has failed to answer that. I have also asked the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) for details of the health of former Commonwealth police who were stationed at Maralinga. He also has refused to follow up that matter. I seek leave to incorporate in the Hansard those questions and the answers from the Ministers.
Atomic Tests: Radiation (Question No. 921)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 1 1 April 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The majority of those who were conducting and monitoring the tests at Maralinga were UK personnel. Any follow-up studies on those persons would be a matter for the UK Government to decide upon.
Because of the stringent monitoring procedures undertaken at the time and the fact that they were not exposed to dangerous radiation, there is no proposal to institute studies on Australians who were in support of the UK activities at Maralinga from the rear areas. (Question No. 3515)
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 2 7 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2) (a) and (b). Having regard to the expenditure of resources involved in searching out records that are between 14 and 27 years old, and the ensuing problem of tracing exmembers of the Commonwealth Police who could be located in a number of countries, I do not think it would be appropriate for me to authorise the considerable expenditure necessary to search out and check the detailed information required to answer the question by the honourable member. If, however, the honourable member has any specific information, I would be happy to discuss the matter further with him. (Question No. 2746)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 9 November 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
-I thank the House. So the Government can give no greater assurance about the health effects of the weapons tests than its tired old rhetoric. The Government says that the risks were too small and monitoring too stringent for there to be anything to worry about. The United States Atomic Energy Commission has said that for years, but people in the United States are continuing to agitate. Many exmilitary personnel have been located and found to be suffering from the effects of leukaemia and cancer. The evidence indicates that the incidence of these diseases is higher than normal. Ten people in the United States are receiving compensation for what they have suffered.
I am now asking the Government, through the Minister at the table, to re-examine Mrs Jones’ case and to award adequate compensation if the facts I have outlined are as stated. The Government should be more compassionate. The amount of compensation awarded to Mrs Jones is mean and miserable. Not only should the Government have another look at Mrs Jones’ case but it should also undertake a thorough investigation into the health of those people who worked on weapons testing in the 50s and 60s. If a government has made a mistake, whether it be the United States Government, the United Kingdom Government or the Australian Government, it is about time they said: ‘We were wrong. Let us now correct our mistakes ‘. The real issue is one of compassionate treatment by the Government. The Government should give greater consideration to these people particularly those who are suffering so much. I hope that the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr McLeay), who is responsible for police matters and who has just entered the chamber, will take cognisance of what I have said.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. It now being 12.45 p.m., in accordance with Standing Order 106 the debate is interrupted, and I put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr Speaker has received a letter from the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to establish land rights for Pitjantjatjara people in South Australia and Noonkanbah people in Western Australia.
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-
– This is the third occasion that this matter has been proposed. I am pleased to see that the Parliament is now to have an opportunity to debate the fundamental question of human rights for the Aboriginal people.
Motion (by Mr Eric Robinson) put:
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. ( Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond )
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The motion is seconded by my colleague, the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West).
Order! Can I have the motion in writing?
Mr Wallis having submitted his motion in writing-
– This is the third time in four sitting days -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the honourable member be not further heard.
The House divided. ( Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond )
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-Is there a seconder of the motion?
– I second the motion, Mr Deputy Speaker. This Government has become renowned for its shabby, cynical treatment of the Aboriginal people-
Motion ( by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the honourable member be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Order! The honourable member for Wills will resume his seat. The question now is that the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders be agreed to.
-MrDeputy Speaker, the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) continually disgraces this Parliament by gagging free votes, suppressing all the independent people of Australia. Honourable members opposite talk of freedom and the right for life, yet they are suppressing the Aboriginal people who are the most hard done by in all the community.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question put.
That the motion (Mr Wallis’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-The honourable member may proceed.
– My attention has been drawn to two reports, one in the Canberra Times and one in the Courier-Mail, concerning the procedure in this House yesterday evening. The report in the Canberra Times under the heading ‘Backbench rebel’ stated:
A Government backbencher voted last night against legislation abolishing the post of the Commissioner of Community Relations, Mr Al Grassby.
Mr Yates (Lib, Vic) strode across the floor after the Government whip, Mr Bourchier, moved the gag as Mr Yates was about to speak on the Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill.
All members present in the House and even those in the galleries know that I have supported the Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill in every possible division and, therefore, they must also know that I could not have been a rebel and that I did not at any time vote against Government legislation at all, but sought only to maintain my right to speak when called by the Chair. I look forward to receiving an apology from those concerned.
Bill presented by Mr John McLeay, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to identify the status and role of the Australian Bicentennial Authority and guarantee its autonomy and continuity until its intended winding-up on or before 30 June 1990. Honourable members will recall that in a statement to the House on 5 April 1979, the
Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) foreshadowed such legislation when he announced that, following consultation and agreement with the States and the Northern Territory, the Authority was to be established and be responsible for the planning and staging of a major commemoration of the Australian Bicentenary 1988. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) also spoke at the time and welcomed the Prime Minister’s statement of commitment as a fitting one for this most important occasion.
The Authority is registered as a company, limited by guarantee under the Australian Capital Territory Companies Ordinance 1962. In keeping with the bipartisan approach so appropriate to this nationally important matter of the Bicentenary, the subscribers to the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Authority are the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), myself as Minister for Administrative Services, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen), the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition in each of the States, the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the Northern Territory and Mr J. B. Reid, Chairman of the Authority. I announced recently the names of the 17 members of the board of directors of the company, seven of whom are appointees of the Commonwealth, one from each State and the Australian Capital Territory. Another seven are appointees of the States and the Northern Territory, one from each; and two are appointees from this Parliament, one from the Government side and the other from the Opposition. The seventeenth member is the Chairman, Mr J. B. Reid.
Honourable members will appreciate that a board of directors of 17 is somewhat large, but for reasons that will be obvious it could scarcely be any smaller. To make it any larger would of course tend to make it unwieldy; indeed it could become quite counter-productive. At the same time, there is much talent and experience available which should be brought to bear upon the planning and staging of the Bicentenary, not only to achieve the objective of a national commemoration, but to achieve it well, and in the best possible way with the solid support and involvement of all Australians. The framework of administrative arrangements agreed with the States and the Northern Territory, the Memorandum and Articles of Association and this Bill have been designed with this in mind.
The Bicentenary year is less than eight years away, but in that time, for different phases of the preparations, there will be a need for different skills, different approaches, different experiences and different considerations. To meet this, the Articles of Association provide for varying terms of appointment of directors. They can be for two, three, four or five years and so provide for stability and continuity of the board. Some directors, whose experiences would be of great benefit to the board, may not be willing to undertake long term appointments. The initial appointments recently announced, because it is the initial period, are all for short terms. With the exception of Western Australia, the States and Northern Territory appointees and the Commonwealth appointee for the Australian Capital Territory have three-year terms, while the other appointees have two year terms. The two Federal parliamentarians have been appointed for three years.
The Chairman was appointed by the Prime Minister and the Bill provides for the termination of his appointment in the event of misbehaviour or incapability or on six months notice should either party wish such termination. The States and Territories bicentennial committees will provide the opportunities for effective representation of community and other interest groups. As well, the directors of the Authority are empowered under the Articles of Association to appoint additional committees consisting of members and lor such other persons as they think fit. The provision for staggered and varying terms of appointment of directors, together with the committees to be established within the overall Bicentenary framework, will provide the opportunities for all sections and members of the community individually and collectively to be involved to the best advantage. The Government has in mind Aboriginal and ethnic groups and young people being involved in the framework of the Bicentenary at all levels.
This Bill, together with the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Authority, provides an arrangement which confers upon the Authority an appropriate degree of autonomy and flexibility to enable it to operate in a businesslike way, yet at the same time provides for its accountability to the Parliament through the Minister for Administrative Services, who may give directions as to the policies the Authority is to follow. The Auditor-General will audit the Authority’s accounts and any appropriation by the Parliament for purposes of the Authority will be subject to the usual parliamentary scrutiny. The Authority will report annually to the Minister, with copies going to each of the Premiers of the States and the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory.
It is envisaged that some major bicentennial project, which could be revenue producing, would be handled by a separate organisation set up especially for the purpose. The Bill will enable the Authority, with the Minister’s approval, to form or invest in subsidiary companies for the purpose of promoting or pursuing any such projects. The Authority and its wholly owned subsidiary companies will be exempt from Commonwealth, State or Territory taxation. In the case of a partly owned subsidiary, the Treasurer may, by notice in the Commonwealth Gazette declare such a company to be similarly exempt.
The application of moneys is restricted to payment within the objects and powers of the Authority in the discharge of costs, expenses and other obligations. Moneys not immediately required may be invested or deposited at an approved bank, in Commonwealth securities or as otherwise approved by the Treasurer. The Bill provides that the standard controls applying to statutory authorities will apply so that the Authority, with the approval of the Treasurer, may borrow moneys for the purpose of promoting its objects, which of course are set out in the Memorandum of Association.
The Authority is required to consult with the Public Service Board before determining terms and conditions of service or employment of persons. It is deemed to be a Commonwealth authority for purposes of Part IV of the Public Service Act 1922, an approved authority for the purposes of the Superannuation Act 1976, and the Bill also provides for the rights of public servants who may become employed by the Authority to be protected.
Overseas experience has indicated that it is of great importance that there should be effective control of the exploitation of words, things and activities relating to the Bicentenary. Without such control, substantial revenues can be lost. The Bill provides protection for the name, symbols and certain words and expressions when used in conjunction with certain relevant dates or figures. Maximum penalties of $2,000 for a person and $4,000 for a corporation are provided and as well offending goods or articles may be subject to forfeiture. Forfeiture is considered to be more effective than the imposition of relatively low fines and does not necessarily require the conviction of a person from whom the goods are seized. Revenue to be gained from licensing and franchising the use of symbols and expressions will assist the Authority to meet the cost of the Bicentenary celebrations. With the passage of this Bill, the Authority will be able to proceed with confidence with its important task. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
The main purpose of this Bill is to amend the Currency Act 1965 to empower the Treasurer to issue gold coins of four denominations. In July last I announced that the Government had decided to issue a ‘collector’ type gold coin with a face value of $ 100, and was considering the possible issue of a ‘bullion’ type gold coin. In view of the subsequent increase in, and the continuing volatility of, the price of gold, it has become desirable to revise some of the details of the proposed coins. This was foreshadowed in my Press release of 13 December 1979. The Government has now decided to issue the collector coin with a face value of $200. It is intended that the coin will be composed of 22 carat gold, have a diameter of 24 millimetres, slightly larger than a 10c piece, and weigh 10 grams.
Because of the volatility of the price of gold it is no longer practicable to provide in the legislation for the collector coin to be issued at its fixed face value. Rather, it is proposed that the issue price of the collector coin be determined for each batch of coins sold. The price would be set at a premium above the value of the coin’s gold content just prior to sale but it would not, of course, be set below the face value. With the current price of gold in the vicinity of $A450 per ounce the issue price of the collector coin in uncirculated condition would be at or just above its face value of $200; after allowing for costs this would provide a seignorage of the order of $65. In addition, it is intended to issue the collector coin in proof condition at a premium above the price of the uncirculated coin. Although certain issues associated with the issue of a bullion type gold coin have yet to be resolved, it is proposed to make provision for the issue of a bullion coin containing one ounce of fine gold with a nominal face value of $ 100. This coin would be issued at a price including a relatively small mark-up over the value of the gold content at the time of issue.
Because the one ounce bullion coin may now be beyond the reach of many small investors, it has also been decided to provide for the possibility of issuing two further bullion coins with nominal face values of $50 and $25 and containing a half and a quarter ounce of fine gold respectively. If it were decided at a later date to issue one or both of these coins, they would be priced on the same basis as the one ounce coin. If this Bill is passed into law during the current sittings of Parliament, it is expected that the Royal Australian Mint would be able to strike the first issue of the collector coin for release in about September this year. Subject to the satisfactory settlement of outstanding issues, the first bullion coins could be released later in the year.
I now outline the more detailed provisions of the Bill. The amendment in clause 4 will have the effect of up-dating the principal Act by extending it to the territory of Christmas Island, as Australian currency is now the only currency with legal tender status in that territory. Clause 6 will amend section 14 of the Currency Act, which empowers the Treasurer to cause to be made and issued coins of the denominations of money and standards of composition specified in the Schedule to the Act, by providing for the denomination of the proposed $200 collector coin to be varied from time to time by regulation. This will provide more flexibility should a significant change in the price of gold necessitate a change in the denomination of the collector coin.
Clause 7 will insert a new section 14A in the Act, sub-section ( 1 ) of which will provide for the proposed $200, $100, $50 and $25 gold coins to be issued at the respective prices determined from time to time by the Treasurer. As I have mentioned, because of the potential volatility of the price of gold, it is not practicable to set in advance in the legislation the price at which the $200 coin is to be issued. In the case of the bullion coins, to which the other three proposed denominations will apply, this provision will allow coins containing a specified weight of gold- one, a half or a quarter fine ounce- to be issued at a price including a relatively small mark-up over the value of its gold content at the time of issue. This is the normal pricing arrangement for gold bullion coins issued by other countries. Sub-section (2) of the proposed new section will empower the Treasurer to delegate his power under the section as frequent determinations may need to be made in relation to the issue prices of the coins. Sub-section (5) will allow the Treasurer to give directions in relation to the exercise of any such delegation.
Clause 8 will amend the legal tenders provision in section 16 of the present Act. The effect of the present provision is to place a limit of $5 on the legal tendering of coins of the denomination of 5c, 10c, 20c, or 50c and a limit of 20c for lc or 2c coins. The amendment will provide that coins of the proposed denominations for the gold coins will be legal tender for the payment of a debt of any amount. The other amendments effected by this clause are of a purely formal drafting nature. Clause 1 1 will amend the schedule to the principal Act to provide for the introduction of the $200, $100, $50 and $25 gold coins and to specify their standard composition as eleven-twelfths gold and one-twelfth other metal. The opportunity has also been taken to include in the Bill provisions that effect purely formal amendments to the existing Act by bringing the wording of the respective provisions into line with present drafting practice: They do not effect any substantive changes.
This Bill will provide the legislative authority for the issue of gold coins in accordance with the broad intentions of the Government as previously announced. I am sure that the proposed collector coin will enhance the reputation of the Royal Australian Mint and will be keenly sought by numismatists. For those desiring to invest in gold as such, the bullion coins will provide gold of a specified weight and fineness in a form authenticated by the Mint and will, I believe, prove to be very popular with such investors.
The issue of gold coins by Australia will also draw attention to this country as a producer of gold. Further details of the respective coins, including the designs, will be announced nearer the date of issue.
Mr Deputy Speaker, in commending the Bill to honourable members, I would like to record an acknowledgement of the interest in and support for this measure which has particularly been given by my colleague, the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) who, over a considerable period has urged the introduction of gold coins by the Australian Government.
Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
The major purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the 1979-80 Budget decision to extend the present scheme of tax rebates for share capital subscribed for petroleum exploration and development off-shore so that it will apply also in respect of capital subscribed for such activities onshore. Also included in the Bill are provisions to provide tax deductions for expenses incurred in contesting an election for the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. Other parts of the Bill will amend the gift provisions and correct deficiences relating to tax on royalties derived from Australia by residents of other countries.
With a view to providing greater encouragement to the search for petroleum resources throughout Australia, in my 1979-80 Budget Speech I announced the Government’s decision to extend the present off-shore rebate scheme to cover petroleum exploration and development both off-shore and on-shore. By this Bill it is proposed that the rebate will be available to shareholders who, after 21 August 1979, subscribe share capital to a company holding an approved interest in an off-shore or on-shore licence or permit to explore for petroleum. As is the case under the existing provisions, the availability of the rebate will depend on the company lodging a declaration with the Commissioner of Taxation that the capital subscribed will be spent on petroleum exploration or development.
The extended scheme is not different in principle from the present more restricted one. There are, however, two matters which should be noted. One of these is that the period within which capital subscribed after 21 August 1979 is required to be spent by a petroleum company to qualify for the rebate has been extended from 2 years to 4 years following the income year in which the moneys were received. The other matter of note is that the extended scheme is to be subject to the additional safeguards against unintended exploitation that were announced by the then Acting Treasurer on 2 October 1979 and which are designed to counter ‘rebate stripping’ arrangements. Shortly stated, the safeguards will- to the extent that the existing law does not already do so- ensure that rebates are not allowed for capital subscribed for shares that are sold within 12 months of their acquisition. Capital subscribed to petroleum companies on or before 21 August 1979 will continue to qualify for rebate under the provisions of the present law.
As mentioned earlier, the Bill will also give effect to the Government’s decision to allow tax deductions for expenditure incurred in contesting an election for membership of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. Deductions are, of course, already available for similar expenditures incurred by candidates for election to the Commonwealth and State parliaments.
This amendment is to apply in respect of 1978-80 and subsequent years of income. One of the amendments to the gift provisions will give effect to the Government’s decision to grant tax deductions for donations of $2 or more to the child accident prevention foundation. I announced this decision on 26 February 1980. The other amendment to the gift provisions will extend the period in which the subject of a gift is required to be valued for the purposes of the taxation incentives for the arts scheme. Honourable members will recall that under this scheme the taxpayer may be eligible for a deduction of an amount equal to the market value of property donated to a public library, art gallery or museum or to the Australiana Fund. A claim for such a deduction must be supported by valuations from approved valuers. At present the period allowed for these valuations extends over 60 days but this has been found inappropriate in many cases and, to facilitate the operation of the scheme, it is proposed to increase the time allowed for the valuations to 180 days.
Turning now to the taxation of royalties derived from Australia by non-residents, it is proposed by the Bill to amend the way in which the term ‘royalty’ is defined for this purpose. A decision of the Supreme Court of Victoria has revealed two technical deficiencies in the present definition. The first of the deficiencies found by the court is that, whilst the present definition applies to ‘payments’ for the right to use patents, trade-marks, know-how, et cetera, it is not wide enough to cover amounts for such rights that, instead of being paid over, are merely credited. The proposed amendments will ensure that royalties credited are treated in the same way as amounts actually paid. The other deficiency indicated by the court’s decision is that the definition does not, as it was intended it should, encompass all considerations given for what is in substance the grant of an exclusive right to use industrial property. If, instead of agreeing in the normal way to a formal grant of the exclusive right, the parties agreed that the owner would receive a consideration for not granting the rights to anyone else, the amount of the consideration may not fall within the present definition. To guard against exploitation of this potential avenue of tax avoidance, the Bill proposes that a consideration paid for a forbearance by the owner to grant rights to use property be expressly included in the definition of royalty. Both of the amendments relating to royalties will apply to amounts derived by overseas residents after today. Technical explanations of the various measures contained in the Bill are provided in an explanatory memorandum that is being circulated to honourable members and I do not think that I need say more at this stage. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill will provide legislative authority for the entry into force of new comprehensive double taxation agreements with the Philippines and Switzerland and of a protocol to amend the double taxation agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom. The protocol with the United Kingdom is necessary because of changes in the income tax law of that country concerning, firstly, the taxation of company profits and dividends and, secondly, the taxation of employment income derived abroad or by persons not domiciled in the United Kingdom. Neither the agreements nor the protocol can enter into force until all necessary constitutional processes are completed by Australia and the other country. For Australia, this Bill will, when assented to, complete the processes required of us.
Before I outline the main features of the protocol and the new agreements, I think there are some points about double taxation agreements which I might usefully make. Double taxation agreements have as their principal purpose the elimination of international double taxation. This involves the apportionment, by one means or another, of the relevant taxation revenue between the contracting countries. There are various ways of doing this. For example, by agreement some types of income become taxable only in the country of residence and other types only in the country of source. The country of source may agree to limit its tax on some items of income and, where it is agreed that both countries may tax particular income, the country of residence of the taxpayer agrees to allow relief against its tax in recognition of the payment of tax to the other country.
Against the taxation revenue forgone by a country in wholly or partially giving up its tax on certain items of income there has to be offset the gains to its revenue resulting from revenue given up by the other country on other items of income.
If, as is usually the case, there is some net loss of revenue for one or other of the countries, this is, as emphasised by bodies such as the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, to be seen in the light of the favourable impact that these agreements have on trade and investment flows, and on the improvement of more general relationships between countries. And, as is sometimes overlooked, where a country in which income originates agrees to reduce its rate of tax on income, the taxpayer’s country of residence will also be levying tax on the income with credit for the reduced tax of the country of origin. The precise way in which taxing rights are allocated between countries is, of course, a matter of negotiation. The process of negotiation has naturally led to some varying outcomes in the comprehensive agreements now being brought before Parliament. However, each of them accords in essential respects with the position that Australian governments have taken over the years in relation to double taxation agreements. Both of the new comprehensive agreements provide for the country of source to limit its withholding tax on dividends.
Under the Philippines agreement, the limit in the Philippines is to be 15 per cent on dividends paid to Australian companies which are freed from Australian tax on foreign dividends by the rebate of tax allowed here on intercorporate distributions. The practical effect is that the limitation will apply to dividends paid to an Australian company. Australia is to limit its tax on dividends paid to Philippines companies entitled to relief from Philippines tax on inter-corporate dividends to 15 per cent. In other cases, the limit in each country is to be 25 per cent. In the absence of an agreement the Philippines would withhold 15 per cent for company shareholders and 30 per cent for individuals. We would charge the withholding rate of 30 per cent in all cases. Under the Swiss agreement, the tax limit on dividends is 15 per cent for both countries, a substantial reduction from the rate of 35 per cent chargeable under the Swiss taxation law. Both agreements are also to limit each country’s tax on interest and royalties paid to residents of the other. Under the Philippines agreement the general limits are to be 15 per cent for interest and 25 per cent for royalties. However the Philippines will further limit- to 10 per cent- its tax on interest paid to Australian residents on bonds or similar obligations issued by Philippines companies. And, as an incentive measure, it will limit to 15 per cent its tax on royalties paid to an Australian resident by a Philippines enterprise engaged in preferred areas of activities in the Philippines.
Australia’s withholding tax rate on interest is 10 per cent and will not, therefore, be affected by these arrangements. We do not have a withholding rate for royalties paid overseas. These are taxed on the ordinary assessment basis. Without an agreement, Philippines tax would be payable at the general withholding rate of 1 5 per cent on interest paid to Australian companies and 30 per cent on interest paid to individuals. On royalties it would be payable at the withholding rate of 35 per cent for companies and 30 per cent for individuals. The limit on the tax on royalties under the Philippines agreement will, of course, only affect Australian tax on royalties paid to the Philippines where our tax on the ordinary assessment basis on the profit element in the royalties would have been greater than the agreed limit.
If nothing were done to avoid the situation, the action of the Philippines in providing an ‘incentive’ reduction in its tax on some royalties would simply result in a reduction of the credit to be allowed by Australia against the Australian tax on the royalties. In other words, Australia would pick up the tax forgone by the Philippines, thus nullifying the incentive. To avoid that result, in taxing Australian recipients of the royalties Australia is, as a so-called ‘tax sparing’ measure, to give credit for Philippines tax equal to 20 per cent of the royalties instead of the 1 5 per cent actually, paid. These special arrangements are appropriate in an agreement with a developing country, such as the Philippines, in a sector of the world in which Australia has vital interests of more than one kind.
The rules under the Swiss Agreement are more conventional. The tax of the country of source is to be limited to 10 per cent for both interest and royalties. Whilst this will not affect Australia’s tax on interest flowing to Switzerland it will require Switzerland to reduce its tax on interest from its general rate of 35 per cent. Switzerland does not generally tax royalties paid to nonresidents but the limit of 10 per cent would apply if it were to tax such income in the future. Both agreements contain measures for the formal relief of double taxation of income that may be taxed by both countries. The country of residence of the taxpayer is obliged to provide the necessary relief. So far as Australian residents are concerned, income which is taxed in full in the country of source will be exempt from our tax while income that is taxed at reduced rates in the country of source- dividends, interest and royalties- will be taxed here with credit being allowed for the tax of the country of source. Dividends received from abroad by Australian companies will, however, remain tax-free here.
Turning now to the United Kingdom protocol, I observe that it amends the existing agreement in two respects. Since the United Kingdom agreement was signed the United Kingdom has changed its law to allow part of the tax paid by a United Kingdom company on its profits as a credit in the assessment of individual United Kingdom shareholders. Although, under a special provision in United Kingdom law, the credit is allowable to most individual Australian resident shareholders in United Kingdom companies, it has proved unsatisfactory to apply earlier arrangements made with the United Kingdom in the context of a quite different tax system in that country. Accordingly, the protocol will give all Australian resident individual shareholders a structured entitlement to the British tax credit. This will apply in respect of dividends paid on or after 6 April 1977.
Like their United Kingdom counterparts, Australian shareholders will be subject to United Kingdom tax on the sum of the dividend and the related credit, but the British tax will be limited to 1 5 per cent of that sum. Correspondingly, the sum of the dividend and the credit will also be subject to Australian tax, with credit being allowed for the limited United Kingdom tax against the Australian tax so payable. The new arrangements will generally be to the advantage of Australian shareholders concerned but, where this would not be so, the Bill contains ‘nodetriment’ provisions for dividends paid up to the date of signature of the protocol. I should add that the protocol does not require the United Kingdom to allow tax credits in respect of dividends paid to Australian company shareholders. Because of the rebate on intercorporate distributions these dividends are, of course, effectively free of Australian tax.
The other change made by the United Kingdom protocol concerns post-agreement changes in the United Kingdom income tax law relating to the taxation of some foreign earnings of persons resident in the United Kingdom and earnings derived in the United Kingdom. Before the changes, the income was taxable in one or other country, but the changes have resulted in it being, in varying degrees, completely tax free. The protocol will correct this quite unintended and unwarranted situation, with effect in Australia from 1 July 1980. A memorandum containing much more detailed explanations of technical aspects of the Bill and of the agreements is being made available to honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hunt, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The main provisions of this Bill to amend the Australian Shipping Commission Act are designed to bring the Commission’s borrowing powers into line with those of other Commonwealth statutory authorities including the Australian Wheat Board, the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority and Telecom Australia. Similar amendments are proposed to the Australian National Railways Act and the Pipeline Authority Act.
In accordance with the Government’s policies in respect of Government owned business undertakings the Commission has, over recent years, funded its capital expenditure requirements offBudget by means of commercially available financing methods such as the trade credit facilities made available overseas for purchase of ships and associated equipment.
The amendments proposed will assist the Commission in raising funds to finance its approved capital expenditure program by enabling it to issue securities. The amendments provide for the repeal of section 30 of the principal Act and replacement by five separate sections outlining the Commission’s borrowing powers.
New sections 30 and 30a restate provisions presently found in sub-sections ( 1 ), (2), (3) and
Proposed section 30b will enable the Commission, with the approval of the Treasurer, to deal with securities and for the Treasurer to determine that those securities shall be guaranteed by the Commonwealth.
New sections 30c, 30d and 30e restate the provisions presently included in sub-sections (4), (8) and (7) of section 30 of the principal Act.
The amendment to section 36 will provide for those securities to be exempted from stamp duties in the same way as those of other Commonwealth, Territory and State authorities.
The revised borrowing provisions will be administered in accordance with the Government’s policy that the Commission operate on an equal footing to a privately owned shipping undertaking in Australia.
One other amendment of an administrative nature is also proposed. Present section 19 of the Act requires that the Commission advise the Minister for Transport prior to implementing each and every minor or major variation in freight rates. The proposed amendment will allow the Minister to determine guidelines within which the Commission may fix such rates. It is not considered appropriate for this more general arrangement to apply to coastal general cargo trades and passenger services where specific rates will continue to be approved by the Minister for Transport. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hunt, and read a first time.
– I move:
Mr Speaker, the main provisions of this Bill to amend the Australian National Railways Act are designed to bring the borrowing powers of the Australian National Railways Commission into line with those of other Commonwealth statutory authorities. The need to do so is occasioned by funding requirements for construction of a standard gauge railway between Adelaide and Crystal Brook.
The Australian National Railways Commission is to construct a standard gauge railway linking Adelaide to the existing standard gauge rail network between Sydney and Perth. It will provide substantial reductions in running time between Adelaide and Perth, Alice Springs and Sydney.
A new agreement covering the construction of this railway is currently being negotiated with South Australia. It will be necessary for this new agreement with South Australia to be approved by this Parliament. I hope to be able to introduce legislation to this effect later in this session. In the meantime approval of the changes proposed by this Bill now before the House will allow the
Australian National Railways Commission to begin preparations for the raising of the necessary funds, to allow construction to commence when the new agreement is approved by Parliament. The Commission will raise funds for the standard gauge project by issuing securities for sale to commercial institutions and the public. For those securities to be competitive with securities of other semi-government institutions, the Bill provides for ANR securities to be guaranteed by the Commonwealth.
The Bill provides for the repeal of section 57b of the Australian National Railways Act and its replacement by four separate sections outlining the borrowing powers of the Commission. Proposed sections 57b and 57ba cover borrowings from the Commonwealth and borrowings other than from the Commonwealth respectively. These provisions take account of the separate responsibilities of the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance.
A new section 57bb provides the Commission with power to issue securities, and gives the Treasurer power to guarantee the repayment of amounts borrowed and the payment of interest. Other new sections 57bc and 57bd essentially restate provisions presently found in sub-sections
Section 57h of the principal Act is amended by adding two sub-sections to enable the Treasurer to determine that the issue, sale and transfer of the Commission’s securities will be exempt from stamp duty. The opportunity has also been taken to make a formal amendment by substituting the word ‘Commonwealth’ for ‘Australia’ in several sections of the Act. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hunt, and read a first time.
– I move:
These amendments to the Air Navigation Act flow from the Government’s decision made in 1976 to transfer to the Northern Territory Government powers to control executive functions similar to those exercised by State governments.
– Hear, hear!
– The transfer of powers was part of the Territory’s move towards self-government which occurred when the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) was Minister for the Northern Territory.
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the transfer of powers in relation to civil aviation. The actual transfer of powers will be made by amendment to the regulations under the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1 978 which will be laid before this House in the near future.
The Commonwealth and the Northern Territory governments have been in close consultation on the transfer of powers relating to civil aviation and it was agreed some time ago that the transfer would not proceed until the relevant Northern Territory authorities gained experience in this specialist area and to allow the Connair Pty Ltd subsidy contract to run its course to termination. Honourable members may be aware that Connair has now been taken over by East- West Airlines Ltd and a new company is to be established to operate the Northern Territory regional airline. I have agreed to continue subsidy payments until the contract terminates on 30 September 1980 provided that the services previously operated by Connair are maintained.
The effect of this Bill will put the Northern Territory in the same position as the States in regard to the control of air services within the Territory ‘s boundaries. Accordingly, as is the position in the States, the Northern Territory Government will have the power to issue licences on economic and public interest grounds. The Commonwealth will retain control of matters relating to safety and operational issues and will only grant licences where an operator has established it can comply with the relevant criteria. Both a Commonwealth and Territory licence will be required before intra-territory services could be provided.
As a consequence of the proposed amendments to the Air Navigation Act contained in this Bill, appropriate amendments are necessary to the air navigation regulations. These will be laid before the House shortly. I share the Northern Territory Government’s concern that an early completion of the transfer be achieved. Accordingly, I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hunt, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In consequence of the Bill to amend the Air Navigation Act 1920, to transfer State type powers to the Northern Territory in respect to civil aviation, amendments are also necessary to the Australian National Airlines Act 1945. Honourable members will be aware that section 19 of this Act sets out the functions of the Australian National Airlines Commission. To make fully effective the transfer of executive authority for civil aviation within the Northern Territory to the Northern Territory Government, the operations of Trans- Australia Airlines are required to be subject to Northern Territory law.
The Bill proposes that all intra-Northern Territory operations of TAA will be subject to licence by the appropriate Northern Territory authorities. State-Territory operations, such as the Perth-Port Hedland-Darwin route currently operated by TAA will not be affected. This amendment will place TAA in the same position as Ansett Airlines of Australia or any other airline in regard to intra-Northern Territory services and, therefore, is consistent with the Government’s policy that its transport business undertakings are not advantaged or disadvantaged as compared with their competitors. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hunt, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the Treasurer (Mr Howard), on behalf of the Commonwealth, to guarantee borrowings raised by Qantas Airways Ltd to finance the purchase of four Boeing 747 series aircraft and follows my announcement in January of the Government’s approval for Qantas to purchase five aircraft, one of which will be financed from Qantas’ internal sources.
Honourable members will recall that in May of last year, the Parliament passed legislation similar to that now before the House covering the purchase of Qantas’ eighteenth and nineteenth B747 series aircraft. The second of those aircraft was delivered last December. The decision to acquire these aircraft was taken after a major examination of its fleet requirement to mid- 1983 was undertaken by Qantas. Factors which were closely examined include future fuel supply and price, the aircraft types that will be available and likely market growth.
Whilst accurate predictions are difficult to make in the light of the recent increased availability of low fares, the study showed that by April 1983 there will be a need for a fleet of 21 B747 aircraft, including one B747-SP- Special Performance- and three B747 Combi aircraft (a configuration with significantly greater cargo carrying capacity). Qantas proposes to achieve this fleet objective by purchasing five new B747 series aircraft, consisting of three B74 7-200 ‘s, one B747-SP and one B747 Combi, and selling a number of its older B747-200 aircraft. Proceeds from the sale of the older aircraft will go towards funding the acquisition of the fifth aircraft. The new aircraft will generally provide additional long haul services to Europe and the United States. Revenue benefits will accrue from an increased ability to carry full payload over long sectors and competitive advantages from possible one-stop operations from the east coast of Australia to Europe.
The B747-SP on the other hand is a smaller aircraft with exceptionally high performance and will be particularly useful for operations into restricted airports such as Wellington, for which operations Qantas is currently chartering aircraft from Air New Zealand Ltd. The B747-SP’s operating costs will be of the same order as those of the DC8 aircraft now leased from Air New Zealand but will offer significantly increased seat capacity as the B747-SP has 336 seats compared with the DC8 ‘s 1 50 seats. It is expected that the special performance aircraft could also be used on relatively low traffic routes to produce cost savings compared with the larger B747-200 currently in use. Delivery of the first of the new aircraft is expected in September 1980. The others will be progressively phased into service with the fifth being in operation by November 1981. Sufficient flexibility exists in the proposed sale of the older aircraft to allow some flexibility in disposal should traffic growth exceed expectations.
Qantas expects that disposal of the older B747 aircraft will, over a five year period, reduce maintenance and fuel costs sufficiently to improve its after tax profitability by approximately $5m. All the new aircraft will be fitted with the new Rolls Royce D4 engines, which are some 10 per cent more fuel efficient than the engines on the aircraft to be replaced. These engines are also higher powered, thus producing higher take-off weight capabilities with extended payload and range potential. Additional savings will also result from reduced maintenance costs, as these costs increase considerably as aircraft accumulate flight hours. The Government’s policy of requiring the supplying aircraft manufacturer to make arrangements with Australian manufacturers to produce certain aircraft components applies to the acquisition of these aircraft. In respect of existing B747 aircraft, Boeing currently has manufacturing offset arrangements with Australian companies and these will be extended to cover these additional aircraft.
In line with past procedure, the provision of a guarantee will be limited to 80 per cent of the total purchase price of the aircraft, spare parts and associated equipment. This represents $US230m or its equivalent in other currencies. The provision of a guarantee will not involve the Government in any cash outlay, but will create a contingent liability for the Commonwealth. The arrangements for the loan are to be subject to the Treasurer’s approval and adequate security will be provided to the Commonwealth while any amounts of principal or interest remain unpaid. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Garland, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to implement the Government’s decision to provide assistance to producers of penicillin in Australia. The question of assistance for the production in Australia of penicillin stems from a report by the Industries Assistance Commission on 2 August 1976 entitled ‘Pharmaceutical and Veterinary Products’. In that report the Commission concluded that, on economic grounds, there was no case for assisting the local production of penicillin, and recommended that the tariff assistance in respect of this product be removed. The Government considered the matter at length and is of the view that penicillin production capacity in Australia should be maintained for health and defence purposes. This follows advice received from the Direcor-General of Health and the Surgeon General, Defence Force, that penicillin is the best and most widely used antibiotic for the treatment of bacterial infection and, in times of emergency, penicillin, and especially penicillin in the form of injectable procaine, is the drug of first choice.
The Government has therefore decided to provide assistance, by way of a bounty scheme, for the continued production in Australia of phenoxymethylpenicillin, otherwise known as penicillin V, and benzylpenicillin, otherwise known as penicillin G. Penicillin V is used for the production of most of the penicillin formulations made in Australia, with the exception of injectable forms. Penicillin G is used for the production of the injectable forms and phenethecillin, which is a semi-synthetic penicillin. The Australian demand for human consumption of penicillin G and penicillin V is around 7,000 kilograms and 15,500 kilograms per annum respectively. Australian production capacity is considerably in excess of normal domestic requirements and thus provides a considerable margin to meet demand in time of emergency. The bounty will be payable at the rates of $38 per kilogram for penicillin V, and $29 per kilogram for penicillin G, and producers will be required either to sell or to use the penicillin for the production of antibiotics in Australia.
It is proposed that the scheme will operate for 5 years with an initial overall annual limit available for payment of bounty of $250,000 for penicillin G and $650,000 for penicillin V. Provision is made in the Bill for the rates of bounty and the annual limits available for payment of bounty to be varied by regulation if annual reviews reveal the need for such variation following movements in penicillin prices overseas and the level of cost increases in Australia. In addition, because it is intended to coincide the removal of the customs duty on imported penicillin with the introduction of the bounty scheme, clause 2 of the Bill provides for the Act to come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. If production costs and demand in relation to this product remain relatively stable it is estimated that the cost to the Commonwealth of the scheme for the 5-year period will be about $4.5m. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 19 March, on motion by Mr Garland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I remind the House that it has been agreed that a general debate be allowed covering this Bill, the Excise Amendment Bill 1980, the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1 980, and the Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax (Repeal) Bill 1 979.
-Speaking to these four Bills gives me an opportunity to make some comments about the situation affecting liquefied petroleum gas in Australia.This is a matter of considerable concern to all members of Parliament, particularly those who represent the non-metropolitan areas of Australia. It is a matter of concern to Opposition members and Government members alike. I would like to offer some comments and perhaps suggestions on this matter and to put in to perspective LPG prices as they affect local government gas utilities, in particular those gas utilities throughout New South Wales.
It was not so long ago that most country gas utilities had coal gas plants. Many of these plants were old, antiquated and very expensive to run. They were not only expensive but also in many cases eyesores, and often a council’s gas operations became the critical focal point for unkind comments by ratepayers in particular towns. It was not so long ago that the oil companies in particular persuaded gas utilities to convert to LPG. At that time there was a much wider distribution of natural gas to the major metropolitan centres of Australia. At that time it appeared to be an eminently sensible transition to close down the old coal gas generating plants and to convert to LPG. Of course the councils that did so could not have anticipated the critical situation that was to develop in the not too distant future regarding the availability of LPG and, in particular, its price.
The consumers- I was one of them-were also persuaded to convert their coal gas appliances to LPG operation. That was done by many consumers at considerable cost, and in some instances it took place only a year ago. In many instances local government gas utilities had to borrow heavily to convert their gas utilities and they carried debt loads of significant proportions, which of course the ratepayers eventually have to carry. Not only did the councils have to increase their debt loads but in many cases they also had to cross-subsidise within their operations to cover the losses that had been incurred through the operation of the older coal gas generating plants.
In some instances the present situation- it is barely a year later- is that the gas utilities that converted for reasons that were apparently sensible at the time now find themselves in desperate situations; they are in desperate trouble. It is no exaggeration to say that some of those gas utilities will have to close, and that will have very serious consequences not only for the consumers but also for the ratepayers in the areas concerned. It will have very serious consequences for many other aspects which are important to country dwellers, such as decentralisation and the general standard of living that country dwellers enjoy.
We know only too well that a liquid fuel crisis has developed throughout the world. We also know-this is well recognised -that LPG is a direct substitute for petroleum products. We accept the fact that it is indeed liquefied petroleum gas. We accept the description of it as pressurised petrol. We know that it is a tragic waste of energy either to flare LPG or to burn it in heating and cooking appliances. Those people who do not accept that proposition are, I think, not facing up to the reality of the situation. Many arguments are put in relation to the amount of LPG produced in Australia, the amount that is exported, the means by which the Prices Justification Tribunal makes a determination on prices, the basis of those determinations and the manner in which those determinations are made. Notwithstanding all those considerations, which I do not wish to debate on this occasion, I think most people generally accept that LPG as a heating fuel has a very limited life and that it is a waste to use it for that purpose. If we accept that proposition- I believe we must- we must also equate LPG to petroleum products in one other respect. For example, I believe that if we relate LPG to petrol we should include it in the petroleum products freight subsidy scheme.
-Certainly that would provide tremendous relief for people in the more isolated areas of Australia, such as those in the electorate of Maranoa. The honourable member for Maranoa is making noises of encouragement and agreement. I believe that we should encourage the extension of natural gas reticulation throughout Australia where it is economically feasible to do so. Quite obviously, most of our LPG will be required for the petrochemical industry and as a substitute for automotive fuel. It has been said on numerous occasions that we need to substitute only about 10 per cent to 15 per cent of our current fuel requirements for automotive use. We will require all the LPG we can produce and all that we export at the moment as well as that which we would be likely to export in the future. The natural gas reticulation system will provide only some relief in some areas. Natural gas reticulation to Bathurst, Orange and Lithgow- three cities which are highly dependent on LPG at the moment- will certainly assist my area.
That will provide some relief but there are great unknowns in this respect too because the local councils will have to foot the bill over a period at certain repayment and interest rates. They might be expected to foot a bill of about $36m to $40m. I can understand the councils being sceptical about such a major long term debt commitment in view of the experiences they have had in the past few years in converting their coal gas plants to LPG plants; I cannot blame them.
There is a further complication in that, although the Commonwealth will provide the means by which natural gas is reticulated from the major line between Moomba and Sydney, the Australian Gas Light Company will own the gas and will sell it to the gas utilities. Perhaps the only way in which natural gas can be provided to some country areas is for the gas utilities to sell out to the AGL, an organisation which to some extent can cross-subsidise within its operations and so provide natural gas to country centres at a reasonable price.
I believe that there is a great need to establish a set differential between the prices of LPG and petroleum. Unless a set differential is established we will see a continuation of the present situation of fleet owners being sceptical about further conversion to LPG. They are sceptical because of some doubts not about safety standards but about the price they will have to pay for gas now and in the future. There needs to be a firm commitment that the price of LPG will be a set percentage of the price of petroleum products. There is no doubt that demand for conversion kits for the use of LPG as automotive fuel has dropped off as a result of the escalation in price we have seen virtually in the last few months. Let us not forget that it was only in January 1979 that LPG was less than $90 a tonne. As a result of the latest increase LPG is now $252 a tonne. I do not know what the price would be at Mount Isa or Townsville but certainly it would be much higher than that. An attempt has been made to minimise the problem as far as domestic consumers are concerned by the application of a subsidy of $80 a tonne, but this subsidy applies only to domestic consumers.
I have some doubts about the effectiveness of that subsidy because we cannot ignore the other people and the organisations using LPG. For example, there are commercial users of LPG who have no alternative but to use LPG. A case in point that concerns me is those industries and organisations associated with controlled atmospheric storage of fruit. It is essential that they use one of the LPG gases to burn oxygen out of the air in the controlled atmosphere rooms to prevent oxidation and a breaking down of the fruit. That is a matter of grave concern to people in my electorate where controlled atmosphere storage is a very important component of the viability of orchardists and horticultural operations. Likewise, there is a number of examples of noncommercial users, including schools, industries and grain dryers on farms, for whom it is quite wrong to disallow the subsidy which will go to commercial and industrial users.
Lastly, I think that the utilities situation should be recognised also. In many cases gas utilities have been holding some of the cost burdens within their own budgets. Perhaps they should be allowed some relief from the tremendously rapid increase in LPG prices that we have seen. This is an issue of major significance. I look forward to an announcement shortly of some of the measures that will be taken by the Government to recognise the burden of LPG prices and the necessity to obviate that problem and in particular to provide some incentive, perhaps financial, to allow people to convert from LPG appliances to electrically-operated appliances.
-We in the Opposition support the measures contained in these Bills. We support the need to develop effective and efficient fuel alternatives- in this case I am speaking to the Distillation Amendment Billand we support the proposal with respect to what are known as ‘experimenter’ licences for the development of ethanol. Candidly, these measures are moves in the right direction. But if we look at the totally inadequate level of funding for the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council, we will see that in 1978-79 it was only $4m and that this year it will be $9.1m which represents 0.3 per cent of the total oil revenue flowing to this Government. That will reach $2,500m and the excise on refined products will reap the Government a further $900m. But in this country, believe it or not, expenditure on energy research will be $9m. The amount allocated for ethanol research is $1.5m. That is an indictment of the Government’s priorities in this area. We support the measure which provides for the removal of the 2.125c per litre excise duty on liquefied petroleum gas for automotive use. If we examine this measure we see that it exposes this Government ‘s clear incompetence and reveals the shambles that this Government ‘s energy policy is in.
– You are spoiling a good speech.
-No, I am not. What the Government has inflicted on the people of this country -
– Fair go.
– The Government does not have a national energy policy. If the Government is honest, all it really has is an oil company policy. I suppose that yesterday the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) excellently summed up the situation with regard to LPG when he said:
This Government’s policies on LPG are, to put it mildly, in chaos. It has policies aimed at encouraging the use of LPG but at the same time it has a pricing policy which discourages its use. The most significant impact of this policy has been on household users. LPG is now considerably more expensive than electricity, but the cost of conversion to electricity for an average house is about $1,500. Natural gas reticulation in some towns will provide relief in the next few years, but for the remainder the choice is between high LPG prices and converting to electricity at considerable expense. Because of this, the Government found itself in a position of having to introduce a subsidy of $80 a tonne for household users. But this subsidy is still not operational. Also, two days after the subsidy was announced the price of LPG was increased by $105 a tonne which more than offset any benefit likely to arise from the subsidy. An additional problem associated with high LPG prices for households is that many gas utilities are in severe financial difficulties and are threatening to close. The Government’s policies on LPG have only resulted in rapidly increasing prices and in considerable confusion. If LPG is to make a significant contribution to Australia’s liquid fuel supplies, the Government must act to sort out this mess.
I support the honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie); he made an excellent speech of which the Government ought to take note.
I address a few pertinent questions to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland) on this matter of LPG. They demand investigation. They need to be investigated. They need to be evaluated by a body which is responsible to the people, and that body is this Parliament. The Minister ought to be honest and to say that what is happening at the moment is that prices of LPG and of petroleum are fixed by secret and clandestine meetings between oil companies and Treasury officials.
– That is not true.
– It is true, I regret to say. Let us look at the pertinent questions with regard to LPG that have been asked by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr FitzPatrick). He has asked:
Has the Government taken away the powers of the Prices Justification Tribunal to control prices of locally-occurring Liquefied Petroleum Gas?
Have LPG users been singled out in being asked to pay world parity prices when other locally-produced fuels such as natural gas, electricity, briquettes and firewood have had only normal price increases to cover inflation?
What is the justification for the large windfall profits gained by (a) the Government and (b) Esso-BHP from a locally produced product?
Let me add a few more pertinent questions to the Minister and perhaps to the Treasury.
I ask: Is it a fact that the price of LPG is reputedly fixed by the Government at export parity? One concedes the importance of maintaining stable prices for energy commodities used in Australia. Will the Minister and the Government provide the House with the full details of the export contract presently applying to LPG sales? I doubt whether we will get them, even in reply to questions on notice. Is it a fact that Esso-BHP is the only exporter of LPG from Australia? Does Esso-BHP receive for its export sales payments of $250 per tonne of LPG exported, namely, the price approved by the Government as the price of LPG ex-oil refineries in Australia? I would like an answer to that question. Will the Minister explain why oil refineries receive this export price when they have little or no opportunity to export LPG as they have to supply Australian consumers and have no surplus for export?
Finally I ask the Minister: Should not the oil refinery price for LPG be related to cost of production rather than this artificial export parity price of $250 per tonne whereby Australian manufacturing, primary industry and transport vehicles could be supplied at half this export price on a cost oriented basis, as was the case when pricing of LPG was fixed on a cost basis by the Prices Justification Tribunal? I suggest to the Minister and to the House that an investigation of the whole question of energy pricing in this country is long overdue. The present shambles in the Government’s pricing policy has precluded the development of an effective energy strategy in this country, as has occurred in the United States. The core of the problem is that the necessary information about production and supplies of the resources lies in the hands of the oil companies. It always has and regrettably will continue to do so. It does not reside in the hands of the Government. This makes the oil companies the de facto energy policy makers in Australia. I should like some member opposite to challenge that proposition and to try to justify the Government’s policy. The Government and the Treasury have always adopted a very simplistic approach to energy price questions as though the energy market observes all the laws of a classical free market. I wish that were the case. It is not the case in the oil industry, it is not the case in the insurance industry and it is not the case in the brokerage industry. That is one of the cliches which the Government puts around the countryside and which, regrettably, the people swallow.
Why is it that the need for revenue and the need to placate the oil companies have always taken priority over the questions of equity or the efficient allocation of resources in this country? The Treasury’s approach is clearly outlined in its submission to the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources. May the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) study it. Basically, the Treasury believes that decontrol of price and minimum government intervention are the panacea for all our energy problems regardless of the social effects or such factors as high foreign ownership and integration of our energy resources. It is naive of the Minister to believe that pricing measures will provide the optimum allocation of energy resources when so many of those resources are under the control of corporations with deplorable- I repeat deplorable’- track records of conspiracy against the public. That record is beyond dispute, as anybody who sits down to study the history of oil pricing throughout the world will know.
– He does not believe that at all.
– Well, the honourable member ought to study that history. The companies and the Treasury claim that leaving the price of oil, gas, coal and other resources to the market will provide incentive for the discovery of new resources. Let us examine that proposition. Recent experience in Australia and overseas has shown that such measures raise oil company profits much faster than exploration and discoveries and that most investment by oil companies has been in tying up existing alternative resources rather than in developing existing resources. I suggest to the honourable member for North Sydney that if he wants to know what the track record is he should have a look at the plunder of the oil shale resources in the United States. The same thing is happening in this country, I regret to say. The Government is doing nothing at all about it. This is hardly remarkable since the oil corporations’ primary role is to make money, not oil. I concede that point and I accept it. It is about time the Government faced up to the reality of the situation. If the Government wants more oil to be discovered it will have to restructure its policies, particularly its taxation policies, to achieve that end, or else it will have to go out and look for oil itself, as the Labor Party proposes.
The heavy company bias and lack of logic and consistency in energy pricing policies are seen everywhere. The Australian public is forced to pay the world parity price for oil although 90 per cent of Australia’s petrol supplies are produced domestically. On the other hand, the transnational aluminium cartel will pay well below world equivalent prices for the massive amounts of electricity that are used in bauxite treatment. We hear constantly from the Government that parity oil prices are essential for the proper allocation of resources, yet the Government subsidises petrol in country areas. For natural gas, different price agreements exist in all States. There is no uniformity. The Treasury claims that world parity prices for gas are desirable if the resource is to be properly appreciated and conserved by Australian consumers. Yet the Government will allow massive exports of gas from the North West Shelf. The Government has so far refrained from raising domestic gas prices- or for that matter, coal prices- to world parity levels only because of the effect such action would have on the economy, particularly this year, an election year. I wonder why the Saudi Arabian increase was not passed on. Perhaps the Minister will explain why it was not passed on. It was not passed on because it would be reflected in the September consumer price index figures. The Government ought to be honest about that. The point about the energy resource situation is that there is no justification in terms of production costs for imposing a parity price. In spite of what the Government says, no extra incentive for exploration is provided for price increases in fields that are already in production.
Liquefied petroleum gas provides a classic example of the absurdities and contradictions of the Government’s policies. Let us examine the situation. Refineries in Australia produce 350,000 tonnes of LPG from crude oil annually. This LPG is sold for more than $252 a tonne. This price is determined by the Prices Justification Tribunal, presumably on the basis of some posted price for Middle East LPG, plus freight. I ask the Minister: Is that a fact or is it not? Another 100,000 tonnes of LPG for domestic consumption is supplied from the Bass Strait fields by Esso-BHP. At the same time 1.5 million tonnes is exported, mostly to Japan, but the price at which this LPG is sold is not known. Why is it not known? Why should the Parliament not know the price of gas which is exported to
Japan? As the PJT price for LPG was about $70 a tonne only a year ago, the contracted price of export LPG is undoubtedly well below the price that Australian consumers are forced to pay. It is little wonder that the price is kept secret by the producers and the Government.
It is absurd that LPG is exported in huge quantities at a relatively low price when it could be more widely used on the domestic market as a substitute for petrol- not that I agree entirely with that proposition. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) appeared to recognise this fact in his energy statement in June 1979. His exhortations to increase LPG usage were taken seriously by thousands of small businessmen who invested in LPG conversion equipment. Subsequent action by the Government resulted in huge price rises which negated any incentive for motorists to convert their vehicles to LPG. Meanwhile, country consumers are paying through the nose for LPG while city consumers get cheaper gas- at least until after the next election. I make two simple observations: The Chairman of the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria was reported in the Australian Financial Review as having said:
I am quite certain there is no such thing as an export parity for LPG. Overseas prices vary from country to country and even from day to day.
His point was illustrated recently when Venezuela reduced the price of its LPG by $90 a tonne. Let me conclude on this note: Six years of a bandaid style approach to energy needs by this Government has exhibited in a spectacular manner that what is profitable for large oil companies is often just the opposite of what most people in this country need. I repeat that this policy is a tragedy for the people of this country. That is a very simple fact. The critical decisions are being made for the wrong reasons and by the wrong people. If ever this Government needs to be condemned it is in the two areas of oil pricing and LPG pricing.
– in reply- It would be a little difficult for people who are listening to this debate to realise that all members are actually in favour of the four Bills which are before the House. Honourable members have taken an opportunity to make a number of statements, some of them rather extravagant. I will endeavour for one or two minutes to grapple with some of the points that were raised by the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi), who preceded me in this debate. He raised a series of questions- rather emotive ones, I might addwith a considerable amount of distortion of the
Government’s position and policy. He demanded to have replies to his questions and I will devote a few minutes to making those replies.
First of all, it is obvious to everybody that we have a totally new situation with energy in the world today in both the supply and the price of oil, which leads to an effect on other energy materials. The Government’s oil parity pricing policy is well known. It is necessary because of the rise of the price of oil internationally and the shortage of oil in Australia. The oil situation leads us straight to the shortage that exists in the world at present- it is expected to fluctuate- in respect of liquefied petroleum gas. The honourable member who was so firm in demanding answers to so many questions now has his back to the chamber and is ignoring the proceedings. So much for his real concern about these matters.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! I remind the honourable members for Hawker and Blaxland that they should not stand and talk in the aisle.
– I am getting instructions.
-I thought you might be getting answers too.
– That might be necessary because I am not sure that everything the honourable member said was Labor Party policy. The fact is that LPG is plentiful in this country at the moment. However, the demand is rising very quickly as users of oil increase their demand and we will reach a point- we do not know when; perhaps it will be the middle of this decadewhen LPG will be short. Meanwhile other changes are taking place, principally in the Middle East, which will make it available.
The honourable member and this House know that the Government has undertaken a very active review of LPG policy. This review has been referred to by the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) and other Ministers. It is no use the honourable member just coming into this place and referring to the problems relating to gas and energy. We are as well aware of these problems- perhaps better aware- as is the honourable member. The question is what should be done about it. The honourable member tried to pretend that if Labor were in government- and I do not take too seriously the proposition that Labor will be in government- somehow motor spirit, oil and LPG would be lower in price. Of course, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), who is the Labor Opposition spokesman on energy matters, has been very careful not to promise a reduction. I think he has a policy which would tie price rises to rises in the consumer price index. Of course, we know the record of the Labor Party in government when it comes to the CPI. Under Labor the rate of inflation reached jolly near 20 per cent at one time. So there is no guarantee at all that a Labor government would be able to keep the price down.
The fact is that Australia cannot operate in isolation. We have to encourage exploration. We have to pay, as every country in the world has to pay, at least the world price. The price we fix, that for Saudi light, is a relatively modest one. The honourable member for Hawker surely must know that it is necessary to have an export parity price for LPG based on contracts with Japan. This is the way in which the world price for LPG is set.
I am not suggesting there are simple solutions to this problem. Anyone who tries to pretend there is a simple solution is endeavouring to fool others if not himself or herself because this is a difficult matter. We in government who are involved in endeavouring to find solutions have discovered- and this is widely known- that many aspects need to be considered. However, let nobody think that LPG can be treated as a cheap or almost useless material. It is extremely valuable and it will remain valuable as an alternative to oil. Of course, we must realise that we have enormous reserves of coal. We must endeavour more and more to generate electricity from this source because our energy requirements in many fields will be better satisfied by that fuel.
The honourable member for Hawker completely distorted the position with respect to the setting of prices. He must know that the Prices Justification Tribunal examines applications for price rises. He must know that that Tribunal is working and that there are not secret meetings, as he suggested, between the Treasury and the oil companies. That is an utter distortion. He must know that the PJT is acting on instructions from the Government. The Government has announced this publicly on many occasions. He knows that the PJT has available to it confidential commercial agreements and information on which it bases its calculations and naturally it keeps that commercial information to itself. That is the basis on which information is made available to the PJT. Does the honourable member say that any information which government or a government instrumentality requires from commercial enterprises must be put on the table of the House and made public? What sort of system would we have under those conditions?
What came through so clearly in the speech made by the honourable member was a deep dislike for and an antagonism of big business and the mixed economy which operates in Australia. The honourable member made a scathing remark about the Treasury having a classical attitude in support of a free market force approach. Of course, to be realistic, Australia has a completely mixed economy. Within my own Department are the Industries Assistance Commission, the PJT, the Trade Practices Commission and the new National Companies and Securities Commission. This is not indicative of a free market being allowed to run wild. Some rules have been set down. On the other hand, we see great value in allowing market forces to operate. Throughout our history the operation of market forces have resulted in enormous wealth in which all Australians share. This system of allowing the maximum amount of free flow of resources has been highly successful for us and in fact for the world.
I remind the House that we are debating four Bills which come within a much narrower compass. The first objective of the Distillation Amendment Bill is to provide a limited number of licences for small scale stills in the hope that the production of ethanol can be developed in such a way as to provide a significant contribution to Australia’s fuel needs through mixing with other motor spirit. Two of the other Bills are consequential Bills. The fourth Bill takes away taxes on LPG. We wish to encourage the use of LPG in areas where oil is being used, but not to the point where we would outrun supply one day, but where coal and other plentiful fuels will be available. So very briefly that is the position in respect of the speeches that have been made on the more emotive and far-reaching policies and on these Bills in particular. I commend the Bills to the House. I believe there will not be any dissent from them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 28 February, on motion by Mr Garland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 28 February, on motion by Mr Garland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 13 September 1979, on motion by Mr Fife:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17 October 1979, on motion by Mr Fife:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Diesel Fuel Taxation (Administration) Amendment Bill relates to the timing of notification concerning the use of diesel in motor vehicles on a public road when the fuel has been purchased for other uses. If a person purchases diesel fuel for use other than in a motor vehicle on a public road he or she is exempt from excise duty. If, however, some of this fuel is used in a road vehicle the purchaser must notify the Collector of Customs that the fuel has been so used. At present such a notification must be made within 21 days. In the past this timing limitation has caused difficulties. This legislation, therefore, is to allow for the notification period to be extended beyond 2 1 days. The Opposition has no objection to this change and supports this legislation.
I want to make the point that the Opposition does not support the Government’s energy pricing policies. Just recently in a previous debate we heard the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland) referring to the basis of the Government’s pricing policies, in relation to not only diesel tax but also other energy-related matters. Very clearly, the Government has fixed upon this import parity policy which lifts the price of Australian crude oil to the world price. It should be borne in mind that for seven years, for oil from Bass Strait, Australians paid $2 a barrel and they are now paying $25 a barrel. The difference- this represents 83 per cent of the value of the oil- goes to the Commonwealth Government by way of the petrol tax. What the Government has done is establish a branch of the Taxation Office at every petrol pump in the country. It has virtually taken a capital asset in the form of the pools of oil in Bass Strait, capitalised it at its maximum value and then decided to spend that capital as income.
When the Government talks about reducing the Budget deficit, all it is doing in fact is running down a capital asset as income. Ultimately that income will, by definition, cease because it is a tax on old oil; that is, oil discovered before September 1975. When that oil runs out so too does the revenue from that oil. Yet Commonwealth appropriations will build up a spending momentum to spend that $3,000m of crude oil levy, and when the old oil supplies expire in the middle 1980s we will find that the Commonwealth spending momentum will not expire and that the government of the day, whether it be a Labor or a coalition government, will have to resort to personal or other forms of indirect taxation to make up that $3,000m of petrol tax.
The Government’s pricing policy imposes a very heavy burden on the Australian motoring public. It has added 3 per cent to the rate of inflation. It will cost the average motorist who drives to work each day at least an additional $12 a week. It costs $25 now to fill the tank of a medium 6-cylinder vehicle such as a Holden Kingswood or a Falcon. If someone is in the unhappy position of living in a location where they have to cross a city and of not having public transport available on a radii coming towards the city, it is possible that even two tanks of petrol a week would be purchased. In that case a person could be paying up to $50 a week just in transport costs getting himself to and from work.
This is very much the case in rural Australia where distances are great. In States such as Western Australia and, in particular, Queensland, which have decentralisation of cities and large distances between centres- I also include rural New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria- we find that fuel costs are a big element in the costs of families. Apart from that, there are massive cost inputs to agriculture.
The Government is virtually trying to market its oil pricing policy as an energy policy. It is not an energy policy at all; it is simply a taxation policy. The Government now argues that it needs to charge the world price to keep exploration going. Exploration in Australia runs under the new oil pricing policy. The definition of new oil is oil which was discovered after September 1975. The Australian Labor Party and the coalition parties support import parity pricing for new discoveries. It is on that basis that exploration goes along. It is immaterial to exploration what price is charged for old oil- that is, the oil coming from Bass Strait, Moonie or the Wapet operations. The price charged is immaterial. That is simply a decision the Government has to make. It needs to be borne in mind that oil is produced from Bass Strait at approximately $ 1 a barrel cost of production. Whatever we are now forced to pay between that $1 and the $25 is fixed upon by a decision taken by the Government. The split up of that money between the Government and the companies is also fixed upon by a decision made by the Government. The result is that the Government has lifted the general level of taxation in Australia this financial year by $2,500m and in a full year, on the present price of petrol and oil, by $3,000m.
I ask honourable members to bear in mind that the latest increase took effect only from 1 January. Stretched across a full year the amount would be $3,000m. If one equates that with personal income tax, one sees that what the Government has done by means of the crude oil levy is, by stealth, by sleight of hand, to raise the level of taxation through the price of oil by an equivalent of 2 1 per cent. If one includes the old pump taxthat is, the excise on refined motor spirit; the tax which was always in existence before the petrol tax, the rude oil levy- this year the Government will collect an extra $956m. If one adds the $956m to the $2,500m crude oil levy, that comes to about $3,400. That figure equals 30 per cent of personal income tax receipts. This year the Fraser Government will take from oil $3, 500m which is now more than the total company tax payments to the Commonwealth. Total receipts from oil and petroleum products are now more than the total company tax payments to the Commonwealth and equals 30 per cent of personal income tax receipts. The increase is 2 1 per cent, but with the old pump tax included it is 30 per cent.
– You can see what a big department I have.
– The Minister says that he has a big department. Certainly, that is a cynical remark when the Government promised -
– That is a jocular remark.
-He says that it is a jocular remark. I will take it in that vein. The Government promised small government and low tax; in fact what we have is big government and big tax. We have the biggest rate of taxation ever. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has the dubious distinction of being the highest taxing Prime Minister in Australia’s history, not only because personal taxes have gone up to the extent that they have but also because he broke his promises on tax indexation. Those promises were not kept. The rate of taxation has gone up along with the rate of inflation. The tax take has increased. The corporate tax burden has dropped. What the Fraser Government has done is move the burden of taxation away from direct taxation and on to indirect taxation. It has not added to direct taxation but it has not cut back direct taxation. It has increased revenue from petrol to the tune of $2, 500m, as well as increasing sales tax and the tax on cigarettes, spirits, beer, et cetera.
If one looks at the total company tax receipts, indirect tax receipts, personal income tax receipts- the whole receipts of the Commonwealth- one finds that by any standards the total receipts of the Commonwealth relative to gross domestic product, or gross national product, are the highest in Australia’s history. The only objective test of a government ‘s tax receipts is how they relate to gross domestic product in any one year. At the height of the Whitiam Government’s expenditure we would never -
-The honourable member might be ranging rather widely. I ask him to confine his remarks to the Bill.
– I will come back to the Bill before us Mr Deputy Speaker. I make the point that the Whitlam Government never reached the heights of the Fraser Government. The Fraser Government has taken things to dizzy heights. So it gets back to this question of energy. Let us look at the other argument that the Government puts. The Government says that it has a policy to bring on oil substitutes. The substitutes are also going up in price very dramatically. My colleague, the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi), referred to liquefied petroleum gas which is now very highly priced. It is highly priced simply because the LPG produced by the refineries reflects the feed stock price, and the feed stock is at import parity. Why is it at import parity? It is because the Government has decided to have an import parity oil pricing policy. That policy feeds straight into the price for LPG and goes across to motor vehicles and all those households which are connected to reticulated LPG.
If people are to be forced out of their motor cars by higher oil prices, what are they to go into? The design of Australian cities such as Canberra, which is built on quarter acre blocks, or Sydney or Melbourne means that those cities do not lend themselves to an efficient public transport system. They are too sparsely settled. The circular loop railway systems in Melbourne and Sydney and even the bus services in nearly all Australia’s capital cities are inadequate when one compares them with the mobility which the motor vehicle has given the average Australian family and which today is a necessity rather than a luxury. But the Government wants to deny people this necessity without putting the substitute of public transport in its place. One only has to compare this Government’s expenditure on urban public transport with the so-called extravagance of the Labor Government. When the Prime Minister reined in Labor’s extravagance, as he put it, he reined in the rapid public transport and urban public transport programs. The result is that we just do not have the kind of public transport as a substitute that we ought to have when people desert their motor cars and try to use the public transport system available to them. The substitutes are just not there.
The Government goes on to argue that we really need a high price policy to conserve petrol- as a conservation measure. But what the Government wants to do is use the blunt instrument of price- only price- to belt the Australian motorist over the head. Whether a person is on $5,000 a year or $50,000 a year, he still has to pay 30-odd cents a litre for his petrol. There is no capacity-to-pay concept. There is no distinction in the capacity of a person to pay, whether that person be on $50,000 a year or $5,000 a year. It is all the same. So when we analyse the Government’s conservation policy we find that it all boils down to this: Malcolm Fraser is going to tax lower middle income earners off the roads. That is the policy. Only the middle class and high income people will have their motor cars. We will be back to the Deusenbergs and the Rolls Royces of the 1930s. The rich will be in their leased Mercedes Benz and BMWs and the poor will be back to the push bikes, the trams and the buses. That is conservation a la Fraser.
When one examines the Government’s policy one finds that it is a very dishonest policy because the Government of Australia has power over the motor vehicle plans- the motor car industry. The American Congress has set consumption standards on motor vehicles. Eight years ago it decided to lift the performance of the American fleet from 13 miles a gallon to over 30-odd miles a gallon by 1985. The American fleet is a long way towards that goal. At the moment, they are at about 28 miles a gallon. But what does the Australian Government, the Fraser Government, allow the Ford Motor Co. of Australia and General Motors-Holden’s Ltd to do? It allows GMH to introduce its new Commodore vehicle with a five litre engine, a 4.2 litre engine and a 3.3 litre engine- all inefficient, poorly designed engines. The Government has allowed GMH to run down the investment in its old engine plants without requiring it to make fuel efficient vehicles. So instead of our having 40 miles a gallon and 50 miles a gallon vehicles such as they have in France, Germany and Japan and every other smart country which thinks about this question of energy saving, Australians are still running around in five litre cars in the latest range of vehicles. The same applies to the Ford motor company.
The Fraser Government could have reduced fuel consumption in motor cars by requiring Australian motor vehicle manufacturers to have fuel efficient cars. Instead, this is all going to be done by the blunt weapon of price: Put the price up high enough and all the low income people will be driven out of their cars. In other words, the mugs can go back to their push bikes while the smart people, the people on the highest incomes, the ones who get deductions, particularly those who are self-employed and who can deduct their petrol costs and their costs of registration and their lease payments from their incomes, can drive around in their latest model European cars or even, for that matter, their Australian cars.
-I think that the honourable member must come back to the Bill. What he has to say is of considerable interest but the Chair is finding it increasingly difficult to relate the honourable member’s remarks to the Bill.
-My remarks are interesting, Mr Deputy Speaker. I know that you, as a member of the National Country Party, would find what I have to say particularly interesting and instructive. I put to you that my remarks are related to the diesel fuel tax question. All this relates back to tax because the Government’s energy policy hinges on price, and only price. The Government has achieved this price through the crude oil levy or the petrol tax. When one looks at the question of fuel efficiency conservation, one finds that the blunt instrument of price is just not enough. The Government talks about reductions in the crude oil levy by giving personal tax cuts. We have seen none of them this financial year and the Government will stick to every dollar of the $2, 500m it has collected at the petrol pump.
We in the Labor Party believe that there has to be a solution to this problem. A Labor government in office will break this link between the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries prices and Australian prices. A Labor government will impose an oil price freeze for its first 12 months of office and then it will adjust the price by the consumer price index or import parity, whichever is the lesser. So, under Labor, petrol will be substantially cheaper than it is under the coalition parties. This will flow over into all the other products such as kerosene, distillate and LPG- all the fuels that come out of refineries. If the feed stock price is lower, the product price must be lower. Because we will not have to pay full world price, this will give the Australian motorist, the Australian consumer, some benefit for having an oil field in his own back yard. We recognise that we must pay the full world price for oil that we do not have. For that reason, a Labor government would be determined to pay import parity on new discoveries. We may as well pay it to companies incorporated in Australia and employing Australians as pay it to the Arab states. We may as well pay the world parity price to Australian companies. Therefore, this sort of hollow argument that our policy will stop exploration is nonsense because exploration goes on under the new fields, new oil policy. The debate is about how to tax an existing low cost oil field. It is about how to treat Bass Strait oil as regards price and tax. What the Government has done is flog it to death.
-They don’t believe you’re dinkum.
-The people do believe we are dinkum. They do not have to believe anything about this Government. They pay through their pocket every time they stop at the petrol pump. Every time they stop at the petrol pump they have to reach further and further into their pockets. This Government is taking a higher and higher proportion of their weekly incomes, and it is spending that money across general appropriations.
-Order! If the honourable member does not come back to the Bill before the House, I will be required to ask him to resume his seat.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, you will admit that the Bill relates to diesel fuel taxation.
-Not on such a tenuous basis as the honourable member is advancing.
– You may find the line of argument inconvenient, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-That is a reflection on the Chair. The Chair has a commitment to ensure that debate relates to the legislation before the House.
– It was a mild reflection, Mr Deputy Speaker. I do not intend to speak for very much longer, but I wish to make one point about energy taxation in Australia. Not one dollar of the $2, 500m of petrol tax is to be spent on direct exploration for oil and gas. Not one dollar! Only $9m is to be spent on energy research and development. So of this $2.5 billion, only $9m goes to energy research and development. I conclude on this note: The petrol tax policies of the Fraser Government are a blatant ripoff. They are an impost on the public. They have added 3 per cent to the inflation rate. They cost the average family at least $ 12 a week. It now costs $25 to fill the tank of a medium six-cylinder car. Unless there is some respite, the living standards of Australians will drop. A Labor government will give that respite.
-The Diesel Fuel Taxation (Administration) Amendment Bill before the House is really a machinery measure making provision for the extension of the period for persons using diesel fuel to comply with the requirement to account for their usage. It is interesting to note that the measure has been supported by the Opposition. Naturally there is no argument on the styling, content and effect of the legislation.
We have just listened to a very long and somewhat tedious speech on the Opposition’s approach to the question of fuel pricing in Australia which I believe, Mr Deputy Speaker, is out of order in a debate on the Bill that is before the House. For that reason I do not propose- and I am sure the Government does not propose- at this time to take issue with the points raised by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). They have been canvassed before. They represent an old and worn story on his part. The facts, quite clearly, are that he has distorted, mis-stated and deliberately misled on the whole question of fuel pricing. There is a time and a place for a debate on this issue. I have no doubt that an appropriate further rebuttal to the misleading comments that we have heard this afternoon will be made at another time.
Suffice for me to say that the honourable member for Blaxland has been quite erroneous in relation to the matters he has raised. Let me assure the average Australian who has just listened to what the honourable member put that the facts are very different indeed. At an appropriate time a further debate in this House will again expose the very shallow, misleading and totally inconsistent approach of the honourable member for Blaxland to the question of fuel pricing. I strongly support the measure before the House which makes provision for the extension of time for users of diesel fuel to account in respect of diesel tax.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland) read a third time.
Report on Dental Materials
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on dental materials.
– I move:
The introduction of these Proposals is in accord with the established practice of this Parliament.
The purpose of Tariff Proposals is to notify to Parliament that it is proposed to vary certain provisions of the Customs Tariff Act. The Proposals provide the legal basis for the collection of revised duties from the date specified in the Proposals pending passage through Parliament of a Customs Tariff Amendment BUI.
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. Following advice by the Industries Assistance Commission in its Report No. 233 of 6 December 1979 on dental materials, the Government has accepted the thrust of the Commission’s recommendations on levels of assistance to be accorded the local industry producing dental materials. The industry will be assisted by a tariff rate of 1 5 per cent initially, with the duty phasing down to the 10 per cent rate recommended by the Commission after a period of twelve months. This replaces temporary assistance by way of a bounty of $15 per kilogram of dental alloy, which has operated since 22 December 1978 and is due to cease on 2 1 March 1980. The new duties operate on and from tomorrow.
The Government noted that the industry possesses many of the characteristics which the Government has sought to encourage in Australian manufacturing industry; namely, it is based on high technology, is innovative and export orientated. The Commission commented that the local manufacture of dental alloys is a low cost activity capable of profitable operation in the long term with relatively low levels of assistance. The long term rate of 10 per cent approximately doubles the present level of assistance and gives a higher effective rate of assistance. The substantial rise in silver prices- a significant cost component in dental alloys- has substantially increased the value of the product and the impost of the 10 per cent ad valoreum duty. The industry at present is entering a critical stage of development, with the major local manufacturer in the process of widening its product range and considerably expanding its export markets. In view of this situation the Government decided to provide a higher assistance level of 1 5 per cent for one year from implementation, rather than immediately introducing the 10 per cent long term rate as recommended by the Commission.
The Commission considered that the industry should be again reviewed in three years. This reflected both the desire to allow low cost activities to expand and the Commission’s inability, because of a lack of information from the industry, to determine which products may be produced in the future. However, in view of the relatively low levels of assistance accorded the industry, the Government has decided to consider the need for a review on its merits in three years. This will enable known conditions at that time to be taken into account, including product expansion. The Proposals also contain an administrative change in relation to the classification of stitch-bonded goods. The change is of a drafting nature and does not change the rates of duty. A comprehensive summary setting out the nature of the duty changes contained in these Proposals has been prepared and is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Klugman) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 19 March, on the following paper presented by Mr Street:
Transport Workers Union Dispute- Ministerial Statement, 19 March- and on motion by Mr Viner:
That the House take note of the paper.
-The Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) yesterday made a statement in this House on the dispute in Sydney which has now had a national impact, namely, the Laidely dispute with Amoco Australia Ltd and with the Transport Workers Union. The implications of this dispute have national ramifications. It has also brought into stark relief the fundamental differences which exist between the industrial relations policy of this Government and that expressed by the ALP at its Adelaide conference in 1 979, where it was made abundantly clear and placed on record that the ALP has no intention- if ever again in government- of applying to trade unions the laws which it expects the ordinary citizens of Australia to abide by. That is the fundamental problem that we face today. We have to appreciate, as the Government has, that the trade union movement is responsible to the Australian people; that it is to be expected to act within the confines of Australian law; that it is not to be seen, as the Australian Labor Party suggests that it should, as an organisation which may exist, and carry out its activities, outside the law. It is for that reason that section 45D has been one of the points at issue and has created in the minds of the Opposition, certainly that of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), the view that the Government should not have placed on the statute book such amendments to the legislation. The primary purpose of section 45D is to emphasise that both big business and big trade unions, whoever they may be, are responsible for their actions under the law. The way in which they can influence the activities of individual citizens will always remain of fundamental importance to this Government.
It is basic to Liberal philosophy that the rights of the individual must always be protected. What we face in the Laidely situation is the fact that one small businessman has been put in a position where, unless he is protected by government and by the law, there is every reason to believe he will be forced out of business by the collusive dealings of a major international oil corporation, Amoco Australia Ltd, and a major Australian trade union. When the trade practices legislation was drafted, the primary objective was to protect the small businessman, the individual, from the predatory activities of large business. It was then discovered that the predatory activities of the trade union movement represented as great a threat to the future welfare not only of the individual but also of the entire Australian community as any threat ever presented by big business. It was for that reason that the Government, in a perfectly even-handed manner, brought in section 45D amendments. The honourable member for Port Adelaide may recall saying the other day that both big business and trade unions would grow to compete against each other. Surely that is what is taking place. Therefore it is the responsibility of government always to ensure that the growth of business or unions, big per se, is not allowed to develop to the disadvantage of the individual citizen.
The actions which this Government has initiated as a result of last week’s dispute speak for themselves. Yet the Premier of New South Wales stated that it was not his affair; that it was the responsibility of the Federal Government. He promptly referred the dispute to the Arbitration Commission. What is extraodinary, however, is that in 1976 we saw in New South Wales the passage of legislation, draconian in its entirety, titled the Energy Authority Act, No. 69 of 1976. This gave both to the authority established under it and to the Minister- through him to the Government of New South Wales- virtually absolute power over the distribution, control and consumption of any proclaimed fuel. Yet we are told that this dispute is not the responsibility of the New South Wales Government.
We saw last week a total abdication by the Government of New South Wales, in the person of its Premier, of its obligation to accept serious responsibility for the actions which its lack of policy had initiated. What did we see? We witnessed the absolute irony of a situation in which the trade union that was primarily responsible for the strike was in such a powerful position that it was able to dictate to the energy authorityestablished by a Labor government in New South Wales- to whom it may allocate fuel. Night after night we saw on television rows of people- doctors, nurses, social workers, Meals on Wheels and many other socially based organisations in the State- placed in an absolutely hopeless position because the authority was not able to discover until well into the week whether or not they were to be given essential fuel with which to carry out their activities primarily looking after the ‘little people’, the people in our community who have no defence against the rapacious actions of either big business on the one hand or, on the other, of large trade unions or State governments which do not have the courage to carry out the responsibilities that they have taken unto themselves by virtue of legislation such as the Energy Authority Act of 1976. It was a disgraceful performance and as a citizen of New South Wales I abhor the fact that my fellow citizens were placed in this position because they had a State government that did not have the courage of its own convictions.
Once again we have seen evidence of the fact that Labor governments, be they State or Federal, are always under the ultimate control of large trade unions. I repeat, the policies taken in 1979 at the Adelaide Conference of the Australian Labor Party demonstrate that there is no likelihood of any future Labor government being able to stand up to trade union activities. On the contrary, the Labor Party wants law that will apply to everyone else but not apply to the trade union movement. We have gentlemen such as Mr Bowen who made the suggestion two days ago, in attempting to amend the legislation and remove section 45D, that somehow or other such matters should be seen not in the context of normal commercial law but purely in terms of industrial law. There is a position where the line is, to say the least, blurred. It is obvious that when the activities of a normal commercial entity or person could be seriously affected because of the actions either of big business acting in collusion or of big business and trade unions acting in collusion, the responsibility of government is to see that that problem is removed. The only way in which that can be done effectively is by way of legislation. However, it is true to say that legislation, by itself, will never be the solution to all trade union and industrial relations problems. What we need above all is goodwill on both sides.
On the other hand, in recent days we have seen the difficulties faced by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which has for many years been regarded by all parties as the organisation responsible for negotiating settlements. The problem we faced in terms of this particular settlement is whether we should accept the conclusions simply because it resulted from the chairmanship of Mr Justice Moore or whether we should apply to the terms of the settlement the principles of ‘natural justice’. I put this question to members of the Parliament: Where is the natural justice where the trade union involved, the Transport Workers Union of Australia, and the company involved, Amoco Australia Ltd, sitting under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Moore, can work out in secret a settlement that is suitable to them, but the terms are not published? To this day not one member of this House, on the back benches at any rate, has the details as to what the agreement included. But we have very good reason to believe that one condition of the agreement was totally unacceptable to the Government. It was that Mr Laidely, the plaintiff in the case, was not to have access to any sources of fuel whatsoever. It was for that reason that the Government quite rightly asked Mr Justice Moore to reconvene the meeting and bring the parties together but this time- in contrast to the first occasion- all the parties have been invited to be present: The trade union, Amoco, the oil companies, the New South Wales State Government, the Federal Government and, above all, Mr Laidely and the Australian Petroleum Agents and Distributors Association.
At last we are in a position to talk seriously about a negotiated settlement. There are problems in this dispute, not the least of which is the question of federal and State jurisdiction. There have been difficulties in this area for many years. We have been told by the honourable member for Port Adelaide that these matters can be easily solved; that all we have to do is to call people together. The fact is that over the years the Australian Council of Trade Unions has been heavy on talk but very light on action in this key area. It is also relevant to note that if one is talking about union amalgamation it means ultimately that the secretaries of many smaller unions will simply lose their jobs. The reality of power in the trade union movement quite obviously militates against people being prepared voluntarily to vote themselves out of office. The difficulty, therefore, is with us. For that reason, at the last
Premiers Conference the States agreed that this year officers should prepare a report for the next Premiers Conference outlining to what extent it is possible or desirable to transfer State jurisdiction over trade unions to the federal jurisdiction and how, in other ways, these problems of demarcation and so forth can adequately be overcome.
Mr Wran, the Premier of New South Wales, wanted to beat the gun. In the midst of the dispute last week, when he had already washed his hands in the best Pontius Pilate tradition, he simply said: ‘Let us have a referendum on the issue ‘. What he perhaps forgot to note was that at the same time in Melbourne there was a meeting of all the Industrial Relations Ministers of the States and the Commonwealth, except one State, which of course was New South Wales. However, it is significant that as a result of Mr Wran’s one-man plea for a national referendum to transfer all registered unions to the Commonwealth jurisdiction the ministerial meeting in Melbourne with representatives of the States and the Commonwealth governments- except New South Wales- to a man refused to accept that unilateral suggestion. They merely emphasised the fact that the matter was complex, that the issue had to be looked at from all points of view and that the staff working paper, would be completed before the next Premiers Conference.
As I said earlier we are facing the fact that industrial disputes can only be overcome by goodwill on all sides supported by the law. The difficulty we are facing is that with the growth of trade unions, whether by further amalgamation or by the normal osmosis, the reality is that the Australian economy today is under greater threat than ever before from companies which are prepared, against the national interest, against the interests of ordinary Australians to collude with trade unions which are the sources of their employees.
The history of this nation is based on the ability of individuals to ‘do their own thing’. We have developed because we have had a free society and because we have a free political system as well as a free economy. We cannot have the one without the other. We cannot talk about freedom in the political sense unless we also have freedom in the economic sense. The principle on which the Government upholds in recognising the risk we face in this whole matter is simply that the trade union movement cannot expect, in the realities of the 1980s, to be able to exist outside the rule of law; nor can big business, multinational corporations or others expect the Government to look on with equanimity at any action which they initiate which they may see as being to their advantage in the market place but which will put to the wall the small and the medium-sized businessman, who are the very backbone of our society.
The statistics are clear. We cannot develop this country simply through trade unions and big business. The substance, and very life blood, of our nation depends on our capacity as individuals to get this nation working again. It is from small business that most jobs are created and some trade unionists- which to this day apparently are prepared to destroy the Laidelys of this world- would do well to realise that if these businessmen fail, with them will go not just their companies but the jobs of hundreds of thousands of other normal ordinary Australians who do not have massive political power, who cannot pull the strings of trade unions, or have access to the massive capital of multinational companies such as Amoco Australia Ltd. We stand for the rights of every single Australian citizen. If we are not prepared to support them then we have no right to represent them in this Parliament. This Government will stand by its principles. It will stand by the rights of the individual.
– The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), on behalf of the Government, has established beyond any doubt what a great number of people have suspected for the past few weeks, namely that in the matter of industrial relations propaganda has a high value and a low worth. Let us look not just at what is the real situation concerning the rather nasty industrial dispute that occurred in New South Wales last week, but more generally at the Government’s attitude to the important issue of industrial relations.
It is by the overall pattern of the Government’s behaviour that we establish its true motivation. We have seen, I repeat, one rather nasty industrial dispute resolved. A second quite unpleasant one, currently in the process of negotiation, gives every evidence that it is moving towards early resolution. It is to be hoped that it is. However, the Government is taking every step it can, in the first case, to reignite and inflame that industrial dispute that brought New South Wales almost to a halt last week and, in the second case, to impede and aggravate the situation surrounding negotiations. Those are not the sorts of circumstances to be generated by any responsible authority, least of all the Government of the nation, on such important matters as these two industrial disputes. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in pursuit of his objectives- on which I will speculate in a minute- is determined, if.necessary, to cripple the economy of this country, to paralyse the movement of goods and supplies and the provisions of services so essential for the functioning of the social and economic system that sustains Australia. The Prime Minister is blandly indifferent to the effects of what he is doing as he leads his Government. It is a clear case of the bland leading the blind. Of course, what he is seeking to prove is that all anyone needs in life is ignorance and confidence. As long as some one has those things in great quantities success is his. If the maxim is true the Prime Minister certainly will prove that it is correct.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! I do not think that it does much for the dignity of the House to have Ministers on the Government side laughing in the fashion in which they are.
– You are joking.
-The poor Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) was born stupid. He has been struggling ever since to improve his birthright. It is the design of the Prime Minister to open up again the dispute that brought New South Wales to a halt last week. He is indifferent to the simple fact that the provocative measures he is taking will extend the cause of this dispute conceivably throughout Australia. He is prepared to bear the cost- which the rest of the community will have to pay- of bringing the nation to a halt. The Government’s behaviour is clumsy, it is provocative, it is self-defeating and it will ultimately paralyse the economy.
Let us make it clear. The unions are often wrong but so are others such as employers, and so are governments, particularly this Government; yet we never hear about this from the Government. This Government’s approach to industrial relations is not to encourage negotiation and resolution of conflict but rather to aggravate conflict. Of course, the motivation in this case is obvious. In an election year the Government has sought to create the right sort of atmosphere for a khaki election from the so-called most threatening situation to world peace since the Second World War, the situation in Afghanistan; and the boycotts to be imposed on the Olympic Games, with of course exemptions for wealthy wool growers such as the Prime Minister and many of his front bench colleagues. The Government has failed, and it has failed dismally. It has failed because the sheer and blatant hypocrisy of its motivation has been so apparent to the community.
The Government is moving sideways rapidly. It is now seeking to generate as much emotionalism as it can from the issue of industrial relations. In doing that it is prepared to be provocative and to generate dislocation and disruption to the Australian economy on an unparalleled scale. That is what it is ali about- the manufacture of an election issue. I have no doubt that the speculation rife in the lobbies today that the Government wishes an early election, perhaps sometime in July or August- which is a very large incentive for its rather odd behaviour- has a lot of truth in it.
Those of us who are economically literate, which excludes by definition practically everyone on the Government side of the House, recognise that the Government increasingly will be confronted by great difficulties in economic management. Interest rates have soared quite dramatically. Inflation is moving up quite markedly. Unemployment, which had shown some signs of tipping down, has steadied and, on the basis of movements in the economy, will start moving up again in the course of this year. In those circumstances, and given the narrow-minded and inappropriate understanding of economic management adopted by the Government, the last thing that the Government would want is to be left handling the economy for the rest of this year with an election at the end of this year. Just as the Government fails in so many important fields, it fails in that essential field of economic management.
What is the Government’s approach to industrial relations? Let us look at its record. Its record is to amass an armoury bristling with the weapons of industrial conflict but not the measure and means of resolution. The armoury it amasses includes section 45D of the Trade Practices Act which I will talk about in a few minutes; the Industrial Relations Bureau; the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act which is a particularly provocative and repressive piece of legislation; amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act providing, again provocatively, for deregistration of unions; the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Act which essentially is a charter to convert loyal people working in the Public Service into informers against fellow employees so as to keep their own jobs, such is the odious nature of that legislation; the efforts of the Prime Minister to interfere with the independence of conciliation commissioners. One could go on and on and repeat how the dramatic special sittings of parliament and the provocative rhetoric associated with that were part and parcel of this exercise. Where is the new deal of sanity, sense and concensus that was supposed to be injected in Australia by this Government? In 1975 the Prime Minister said as in a statement of policy:
Our view is that satisfactory industrial relations depend ultimately on the attitudes of mind of people in industry.
That is a commendable observation. He continued:
Attitudes of mutual respect, of willingness to listen, to understand, to reason and discuss in an informed way, are essential. These attitudes cannot be created by any party’s industrial relations policies.
Where did that policy fall down? It fell down in its application. The Prime Minister generates no respect. His pigheadedness prevents him from listening. He refuses to comprehend, or he is incapable of doing so. He is totally unreasonable and ill-informed. In those circumstances that policy is nothing more than an empty statement which has been proven to be nothing more than that by the Government’s administration of industrial relations.
As one looks at the record of the Government in the implementation of legislation in this Parliament in the field of industrial relations, one notices that as the record goes up, as the number of pieces of repressive and provocative legislation increases, industrial disruption exhibits a direct relationship and increases too. For the 12 months to November 1979 nearly four million days were lost through industrial unrest. That is a five-year record. So, quite clearly, tough, provocative, confrontationist legislation is not the way in which to resolve industrial disputes in this country. The Government fails because it never seeks causes; it never tries to understand what the reasons are for industrial unrest. The Prime Minister prefers to hurl imperatives, like slingshot, at the trade union movement and at the families which the trade union movement endeavours to protect.
Let us look at some of the things the Government has done allegedly to improve industrial relations. The keystone of its whole litany of industrial legislation is the Industrial Relations Bureau. I shall read from a memo from within the Department of Industrial Relations signed by a Mr Holdorf, First Assistant Director, Legislation Division. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley), who is sitting at the table, may care to giggle at this; I would not blame him. The memo states:
It is true to say that there has never been unanimity about the Bureau. It was conceived in controversy and hostility and continues to retain that character. Politically, the ALP and AD -
That is, the Australian Democrats- are committed to its abolition and it is opposed by some sections of the Liberal Party. It is anathema to the trade union movement which regards it as an instrument of the class war. Mostly it is not welcomed by business which regards it as capable of being a worse cure than the disease it is meant to heal .
That sums up the whole essence of the Government’s failure in industrial relations administration. What it proposes and whatever it has applied has, in fact, been worse than the cure; it has aggravated the disease. The statement went on to say this:
The Bureau has the unenviable task of establishing itself as a credible, overall industrial enforcement agency in this environment of distrust and scepticism.
That distrust and scepticism is shared comprehensively throughout the community. It is shared not only by the Labor Party but also by the Australian Democrats. According to the Department of Industrial Relations which would well know what the facts are within the Government, it is shared by important representatives within the Liberal Party Government, by the trade unions and by employers too. There are quite a number of extracts from that memo which came from within the Department of Industrial Relations which explodes the myth of the cornerstone of the Government’s industrial relations legislation. An amount of $4.5m of the taxpayers’ money has been spent to prop up the IRB and, in the words of the person who compiled this memo, it has been a failure. Let me quote what he says of its record in this memo. He states:
This is not a very impressive record either in volume or outcome . .
He goes on to say:
One can only speculate on its calibre.
Indeed; but the Government will persevere. An amount of $4.5m of taxpayers’ money has been wasted. The Bureau has a staff of 206 employees working ineffectively. Let me move on to the situation involving section 45D of the Trade Practices Act and Mr Laidely. Suddenly the Government has become committed to little people in the community and opposed to big corporations. Again, this is sheer hypocrisy. This case arose out of a conflict between State and Federal awards. In spite of that the Government will not take steps to establish unified jurisdiction in industrial legislation in this country. It has ignored the very simple fact that Mr Laidely has broken a convention about commercial operations within regions. But then how do conventions stand with this Government? They stand very uneasily.
The most unsatisfactory feature of all of section 45D is the associated rigid legal processes which have to be gone through. It is inappropriate to try to force into the normal court processes matters which are exclusively issues of industrial relations. They call for much more accommodation, much more understanding and restraint and much more participation by the people who man the bench in the industrial court, the conciliation and arbitration jurisdiction. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, my colleague, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), has outlined in this House this week practical alternatives which would help substantially to avoid those sorts of problems but at the same time guarantee protection for third parties who feel aggrieved as a result of the effects of industrial disputation.
Government spokesmen are seeking to project this as an issue of big unions and big corporations. By definition they are talking about big oil companies. This Government has never been tough on big oil companies. This is an empty charade. The Government is on the payola system with the big oil companies. Its campaign funds are fattened generously month by month by a very grateful set of institutions in this country, the oil companies. Let me tell honourable members what the domestic oil companies derive as a result of the beneficence of their Government. The income from a barrel of oil as a result of the Government’s pricing policy is somewhat more than $6. The gross profit to oil companies is in excess of $5 a barrel. Liquefied petroleum gas export parity pricing has been imposed on the community so that the price has trebled, with the result that there has been a windfall gain to Esso-BHP. None has been returned to the community.
The Fraser Government is an organised hypocrisy. It does not give a damn about the people in the community. The Prime Minister of this country is not the least concerned to see a resolution of these industrial disputes. Every step he takes is designed to inflame them- or, in the case of the New South Wales dispute, re-open it. This Government deserves to be repudiated for the irresponsible way in which it is disrupting this country, disrupting the welfare of people, destroying the economic security of so many people in the work force and in business. It is dishonourable and it has to be repudiated.
-The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has just made it very clear to the Australian nation that he attacks the Government’s stand on this matter -
Opposition members interjecting-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! As I said when there were interjections during the speech by the Leader of the Opposition, all honourable members are entitled to be heard in silence. That applies to the honourable member for Cowper as it did to the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Leader of the Opposition has attacked the Government’s stand on this matter and has told the Australian nation exactly how he and his party view the very important principle of the rights of the individual in respect of the matter of secondary boycotts. With a very inconsistent reference to third parties, he has completely abdicated the responsibility of putting a case in rebuttal. It is obvious that the Leader of the Opposition finds himself on very shaky ground. On this occasion he had to resort to the usual extreme use of speech-writer jargon to try to gloss over the real issues of the greatest industrial issue that this nation has ever confronted. In fact- and this is ironical- he used the words; ‘propaganda is high on value but low on worth’. What an empty quotation! What a meaningless reference! That was the great opening in his rebuttal of the Government’s statement on this major issue, an issue which concerns every citizen of this country.
The issue, of course, results from the proceedings under the auspices of the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in relation to the Transport Workers Union dispute involving Leon Laidely Pty Ltd. A statement made by the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) in this House yesterday made it clear that the Government, having considered the action taken in these proceedings, felt that there were grounds to seek a review. The Government has acted properly now to seek that review and the President of the Commission has arranged for the parties to be recalled. They are invited to participate in a review of that action. One would have expected the Leader of the Opposition to tell this Parliament exactly where he stood on this matter. He completely failed to deal with the content of or in any way to analyse the real matters that this debate should encompass.
The debate is directly concerned with the action referred to in the statement made by the Minister for Industrial Relations, that is, the need for the parties involved- the Commonwealth Government, Leon Laidely Pty Ltd, the Australian Petroleum Agents and Distributors Association, the Transport Workers Union, the oil companies, the Australian Council of Trade
Unions and the New South Wales Governmentto be brought together to review the proceedings that took place and to take whatever further steps seem appropriate. Yet the Leader of the Opposition spent considerable time condemning the Federal Government and asserting that it had interfered. He completely ignored the relationship in this matter between the Federal Government and the Government of New South Wales. Of course it is no surprise to find that his statements are quite contrary to those of the Leader of his own party in New South Wales, the Premier of that State, Mr Wran.
An analysis of the statements made by the Premier over the last few days quite clearly reveals that there are two voices from the Australian Labor Party on this very great issue. Of course the escape route sought by the Leader of the Opposition is no surprise at all because he knows full well in the light of the previous debates in this House on all of the aspects and considerations of section 45d of the Trade Practices Act that his party for political reasons has opposed that provision. For equally obvious political reasons, his party has opposed the operation of the Industrial Relations Bureau. The Leader of the Opposition spent quite some time condemning that important body and of course in a scurrilous way, in a manner certainly not befitting any person holding the office of Leader of the Opposition in this House relied upon a document which he said had come into his possession from within that organisation. A document has been leaked from that responsible organisation which the Leader of the Opposition now uses as his total premise for attacking the Government. He refers to words and statements in that document as though he had a perfect right so to do and without revealing the source from which he got the document or in any way justifying his use of a document which quite properly he should not have used in the manner in which he did.
-Why? The honourable member, as a man who knows the law and who has been the leader of his party in a State, knows perfectly well why. He knows that to do things of that nature is quite wrong, scurrilous, and quite inappropriate certainly when we are dealing with an issue which requires precision, that requires regard for all of the premises upon which proper consideration should be given any subject.
This Parliament today is dealing with matters of great issue because we have found that a mistake has been made in the law and steps are now being taken to correct that mistake. Let us not make further mistakes and certainly let us not be taken down a wrong and wilful course by the Leader of the Opposition.
I refer particularly to the importance of section 45d because it is in respect of that provision that this whole matter- the protection of the individual, the importance of the rights of the small businessman, the importance of the rights of the community and the broad effects on every citizen- is of vital concern, certainly to this Government. A very informative paper recently became available. The author is Mr R. C. McCallum, lecturer in law at Monash University. He traverses in a very effective manner the background, the meaning and the circumstances in which we now find the operation of section 45d of very great significance. He pointed out that all English speaking countries have to some degree prohibited certain secondary boycotts. The claim that unfettered resort to them would either lead to industrial chaos or rip the balance of power too far in favour of the unions must be a basic consideration. He said that section 45 d of the Trade Practices Act, inserted by this Government, is simply a codification of common law provisions outlawing secondary boycotts. The three major industrial torts in common law covering secondary boycotts are civil conspiracy, interference with contractual relations and intimidation.
That sums up very clearly and precisely what this argument is all about. Of course he refers to the introduction of the basis upon which this section of the Act has become so significant in the law of this country. He refers to the need to redress the imbalance which has developed since the Second World War- an imbalance which is so dominantly in favour of the unions. Of course my learned Opposition friend, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), shakes his head, but he knows very well that that imbalance has very largely led to conflict and controversy and to the difficulty in resolving so many of the industrial disputes in this country. Until there is redress there is no hope of reaching common ground, reasonable understanding and an effective system. Such a development would be in the interests of not just trade unionists, big business or some individual but of all citizens of this nation. An evenhanded approach for everyone is needed, particularly an evenhanded approach which takes into account economic strategies, welfare and in particular modern day trading and the effects of commerce as we find them today in a world which is moving more rapidly into a technological age and the need to speed up the means by which such industrial problems are resolved. In the horse and buggy age it took weeks and months to solve a problem. It is no credit to the Australian Labor Party, to the unions of this country and to those who influence them to find that it takes weeks and months to resolve what initially might be regarded as relatively small issues. The issues then become enormous. The basis of disputes so often is a minor matter, but the effect becomes a major matter with a tremendous impact on the whole nation. So it is right and proper that the Government has taken the stand it has in support of section 45 d.
It is also, I believe, in the best interests of the whole spectrum to which I have referred that there should be a further review to see how there might be a strengthening and more effective use of section 45D, and for very obvious reasons. We must be able to relate our approach to industrial relations in this country to the approaches made in other Western nations, particularly the United States of America which went through very traumatic times in earlier days to redress the imbalance. We have seen what has happened in the United Kingdom. We know that because of the attempts there to remove provisions which gave some redress, two governments, one Labour government and one Conservative government, fell into disarray. They fell into disarray because they failed to grapple with this important issue of creating a climate of reason between the extreme unionists and the rest of the nation. What we in this debate are concerned with and what the Government last week was concerned with is to approach this matter on a basis of commonsense, justice and even-handedness. No one can deny that.
-It is all very well for the honourable member for Wills to whimper suddenly, but he knows a little about fair play. There have been times when he has told this House about it and other times when he has been rather blind, for political reasons, in admitting what fair play means. This afternoon the majority of members of this Parliament support the Government’s approach on this very significant issue. This debate gives an opportunity for every Australian to learn something of where the political leaders of this country stand on the whole question of industrial disputation, the means of resolving it and its consequences. I have no doubt that a judgment will be made and that it will be a judgment which will accord to the
Fraser Government- the leadership of the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and particularly of the Minister for Industrial Relations, who has worked assiduously for many months on these very grave problems- a recognition which perhaps hitherto has not been realised and which will show quite clearly that the public supports an approach based on those great principles of British justice that are so important to every Australian who wants to see this nation grow and prosper. Certainly it is in that significant area that support of the Government’s approach is undoubtedly the one course that this nation must and will take.
– We are discussing a statement which was introduced yesterday by the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street), the first part of which starts by stating that members will recall statements made in the House in recent days. Let us make it very clear that the only statements made in the House in recent days were those which were encouraged by the Opposition on Tuesday when we initiated a discussion of the problems of section 45D. On Tuesday in a full-scale debate we suggested that solutions to industrial problems are to be found not in the Trade Practices Act but in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. We put forward amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and after some debate, limited though it was, the Government voted against any suggestion that matters which could be deemed to be industrial matters involving terms and conditions of employment, the employment of independent contractors and security of employment could be dealt with under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
It is of no use having debates in this House in which honourable members say: ‘I am not a lawyer. I do not know what the law is’. Those two explanations were given by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and by the Minister for Industrial Relations. Whilst there has been in this House very little debate, apart from this statement to which I will advert in a minute, last week there was a lot of debate around the nation on television programs and talk-back programs by the Federal Minister for Industrial Relations and particularly by the Prime Minister. If one had wanted to watch the late, late funny show of John Singleton one night last week one would have heard the Prime Minister say: ‘I am not a lawyer. I do not know much about the law, but this is a State matter that has to be solved in New South Wales’. That is what the Prime Minister said and, of course, that is wrong. The subject of the contest is injunction proceedings taken in the
Federal Court of Australia pursuant to section 45D of the Federal Trade Practices Act.
This week when the Prime Minister was under fire here at Question Time as to why he did not make a move, he again said that it was solely due to the New South Wales Government that the problems had arisen last week. They were dramatic problems which affected everybody in New South Wales and many other people in Australia. They meant that pensioners could not get a supply of petrol for their transport, the handicapped people could not get to hospitals and that children could not get to school. All these matters relate to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Industrial Relations not doing a thing about the situation. So when the Prime Minister says in this Parliament, as he did this week, that it is still a matter of State law, again he is wrong.
Mr Deputy Speaker, you would know of the recent High Court decision in the case of Ansett Transport Industries and Wardley in which it was clearly determined- we cannot expect the Prime Minister to know this but he ought to know that his Attorney-General (Senator Durack) would know- that a Federal law made pursuant to the Constitution prevails over State law. In the Wardley case the industrial conditions of a Federal award overrode the Victorian State law. That is the law of the land. Why have we in this Parliament this stupid arrangement whereby the Prime Minister is allowed to go unchallenged by all honourable members opposite who are lawyers when he says that his only excuse is that he does not know the law, that he never studied it but wished he had, and that it is the responsibility of New South Wales to fix the problem. All honourable members opposite who are lawyers would know the decision in the Wardley case, would know the provisions of section 109 of the Constitution and would know that Federal law prevails over State law when there is conflict. The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson), who is a National Country Party member from an electorate which would be denied its existence if it did not get its fuel supply, had the audacity to say that Mr Wran was not at all satisfied with the Opposition’s approach. Let me relate the position as Mr Wran now sees it following a statement by the Federal Minister yesterday about convening yet another conference to solve this dispute when it has already been solved. Mr Wran said:
Mr Wran accused the Prime Minister of trying to plunge New South Wales into another petrol crisis. He then went on to say that Mr Fraser had tried to stir up the petrol dispute by suggesting that New South Wales had made a deal with the Amoco oil company. He said that no such deal had been made. He said that the Prime Minister was acting irresponsibly and in a reprehensible fashion to suggest that it had. Do we see the Prime Minister entering any of these debates? Not at all. He will appear on television shows and talk-back programs to talk about the law and then he will say: ‘I know nothing about it because I am not a lawyer, but it has nothing to do with the Federal Parliament’. Mr Speaker, if you and all those honourable members who are qualified in law were to direct your minds to all the evidence you would say: ‘Of course it does’. The dispute first went before Mr Justice Lockhart. Mr Laidely was present in the court. When the counsel for the union suggested that it was a matter that could be settled by arbitration -His Honour was of course listening to that submission- Mr Laidely yelled out loudly: ‘I am not going to arbitration’. Mr Laidely is a very impressive person. He is no small businessman. He is a man of substantial means- a millionaire. He could even buy the Nareen property. He has plenty of assets. We have to look at the reasoning behind this situation.
Let us go back to the law. Section 45 D of the Trade Practices Act refers to people acting in concert for a purpose. The Federal Court for some days now has been hearing argument on the meaning of the word ‘purpose’. I have no doubt that when the decision is made, whichever way it is made, it will be a majority decision. I do not think it will be a unanimous decision. The trade union movement is arguing the meaning of dominant purpose ‘ or ‘ purpose ‘ in the context of section 45D of the Act. What honourable member opposite has ever discussed this particular matter? It shows how difficult industrial relations can be when the meaning of ‘purpose’ can be the subject of so much argument. Of course, if the dominant purpose were related to remuneration, conditions of employment and working hours, union action would be exempt from section 45D. If the purpose were related to some other matter, such as damages, it could fall within the provisions of section 45D.
Last week the whole of New South Wales was brought to a standstill. Big businesses and little businesses and everybody else in New South Wales could not get any petrol. They suffered untold damage, irreparable damage, through loss of income. The Government trundled in a statement yesterday saying that it was not satisfied with the way in which the dispute had been settled. It could have sent a representative to the conference at which the settlement was reached. The conference had to be arranged by the New South Wales Premier and the President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to solve the dispute. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Industrial Relations said that the talks had nothing to do with them. But as soon as the dispute was settled a statement was made in the House, a paltry statement about two pages long at best, suggesting that the conference ought to be reconvened so the Government could find out what happened.
The first thing I have to ask is: Why did the Minister for Industrial Relations not go to the conference? What right did the Prime Minister have to make statements he made last week? According to him the dispute could be resolved only by the State Government, but when the State Government resolved it, he said: ‘Well, this has not been done in the terms that I want’. We see in the so-called ministerial statement such curious expressions as: the Government will be submitting strongly that the parties should direct their efforts to developing a proper resolution of all issues . . .
I can tell the Government that a reconvened conference could well lead to another petrol crisis. It could well lead to another strike, a complete paralysation of not only New South Wales but also other parts of Australia.
Let us come to the point at issue. Let us come to the facts, which are not in dispute. Mr Laidely was allowed to sell petrol in the rural areas without any obligations to the union responsible for the delivery of oil in the metropolitan area. He had his own arrangements. Lines were drawn. The arrangements did not include Canley Vale in the area which Mr Laidely could supply. Canley Vale was deemed to be a metropolitan area and was to be supplied by the oil tanker drivers operating under the Federal award. Mr Laidely decided to reopen a service station at Canley Vale without consulting anybody. That action caused the dispute. It is an industrial matter. The argument is about whether he should have done it in another way. The oil companies say: ‘Every day we have to close certain stations and open others. We solve any consequential disputes by negotiation’. But Mr Laidely did not engage in negotiation.
The Opposition now has a suspicion of collusion by the Government. It abdicated its responsibilities last week when the New South Wales Government was doing its best to keep trade and commerce going. The Prime Minister did nothing and the Minister for Industrial Relations did nothing. The matter was settled by a judge exercising what one might call ex officio jurisdiction. The dispute really related to an agreement made with a section of the union that could be deemed to be operating under either a State award or a Federal award. We suggested to the Prime Minister the possibility of a referendum on whether the Commonwealth should take over full responsibility for all industrial matters including those presently covered by State awards. He said: ‘No, I do not want to do that’. What does the Prime Minister want to do? Does he want further industrial strikes? There could be another strike in the oil industry because he has deliberately suggested that there should be another conference to renegotiate settlement.
A judicial decision is to be made in the Federal Court. Leave will then be sought for the matter to go to the High Court of Australia. If the matter goes through the full judicial process of the initial hearing, appeal to a Full Court and leave to appeal to the High Court, can honourable members imagine the whole of the nation waiting with bated breath to see what will happen?
The Swanson Committee gave some hope to the small trader when it recommended that he should be able to raise disputes in an impartial forum. That is where the present dispute ought to be raised. In this House on Tuesday the Opposition took the initiative and said that the best way to solve the problem for all time was to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. When we introduced two Bills to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the Trade Practices Act they were opposed.
Section 45d is bad law. Any honourable member who has been involved in business knows that a court of law cannot solve the question of whether there has been a breach of an industrial agreement. Let us look at the other aspects of section 45 d. Is there to be a substantial lessening of competition? That is a laughable expression in relation to the oil industry, where the import parity price is fixed by the Government. There is no doubt that there will not be much price competition. The Government is getting $2.5 billion from fixing the price. There will be no lessening of competition in that area.
What is the real argument? The oil tanker drivers will tell us the argument. They say: ‘If you allow the Canley Vale service station to be serviced by Mr Laidely and independent contractors how many more stations can be serviced in that way? If you continue to allow stations to be serviced in that way there will be no work for us, the oil tanker drivers operating under the Federal award’. In other words, their security of employment is directly affected.
As I mentioned on Tuesday their award conditions provide for a 35-hour week, a 9-day fortnight, long service leave, sick leave and superannuation. The people operating for Laidely, an independent contractor, who are deemed to be employees under a State award, work a 40-hour week and a 10-day fortnight and receive no long service leave, no sick leave and no superannuation. Are they not industrial matters? Are they not the very matter about which there ought to be discussion? Are they not the reasons why the union is to fight tooth and nail to hold its conditions, which have been arrived at in a proper process in a Federal court of arbitration?
If the Government whittles down the conditions of employees it must expect industrial strife. We have received intelligence that the Prime Minister has said to his Cabinet: ‘I want to have an industrial confrontation. I want you to stick with me. It might take two or three weeks, but this is the best way in which to approach these problems at present’. Whether he will have an election in July or December we do not know, but this is the man with the greatest confrontation stance we have ever seen in this Parliament.
Every industrial matter has encouraged a statement from the Prime Minister. I refer to such matters as the Telecom dispute and the postal dispute. Those relatively minor matters caused anger on the part of the Prime Minister. But we did not see him taking pan in any debates on those matters. What he is now deliberately setting out to do is to cause another strike in New South Wales. In my view, there is collusion between the Government and Mr Laidely. It is closely related to the fact that the Prime Minister is always listening for a confrontationist issue. It is Afghanistan one week and the Olympic Games the next week. Industrial trouble will do for this week. Where is the man’s policy? We have problems of inflation, unemployment and a loss in real wages through indirect taxation, including the oil parity pricing policy. Oil parity pricing means that people have to pay $5 a week more for petrol. Everybody is now queued up again, I understand, throughout the nation -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The discussion today follows a statement made yesterday by the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and it relates to the case of Leon Laidely, the Transport Workers Union of Australia and Amoco Australia Ltd. Laidely is a depot operator who uses his own vehicles, his own wherewithal, to supply fuel to a great variety of people in his area. He supplies to industries, farmers, private users and his own service station. I think the process of this dispute is an unfortunate one in that the first party to move was the TWU which said that Mr Laidely should not employ his own people, that he should not be allowed to supply the people he was supplying. This dispute has been brought about, in my belief, by a series of disputes in New South Wales in which various unions have sought to extend their powers over private operators, subcontractors and contractors. One can look right across a broad variety of industries to see exactly the way in which unions have been seeking to extend their powers in this regard. Leon Laidely happened to be the one who got it in the neck last week from the TWU.
I think we ought to settle once and for all this question of State and Federal jurisdiction. I would like to quote from an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald dated 29 February. The article refers to what was said by Mr McHugh when he appeared for the New South Wales branch of the Transport Workers Union of Australia. The article states:
He also contended- that is Mr McHugh- that the union, being a State-registered body, could not be made a party to a section 45d case as it was neither a person nor a body corporate.
That is the statement of Mr McHugh. This section of the TWU is registered in New South Wales. Certainly the Federal award applies to this union. I think that everyone interested in industrial relations will be aware that the longstanding dispute between the New South Wales branch of the TWU and its Federal body was settled at Christmas time. Those two unions are now planning to join as one so that in fact at some time in the future it may well be that the union registered in New South Wales will become part of the Federal body. Let us get it straight to start with that it is a New South Wales union for which the New South Wales Government is responsible.
The fact that a Federal law is involved does not seem to enter into this matter because Federal laws enter into all walks of life, whether it be divorce, immigration, foreign affairs or getting passports. These laws apply to individuals in all walks of life. Federal laws apply to individuals; State laws apply to individuals. The fact that the union is registered in the State of New South Wales means, however, as an industrial exercise, that the problem lay with the New South Wales Government.
I believe that the most distressing aspect of this whole issue is the fact that Laidely belongs to one organisation alone. He is a member of the TWU. We have the situation of a large union moving against one of its own members and saying: ‘We do not approve of the actions of this member and we are seeking to cut off his supplies’. The union did not counsel or warn; it acted. Finally, after a number of days a meeting took place between the TWU, Amoco and Sir John Moore. As a result of this meeting the TWU said that its members would return to work and supply fuel to the people of New South Wales. On the same day, almost at the same time, Amoco said that it would not continue to supply fuel to Mr Leon Laidely.
This is a serious matter. I think that if we look at some of the factors at work we will see just how serious it is for small businessmen, private entrepreneurs, family businessmen and selfemployed people right throughout New South Wales and Australia. I believe that one can gather from this the commitment of this Government to dedicate itself to the support of the skill, the application to the task, the family support, the long hours of work and all of those factors that bring together the skills and capacity of private operators and private individuals who seek to make a living for themselves by using their own equipment. In some industries this is known as working on the tools. In the transport industry it is not known as working on the tools. It means, first of all, that one has to have the equipment to cart goods, machinery or, in this case, petrol. The union, in fact, wanted supreme control of this industry in New South Wales. This matches moves by the Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia which wrote the terms of reference of an inquiry that is now being conducted in New South Wales by the New South Wales Government to bring into that union sub-contractors working in the building industry. Small carpenters and plumbers- all sorts of skills and tradesmen of all types- may well be forced, as a result of this inquiry, to become members of the BWIU.
Recently the New South Wales Government made a policy decision in another area. It decided that no longer would sub-contractors be used in the drainage and water supply work. In
New South Wales this means that in most instances work previously done by sub-contractors which involves the digging of trenches and the laying of pipes will now be done by employees of the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board. I am told by every source I contact that this decision will increase the cost of the average block of land in New South Wales by $1,500 to $2,000. The efficiency of sub-contractors and their capacity to apply themselves to hard work and great skill compared with that of paid employees of day labour is well known.
The Government of New South Wales has a commitment to remove, wherever possible, subcontractors who wish to work in various industries. Now we see an extension of that policy because the TWU was able to coerce the New South Wales Government into supporting its action to freeze out Laidely and to freeze out private contractors who supply petrol in the sensitive fuel industry. I believe that this is an essential industry and should be branded as such. It should be structured in such a way that no irresponsible person or group should have a capacity to bring it to a standstill in the way that the TWU did last week in New South Wales. If it is branded an essential industry and if some of the powers that the State Government already has under its emergency legislation were used, we would find that there would be no problems in the supply of petrol and oil in New South Wales. In fact, the New South Wales Government proved itself to be completely without fortitude whatsoever when it comes to facing a significant or large union.
I have mentioned the case of the BWIU where in fact there is a strong move to push subcontractors out of the building industry. Subcontractors are the very basis of the most efficient industries anywhere in the world. If we compare our figures with those of every other nation we will find that the building industry in New South Wales is one of the most efficient in the world. I believe the industry is efficient because of the sub-contractors who work in it. 1 believe also that that part of the industry which supplies pipes, water and drainage in New South Wales was efficient until the State Government made a decision that it would pay day labour instead of sub-contractors.
Here we see another step- a step instigated by the TWU- to gain control so that union members would supply fuel under the direction of the TWU tightly controlled through Amoco to as large a sector of New South Wales as possible. This was done with the support of the New South Wales Government and, unfortunately, with the support of Amoco and Sir John Moore. I think that the decision made last week was a dreadful one. The crux of the matter was not section 45 D; it was another extension of union power over the private sector in the State of New South Wales.
– Under a gutless government.
– Under a gutless government, as my colleague said. One important factor in this decision was the relationship between Amoco and the New South Wales Government. I believe it is interesting to note that in 1974 Amoco was successful in gaining 25 per cent of the 50 million gallon contract to the Public Transport Commission of New South Wales. Twenty-five per cent of 50 million gallons each year are supplied by Amoco to the Public Transport Commission of New South Wales. That contract is due to be resigned by 1 January 1981. It is significant that tenders are to go out next month. Amoco will, of course, be a tenderer. Amoco has the contract; it is seeking a renewal of that contract. It does not take much imagination to understand what pressure could be brought to bear on Amoco by the New South Wales Government to coerce it to agree with the TWU against the public interest.
I am aware that a company called the Standard Oil Company, the parent company of Amoco, is at the moment negotiating for permanent coal leases in the Ulan district of central western New South Wales. I understand that these leases extend for 98 square miles and that discussions have commenced between Mr Wran and Mr Hills of the New South Wales Government and the Standard Oil Company. I would think it is quite likely that the Standard Oil Company would also bring pressure to bear on Amoco, a member of its corporation, to say that it is very important that the procedure for the acquisition of coal industry leases in western New South Wales is continued and it is important therefore that Amoco seeks to agree with the wishes of the New South Wales Government.
It is interesting to note that the Total Oil Company has just been involved with a decision to enter into partnership with the New South Wales Government to establish a new oil refinery in Sydney. So here we see a significant number of corporations and organisations being pressured by the State Government. If they have not been pressured, I want to know , and I want to know also whether the Government of New South Wales has used pressure on Amoco, Standard Oil and Total to bring about the situation in respect of the supply of oil and petrol to Mr Leon Laidely. The Total Oil Company is entering into a partnership. I believe that pressure was also brought to bear on Total. Of course, these are the organisations that have denied Leon Laidely access to fuel. The hearings which were conducted in New South Wales in private by Sir John Moore are an example of what we should not seek to continue in any State of Australia. I do believe that the court-like presentation that is needed for the settlement of industrial relations matters is important. I believe that private negotiation is also important. In every instance where a matter is before a court the result of those private negotiations are brought back into the court and are there for the public to see. The individuals who are affected can understand what has gone on behind closed doors.
In this instance we still do not know what the agreement was. I would think that a very great responsibility rests on at least one if not all of the parties involved in these discussions to bring into the open the details of the secret agreement. I would like to see Sir John Moore, Amoco or the Transport Workers Union prove to the whole Australian community that nothing wrong occurred behind those closed doors. The community should and must know the terms of that agreement. The result of the agreement was that the TWU went back to work and Amoco refused to continue to supply fuel to Leon Laidely.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) has made some interesting points, but yesterday in his speech he complained that Mr Laidely might have to go to court and wait for the decisions of a judicial court which was bound strictly by the rules of evidence. If industrial disputes are to be settled and if the real facts are to be dealt with, surely there has to be proper evidence- no closed doors, no secret agreements, but in fact hard evidencewhich can be tested and proved. The Opposition does not like that approach. The whole thrust of the Bills introduced in this place on Tuesday by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition does nothing, I believe, to help the situation of Mr Leon Laidely.
The expression ‘not being an employer of members of the organisation involved in the dispute’ means that if Mr Laidely employs members of the TWU- he is a member of the TWU himself- he cannot be covered because of the Opposition’s proposals to delete section 45D. I also point out to the House that in terms of clause 3 of his legislation all sub-contractors, according to the Australian Labor Party, would be deemed employees under proposed new section 88DA, paragraph (k). The ALP is seeking to do here on a national level what has already been done at a State level in New South Wales. I believe that the way the public can best respond in these circumstances would be to deregister the TWU and boycott Amoco.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-The core of the current crisis in the oil industry is section 45 D of the Trade Practices Act- the tool which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) created in the hope of beating the trade union movement into submission. It is legislation which has no place in the field of industrial relations. With surging inflation, record unemployment, accelerating health care costs and rising interest rates, Australians are looking for responsible leadership, for hope, for security and above all, for consensus in the community. Instead, from our Prime Minister with his crisis-ridden mentality, we get confrontation, callousness, cynicism and divisiveness. So we ask: Why is this happening? Why this latest attempt by a desperate Prime Minister to divert public attention? It is to divert public attention away from the worrying problems that this Government faces on the domestic scene because of its inept policies. It is because of this Prime Minister’s obsession with his disruptive industrial relations policy, a policy that was fashioned and funded by a friend, who is now a guest of Her Majesty- Mr Gale.
Who has assisted the Prime Minister in his irresponsible intrusion into the Laidely affair? None other than the former Minister for Transport, the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon). He has a well-established record of taunting and baiting trade unionists and creating disputes rather than adopting the responsible course of solving disputes. After all, people elect governments to do for them the things that they cannot do for themselves. They look to governments to protect them in times of difficulty. They look to governments for leadership and they look to governments to solve their problems.
This dynamic duo of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Primary Industry managed to ground the airline fleet back in 1977 after taunting and baiting the air traffic controllers over a period of weeks. At that time, the Prime Minister wanted to create a political climate for the passage of the industrial police Bill or in other words, the Industrial Relations Bureau legislation. The air traffic controllers union, I remind the House, is a conservative union. I doubt that the majority of its members would support those of us on this side of the chamber. They have no political affiliation. They voted in a secret ballot, against their executives’ recommendation, to go on strike. They went on strike because of the taunting and baiting they received, particularly from the then Minister for Transport over some weeks. That strike caused enormous inconvenience to the Australian public and it cost the airlines of this country some millions of dollars in lost revenue. But that did not matter a whit to the Prime Minister or the then Minister for Transport. They thrive on crises and confrontations. We now face the prospect of a further major industrial dispute brought on, once again, by the Prime Minister and, as we read in the Press today, by the Minister for Primary Industry because he is the backer of the Prime Minister in this exercise. This Prime Minister, it seems, will do everything possible to see that people cannot get petrol. He is not satisfied with the enormous burdens he has created for people by heavy petrol taxes. The Prime Minister, it seems, wants to cut the petrol supply altogether.
The Prime Minister’s professed interest in the Laidely case is that his concern is for the small businessman. I submit that that claim is fallacious and cynical and I will show why shortly. The facts are that Mr Laidely had a long standing agreement with Amoco Australia Ltd and he broke the terms of that agreement unilaterally. There was no discussion, no consultation with the oil company. Such agreements on supply zones are common place in the oil industry. This case is not something new; not something unique. We now see the cynicism of the Government’s case. This Government supported the zoning of selling areas for newsagents. Everybody on the Government side of the chamber says: ‘That’s perfectly all right. No, Joe Blow has to sell on his own. He cannot go across the border’. That is the law being created by this Government. It supports the formal zoning of selling areas for newsagents but apparently not for oil agents.
It is claimed that the Government did not participate in the first conference that was chaired by Sir John Moore. Yet we now know that the Department of Industrial Relations had two Industrial Relations Bureau officers outside the conference rooms at the CML Building here in Canberra and later at the Canberra Workers Club. If the Government did not have a direct interest in the talks and did not seek to participate in the talks, why were those two senior officers there spying on the proceedings? Did the Government want to have it both ways? The Government wanted to find out what was going on but it did not want the responsibility of publicly being seen to be a participant. Why did the
Government not act honestly and openly? Why did it not seek approval for an observer to sit in on the talks as did the New South Wales Government? It is not good enough for the Prime Minister to rant and rave in later days that this Government was not represented at the talks when the opportunity was open to him all the time to have an observer at the talks as did the New South Wales Government.
The Prime Minister pretends that his primary concern with the Laidely affair is to protect the small businessman.
– I am glad that the honourable member for Phillip said ‘right’ because I will show differently in a moment. Incidentally, I understand that Mr Laidely is not the battling small businessman that we have been led to believe and as has been described by others this afternoon. Let us look at how this Government and how the honourable member for Phillip who has just interjected care about a vast group of other small businessmen in the road transport industry- the battling owner-driver truck operators and their employees. What has the Government done for them? What is it doing to them? Since this Government came to office the rate of bankruptcies of owner-driver road transport operators- the same industry as Mr Laidely is in- has soared by 145 per cent. In 1978-79, there were 461 such bankruptcies and the trend this year is the same. That is to say, every week on the week nine owner-driver road transport operators go broke as a direct result of the policies of this Government. Here we have a Prime Minister who is now going to bring the nation to a standstill because he is concerned, he said, primarily with the interests of an individual.
The increased bankruptcy rate is due firstly to the exploitation of owner-drivers by large transport corporations. Costs have risen over the years, but the increased rate that has gone to owner-driver operators over the past five years is only 30 per cent. That is all. By whom are they being exploited? They are being exploited by large transport corporations. The Prime Minister professes to have a concern about what large corporations are doing to small businessmen. Let us see some evidence of that concern. Secondly there has been a trebling of diesolene prices by this Government since 1975. Fuel prices have risen by 300 per cent while net owner-driver rates have risen by 30 per cent- one-tenth of the fuel price increase. And the Government is concerned about the small businessman! Nine owner-drivers a week are going broke. They are going to the wall and having to sell their homes. Those owner-drivers are being driven to the wall by this Government. For three weeks in November of last year Carl Breen parked out the front of this House waiting to meet the Prime Minister who is supposed to be concerned about small businessmen. He waited in vain. Eventually, after I had raised the matter in the House on 15 November, a meeting was arranged with the then Minister for Transport and the Chairman of the Government’s transport committee.
Operators of trucks in this country have reeled under the trebling of diesolene prices since this Government came to office. The failure of the small road transport business affects not only the families of the operators but those of their employees as well. In many cases, truck operators have mortgaged their homes as security for truck loans. Many now face the threat of losing their homes. The misery and disruption this is causing to individuals and family groups are reaching serious proportions. While the stress mounts, the road transport industry continues to be cut to shreds by heavy fuel taxes designed only to boost Federal government revenue without regard to the well-being of this crucial sector of the economy. As I said, in October-November last year, Mr Carl Breen waited in vain for three weeks out the front of Parliament House to meet the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister’s sole concern for small businessmen is a very selective one. Perhaps if Carl Breen ‘s name had been Carl Laidely the Prime Minister would have been concerned about him. In conclusion, let me say that the Laidely affair is an issue that should be settled. I ask for that filthy remark by the dishonourable gentleman to be withdrawn, Mr Deputy Speaker, and that you ask him to resume his seat.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member for Shortland -
– The honourable member for Denison is a fellow traveller of the Chinese communists. I ask him to withdraw his remarks.
-The Chair heard a remark from the right. If the honourable member for Denison made the remark, I call on him to withdraw.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I was speaking to the honourable member for Macarthur.
-If the honourable member did not make that remark he is not required to offer any comment.
– I am sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker. What did you hear?
– Just withdraw the words you used.
– I am sorry, I am at a loss. Mr Deputy Speaker, whatever you ask me to withdraw, I withdraw. I was having a private conversation and the honourable member for Shortland was eavesdropping.
-If the honourable member for Denison denies having made the remark the Chair has no alternative but to accept that protestation.
– The honourable member debases this chamber by his performance, Mr Deputy Speaker. I thank you for your assistance. This is an issue that should be settled by conciliation and arbitration, not by the punitive powers of section 45 D of the Trade Practices Act. Mr Laidely has willingly or unwillingly allowed himself to become the pawn in the political power game of the Prime Minister. Let me remind the House of the three main objects of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1976. They are: Firstly, to promote goodwill in industry- which is certainly not forthcoming under this Government- and secondly, to encourage and provide means for conciliation with a view to amicable agreement thereby preventing and settling industrial disputes. That is what Sir John Moore has been trying to do, to prevent disputes and to encourage amicable agreement. But he will get no help from this Government because this is a government of confrontation and divisiveness led by a man who is out of control. The third object is to provide means for preventing and settling industrial disputes not resolved by amicable agreement- including threatened, impending and probable industrial disputeswith a maximum of expedition and the minimum of legal form and technicality.
They were far-sighted objectives when they were inserted into the Act. They still prevail, and it is the wish of the mass of people in this country that this Government cease its irresponsibility, bring itself back to earth, strive for those objectives and work in that direction. Let us, as a national parliament, set about implementing the principles enshrined in those objectives. Australians want no truck with the cynicism and confrontation of the Prime Minister; they want security, integrity, responsibility and, above all, they want consensus in national leadership. They also want assured supplies of petrol. Everything that this Government and this Prime Minister are doing in this issue will achieve exactly the opposite.
The Government is dividing the country and seeking to portray trade unionists as some alien beings who ought to be set upon by their fellow Australians. The Government is seeking to set Australians against Australians because this Government and its Prime Minister thrive on divisiveness and confrontation. But the cost is dear to the fabric of this community. It is a cost we cannot bear. I ask the Government to reconsider, to put Australian people and the interests of this nation first. It should try somehow to get back on the right track of developing national consensus. The Australian people do not want a Prime Minister who is determined to cut off petrol supplies and to put everybody out of their motor vehicles on to their feet. That is what this Prime Minister is trying to do; to put Australia on its feet without petrol. Australia’s hope now rests on the ability of Sir John Moore to protect the community from this rampant, irresponsible Prime Minister. Between this Government and chaos stands only Sir John Moore. The objectives and the law he has to work with are- as I stated earlier- enshrined in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I recommend that those objectives be considered and adopted by those who sit opposite.
-The fight for Leon Laidely is not just a fight of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser); it is a fight of every member of the Liberal Government. In the five years we have been in Government most of us have been sick to the back teeth of the complaints we have received from the ordinary average people of Australia who are absolutely sick of being pushed around by people who should know better. These are the people who have divided Australia, not the Prime Minister and not our Government. That point should be heard all over the country time and time again until everybody gets that message. The report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum under Mr Justice Collins is probably outdated now because the petroleum industry is ever-changing. Of course, the world situation and shortages in the long term also mean that many of its recommendations are outdated. But I believe that certain recommendations of that Royal Commission, particularly in the area of marketing, distributing and pricing, should be the subject of careful scrutiny by this Parliament. I believe that in relation to the distribution of petrol the Government is faced with one of its greatest problems since coming to power in 1 975.
Should the Government stand by Mr Leon Laidely, or should it allow him to go under just like Mr Leo Gorman? Should it draft the framework that will protect the thousands of consumers in Australia who depend on petrol for their very livelihoods and as their means of transport, and who sometimes need petrol to save their lives? The hysteria that occurs when there are strikes, when petrol is not freely available, has become part of our way of life. Shame on us. Unfortunately, during each shortage the manner in which some people approach the nonavailability of petrol is getting to the stage where it could be described as alarming, dangerous and not in the interests of the Australian community at large. The people working within the industry are frustrated. They have virtually reached the end of the line.
In this debate it is not the opportune time to talk about some of the discriminatory practices that occur within the industry. When a strike occurs, as it did in Sydney, thousands and thousands of people are affected. Thousands of others in associated industries are also affected. One could take the example of Tasmania. When fuel is in short supply and there is a panic because of the non-availability of plane flights et cetera to and from the State, everything suffers. The tourist industry suffers, unemployment suffers and the State suffers. I know that during the last strike tours were cancelled and people were put out of work as a result. But that aside, the demoralising and dampening effect on the economy and on the consumers at large is something that this Government should carefully consider.
I believe, and have always believed, that petrol should be available, uninhibited by pressure from unions and pressure from other people, to all the consumers of Australia. It is a precious commodity just like the water we drink and the air we breathe. Our whole economy is structured around the transportation of petrol. Why should a union- any union- have complete control and monopoly over the distribution of petrol in this country? Why should it? I speak from experience. The petroleum industry is complicated. It is a difficult web to untangle. But the Laidely case is quite different from other cases. I ask: Have any members of the Transport Workers Union of Australia- meaning the drivers of the Amoco Company- lost their jobs as a result of an independent person such as Leon Laidely? He, incidentally, is a member of the Transport Workers Union, and so are all his employees. Have they lost their jobs as a result of his supplying petrol to a service station that was bought from the British Petroleum company? Leon
Laidely himself has an investment of $30,000 in it. None of the Amoco drivers lost their jobs. This action was just another way for the Transport Workers Union to squeeze Mr Leon Laidely. Would honourable members agree?
– That’s right; industrial gangsters.
-One can talk about agreements. What agreements? The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) has made great play of the fact that there was an agreement that the Transport Workers Union should do one thing and Mr Laidely should do another. We are talking about a big trade union such as the Transport Workers Union forcing this man into a certain situation. It does not matter at all whether he is a small businessman or has a few dollars as a result of working hard. He is being forced out of business. We were elected to protect the interests of the small businessman and to try to preserve the free enterprise system that is under attack every day in Australia. Every day people say to me: ‘When is your Government going to get up and fight this sort of situation?’ In certain quarters we are being called gutless wonders because we have not stood up to the unions; we have allowed them to take over. It is about time that we made a stand; I am pleased that we have done so. It is an important matter of principle that we stand behind Leon Laidely. Laidely was one of the pioneers with Amoco. I could be extremely critical of Amoco, just as I could of some of the dealings of other oil companies. That fact is well known. I believe in fair play, but unfortunately in Australia at the moment fair play seems to have been forgotten. I am afraid that Amoco has deserted Laidely because of pressure imposed on it by other people.
The petroleum industry cries out for reform. The industry can bring this country to its knees at any time. That situation should not be tolerated by the people of Australia. I repeat that the fact is that the Transport Workers Union is now in a position to stop this nation, to bring it to its knees, at any time. My friends from Tasmania here tonight, the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom), the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) and the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr), plus my other friends here realise that I know a little bit about the petroleum industry. What kind of situation did we have in Tasmania when we had a militant secretary of the Transport Workers Union. Every week we had a strike, until the good members of the Transport Workers Union said: ‘Let’s get rid of this fellow. He is no good to us, to Tasmania or to Australia’. What did they do? They got rid of him and got a very sensible member to take over the Transport Workers Union in Tasmania. As a result, we no longer have strikes. The union members there realise that they hold in their hand the key to stopping this nation, to bringing it to its knees. That is what this sort of fight is about. That is why Leon Laidely is making a stand. The Government put section 45D in the Trade Practices Act, so Leon Laidely has a right to ask for protection. We introduced it and therefore must stand by him.
In some areas of Australia the Transport Workers Union can be termed moderate. As I have explained, its members in Tasmania are moderate, but the many thousands of members of the Transport Workers Union generally are being manipulated by people who are after only one thing- power. They want to bring this Government down. It is ludicrous and hypocritical of the Opposition to say, as it did here today, that this Government receives certain things from the oil companies. What do members of the Australian Labor Party receive from the Transport Workers Union?
– Millions of dollars.
-They receive more than that. They receive the means to manipulate, to try to bring this Government down. That is the worst feature of it. It is all very well for the Opposition to claim that Mr Fraser will create a strike in Australia. That is not the point at all. We are standing up for a principle. We will be blamed for this strike. Mr Hawke and others will blame us for it and try to turn the people of Australia against us. But I am afraid that this time they have reached the end of the line because people are beginning to realise that a point of principle is involved, that a small man in the community is prepared to stand up and take this matter to the highest court humanly possible in order to certify the correctness of his stand on a particular issue.
The overwhelming support for Mr Laidely is evident. Many small people throughout Australia are beginning to support him because they realise that this will be a key political issue. They also support the Government.
– Did Mr Laidely contact you for help?
-He contacted me. I spoke to him at length because I think I understand what he is trying to say and do.
– You were in the business; you were involved.
-I know a little bit about the petroleum industry. It is a hard and difficult one but this time we have a unique opportunity to represent Mr Laidely and bring the matter before the community. By so doing we will win the support of the Australian people, who will realise that, for the very first time, we are able to take on the industry on its own terms.
– And we have a good Minister to support us.
-Yes, we have a very good Minister.
Order! The Chair is reluctant to interrupt this conversation but the honourable member in required to address the House through the Chair.
-I would say that, in retrospect, the advice that was given to Mr Leo Gorman was completely incorrect. It should be remembered that this Government, inserted section 45D in the Trade Practices Act. Mr Laidely sued the Transport Workers Union under that section, which in essence prohibits secondary boycotts- boycotts that a union or company imposes to hinder or prevent commercial dealings between a third party and the boycotted company or individual. There is no way around that principle. We stand firmly behind Mr Laidely and must make absolutely certain that the Transport Workers Union, in its continued thirst for power, comes to realise that, just as is the case with any other person or body in the community, it must abide by the law of the land.
I feel extremely sorry that some of the fine men whom I have known over the years as members of the union are sometimes led and manipulated by key administrators who realise that by employing protection, and by increasing their numbers, they are becoming more powerful; that they are able to dictate terms completely, to the detriment of this country. I ask those union members to rise up, just as was done in Tasmania, and make certain that they are not being led down the path of destruction, a path of no return. As a government, we are committed to the people of Australia to stop the lawlessness which is creeping into our community and bringing this nation to a standstill and which is allowing people such as Mr Laidely to be placed up against the wall and shot, so to speak, at the whim and fancy of a powerful union. Bold initiatives on the part of the Government are required. As I have said previously, there are different arguments against the initiation or setting up of a national interest to control the distribution of petrol in this country, but it seems to me that there is no real doubt about the logic of so doing. I repeat, that far too often this industry seems to be the subject of criticism, of inquiries by commissions, of parliamentary debates and of problems which recur day after day. That goes on year after year. The situation is not getting any better; the industry is not improving. It is crying out for reconstruction so we, as a parliament, must make absolutely certain that in the best interests of the Australian people we fight for Mr Leon Laidely, for the principle that he supports, and for the reform of the petroleum industry.
– One is bound to concede that the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) has been the first member on the Government side of the House to mention the Collins report. In a debate in which we are talking about the rights of small retailers in the oil industry, I think that was a fruitful remark. One ought to remember, despite the fact that honourable gentlemen opposite now wax eloquent about the rights of small retailers, that the Collins report was made available to this Parliament in April 1976. 1 cannot go into all the details but its findings include allegations largely from members of the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce about discounting and other anti-social and anti-businesslike practices of oil companies. There was a clear allegation that dealers are sometimes dealt with oppressively and Mr Justice Collins found all those facts substantively proved.
Is it not extraordinary that a government that now talks about the rights of the small retailer, having had that report for more than four years, has still not implemented one of its recommendations? I wonder where the honourable member for Franklin was. I wonder where all those gentlemen who today are talking about the rights of the small retailer have been for the last four years, during which time the Government has had a royal commission report stating that anti-social practices were being pursued in this industry; that dealers were being dealt with oppressively. The report said: ‘Yes, we find that there are rip-offs which are costing the consumers of Australia dearly’. Those findings were made four years ago. They were available to this Government but thus far it has not acted on one of them. All that has occurred was that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), by OctoberNovember 1977, some three years later, said in his policy speech that the Government would do something for independent garage operators. The independent garage operators are still waiting for this Government to do something.
Even with the bleating and carrying on of the honourable member for Franklin and all these people opposite who say ‘We have to look after the rights of the small businessman. What has happened to them is awful’, there are 12,000 petrol retailers in Australia who are entitled to say: Why have you not acted thus far on the recommendations of the Collins report’? What is the answer to that? There is a muted silence from honourable gentlemen opposite. They know that it is one thing to talk about the rights of the small retailer but it is another thing to bring in effective legislation which implements recommendations that point out the kinds of anti-social business practices that have operated- the honourable member for Franklin knows that they have operated in his own State- in every State in Australia to the disadvantage of the small petrol retailer. I want to get that aspect clearly on the record.
There is another aspect which colours this whole debate, and that is the attitude of members of the Government when they talk about unions and unionists. It is almost as if they were talking about people on a foreign planet, men from Mars. When honourable members opposite speak about unionists they always use the term ‘they’. Who is meant by ‘they’?
– The union leaders.
– By another inane interjection the honourable gentleman opposite says: Oh, well, you see -
– The honourable member is not prepared to face up to the fact that the average Australian unionist is the average Australian worker. He is the man who is paying off his house, buying his car on hire purchase, trying to educate two or three kids and trying to maintain a decent standard of living against the economic policies and the onslaughts of this Government. That is who the average Australian unionist is. The average member of the Australian trade union movement is a far better Australian than some of the honourable gentlemen I see sitting opposite. If those honourable gentlemen were paid in terms of productivity there would be no question about who would be better paid out of the average Australian trade unionist and some of the honourable gentlemen who adorn the seats at which I have to look every day.
– Cut it out!
– The honourable gentleman knows that I am speaking the truth. If the honourable gentleman received payment on productivity he would starve, and he knows it.
– You didn’t make the front bench.
– I do not have the sort of careerist ambitions which the honourable gentleman possesses and which lead him to stand in a line and to crawl all over his colleagues in order to promote his venal ambitions.
– That is what your mates did.
– I suggest to the honourable gentleman that he should have confined his ambitions to those areas where he had some expertise until he was caught up with in terms of company practices. The difficulty with honourable gentlemen opposite is that they get up and heap calumny after calumny and libel after libel on the average Australian worker who is trying to keep a wife and three kids on $150 a week. When they are reminded of what they are about they start to say: ‘Oh, fair go. Do not be too frank and, above all, do not be too honest’. What is it in this situation that makes the rights of a transport worker, working under a Federal award- and who is, after all, as concerned to maintain his living standards and his rights- any less important or less relevant to the total fabric of Australian society than the rights of Mr Laidely? That is a question that has not been answered by honourable gentleman opposite. Why should the rights of a transport worker who is bound by a Federal award- that Federal award which will determine his living standards, and his family’s living standards- be less relevant or less important? Why should his rights to protect his economic interests be less relevant or less important to this Parliament than the rights of Mr Laidely?
Throughout the time that this Parliament has debated this issue not one Government spokesman has been prepared to deny that Mr Laidely had an agreement with unions and companies which involved defining the area within which he would distribute his petrol. He knew that; the companies knew that; and the unions knew that. There is nothing new or novel about such agreements operating in the oil industry. The Collins report indicates that that is so. If the Government were so concerned about these agreements- it is the agreement that is important- why have we not heard from the honourable member for Franklin, or from some Government spokesman, to the effect that a terrible thing is happening in Australia. Agreements are being reached by the unions, oil companies and private dealers which determine the area in which a dealer can distribute his petrol. Has that ever been raised? Has it ever been the subject of complaint by the
Government? Of course it has not. The Government knows, the unions know and the companies know that that is one of the facts of life that operate in an industry about which this Government has done nothing for four years even though it has had a royal commissioner’s report to act upon.
No one on the Government side of the House has disputed the fact that what has triggered off this whole industrial process was Mr Laidely ‘s breach of the agreement. He knew that the minute he went outside the terms of that agreement it would provoke a union response.
– Amoco said that there was no agreement.
– I suggest that the honourable member looks at the Collins report which he wants to forget. That report deals with the problems of the industry.
– Amoco said that there was no agreement.
– The honourable member does not believe Amoco. Earlier in the debate an honourable gentleman opposite said that Amoco should be the subject of all sorts of bans by Australian consumers and the honourable gentleman said: ‘Hear, hear’.
– Do you believe Amoco?
– I believe that those agreements exist in every State in Australia, and everybody knows that. If the honourable member for Eden-Monaro knew anything about the industry and about the industrial relations that operate in the industry he would know that that is a fact.
Mr Laidely broke the agreement and he knew that he had done that. He knew by the very action that he took that there would be an industrial response. I do not believe that the rights of transport workers are any less than those of Mr Laidely. In an endeavour to enforce his rights Mr Laidely invoked section 45d of the Trade Practices Act. I do not know who advised him in this regard, but everybody who knows the implications of the use of that provision, any employer in Australia, anyone versed in industrial relations, knows that the minute that section 45d is invoked on behalf of an employer we will have an industrial stoppage on our hands. That is what has occurred.
Who has had to solve the stoppage? It was solved on the initiative of the Premier of New South Wales and Sir John Moore. As soon as a solution was found the average Australian said: I am pleased that that is over. Now the community can get back to business’. Who was unhappy? The Prime Minister was unhappy. He thought that it was a terrible thing that this strike was resolved by Sir John Moore. For the last few days the Prime Minister has been gathering the numbers within the Cabinet and within his own party in order to be able to say: ‘The Government must challenge that settlement in the name of the sacred rights of Mr Laidely. We must open up that issue again ‘.
The Prime Minister had hoped for further industrial stoppages. He is sweating on a situation of industrial confrontation. The reason for this is that the Government’s economic policy is in tatters.
– You haven ‘t got one.
– Let me give the honourable member the details. The Prime Minister promised work to all those people who wanted it. Is it not a fact that that Prime Minister made that promise on behalf of honourable gentlemen opposite? Is it not a fact that we have now more unemployed people in Australia than at any time including the last Depression? The Prime Minister promised he would resolve the inflation problem. Inflation is now back in double digit figures. He promised that interest rates would come down, but interest rates have gone up. The terrible problem for the Prime Minister is that, with all his economic promises, there is not a shady used car dealer whose promise is not regarded by the Australian people as being more significant than the promise of the Prime Minister of Australia. Everyone knows that; every Australian knows that.
The Prime Minister is in a situation where an election looms. He has now to confront the people of Australia and answer for his list of broken promises. He was delighted about three weeks ago because the Russians walked into Afghanistan. We were going to have an Afghanistan-led recovery. Well, that has gone flat. We have tried consumer-led recoveries; we have tried holding down wages as a method of economic recovery. The Afghanistan-led recovery has failed so now we are to have a union bashing-led recovery. That is what the Prime Minister is about; that is what this Government is about. It does not mind dividing Australian society. It does not mind the sleazy-slick gentlemen who sit opposite making the kind of moral judgments about decent hard working Australians as we have heard in this Parliament. It does not mind that. This Prime Minister is out to produce industrial confrontation. He does not mind if Australia is divided from top to bottom so long as he is able to say to the people of Australia: ‘I will be strong and true and brave. I do not mind. As long as we crush the unions, you can vote for me with confidence’. This is one of the most dishonourable, mean and despicable political ploys in the history of the Australian people. The Australian people are awake up to this Government. They are awake up to this Prime Minister. They are awake up to the political nonsense that has emanated from the Government benches tonight.
– I regret that once again in a debate on a major issue the contribution from the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) has relied heavily on personal abuse and on denigration of the integrity of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), of my colleagues and of myself. I recognise that a man who has nothing to say will no doubt find it convenient to rely on personal abuse. All I can say in response is that I understand the disappointment of Mr Hamer when he lost the honourable member for Melbourne Ports from his Parliament to this one. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports was the longest serving Leader of the Opposition in Victorian history. I would imagine that having him there was an immense insurance policy for Mr Hamer. How disappointing it must have been when the honourable member for Melbourne Ports was transported at great personal financial reward to this House. If the honourable member wishes to discuss matters of finance, I wonder whether he would like to discuss in this House the large volume of cash he received from the superannuation fund of the Victorian Parliament before he came here.
However, I would like to mention some of the alleged facts raised by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. In the first place he said nothing has been done about the Royal Commission on Petroleum. I presume that he has heard of the Fife package. I presume that he is aware of the statement which has been circulated for three weeks on the first stage of that package on franchise arrangements.
– The Labor Party called for the royal commission. How many Labor members made a speech on the report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum conducted by Mr Justice Collins?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member for Franklin has already spoken.
– I must say, Mr Deputy Speaker, that he has made a very fair point. The Labor Opposition has shown no interest whatsoever. At least this Government has introduced the first recommendations of that report on the subject of franchise arrangements and will continue with the Fife package depending on the experience which results from the first recommendations.
– It has taken you four years to initiate discussion. You have not done a single thing.
– I thank the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. He is now conceding that what he said was arrant nonsense. He said that this Government had done nothing. He is now conceding that it has introduced the first section and we are dealing with it. He is ranting on. It is just unbelievable to listen to this man who first denies the fact and then, when he is forced to concede that something has been introduced, pretends that it is not there. The facts are that the first section of the Fife package has been presented for discussion.
– It is not law and you know it is not law. So, why lie about it?
– The honourable member for Melbourne Ports said that it is not law. Apparently until something has become law we have done nothing.
– That is right.
– What arrant nonsense! It is presented to the industry for its discussion so that when introduced it will be a good law.
– Go and tell the petrol retailers.
-Order! Might I suggest that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports cease interjecting and that the honourable member for Macarthur address the Chair instead of entering into an argument across the floor of the chamber with the honourable member for Melbourne Ports.
– I would be more than pleased to have the opportunity to be able to speak in this chamber without having the rantings of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports continually pressing in my ears.
Having recognised that that particular remark made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports was arrant nonsense, may I then deal with some other points raised by other honourable members opposite who also have the capacity to talk arrant nonsense? The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) spoke about the rate of bankruptcy of truck drivers. May I say to him that the major reason for truck driver bankruptcies in my area has been the consistent ratbag strikes, particularly at the coal loader and in fuel terminals, which have destroyed the viability of so many owner-drivers and small businesses there. It is interesting to note that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, having been caught out, has left the chamber.
I am concerned also about other matters raised by the honourable member for Shortland and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and others who have claimed that there was an agreement between Amoco Australia Pty Ltd and Mr Laidely. It is interesting to note that Amoco itself consistently and strongly denies the existence of any such agreement. How fascinating it is that the only people to find the existence of such an agreement are the members of the Opposition who consider it convenient to assert that a non-existent agreement has been broken. It is on that basis- the breaking of a non-existent agreement-that the Labor Party founds its curious moral position. I stress that there are many, many basic untruths in the propositions being put forward by the Opposition. But I am more concerned about the philosophical problems that emerge out of the Labor Party’s determined position on big unions and big companies. I mention next the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). We are having a lot of ports tonight and none of them is any good. They are all corked. The honourable member for Port Adelaide in this House on 1 9 March 1 980 said:
It is of no use the Prime Minister saying that some of the companies and some of the unions are getting too large.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide continued:
The fact is that the companies will get larger and the unions will get larger in order to be able to combat the powers of one another.
Big unions, big companies! The Labor Party likes it that way. The bigger the companies get, the easier they are to control. Little people, competitive people, are very, very difficult to control. That goes for companies, for small businessmen and for unionists working for smaller groups. When it suits the Labor Party’s philosophy, it is happy to damage the whole concept of small business. Is it not interesting to note that the Labor Party was very happy indeed with the concept of a Prices Justification Tribunal and a Trade Practices Commission. Both of these authorities could curb the power of big companies. But if any government tries, in an offsetting way, to curb the power of big unions, particularly big unions acting in collusion with big companies that is somehow morally disgusting- according to the Labor Party. It is extraordinary that the Labor Party manages to have this split philosophical position. It is okay for companies to get big because they can be controlled but any attempt to control big unions is disgraceful in the view of the Labor Party because it is ‘union bashing’.
– It is the old story.
-That is arrant nonsense and, as the honourable member for Eden Monaro has said, it is the old story. Nonetheless the problems in this area are very real and I do not think any of us can get away from them. The simple position-it has not been denied by the Opposition- is this: Mr Laidely has been denied his right to trade freely. This denial was brought about following meetings held under the auspices of the President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission without Laidely being present. The framework of the Commission is provided for the purpose of settling industrial disputes having regard to the interests of the persons immediately concerned and of society as a whole. I think it is vital to understand the phrase ‘having regard to the interests of the persons immediately concerned and of society as a whole’. Yet Laidely, the person immediately concerned, was not represented and society as a whole was not represented because the Government was not present at that meeting. The Government has a firm commitment to protect individual rights. The Government has a responsibility to take action designed to seek redress and to have the individual ‘s rights properly considered. That is the simple proposition involved in this dispute.
It seems to me that the disagreement between the Opposition and the Government in this case represents the basic difference in philosophy between the two parties, and this is the area, I think, of major concern. The rights of the individual are paramount in the philosophy of members of the Government parties; not the rights of big unions or the rights of big government. In fact, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) said recently, it is only through big government that equity can be spread throughout the community. That is the Opposition’s philosophic position. That was stated in the Frank Chamberlain lecture. Of course we all know that to pay for big government the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) wants to have big taxes and wants to convince the public that they should pay. That is the Opposition’s philosophic position.
I think it is worth while to recognise some of the points made by the Prime Minister in the talk on 2UE that has been criticised so strongly by members on the other side particularly the honourable member for Port Adelaide. The Prime Minister said: the time is right to stand up for the interests of the average person in this country; the little bloke … the small companies. Because when you get major industrial disputes, or you get the whole nation confronted by a particular union as the TWU is seeking to do, then it is the average person who gets damaged, the citizens going about their normal business; small companies like Mr Laidely ‘s which are virtually put out of business.
The honourable member for Shortland should recognise that bankruptcies are a result of strikes, blockades and other activities -
– Indeed, intimidation- by union groups. Certainly there are problems and no one would deny it. Let me go on with what the Prime Minister had to say. He said:
We all have to be prepared as a nation to say if we need to go through some period of inconvenience to support the rights of other Australians to survive, then that is the sort of thing that as a nation we have to do. Because otherwise, we say survival is dependent upon the goodwill of the Transport Workers ‘Union.
Or of other unions. I want to say this: As an extrade unionist, as a former member of the executive of my trade union I share unionists’ concern that some workers could get lower pay and worse conditions than other workers who are doing exactly the same job. If that were the issue in the TWU dispute then the Labor Party, which has not put it as the issue I might say, might have some case to put. But the Labor Party has not put forward that case because that is not the true position. On those basic industrial grounds there is no justification for this dispute. It is not a dispute about some workers under a Federal award getting a better deal than some workers under a State award who are doing exactly the same work. That situation does not exist because generally the agents in the metropolitan areas of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong pay the Federal award rates and meet the Federal award conditions. It is only in the remoter country areas where many drivers are tanker drivers for only part of the week that the State award for New South Wales is predominant. There is no doubt that any attempt to say that this dispute relates to unfair treatment of unionists getting different rates for doing the same work is arrant nonsense.
The facts are these: The reason for this dispute is not an industrial one. The reason for this dispute is very simply this: The TWU has forced, particularly as a result of activity by the New South Wales Government, many reluctant owner-drivers to become members of that union. It has, with the connivance of the Labor Government in New South Wales, forced people who work for fuel agents to become members of the TWU whether they wished to or not. As a result an increasing number of dissident members of the TWU- owner-drivers and people working for agents- are now on the voting list for the TWU. The TWU can cope with that. It simply refused them the right to vote in this dispute. That is how it coped with it temporarily. But its long term solution is simply to force the closure of agencies so that all unionists will be employed by the major oil companies because the TWU can more effectively blackmail a big oil company or a handful of big oil companies than it can a group of small independent businessmen. That is why the TWU is out to get the small man. That is why Mr Laidely is in the firing line. It is a serious battle between big unions pushing people into big companies so that the unions can deal with those big companies in the usual way of straight blackmail.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, section 45D is nothing but a sham and this Government knows it. It is trying to strengthen it although it should not exist. The Government simply seeks to pour -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) proposed:
That the question be now put.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, we protest against the use of the gag on an issue of such significance. Nevertheless in deference to the business of the House we will not press for a division.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I present the annual report of the Antarctic Research Policy Advisory Committee and seek leave to make a statement on the report.
-The Antarctic Research Policy Advisory Committee was established in February 1979 to review Australia’s Antarctic scientific effort and to advise the Government on priority areas for scientific and technological research. The Government asked the Committee to place particular emphasis on research into the potential resources of the region and the possible environmental consequences of their exploitation. The Committee’s main recommendations have been accepted by the Government. Others have still to be fully considered. The principal recommendation is that Australia have a high quality research program in Antarctica. The Government has accepted that view and decided that increased Antarctic research is essential. The objectives of our future operations will be to undertake research directed towards:
The living and mineral resources and the environmental effects of their exploitation; the effect of the Antarctic on climate, weather and oceanic circulation in the Southern Ocean area, particularly as these relate to Australia; and taking advantage of the special opportunities afforded by the unique aspects of the Antarctic.
Responsibility for conducting the program will remain with the Antarctic Division of the Department of Science and the Environment. The Division will provide and co-ordinate logistic support and conduct research, including a major new program in Southern Ocean marine biology. It will also develop a small professional group in oceanographic research in the Southern Oceans.
As recommended by the Advisory Committee, I have appointed a Planning Committee of scientists to assess Antarctic research proposals by government agencies, universities and colleges, and industry. All have been selected because of their expertise and experience in Antarctic expeditions. I seek leave to have the list of Planning Committee members incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Chairman- Director, Antarctic Division
Mr A. G. Bomford; Director, Division of National Mapping, Department of National Development and Energy
Professor W. F. Budd- Professor of Meteorology, University of Melbourne
Professor K. D. Cole- Professor of Theoretical and Space Physics, LaTrobe University
Professor D. H. Green- Professor of Geology, University of Tasmania
Professor P. F. Schwedtfeger- Professor Oceanography, Flinders University
Mr N. A. Streten; Senior Meteorologist, Austalian Numerical Meteorology Research Centre
Mr R. J. Tingey; Senior Geologist, Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysicsl, Department of National Development and Energy
Dr K. R. Kerry; Acting Assistant Director, Scientific, Antarctic Division
Dr D. J. Lugg; Senior Medical Officer, Antarctic Division
Mr R. M. Lightfoot; Senior Engineer, Antarctic Division
-The program recommended by the Planning Committee will be aimed at the broad objects of research. Individual projects will be selected on the basis of their relevance to the objectives, and scientific merit. All proposals will compete on an equal basis for a place on the program.
The Government is involving the broader scientific community in Antarctic research so as to ensure that the highest possible quality of work is achieved. These are important steps in the implementation of the Government’s policy of rational management and protection of the environment, based on extensive research. The new initiatives will coincide with the relocation of the Antarctic Division at Kingston, Tasmania, where the Government will develop a research establishment in keeping .with Australia’s tradition of achievement in Antarctica and commitment to the Antarctic Treaty. The Division expects to move to Tasmania by April 1981 as planned. Construction is on schedule.
The Advisory Committee has pointed out that the new initiatives will require improved logistic support and I will be bringing forward proposals recommending rebuilding programs at our Antarctic stations and long term transport arrangements. I take this opportunity to thank the Chairman, Professor Caro, and members of the Committee for their efforts in reporting on these complex and difficult matters so soon after being established. The report is a model of brevity and clarity. It should be of interest to every Australian. I commend the report of the Antarctic Research Policy Advisory Committee to the House.
-by leave-The Opposition welcomes the report of the Antarctic Research Policy Advisory Committee presented this evening by the Minister for Science and the Environment (Mr Thomson). There can be little doubt that the subject matter of the report will bring Australia’s role in Antarctica into centre stage in world attention before we are very long into the decade. Six nations claim territorial control over the Antarctic continent- Australia, Norway, Argentina, Chile, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and France. Australia’s is the largest claim. It consists of two huge triangles, the first running along a line 45 degrees east to the South Pole and then north along to 136 degrees east and north to the 60th parallel south, continuing through the Indian Ocean until the starting point of the triangle at 45 degrees again. The second, separated from the first by a thin slice of French territory, runs along the 60th parallel and down to the South Pole between 142 degrees east and 160 degrees east.
Apart from Australia ‘s own manned bases, the Australian Antarctic Territory contains four Soviet bases- Leningradskaya, Mirny, Vostok and Molodezhnaya. The Australian area constitutes 47 per cent of Antarctica. The United States, the most active party in Antarctica, makes no territorial claim at all and does not recognise the claims of any other nation. Increasing pressure on resources may make Antarctica the scene of an international scramble in the 1980s. Australia’s legal claim is tenuous. We may establish some kind of moral jurisdiction by the quality of our scientific work and by providing access to it freely on an international basis. The ecological, environmental and scientific significance of our Antarctic commitment is enormous and ought not to be skimped.
I point out that the report, as the Minister said, is a model of brevity- perhaps too brief, if anything. The report was six months in preparation. Perhaps if it were a little longer we could have had far more detail on which we could have a detailed debate in this House. The report runs to 25 pages, plus 15 pages of appendices. I draw the attention of the House to one or two points about Australia’s spending in this area. On page 9 of the report the following is pointed out:
The cost of the present research program is a relatively small component of the total cost of the Australian presence in the AAT. Less than 14 per cent ($2m) of a total expenditure of $ 13.8m on the Antarctic program is attributable to research; 76 per cent ($ 10.5m) being for logistics and 10 per cent ($1.3m) for administration. Support for the Government’s policy towards the Antarctic requires a substantial increase in the research effort, but this implies a much less than proportionate increase in overall costs.
On pages 7 and 8 the Committee points to the range of tasks to be achieved and states:
At present scientific work is undertaken in nine broad disciplines: meteorology; terrestrial biology; marine biology; glaciology; cosmic ray physics; upper atmosphere physics; geology and geophysics; surveying and mapping; and medical research.
In paragraph 26 on page 8 the Committee gives just a hint of the dimension of the problems to be tackled when it states:
Over the past few years the level of mapping and geoscientific survey activity has been reduced to the point where it is falling short of providing the scale of information appropriate to the policy outlined in paragraph 1 7. The geology, geophysics, surveying and mapping programs have been limited in extent and confined to the continent. Although geological mapping has been undertaken since the early 1960s only 50 per cent of exposed outcrops have been adequately covered. More than 97 per cent of the AAT is ice covered and geophysical surveys, which are the only means of systematic geological investigation in such areas, have not even commenced. Even topographic map coverage of AAT is only 35 per cent complete. There have been no bathymetric surveys and geological or geophysical work in the off-shore areas which, because they may be prospective in petroleum, are areas most likely to be the first to warrant mineral exploration and exploitation.
I point out that the policy of the Australian Labor Party in this area reads as follows:
Whilst not affecting Australia’s current claims to certain areas of the Antarctic, a Labor Government would be prepared to enter into discussion with other interested nations to investigate the desirability and practicability of international control of Antarctica.
We face a situation that is very closely related to our scientific goals in the area in that if we discover that there is enormous mineral wealth in the Antarctic there will be an international scramble which will make the scramble for Africa in the 19th centure or the great gold rushes of the Klondike and of Australia in the 19th century appear very tiny in comparison. So it is an area where obviously we have to move very carefully. I note that a very substantial proportion- nearly 50 percent- of the $13. 8m to be provided in 1979-80 will be devoted to a building which will be set up in the electorate of the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). I hope that larger sums of money will in fact be provided.
I conclude by pointing out the Committee ‘s estimates of the cost of the recommended program which are contained in appendices at the end of the report. The actual amounts involved are very small. I hope that before long the House will be given a more specific commitment by the Government as to what it proposes to do, how it proposes to proceed with developments in the Antarctic, what its attitudes are towards internationalising the area and what its relationships are with other nations in the area. It is obviously going to be very difficult for Australia to maintain its present position without coming to some kind of long-term understanding with the two major powers which have bases in the area- the Soviet Union and the United States of America. The Opposition regards this matter as being of the greatest importance. It regards this report as an important first step. What we look forward to very keenly are what the next steps are going to be.
Consideration of Senate ‘s amendment.
Page 2, clause 6, proposed section 60, at end of proposed section, add the following new sub-section: “ “(2) Sections 48 (other than paragraphs ( 1) (a) and (b) and sub-section (2) ), 49 and 50 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 apply in relation to declarations under subsection ( 1 ) as if, in those sections, references to regulations were re ferences to declarations. ‘. ‘ ‘.
The purpose of the Senate’s amendment is to bring under parliamentary control a discretion given to the Minister for National Development and Energy by clause 6 of the amending Bill. Clause 6 as originally drafted amends section 60 of the principal Act which provides that all works of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission are subject to provisions of the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act. Clause 6 provides that for the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act to apply to works of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, those works must be declared by the Minister by notice in the Gazette.
The Senate’s amendment to clause 6 provides that a declaration of any work of the AAEC by gazettal shall be placed before each House of Parliament as if it were a regulation, in accordance with sections 48, 49 and 50 of the Acts Interpretation Act, thereby making the Minister’s declaration subject to parliamentary scrutiny and possible disallowance. Clause 6, drafted in original form, followed the procedure in the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act itself which provided only for declaration of works by gazettal by the Minister. That is, it did not provide for parliamentary scrutiny.
-The Opposition supports this amendment. We believe that these matters should be tabled in the Parliament rather than a mere gazettal being all that is required. We support this principle on all occasions. Without the Opposition’s support this matter would not have received the favourable response that it received in the Senate. I shall not detain the Committee any longer other than to say that on every occasion that we can possibly do so we shall follow the principle of matters such as this, where they are matters of substance, being brought to the Parliament, rather than the regulations being merely gazetted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
Senate ‘s amendments-
No. 1- Page 1, clause 3, sub-clause (1), lines 7 to 9, leave out the sub-clause, insert the following sub-clause: “( 1 ) The Pipeline Authority shall construct a pipeline from Young to Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga in the State of New South Wales consisting of a 324 millimetre diameter pipeline on the route described in Schedule 1 and an 89 millimetre diameter pipeline on the route described in Schedule 2. “.
No. 2- Page 1, clause 3, sub-clause (2), line11, leave out “route described in the Schedule”, insert “routes described in the Schedules”.
No. 3-Page 2, clause 4, line 4, leave out “$17,500,000”, insert “$17,600,000”.
No. 4- Page 2, the Schedule, leave out the Schedule, insert the following Schedules:
SCHEDULE 1 Section 3(1)
DESCRIPTION OF THE ROUTE OF THE 324 MILLIMETRE DIAMETER PIPELINE FROM YOUNG TO WAGGA WAGGA
Commencing at a take-off point on the Moomba to Sydney natural gas pipeline situated within the grounds of the Pipeline Authority’s Control Centre near Young, N.S.W., 1034 km from Moomba, thence in a southerly direction for a distance of 0.3 km through the Pipeline Authority’s Control Centre grounds, thence on a bearing of 248° for a distance of 4.1 km, thence on a bearing of 267° for a distance of 2.0 km to a point on the Henry Lawson Way about 0.6 km from Maimuru Railway Siding, from this point proceeding on a bearing of 220° for a distance of about 4.8 km, thence on a bearing of 190° for a distance of 2.9 km to a point on the Young-Temora road about 0.7 km west of the Toompang Racecourse, thence continuing on a bearing of 190° for a distance of about 3 km, thence on a bearing of 222° for a distance of about 2 km, thence on a bearing of 190° for about 3.2 km to a point about 0.5 km from the Baxter-Berthong parish boundary near the North Tumbleton woolshed, thence on a bearing of 210° for a distance of 4.3 km thence on a bearing of 194° for a distance of 3.1 km to a point on the Wombat-Fontenoy road about 0.7 km east of Warrenoy Homestead, thence a bearing of 200° for a distance of 4.7 km to a point on the road 0.15 km south of JindaleeHarden Shire boundary, thence on a bearing of 210° for a distance of 5.8 km to a point on the Wallendbeen-Temora road about 4.3 km west of Wallendbeen, thence on a bearing of 227° for a distance of 15.1 km to a point adjacent to the intersection of the Stockinbingal and Old Temora Roads, thence on a bearing of 225° for 11.1 km to a point about 0. 1 km west of the Frampton Railway deviation on the Main Southern Railway, thence on a bearing of 205° for a distance of 6.9 km to a point on the Cootamundra-Illabo Shire boundary about 0.6 km west of Main Southern Railway, thence on a bearing of 225° for a distance of 2 km to a point 0.2 km west of Main Southern Railway, thence on a bearing of 245° for 3.5 km to a point on the Old Junee Road 0.9 km south-west of Bethungra, thence on a bearing of 225° for a distance of 2.7 km to a point adjacent to Railway Kilometre Post 460 on the Main Southern Railway, thence on a bearing of 160° for a distance of about 0.2 km to cross the Main Southern Railway and the Olympic Way 3.6 km south-west of Bethungra, thence on a bearing of 230° for a distance of 5.1 km to cross the Billabung Creek about 1 km from the Main Southern Railway, thence on a bearing of 230° for a distance of about 5.6 km to a point on the IllaboWantabadgery Road 2.5 km south of Illabo, thence a further 3.8 km on a bearing of 230° to a point on the Junee ReefsWantabadgery Road 3.8 km south-east of the Main Southern Railway, thence continuing on the same bearing to a point about 0.37 km south of the Boree- Wantiool parish boundary, thence on a bearing of 235° for a distance of 3.6 km to a point on the Junee-Gundagai Road at about 6 km south East of Junee, thence on a bearing of 225° for a distance of 12.4 km to a point on the mabo-Mitchell Shire boundary 0.5 km west of Pattersons Road, thence on a bearing of 230° for a distance of 8. 1 km to a point 0. 1 km southeast of Weeroona Homestead, thence on a bearing of 235° for a distance of 7.7 km to a point on the Wagga Wagga City boundary about 0.6 km north of Bomen Railway Station, thence generally parallel to the existing Shire Road on a bearing of 200° for a distance of 1.2 km to the Wagga Wagga custody transfer station site opposite the Wagga Wagga City Council Abattoir Complex.
SCHEDULE 2 Section 3(1)
DESCRIPTION OF THE ROUTE OF THE 89 MILLIMETRE DIAMETER PIPELINE CONNECTING TO COOTAMUNDRA
Commencing at a take-off point on the Young to Wagga Wagga natural gas pipeline situated adjacent to the intersection of the Stockinbingal and Old Temora roads approximately 54 km from the Pipeline Authority’s Control Centre near Young, thence on a bearing of 1 5 1 ° for a distance of 1 .8 km, thence on a bearing of 165° for a distance of 1 km to the proposed Cootamundra custody transfer station site, situated opposite the junction of Boundary Road and Adam Street West, Cootamundra.
That the amendments be agreed to.
Under the Bill which was introduced last year for the construction of the Young, Cootamundra, Wagga Wagga natural gas pipeline, the site of the meter station from which gas would be made available to Cootamundra was located adjacent to the main pipeline. Following an inspection of this site by the Pipeline Authority and the Cootamundra Council, the Authority received a letter from the Council referring to an undertaking given on behalf of the Authority in 1975 that the meter station would be located at the municipal boundary of Cootamundra. To meet that undertaking it was necessary to amend the Pipeline Construction (Young to Wagga Wagga) Bill 1979 to authorise construction of an additional 2.8 kilometre length of 89 millimetre diameter pipeline from the main pipeline to the Cootamundra municipal boundary. The estimated additional cost is $100,000, making the estimated overall cost of the Wagga Wagga pipeline $ 1 7.6m.
I wish to add that I am pleased that the project is to proceed. I commend the efforts of both the present Minister for National Development and
Energy (Senator Carrick) and the former Minister for National Development, in this regard. I first proposed that this pipeline be constructed during the late 1960s when I was the member for Wagga Wagga and Minister for Mines in the New South Wales Government. Had the conveyance of natural gas into New South Wales not been taken over by the former Federal Labor Government, the pipeline would have been completed some years ago.
– I am sorry that the Minister for Education (Mr Fife) brought that rather spurious political note into what should have been a bipartisan debate. The fact is that the undertaking to construct this pipeline was given to the Cootamundra Council in 1975 when the Whitlam Labor Government was in office. I never used the words ‘in power’ because I like to remind people that, regrettably, that Government was never in power. It always had a hostile Senate and was not able to do what it should have done and what it would have liked to do. One of the things it did was to give that undertaking to the Cootamundra Council. I congratulate the Cootamundra Council for doing its homework, for remembering that undertaking and for seeing to it that the undertaking was kept, even by this parsimonious Government.
I understand that the authorisation for the increase in the size of the pipeline at an additional cost of $ 100,000 has some other effects which are of enormous benefit. The Minister can correct me if I am wrong. The Committee will understand that I am acting as a substitute in this matter for the very able shadow Minister for Minerals and Energy, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), who unavoidably cannot be in the chamber tonight. He tells me that the extra width hereby approved for this pipeline- in other words the 89 millimetre figure that we can now apply to the size of the pipeline- will have very beneficial effects in interconnecting the Victorian and South Australian supplies. It means that this area will be able to look to both the Sydney source and the Victorian source for natural gas. In other words, it will be able to get its natural gas from Moomba, Gidgealpa and the Cooper Basin in the first instance, and, as an alternative source, if that source is in short supply at any time, it can go to Victorian fields.
I would have thought that a delay in this matter far from being to the disadvantage of the area, will in the long run be to its enormous advantage. I hope that will be so because I believe that areas such as Young, Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga should receive the benefit of natural gas so that we can get on with Labor’s program of decentralisation and see that towns like these are well served with energy in order to create jobs and to give livelihoods to people rather than have everybody conglomerating in the Melbournes and Sydneys of this country.
– By way of response to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), I indicate to the Committee that the honourable member is correct when he points out that the additional capacity of this pipe will allow ultimately for a link between the pipeline at Wagga Wagga and the Victorian system at Albury. This will mean, of course, that in emergencies gas from the South Australian field will be able to flow through to Victoria. In a reverse situation the Victorian gas would be able to flow through to the New South Wales system. This, of course, is of tremendous benefit to both systems and certainly the regional centres such as Cootamundra, Wagga and Albury that will be on the link line will be in a very strategic position and a very favoured position as far as natural gas supply is concerned. I am delighted that the honourable member for Adelaide and the Opposition generally support this kind of development. The political or parliamentary initiative on this gas pipeline grid was taken by the former Askin New South Wales Government of which I was proud to be a member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 28 February, on motion by Mr MacKellar:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports this Bill. The International Development Association is an arm of the World Bank. It gives interest-free loans to the poorest countries. We are informed that the aid is directed increasingly towards rural development. I can say that it was a Labor government which can take the credit for having directed overseas bilateral aid from Australia increasingly towards rural development. I recently had a chance to visit countries in the Association of South East Asian Nations area and also Vietnam and I am able to confirm that that policy is the correct one.
The problems of rural underdevelopment in some cases are becoming more acute rather than less acute. It makes sense that aid should be aimed at this target- that is, provided that aid for rural development does not benefit the wealthy and provided it does not accentuate income differences rather than improve them. We must always be very careful that this is the priority of what we are about. At the same time we should be conscious of the dangers of the continued drift of population in developing countries, particularly those in our own region. The drift is always from the country to the city. As I mentioned earlier this week in the House, nothing is achieved by taking someone off a rural food producing farm and giving them a dollar a day to work in a labour intensive factory. This is a prescription for social unrest and political upheaval. That is not just the view of myself as an outsider.
When speaking yesterday during the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation debate I mentioned the views that have been expressed about the problem of the underdeveloped world being forced into the nuclear energy field for energy resources. I think aid would have been better expended in rural development for food resources. If alternative energy resources are to be used, certainly we should proceed on the basis of agro-economics rather than try to suggest nuclear power generation.
I endorse the views expressed by Bishop Xavier Labayen, a Filipino Catholic bishop who is now visiting Australia. He spoke of the consequences of forced development. He described cases where transnational companies had wanted particular lands and caused people who had lived on the land for years to be painfully evicted. In fact in the Bishop’s view- and he is talking about the Philippines- martial law had been imposed to aid and to ensure rapid economic development. If this is what the President of the Philippines had in mind, of course it has failed dismally.
What we in Australia should attempt to do is to encourage circumstances which will allow for real increases in rural incomes and consequently in rural standards of living. We should design our aid programs in such a way that people in the developing countries do not find it so attractive to disrupt their social structure for the sake of this illusion- and that is what it is- of a better life in the city. We should not give our aid to assist the local strong-man in projects of forced industrialisation. I think, therefore, that projects such as the International Rice Research Institute, which I saw in the Philippines, are excellent because of the results that they achieve. This project which has been led by Australians is having a very marked effect on allowing farmers in the Philippines to increase the number of rice crops each year. The yield of those crops and consequently the income of the people have substantially increased. We have now developed a strain of rice called the 110 day rice. Previously, only one crop a year was grown. Now farmers can grow a second rice crop or at least an alternative cash crop. That is the sort of aid that we should be encouraging.
We should not underestimate the effect of programs such as that carried out by the Rice Research Institute in developing self-sufficiency in all food aspects. The effects of agricultural research in changing the food situation in India from one of famine to one which approximates sufficiency is a very relevant case in point. Agricultural research and economics are the types of fields in which we should continue to concentrate our efforts. There are benefits in these areas for Australia as well in a direct way. In Indonesia I inspected one of our aid projects which was involved in improving the dry farming methods in use in Indonesia. The project has been eminently successful. It has produced tangible results which are now being implemented. It has earned Australia incalculable goodwill from the people and the Government of Indonesia. It is all the more welcome because it is provided without any strings. Other countries give aid but they usually attach strings to it. I must say in praise of Australia and its aid policies that we stand first amongst many from the point of view of giving aid- by and large- without any strings attached. That earns us a lot of goodwill in other countries.
One inhibiting factor in development which is of growing importance and which we will soon have to face directly is the energy crisis. The developing countries are hardest hit. We must look to sensible ways in which we might’ be able to assist them to become more self-sufficient in the field of energy. Again, this is of special importance in our own region. I hope that the Department of Foreign Affairs is actively examining the problems of energy and ways in which we can help. Nuclear energy is not really a senisible way in which to help as I pointed out in the debate yesterday. The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation-SMEC as it is known- has done and is still doing an outstanding job with regard to energy related projects and projects connected with irrigation, roads and communications, for example. I think that SMEC has a crucial role to play in the future of Australian aid programs. I hope that there is no truth in the rumours that we hear from time to time to the effect that SMEC is to be wound up or at least have its operations reduced on the grounds that because it is not run by private enterprise it is a dangerous socialist type of organisation. SMEC has perhaps done Australia more good in the eyes of the ordinary people of many of our neighbouring countries than any other single body.
– Hear, hear!
-I thank the Minister for Housing and Construction for that remark. I endorse what the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr MacKellar) said about the Philippines. Australians are thought of with the highest praise in that country. The irrigation schemes and other construction schemes in that country have earned us untold goodwill. The people involved with the dam construction in Malaysia have a high degree of skill in their technologies. Mr John Harrison, the project’s chief engineer, is an outstanding ambassador in the field. With that sort of aid, Malaysia will be able to increase its rubber production. Again, this is related to agro-economics. It is most important that we keep the local people involved in effective production from the soil with the appropriate water conservation measures. In Indonesia high praise has been given to SMEC for the work it has done there. It is important for Australians to realise how their fellow Australians who are not always members of parliament are able to do much better than members of parliament in many ways from the point of view of getting the message across as to what Australia can do. In Indonesia we should be doing more about dry land farming and water conservation because they are obvious problems in food production. That country is now importing food. It is having difficulty feeding the populations on certain islands. There must be some transfer of populations. While SMEC is helping in that field we ought to be up there also with our good agriculturalists, farmers and our skills in the areas of dry land farming because they would help food production and what we can do for these people. I hope that in developing aid policy strategies the Government will take a resourceful and imaginative approach in the way it attacks problems of energy deficits. In this connection, I would hope that Australia would not exclude from its consideration things such as projects designed to utilise alternative energy sources. This brings me to ethanol and the opportunity to produce energy from the soil.
The present Bill is directed at multilateral aid, but some 80 per cent of Australia ‘s aid is given on a bilateral basis. It is given in grant form. To give aid in such a way has been a consistent policy adopted by successive Australian governments. I believe, as I said, that Australia has benefited greatly by the adoption of a policy which has not sought to bind our aid or put strings on it by means of loans, et cetera. I draw attention to the fact that in Professor Harries ‘ report there was a suggestion that Australia should consider giving some countries aid in the form of loans. I hope this suggestion is resisted by the Government. The policy of giving grant aid has served Australia well and it would be a pity to have our aid effort rendered less effective by the adoption of a policy which has not shown great success elsewhere in the world in a bilateral form. It would be a further step in compromising Australia ‘s aid program. I say ‘a further step ‘ because the present Government has distinguished itself among Australian governments by using aid as a political lever. It has tied Australian aid to political compliance and has been prepared to use the withdrawal of aid as a weapon of political retaliation.
The worst example of this, which was brought home to me very recently, was the cessation of Australian aid to Vietnam. This was done in a deliberately offensive way and, I might say, the event is still well remembered in Hanoi. Questions were asked today as to what we can do to help people who are refugees in Vietnam. Is it any wonder that the Government might be considered as a government that does not really approve of the Vietnamese? As I make the point, I wonder what our distinguished ambassador has to do in Hanoi because since we have chopped off the aid program we have left him rather bereft of any ideas as to what he can do to help the Vietnamese. I also place on record that the Catholic Cardinal in Hanoi is most anxious to assist aid programs in that area and is supporting the Vietnamese Government on the basis that aid goes to the people; it should not have any political significance. That is what we should be able to emphasise here. Australia was not the only country to cease to provide aid, but it is remembered above the rest because of the abrupt and hostile way that the exercise was effected.
Not so well known is the growing political character of Australian aid to the South Pacific. Increases in Australian aid are now regularly tied to the pursuit of what is deemed to be an antiSoviet policy. This was the case in 1 976 when increases in Australian aid were made because of fears of increasing Soviet influence. The Government at the time imagined the Russians might ask for a base in the South Pacific, but more recently the Government has offered increased aid to the South Pacific nations on account of Australia’s ban on Soviet cruise ships. The small
South Pacific countries, of course, earn significant income through calls from Soviet cruise ships. Apart from the fact of Australian pressure on them to fall into line, the Australian ban itself will have the effect of depriving them of this source of income. Australia has offered to compensate them through increased aid. What has now happened is that our aid to the South Pacific is no longer increased because of the development needs of these countries; it is increased because of Australian fears about, or action against, the Soviet Union.
One has only to look at the statements made when the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his statement on 1 February talked about aid in the South Pacific. He said that the Government would continue to consult with island governments on a number of proposals to enhance the development and security. In those terms, development means aid; we recognise that some of the measures we are taking in relation to the Soviet Union will involve some costs on their part. It has. They recognise that and I gather they are making pretty substantial submissions as to how they think we might be able to assist them. If we do not measure up to these sorts of demands, as I have said, it will compromise our position. Perhaps the best way to get aid out of Australia is to threaten to do business with the Russians. I can think of no more ridiculous situation than that. The South Pacific countries know that the aid Australia gives them is not given because of their needs or because Australia values the people of the South Pacific. They know that it is given because of Australia’s preoccupation with what are deemed to be the threats from the Soviet Union. This leaves the South Pacific nations in no doubt of where they rate in Australia’s estimation. This is a signal of what recipients of Australian aid may expect in the nature of Australia’s assistance and the motivation by Australia in giving it. The development assistance that they can expect from the Fraser Government really becomes a secondary consideration. The primary purpose is becoming blatantly political.
We have seen another example of this in recent days. Surprisingly the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon)- instead of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock)- has announced so-called aid projects. It was the Minister for Primary Industry who announced that Australia would give Egypt a $2m cold store complex. What development purpose this propect will fulfil he did not bother to say. If Australia wants to facilitate its meat exports to Egypt there is no reason why it should not build such a complex.
But it should not call it development aid and it certainly should not be financed through an aid vote. If this is the direction that the Government ‘s aid policy will take, it only achieves shortterm and short-sighted ends. In the longer term it will discredit Australia and discredit a good reputation that was not easily won. In real terms Australian aid has declined in recent years.
The tables attached to the Harries reportwhich often appear to be more useful than the text of the report itself- show a comparison of the aid performances of the 17 major aid donors, the members of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Of these 17 members the performance of six has declined since 1974, as measured in real terms, as a proportion of the gross domestic product. Unfortunately Australia was one of the six countries in that category. The performance of all aid donors, generally speaking, has fallen short of the targets they have set for themselves. The target of 0.7 per cent of the GDP was meant to be achieved by 1970. Ten years later the performance of aid donors has not even reached half of that figure. In Australia’s case it is over half way, but that is largely because of the distortion caused by the amount of aid we give to Papua New Guinea.
As I stated earlier our performance appears to be declining in real terms. I invite honourable members to consider the implications of aid in general as a force for peace in the world. When any threat emerges or instability occurs in a region, countries like Australia tend to be quick to look for some short military response. We tend to ignore the possibility that the situation could have been averted if a greater effort had been made years before in developing the economies of the countries concerned. All too often internal instability and discontent have economic origins. Everyone is aware that developing countries can find solutions easier in military terms. It is usually far too late for them to take any other viable option. Military spending in the world is currently in the order of SUS450 billion a year.
In Australia the Prime Minister has promised that our own defence spending will reach about three per cent of GDP by 1984-85. That will represent about seven times the amount of Australia’s overseas aid. I believe that it is worth considering whether we have things in proportion and whether it makes sense to have this imbalance between defence expenditure and aid efforts whether by Australia or by the developed countries generally. This is not a new thought. It received prominence in the recent Brandt report. I believe, however, that it is one that deserves our deepest consideration. It is especially appropriate to consider this question at a time when developments in west Asia are attracting much attention.
It is worth reflecting whether events in Afghanistan leading up to the Soviet invasion would have been similar if the Western world had taken a serious interest in and made a serious effort towards Afghanistan’s economic development. The shaky and unpopular regime in Pakistan is suddenly being inundated with offers of military aid. I think that means a lot of problems, particularly for India. We could have a much greater confidence in the internal strength and stability of Pakistan if 20 or even 10 years ago it had received in development aid the level of assistance in military aid which is being discussed all of a sudden. The point is that development aid is in our own interests. It remains the best investment we can make in the stability and security of the economically deprived countries of the world.
When I was in the Philippines recently I talked to our representatives in the Asian Development Bank. They were anxious to point out that we do not always have to offer sums of money or material. It is often very helpful if we offer technical assistance. More of our experts in these areas should be sent to these countries because by their technical knowhow and ability they can evaluate programs perhaps even at less cost. That in turn would be a help to our own interest in an area. Because of the technical skills of our people they will be able to encourage economic development in the countries to which they are sent. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to increasing the amount of aid for technical assistance. As I have mentioned, the Philippines is one area where this technical assistance is needed. My colleague, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), has reminded me of another country- Indonesiawhere there will obviously be aid projects including bridging materials. There are industries in Australia which obviously would be stimulated if they could be encouraged to develop in the light of what this aid program is all about. I know that my colleague has been anxious to raise this matter with the Government, but he has not had a chance to do so. The issue is simply this: Australian firms ought to be encouraged to take an interest in aid projects, particularly in projects such as that pointed out by the honourable member for Hughes. If we were able to establish our expertise, which obviously exists, in what is called bridging work, the fabrication of bridges and materials associated with such work, I have no doubt it would be evaluated by the appropriate bodies in Australia.
It is important to look at the problems we are facing in development of our own country. We need to maintain expertise in Australia, not just export it overseas. There is no better example of this than SMEC, which I have mentioned, and there is no better way of doing it than by developing into areas such as the one my colleague has suggested. He is saying: Look at Australia’s potential. Do not always think that things can be done better overseas. Australians do need some confidence in their future. They need some idea of a permanent chance to have investments. It does not always have to be spoken of in terms of the textile, the apparel or the footwear industries. It should be spoken of generally in terms of our expertise, whether that expertise be in alternative fuel technology, in rice technology or in dry land farming. All these matters are of considerable interest.
I might add that when I was in Hong Kong recently, I was very impressed to find that Australian experts there were making rapid progress in obtaining contracts for rather extensive work in China. It is important to think that Australian architects and engineers and those sorts of graduates, with the experience they have gained in Australia, can offer aid to other people. They cannot be surpassed from the point of view of their ability. In the process they can also assist in the backup support that comes from Australia itself in the performance of contracts such as that. I know it is in that context that my colleague, the honourable member for Hughes, has mentioned these matters. The Opposition supports the Bill and wishes it a speedy passage.
-I support the Bill and welcome, after the fire and fury of some of the debates in this chamber in recent weeks, the bipartisan approach that is being adopted to this Bill as evidenced by the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). The purpose of the Bill, of course, is to enable Australia to make a further payment to the International Development Association of an amount of $A203.5m for the next three years. I would like to comment briefly on one or two points that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made in his remarks before I get to the substance of what I had planned to say. I agree with much of what the honourable gentleman said, in particular the need for and the capacity of Australia to further develop its aid in the area of technical assistance. This is a very difficult area. It gets into a wide range of fields including, I believe, the very difficult and complicated one of transfers of technology, but I do agree with what the honourable member said. I point out to the House that in that context the Government, I believe, is actively encouraging greater technical assistance in its aid programs.
The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation is such a program, and the Government’s establishment of the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation, although used for other purposes as well, is an important adjunct in that, too. The points of the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition which I would most have critical comment on, I think, were his remarks in relation to nuclear energy. If I understood the honourable gentleman correctly, he was saying, in effect, that the developing countries do not stand to benefit from the development of nuclear energy, and there are other reasons which are well known in the Opposition’s policies against the development of nuclear energy.
I point out to honourable gentlemen that one of the greatest problems that the developing world is now facing- also the very problems that we are facing, but the developing world faces them more than us- is caused by the tremendous increase in fuel oil prices. I too have spoken with many developing countries which would take a different view to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. These countries would say that, if the Western world developed its nuclear energy capacities for electricity generation, that would take considerable pressure off the demand for oil from the major present users, the industrial countries, and allow greater access, at better prices, to oil for the developing countries. I believe that that is a very important argument indeed in the nuclear energy debate. The International Development Association or IDA as it is generaly known, is one of three institutions which go to make up the World Bank group. The other two are the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation.
The House would be aware that the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development was established in 1946 to channel financial resources which were provided by member countries basically at that time towards the war devastated countries of Europe as well as to the underdeveloped countries, but it was basically set up to enable the reconstruction and redevelopment of Europe. The IBRD has been one of the twin pillars of post-war recovery, the other pillar being the International Monetary Fund. The conception of both these institutions dates back to the now very famous historic conference at Bretton Woods in 1944. As Europe got back on its feet after the war, the IBRD turned its attention almost exclusively then towards the underdeveloped world.
One of the problems was that the IBRD’s charter enabled it to lend only to credit-worthy countries. Its rates of lending were close to those charged by private institutions. The countries most in need, that is the less credit-worthy countries, were not able to be assisted adequately by the IBRD. As a result of that it was decided to establish a new institution in the late 1950s to assist the poorest countries, and that institution was the International Development Association which was established in 1960.
The World Bank group, since its inception, has been of enormous value to the world- to Europe, as we mentioned, in terms of post-war redevelopment and reconstruction and subsequently to the developing world. The annual reports of the World Bank, I believe, ought to be compulsory reading for all members of this chamber and for the wider community. I regret to say that our Parliamentary Library is not, at the moment, as well suited to assist members as fully as it should in this respect. The 1979 report of the World Bank group was released in September 1979. The Parliamentary Library does not yet have it. Indeed, it does not yet have, as I understand it, the 1978 report. The latest available World Bank annual report in the Library is the 1 977 report and even that was not received until the latter half of 1 979. 1 will be taking up with the Library this question of getting very important reports such as these at an earlier date.
Australia has been a strong supporter of the World Bank group since its inception. This has been so particularly in respect of the International Development Association. IDA assists its poorest members. Those are mainly those with an annual per capita gross national product or national income of less than $600 per year - an incredibly low figure. No fewer than 50 member countries of the World Bank group fall into that category. IDA provides assistance in the form of 50-year loans interest free. It provides these credits for sound development projects. IDA for many years has been the largest and most effective concessional lending institution in the world.
The Bill before the House is to authorise Australia to contribute its share of a sixth replenishment of IDA’s resources. Replenishments take place every three years and this sixth replenishment is for a total amount of $US 12 billion. Australia has participated fully in the negotiations leading to the latest replenishment. We are at least morally obligated to pay our share of the $US 12 billion, our share being 1.91 per cent of the total. It does not sound a large amount but it does represent, at $203.5m, an increase of more than 50 per cent over our contribution to the fifth replenishment. That is a very large and worthwhile increase. It will not have an immediate budgetary impact because our contribution is made in the form of promissory notes and they have a budget impact only when they are encashed. It is anticipated that the budgetary impact will be spread over a period of something like 10 years. Our contribution to IDA is only one aspect of our official overseas development assistance program and that program is a substantial one.
This year the Government has directly appropriated $485m to the total program. That represents 0.42 per cent of our gross national product. Of that total, more than 80 per cent is in the form of bilateral aid and something like 1 8 per cent in the form of multilateral aid, which the IDA contribution is. It is true, as some critics of Australia’s aid performance point out, that we are not as yet achieving the 0.7 per cent of gross national product target for our aid which the developed countries, including Australia, have agreed as an objective. The Government has made it clear that we, as a nation, will move progressively towards that target as our circumstances permit. We should not overlook the fact that on a quantitative comparative basis our aid program is very good. We have consistently contributed well above the average Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member country performance. The major aid donors are well below us on this comparison. For example, the United States’ figure is 0.23 per cent.
– What’s the USSR’s?
-The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’ figure is 0.0 per cent. Britain’s figure is 0.4 per cent; Germany’s 0.31 per cent and Japan’s is a very low 0.23 per cent. Not only is our quantity comparative performance good but so too is the quality of our aid, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out. For example, all our aid is in grant form, and that is very important at a time when one of the major problems that will confront the developing world over the next two decades in particular is a dramatically growing debt burden. We do not contribute to that at all in our aid programs. In addition, virtually all of our aid is untied.
The debate about aid is only part of a wider debate about the development of the poorer, less developed countries of the world, about the alleviation of the poverty and misery of countless millions of people. This wider debate encompasses much more than aid. Of at least equal importance is the question of trade. Increased twoway trade is in the interests not only of the developing countries but also of the developed countries. Trade leads to economic growth, and our future as a nation lies inevitably in trade expansion. There is enormous potential for the development of our trade and that of the developed world with the developing countries. If we are to sell more to the developing countries, then obviously we must be prepared to buy from them. The whole question of trade liberalisation, I believe, will be one of the major issues facing this country in the years ahead. The gap between the rich and poor countries is increasing, not decreasing. The latest World Bank report states that the figures of growth in the developing countries in the 1970s provide no hope that the so-called gaps between the developing and industrialised world might be narrowing. It continues:
Even if the developing countries were to manage to double their per capita growth rate, while the industrialised world but maintained its -
Those are two extreme premises- it would take almost a century to close the absolute income gap between them, so great are the differences in the capital and technological base of the two groups.
Those are very salutary figures and it is a very salutary statement which needs to be kept in mind. The question of aid and trade leads to another question, that is: Will either of those two be enough? That brings us to the very important area, which I will not have time to develop tonight, of the proposals for a so-called new international economic order, or NIEO. The proposals have been on the go now since 1974 and involve a package that has been put by developing countries in recent years for quite fundamental changes in the structure and operation of the international economic system which, it is said, is necessary if standards of living are to be raised and poverty reduced in developing countries.
In this respect, I draw the attention of the House to an excellent report by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, tabled in the other place last month, which deals with the implications for Australia of the new international economic order. That report makes the important point that Australia can act very much as a bridge between the developed and developing world. I believe that we have to be very careful indeed in our examination of the new international economic order. Australia has a very positive, constructive and important role to play in this area, but I believe that some of the proposals that have been put forward under the heading of NIEO disguise the real fundamental problems facing the developing world. The two main problems that I see in those proposals are that by placing primary emphasis on the external environment, they help to foster the impression perhaps that the developing countries ‘ economic problems can be solved simply by concessions at the international level. That obscures the fundamental point that the economic development of a country is primarily a function of its own actions and policies. Australia can never forget that point, nor can we allow developing countries to forget it. By allowing them to think that there are soft options, in the long term we will cause them greater problems.
The second difficulty that I have with some of the proposals under the NIEO is that, by emphasising redistribution rather than production, they foster the mistaken notion that wealth is something to be appropriated rather than earned, that redistribution can play more than a marginal role in economic development. That is a major point of difference between the main political parties in this Parliament. For heaven’s sake, we must not let the developing world fall into the trap that the basic policy of the Australian Labor Party in this country allows it to fall into.
I welcome and support the Bill. It is part of a much wider debate, one that we do not engage in sufficiently in this House, one that I hope the Government will enable us to participate in more fully over the months and period ahead. If we do not we will be neglecting, as a parliament, to debate one of the very fundamental issues that will determine the future of this country.
-I am pleased to join in this debate and to support the Bill. I wish to take up one or two matters that were raised by the honourable member for Ballarat (Mr Short). It is indeed unfortunate that in this House we spend such a limited amount of time on such subjects as the new international economic order, and on matters that, for example, have been this year the subject of two extremely important conferences- the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development at Manila and the United Nations Conference on Science and Technology in Austria, I believe, last August. Neither of those conferences has been the subject of extensive discussion within this Parliament. I believe that if we had been able to receive and discuss reports from the conferences we might be in a position to make more informed judgments about, for example, the viability of policies that fall under the rubric of the new international economic order.
I wish briefly to refer to the matter of redistribution in relation to the new international economic order which I would have thought was quite fundamental to that concept rather than peripheral. After all, the whole concept, as it has been developed within the various conferences that have been held under the auspices of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, has been concerned with the relationship between the North and South worlds, as it were. Clearly there is no future, one might say, for the South if quite massive redistribution does not take place. It is quite clear that, despite the fact that a number of conferences have been sponsored by UNCTAD, very little progress has been achieved through North-South dialogue or discussion of the concept of the new international economic order. Indeed, as I understand it, the conference held at Manila this year ended without any consensus being reached about a broad strategy for reducing the enormous gap which exists between the developed and the less developed countries. That reflects the fact that this phase that we have been going through during the last four years of North-South dialogue is perhaps reaching an end. Indeed, the Group of 77 countries argued, within the context of that conference, that in future they would have to concentrate on South-South rather than NorthSouth dialogue. The reason was that they had found that the developed world was not sufficiently sympathetic or conversant with, or committed to, resolving the basic problems of inequity which exist between those two worlds.
It is important that we take up within this Parliament that debate as to the future of the new international economic order and the questions of development and transfer of technology which are quite fundamental for a country located within a region, a very large percentage of whose population is among the very poorest of the world ‘s people.
The International Development Association (Further Payment) Bill raises important questions about the International Development Association and about Australia’s attitudes towards the IDA, the World Bank in particular and the current course of development financing in general. The World Bank is by far the largest single source of development financing, having already lent over $US70 billion. The IDA is a very important source of funds for the very poor states, having provided $16.7 billion up to June 1979. As the International Development Association is so significant a source of funds and as the Australian contribution is substantial- $203m over three years- it is important to consider the issue of just how effective that Association is in meeting the needs of the very poor states. The World Bank has sponsored a great deal of analysis of developmental issues, especially under the aegis of McNamara, who has been President since 1968. The Bank has pointed to the dangers of rapid urbanisation, the necessity for large scale investment in agriculture, the need to reach the absolute poor in development planning and the need for international development assistance to be matched by structural reforms inside the poor states if resources are to be equitably and effectively distributed.
To that extent I agree with the comments of the honourable member for Ballarat about the relationship between external and internal factors. It is quite clear that if social and political reforms are not taking place within developing countries very often, no matter how massive the economic aid that may be provided, there is no guarantee that that aid will result in rising living standards. To implement its policies, the Bank has augmented its stress on infrastructure loans with a stress on new style integrated development plans that would aid a variety of economic and social institutions on a regional basis. In theory, these revised policies seem a useful contribution.
In the time remaining to me I will raise a series of matters which I think are important for this Parliament to recognise as being relevant to any real assessment of the World Bank and the International Development Association. The World Bank is attempting to act in the interests of the poor Third World states, yet it is thoroughly controlled by the rich Western states. That was a major issue at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Manila and it will continue to be a major issue in relation to international development. Can a body which is controlled by the developed world be sensitive in any real sense to the needs and the demands of the Third World? The Brandt report, to which the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) referred, suggests that this simply will not be possible and that major changes need to occur in terms of the internal political structure of the World Bank.
Whilst the Bank’s developmental policies are theoretically impressive, one must wonder whether any institution, which had a professional staff of only 2,382 people in 1979 and which disburses in total of the order of $10 billion a year-remember that almost inevitably that that group of people forms a very select, professional and technocratic collection of people- can really launch programs, which increasingly under the IDA are being directed more to the grass roots and towards rural development programs. It seems to me to be highly questionable. I think that the emphasis that the World Bank has been moving towards in a sense raises questions about the structure which exists to implement those kinds of policies. Is the Bank really in a position to assess the socio-economic impact of its programs or does it have to rely on central bank and other officials of elite dominated Third World governments who may or may not be in touch with the needs and aspirations of the poor? The third question I want to raise is whether there is a danger that the World Bank loans to assist agriculture may often result in an improved position for the richer and larger farmers- the group which, it is argued, has often been the main beneficiary of the green revolution.
I refer briefly to an article by Richard Stryker which is entitled ‘The World Bank and Agricultural Development; Food Production and Rural Poverty’. Richard Stryker says:
The World Bank has taken the lead in attempting to counter the preceding interpretation of the Green Revolution, both in its publications on the economic and technological benefits to date of the new seeds . . .
There is a question whether the emphasis on growth in terms of the Green Revolution is in any real sense compatible with equity. Richard Stryker continues:
In other words, the development theory propounded by the Bank today is that there is no necessary trade-off between growth and equality, that policies can be and are being designed to reconcile these two paramount goals. The linkage between the goals … is that neither increased aggregate output nor improved income and nutritional levels among the mass of the rural population is possible unless their productivity is raised.
It seems to me that there are real questions in that area. It is quite obvious that in a country such as Australia where we are attracted to high technology that we would have expected a great deal of the Green Revolution. In fact it may have served agro-business more than it served essentially rural development.
What is the attitude of Australian officials? We know very little about that. Certainly there has been no discussion in this debate on these development issues. What monitoring capacity does the Government have to assess the impact and degree of success of the Bank’s new style programs? What is the Government ‘s view of the effectiveness of the International Development Association’s approach? Finally, what is the
Government’s attitude towards the Brandt commission proposal that a new world development fund be established to provide further development finance? People may be anxious to hear the end of this speech. It is regrettable that such an important issue should have been limited in terms of the debating time available.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 1 February, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not object to the Pay-Roil Tax (Territories) Assessment Amendment Bill 1980. The Bill merely aims to increase the maximum annual amount that an employer’s payroll tax might reach before it attracts the dubious values of Commonwealth payroll tax. The minimum payroll to attract taxation is not raised by a tremendously large amount. It is only an inflation based rise from $5,500 to $6,000 monthly. The last rise was in March of last year. This is about a 9.1 per cent increase. This is a very generous increase for a government that professes to have no faith in indexation to counter the effects of inflation. The rate of inflation last calendar year was exactly 10 per cent. The rate of wage inflation was not quite that high. Average weekly earnings, a figure which includes share dividends, interest from cash assets and directors fees, rose by 9.2 per cent. The minimum weekly wage rose by only 7.6 per cent. Clearly, small businessmen have been compensated for rises in payroll tax due to inflation by this extremely prompt and generous action by the Government, which is prone to act in that way. In fact, when one removes the influence of fees, dividends, interest and so on from the rate of wage inflation, employers have been more than compensated. In short, a greater number of employers are theoretically exempt than at the same time last year.
The Labor Party does not attack this removal of payroll tax for a number of small businessmen. We see the whole concept of payroll tax at a time of high unemployment as iniquitous and we are in favour of the complete removal of this anti-employment impost. However, the Government actions in this regard once again expose just where its sympathies and priorities lie.
Small businessmen have their payroll tax bill completely readjusted for inflation. In fact, they are one step better off. But what about the people who work for those small businessmen? As I have already said, the minimum weekly wage rose by only 7.6 per cent last calendar year. That is 25 per cent less than the rate of inflation. If the increase had been consequent upon the Fraser Government’s submissions to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission rather than on the better judgment of the Commission itself, the increase would have been much lower. This Government will leap into action to protect small businessmen from inflation. But for workers, and especially workers on low incomes, the Government’s antipathy towards similar compensation for inflation is known to all. Of course, that antipathy is even more well known in relation to the unemployed. Not only does the Government blame the unemployed for their own plight, not only does it label the unemployed as bludgers, not only does the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) make the comment that the majority of the unemployed are dull, but also the Government refuses to compensate these victims of the system for any increases in inflation.
The last rise in dole payments was in 1978. The last rise in the dole for those under 18 years of age was even earlier. If a person is unemployed and under 18, this Government expects that person to live on $36 a week. It is little wonder that some young people are driven by desperation to illegal and at times degrading means to obtain from the system the necessities of life which this system will not voluntarily provide. I have made reference to this in my own electorate in Melbourne time and time again. It is well worth repeating for the record that there are people, particularly young girls- the Salvation Army would attest to this-who are selling their bodies to live and keep a roof over their heads. But that falls on deaf ears as far as the people on the other side of this House are concerned. It is not sensationalist to accuse this Government of being responsible for the ruination of the lives of many young Australians. The worst cases of this can be found in prostitution in Melbourne, St
Kilda and elsewhere. These people have to fight to survive.
In the Australian Capital Territory, where this Bill is to apply principally, the young unemployed are a little better off. The quality of life in Canberra is better, and most likely there is less dislocation between young people and their families. However, there are more unemployed and more unemployed young people than in any other capital city in this country -
– I wish to take a point of order.
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne will resume his seat. The honourable member for Holt has raised a point of order.
-This is the only time this fellow ever makes a contribution and it is time that the people -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
-I am certain that the honourable member has a very good point on unemployment and the youth of the country. It is an important matter. But I thought we were trying to debate the Pay-roll Tax (Territories) Assessment Amendment Bill. Do his remarks have any relation to the Bill?
– Yes. He was only making a passing reference to Melbourne, as I understand him, and in fact he was talking again on the Bill before the honourable member rose to his feet. I call the honourable member for Melbourne.
-The only good purpose that the honourable member for Holt’s head serves is to keep his ears apart.
-Order! The honourable member must not make personal offensive remarks. I invite him to continue with his speech.
-I will withdraw that.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, would you invite him to withdraw.
-Yes, I will withdraw because it is probably even worse than that.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
-I will withdraw unequivocally. The point that I am making- if the honouarble member for Holt would listen- is that this tax reduces the capacity of people and individuals who are suffering as a result of the policies of this Government to have some redress. They are forced into a situation. All this bumptious nonsense that the honourable member for Holt is speaking is an endeavour to sidetrack the issue of what happens not only here in Canberra- I am really referring to the Territories- but also in the electorate of Holt.
Do not get me wrong. The Bill does a little. It is positive action and it puts a few more dollars back into the pockets of a few small businessmen. Some of them may be encouraged to take on an extra employee or to choose to use the money to expand their business. However, this amending Bill will help only a few businessmen. It will not help them very much. It will just help a percentage of those businessmen who expand their work force as a consequence. This Government refuses to come to grips with the economic problems of the Australian Capital Territory, problems caused by a sudden and continuing contraction in the public employment and public construction centres. The Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) and the Government refuse to recognise this fact and apply a solution led by the public sector. It persists in searching for a private sector led recovery. Given favourable circumstances this might well work, but it will not work quickly. As the immediate past shadow Minister for the Capital Territory I tell the people of the Australian Capital Territory that the Fraser Government’s economic strategy for Canberra will not, for many years to come, get the local economy back to the stage that it was at in the early and mid- 1970s.
One reason given by the Government for the decision to raise exemption levels is that they match the levels of payroll tax exemption operable in New South Wales. It seems that the Government feels that it is important that the Australian Capital Territory employers are not disadvantaged compared with their New South Wales counterparts in this regard and that prospective Australian Capital Territory employers are not discouraged by higher levels of payroll tax in the Territory arid choose instead to set up operations across the border. All this is very praiseworthy except that it is a great shame that the Government does not extend the principle and match the business decentralisation incentives offered to rural employers in New South Wales. For many years such incentives have been a mainstay of the New South Wales Government’s industrial decentralisation program. Nothing similar is on offer in the Australian Capital Territory. Honourable members would not need to have much imagination really to understand this. The honourable member for
Canberra (Mr Haslem) is writing away prosperity. I hope that he will stand up and support me on this proposition which I put. That is why we have computer companies and other companies in Queanbeyan and not in Canberra. Why are they not here? The answer is obvious.
– Because they are in Queanbeyan.
– The honourable member for Phillip has interjected. He would be better off in Queanbeyan than he is sitting there in somebody else’s seat. If the Minister for the Capital Territory and his Cabinet colleagues were serious about an end to the Canberra economic malaise they would be matching the decentralisation incentives that the Government of New South Wales offers to industries.
There is a blatant form of evasion of payroll tax that the Government is aware of but has taken no action over nor made any promises to put an end to. This involves the splitting of a payroll between a number of associated subsidiary companies to change what were taxable incomes into a number of smaller non-taxable ones. This procedure allows a significant tax saving and consequently reduces labour costs by 5 per cent. This allows a tendering advantage to unscrupulous businessmen.
– I thought you were against payroll tax.
-The honourable member for Canberra interjects. He has been here for approximately five minutes and has not heard the basis of the argument. It would have been a good idea had he been here earlier and paid more attention to the things that should concern him.
-I wish to raise a point of order. Is it proper for an honourable member to misrepresent me by saying that I have not been listening to his speech, when everyone knows that there is a sound reticulation system in Parliament House?
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member has recourse later on if he wishes.
-The Commonwealth, and the Australian Capital Territory specifically, lag behind, as the honourable member for Canberra does with monotonous regularity. Why is it so? Why has not the rapidly aging boy wonder seen fit to eliminate this blatant form of tax avoidance? I wonder whether the honourable member for Canberra and the Liberal senator for the Australian Capital Territory have been so thoughtful as to make representation to end this tax avoidance avenue, as they did in regard to the raising of payroll tax exemption levels on behalf of their friends in business? They are the sorts of things that he has to stand up and answer, and not just sit there interjecting like he generally does. He never makes any contribution, and will wonder why he is defeated in the next election.
Order! The honourable member will remain relevant to the Bill.
– What I have said goes to the whole issue to which I have addressed myself. I said at the outset that the Opposition is not opposed to the Bill. What I have said in my contribution is essentially what ought to be faced up to by the Government. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) sits here nonchalantly shaking his head. That is all he ever does. The bomb has exploded for the boy wonder. He now has to answer the questions.
– I am trembling in my boots. You are really making me frightened.
– The Treasurer might be shuddering in his shoes at the time of the next election. He is a phoney and the economic policies of the Government are phoney. During the next election campaign he will be stood up and it will be shown how he has been a phoney right from the start.
-Order! The honourable member is engaging in offensive remarks.
– I am pleased to say- and I imagine that other members of the House are pleased to understand- that the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) may have made his last speech, or his last hurrah, in regard to Canberra, as he is the quickly fading jewel of the Labor Party in relation to the Australian Capital Territory. I can say only what a wonderful contribution he has made and how typical it is of the Labor Party’s interest in the Australian Capital Territory that it is shifting this gentleman to higher places and replacing him with a shadow Minister who has apparently fallen from favour with his master and has been given the lofty job of shadowing in the Australian Capital Territory.
The Payroll Tax (Territories) Assessment Amendment Bill is most important to the Australian Capital Territory. I must admit that it always takes the Treasurer (Mr Howard) too long to bring the Australian Capital Territory into line with New South Wales. Senator Knight and I, and the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry), have continually reminded the Treasurer and those who work diligently for him that there is another mechanism for doing this and that it should be done automatically straight after the New South Wales Budget to ensure that the Capital Territory is in the same situation before the event rather than after the event. I am pleased to say also that on this occasion the Treasurer has promised that he will use all of the might of the Treasury to find a mechanism by which this can be done on a 1980s basis rather than on an 1880s basis. The important thing is that we are speaking about payroll tax in the Australian Capital Territory at a time when there are strong signs of economic resurgence. Canberra has had to swallow some very bitter pills over the last four years, when a fundamental adjustment has taken place in our economy. It is good to see that the economic indicators for Australia are now flowing through to the Capital Territory’s economy. Unemployment figures for the first time in five years are showing that there has been a bottoming in the situation which has alarmed people in Canberra.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Seasonal unemployment in the Capital Territory, as Dr Hall from the Australian National University has reported, for the first time in five years has bottomed and there are improvements in the labour force.
– There will be one move after December.
– We know that in December there will be an election, as the honourable member, who was so monumentally and spectacularly unsuccessful in the recent election in the Labor Party, has pointed out to the House. After that election the good government that has been seen in Australia and in the Capital Territory will be able to continue. The Minister for the Capital
Territory (Mr Ellicott) has done a wonderful job -
– He is in Geneva, trying to organise sports.
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne will remain silent. I ask the honourable member for Canberra to stay with the Bill.
– As the honourable member for Melbourne pointed out, the Minister for the Capital Territory is overseas trying to look after Australia’s problems.
-Order! The honourable member for Canberra will address himself to the Bill.
-The Bill before the House is very important to the business community of Canberra. Many small businessmen in the Capital Territory are doing particularly well now that economic resurgence is upon us. Undoubtedly the honourable member for Fraser will point out that those people who give some confidence to the Capital Territory are doing a service to the community. Those people who are not willing to speak out in an attempt to inject confidence into the Capital Territory are known colloquially, I think, as knockers. The knockers have nothing positive to contribute. All that they can do is to tear down the business community instead of helping it, as this Bill is designed to do. The honourable members on the Opposition side, who have never achieved anything in their lives, stand in this place and cast barbs at the business people. We all know that they are not the friends of business people in Canberra, the people who employ people and try to make a better life for the many people who live in this Territory. Those of us who have taken the opportunity to employ people rather than trying to knock people out of a job know something about what is needed in the Territory to assist the business community.
The main thing that is required to assist a business community in any city in any country is, as we all know, that precious commodity called confidence- consumer confidence, business confidence, and the confidence of the young people. The Opposition has spent four years trying to break the confidence of this country and break the confidence of this city. No wonder Opposition members are now bleating as they see confidence coming back through such positive measures as the introduction of a realistic scale of payroll deductions in the Capital Territory to enable it to compete with New South Wales. Why do Opposition members bleat? The reason is that they can see that all of the innuendoes and misstatements they have been making over the last four years have come to nothing and in fact Canberra will reasonably smoothly go through the transition from overboiled growth to steady growth. The situation will change from the shortages of everything when the present Government came to office in 1975 to one of plentiful supply of everything that is needed to make Canberra the best city in Australia.
Building projects which have been announced by the Government over the past several months will ensure our going well into the 1980s adopting a positive approach and providing employment opportunities. It will ensure that our young people again will be able to look into the future knowing that they will be able to get jobs in the city, that we will have stability and that we will be able to put the lie to the claims of the knockers who want to drag this city down.
– I am sorry to disillusion the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) if he thought that I would join him in the process of trying to talk up the economy of Canberra. I want to tell a few home truths about what is going on in Canberra and not deliberately to mislead people about what the true situation is. I am not accusing the honourable member for Canberra of misleading the people; he just painted a rather rosy picture. He sees the situation through rose coloured glasses and I can understand why. But I do object to what his colleague, Senator Knight, said when addressing a meeting of the Federation of Master Painters and Signwriters of Australia. He told them some wonderful things. The only problem was that he misled them in the information he gave them. He said: ‘ ‘ . . we are doing everything we can to ensure a consistent construction program in the future . . .
What the Government has done is to reduce the budget of the National Capital Development Commission to the lowest level on record. It has been reduced from something like $ 120m a year to $ 13.6m a year. Senator Knight deliberately misled people. He said: . . the period of adjustment is well behind us.
That is nonsense. I wonder what people such as Mr Gus Petersilka is thinking about John Knight’s remarks and about the remarks of the honourable member for Canberra. Today a small businessman of Canberra was put in gaol. Mr Petersilka was put in gaol because he refused to pay the excessive rents that were imposed on his business. People have been put in gaol for going on a rent strike.
-Order! The honourable member for Fraser would help enormously if he referred to the Bill every now and then.
– We welcome the amendment contained in the Pay-roll Tax (Territories) Assessment Amendment Bill. It throws a few crumbs to the small business people who are having a very tough time in Canberra, even to the extent of being put in gaol. Small businesses, which would have hoped that this Government would have protected them, have been in tremendous trouble in Canberra. Many of them have closed down, many of them have been subject to bankruptcies and voluntary liquidations even, as I said, to the extent of being locked up in gaol. This is a very welcome amendment. But it really does not go anywhere near solving their problem. The small businessmen are subject to tremendous pressures, mainly because of big business and the advantages that big business enjoys through its big buying power, through its being able to buy at a much better price than the small businesses, through its being able to put pressure on landlords to give them rental holidays and through its being able to buy advertising much more cheaply. This makes life much more difficult for the small businessman. The small businessman should know by now that this Government is not interested in small businesses; it is interested in big business- the people who put the funds into its election campaigns. There is no question about that.
My colleague the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) mentioned the fact that in his electorate some unfortunate women have to go into prostitution to gain employment. Of course, we are not free of that in Canberra. Many young ladies in Canberra have had to turn to massage parlours and escort services in order to obtain employment. The only disadvantage I have is that most of these young ladies are in the electorate of the honourable member for Canberra and not in my electorate, so the honourable member is at a considerable advantage. I am sure that the female unemployment rate is much higher in my electorate than in his electorate.
Senator Knight utters these platitudes about employment. He says that everything is coming good-business is on the up, unemployment is on the down. The facts are that we have 7.7 per cent unemployment in Canberra, which is higher than the national average. Other estimates have been made that 5 per cent of the unemployed of Canberra have left the city to find jobs elsewhere because they have no confidence that this Government will do anything to improve the situation in Canberra. So the true figure would be more like 10 per cent or 12 per cent unemployed, not 7.7 per cent.
Of course, apprentices will not get much comfort from Senator Knight’s rosy predictions that things are on the up. Thirty-six apprentices have been retrenched in the current year and 56 were put off last year. This is a tremendous blow to young people, some of whom were in the last year of their apprenticeships. They were just sacked because of pressure on small businesses. There is no question that small businesses in Canberra are under tremendous pressure and will continue to be so while this Government pursues its policy of trying to cut Canberra back to size, trying to destroy the work force, completely undermining the building and construction industry, starving the National Capital Development Commission of funds and seeing Canberra just wither on the vine. It does not help for people like the honourable member for Canberra or Senator Knight to mislead the public and tell them that things are on the up when the evidence, of course, is that they are not.
As I have said, we support this amending legislation. It provides for something. Certainly it would be much better if payroll tax could be abolished altogether to provide some real incentive for small business to employ more people. I think that the very small concession made in this amending legislation will really not have any effect at all on the ability of small businesses in Canberra to employ more people. Real improvement can come only when the Government really looks at Canberra sympathetically, sees what is happening to the place and how it is destroying its work force and does something about it by putting more money into the NCDC to allow the building program to get underway again.
Let us create some real work opportunities in Canberra and stop this nonsense of talking up the economy of Canberra. It has been going on for three years. All these new buildings are always going to be built next year. We have not seen them. The Australian Postal Commission has been wanting to build a new post office for three years, but the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) has held it up because he wants it to be tied in with a bus interchange or something. Where is the bus interchange? We have not seen it. All these things are five years or 10 years in the future. The immediate future for small business people in Canberra is very bleak indeed. It is bleak for apprentices. It is bleak for all the unemployed people. I only hope that these small business people can hang on long enough until there is a change to a government which will take a much more sympathetic view of both business people and the Canberra community generally.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
Unemployment- Liberal Party of Australia- Commonwealth Banking Corporation- Apple Industry in Tasmania
Motion (by Mr Howard) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Riverina) ( 10.44)- I speak tonight to support the penetrating speech made by the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) during the grievance debate this morning. The honourable member for Sydney spoke up for the forgotten people of this nation- the unemployed and the school leavers. His speech was an indictment of this Government. It is distressing to know that, although in 1979 we had a buoyant metal market, record prices for our primary industries, record profits for the big mining companies and record revenue from the Government’s oil pricing policy, this Government, as the honourable member for Sydney pointed out, showed no concern for our unemployed. One might well ask why, in this election year, the Government is able to get away with this and why there has been no softening of the Government’s policy. I want to point out why this has come about. The Government has been able to get away with this callous approach by filling the front pages of the media with stories about Afghanistan and the boycotting of the Olympic Games, by causing industrial confrontation in this nation and by continually repeating that the workers’ wages have priced the workers and others out of employment.
What is the truth? In the first five years of this decade the average weekly earnings rose more than the consumer price index, but from 1975 onwards the average weekly earnings rose at a lower rate than the CPI, in spite of the record metal prices and buoyant rural industries. The knockers of the unemployment benefit which is paid to youth tell us that it should be lower. The unemployment benefit paid to youth is $51.45 a week- 25 per cent below the poverty line. The honourable member for Sydney was pointing out these matters to the House this morning. School leavers who are under 18 years of age receive only $36 a week and every dollar they earn over $3 a week comes off their unemployment benefit. One can see how much this group is underneath the poverty line of $69.60. To add insult to injury, the school leavers have to wait six weeks before they get any benefit whatsoever. But all this is not enough. Some people say that the school leavers cannot get jobs because of their standards of numeracy and literacy. They never seem to produce any evidence to prove this. But evidence can be produced to show that the market value of education dominates all other values. This means that higher education credentials are now required for jobs.
The Government’s oil pricing policies are causing greater unemployment in rural industry. People in my electorate have lost the markets in Queensland and other areas to which they used to cart primary products. Those markets have been lost because the carters had to increase prices to cover the extra fuel costs. The producers are losing markets and the youths in these places are losing employment. If this Government does not do something about the oil parity pricing and the unemployment problem it will pay for it dearly at the next election.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I think that tonight it might be appropriate if I remind the House, particularly honourable members opposite, of what is contained in the philosophy of the Liberal Party of Australia and what is contained in its platform document. It might well be appropriate to remind honourable gentlemen opposite of what Liberalism is all about. The Liberal Party’s philosophy states:
Liberalism is not a collectivist philosophy. It looks to the individual and not to the State. It sees the State not as an end in itself but as a means of helping people to achieve their goals.
Liberalism realises that individuals vary greatly in their inherent abilities and their goals. It recognises, therefore, the need to create an environment favourable to the effective development of these diverse human resources.
To the Liberal, equality means equality before the law.
I think that we should remind all honourable gentlemen that people on this side of the House believe that there should be equality before the law and equality of opportunity. The document continues:
Both are fundamental human rights and tenets of the philosophy. The Liberal aim is to give all individuals an equal opportunity to develop their inherent talents and to pursue their aspirations.
The free society requires the fullest development of citizenship, built on a high degree of voluntary self-discipline.
It recognises, too, the right and obligation of the State -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is this conscience raising effort on the part of the Government necessary?
-There is no point of order. I warn the honourable member about taking specious points of order.
– I will continue. Liberalism recognises: the right and obligation of the State to intervene to ensure effective national development, to preserve and conserve the environment and its resources, to stimulate competition and to achieve equity, whenever such intervention can be clearly shown to be necessary.
The platform also states:
Liberalism aims to create a society in which individual economic freedom exists. It recognises that free enterprise is the crucial factor in achieving general economic progress. It acknowledges the importance of effective competition as a preventative of the defects of monopoly power and as the incentive to creativity and productivity.
That is the basic difference between this side of the House and the opposite side of the House. What we have on this side of the House are people who believe that the individual has the right to be able to pursue his goals and aspirations because collectively the pursuit by individuals of their goals and aspirations will produce a much more productive, stable and progressive society. Honourable members on the other side of the House believe that all people in Australia should be brought down to the lowest common denominator by a socialist philosophy. If that philosophy were given the opportunity, it would bring Australia to its economic knees. This Government believes that people should be lifted up and given the opportunity to pursue their economic ambitions. That is what this Government has been religiously and valiantly pursuing over the past few weeks to the benefit of all the Australian people. We on this side of the House are determined to support the Government in backing the individual to give the people of Australia the right to be able to pursue their ambitions. We are dedicated to that philosophy. Despite what criticisms might be thrown at us from honourable members on the other side of the House who might have swung to the Left over recent weeks, we are not going to be influenced by the Opposition’s socialist philosophies. We are going to stick religiously to supporting the freedom and the enterprise of the Australian people.
-Order! The House will come to order. Honourable members must accept the fact that every member of this House has a right to address the House and to be heard in silence. The Chair has requested a number of members to abstain from interjecting. They seem to defy the requests. I shall deal with them, if they persist.
– I rise tonight to give credit to the employer and the employees of an organisation which is very important in our society, but also to give warning that the circumstances under which it has operated in the past may be interfered with by this Government in terms of industrial relations. The Commonwealth Banking Corporation employs a staff of some 28,000 people, over 90 per cent of whom incredibly, are members of their registered union, the Commonwealth Bank Officers Association. Over the years, the Association and the Corporation have established an enviable record in the field of industrial relations. Communication between the management and association officials has been direct and open. Joint Association-Corporation consultative and advisory committees have been a feature of the Corporation ‘s industrial relations policy. The Association has pursued firm, moderate policies which have resulted in good conditions of service for its members. That this enlightened approach to industrial relations has paid off needs little by way of illustration. The resultant co-operation between staff and management has been a major contributing factor in the growth of the Commonwealth Bank into one of the largest and most highly respected financial institutions not only in Australia but also throughout the international banking world.
In recent times, due to interference from Government agencies, including the Department of Industrial Relations and the Public Service Board, relations between the Corporation and the Association have begun to deteriorate. Association officials, long accustomed to having direct access to Corporation decision makers, now find that decisions relating to industrial matters are subject to investigation and approval or disapproval by public servants employed in government authorities. This interference goes much further than what might be seen as necessary oversight of the activities of a statutory body. A recent application of a 4.8 per cent salary increase awarded to private banks’ employees by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission was delayed for almost four months while public servants examined in detail a work value exercise almost identical with that which had already been accepted by the Commission. The increase was finally paid only after a threat of industrial action by the CBOA.
It is a subsequent development however, which is now causing most concern to people involved in good undustrial relations in this organisation. Recently the officials of the Association were told that retirement at the age of 55 years would be achieved only if the redeployment provisions of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Act were also applied. This proposal would mean that the Corporation, an expanding organisation, would be called upon to fill vacant positions on its staff with public servants who, in terms of the Act, become eligible for redeployment. Not only would this in practice destroy promotional opportunities for career bank officers, but also it would seriously impair the standing of the Corporation in the banking industry where the bank would be quickly branded as just another government department.
Successive governments, both Labor and Liberal, have in the past been careful not to intrude into the day to day running of the bank. Apart from overviewing Corporation policy through the bank board, governments until now have respected the need for the bank to be independent of control by government agencies. For its part, the bank has excercised its independence with responsibility and with due regard for its charter, as defined in the Act. The redeployment provisions of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Act are absolutely unacceptable to the bank which has a policy calling for reduction of the early retirement age from 60 years to 55 years in the wake of rapid technological change in the bank and in order to make some contribution towards the alleviation of unemployment, particularly for school leavers.
If the Government persists through its agencies in its endeavours to apply the redeployment provision to the Corporation service, it will force a most serious confrontation between the bank and the CBOA neither of which wants to see the Commonwealth Banking Corporation convened to the status of another government department. Application of the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Act within the Commonwealth Bank’s service can have only a seriously detrimental effect upon the public standing of the bank and upon the morale and loyalty of its employees.
– I usually speak with enthusiasm when I talk about the apple industry in Tasmania. But unfortunately, due to gale force winds, the crop in the Huon and channel areas has been greatly affected. This has a dampening effect on the economy of Tasmania as we all know. It is pleasing to see in the chamber the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) and my good friend, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), who have been so vitally interested in the fruit industry in Tasmania for many years. We had reached the stage of being very optimistic about the fruit industry in Tasmania. As honourable members know, Tasmania is synonymous with the apple. This year we expected the best return ever for our crops. Unfortunately part of the crop has been destroyed and this will have its effect.
– You have a State Labor Government.
-We have a Labor Government in Tasmania. So far I have not been very happy with the survey that it has carried out. It has introduced a single marketing authority. It has made a statement that because some growers have not supported that authority they may not get government support. To me that smells of nationalisation of the apple industry. I have been particularly concerned about that. Honourable members sometimes laugh at me when I talk about apples.
-They do. Several times I have been called certain names. This time I hope that honourable members will feel as I and all the other Tasmanian honourable members feel. We are sincerely sorry for the hard working growers in the Huon and channel areas who have been affected by severe gales. Honourable members may like to know that at the moment Tasmania is being affected by bushfires. They could spell disaster to certain areas of Tasmania.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2. 1 5 p.m. on Tuesday next.
House adjourned at 1 1 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 23 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) (i) Two actions where terms were disclosed; and
International Agreements Drafted under OECD Auspices (Question No. 4858)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 11 October 1979:
Which international agreements have been drafted under OECD auspices, and which individual member States have acceded to them(Hansard, 20 September 1979, page 1445).
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following agreements have been concluded under the auspices of the OECD or by the OECD itself. Some of the agreements have been signed by non-member states. The dates are those of signature by the original signatories.
Agreement between the OECD and the Yugoslav Government on the Participation of Yugoslavia in the Work of the Organisation.
Date of signature: 28 October 1 96 1 .
Signatory State: Yugoslavia.
Agreement creating an International Centre for Mediterranean Higher Agricultural Studies (with additional protocols Nos. 1 and 2 ).
Date of signature: 2 1 May 1962.
Signatory States: France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Yugoslavia.
Agreement regarding privileges, exemptions, and immunities of the OECD in Canada.
Date of signature: 18 October 1966.
Signatory State: Canada.
Agreement between the Government and Japan and the OECD regarding privileges and immunities of the Organisation in Japan.
Date of signature: 14 March 1967.
Signatory State: Japan.
Agreement between the Government of Finland and the OECD regarding privileges and immunities of the Organisation in Finland.
Date of signature: 18 March 1969.
Signatory State: Finland.
Agreement on an International Project in the field of Food Irradiation.
Date of signature: 14 October 1970.
Signatory States: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany (Federal Republic), Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States.
Agreement on an International Energy Program.
Date of signature: 18 November 1974.
Signatory States: Australia*, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany (Federal Republic), Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States.
- Australia acceded to the Agreement on 27 May 1 979. (Norway’s participation in the Program is covered bya bilateral agreement signed with the International Energy Agency on 7 February 1975).
Agreement creating a Financial Support Fund of the OECD.
Date of signature: 9 April 1975.
Signatory States: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany (Federal Republic), Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States.
Agreement for the Extension and Amendment of the Agreement on an International Project in the field of Food Irradiation.
Date of signature: 16 December 1975.
Signatory States: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany (Federal Republic), Hungary, India, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States.
Agreement for the Second Extension and Amendment of the Agreement on an International Project in the field of Food Irradiation.
Date of signature: 20 December 1978.
Signatory States: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany (Federal Republic), Ghana, Hungary, India, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States.
A large number of agreements for cooperation programs and projects in energy research, development and demonstration have been drafted under the auspices of the International Energy Agency which is an autonomous institution within the framework of the OECD. The status of country participation in these programs and projects as at 22 May 1979 is summarised in the following table:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 25 October 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The adequacy of Australian privacy laws is currently the subject of an investigation by the Law Reform Commission.
States party to at least one of the above conventions are:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burma, Burundi, Byelorussian S.S.R., Cameroon U.R., Canada, Cape Verde Is, Chad, Chile, China, P.R. of, Columbia, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, German D.R., Germany, F.R. of, Ghana, Granada, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Korea, R. of, Kuwait, Laos P D R., Lebanon, Lesotho, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria,
Norway, Oman. Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea. Paraguay. Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Rawanda, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa. Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan. Surinam, Sweden, Switzerland. Syrian Arab Republic. Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia. Turkey, Uganda. Ukrainian S.S.R., United Kingdom. Upper Volta, Uruguay, U.S.A., U.S.S.R., Venezuela. VietNam, S.R. of. Yugoslavia, Zaire, Zambia.
Australia also has bilateral extradition treaties with the following countries under the terms of which information concerning Australian residents charged with criminal activities in one of those countries would be provided to the authorities of that country:
Albania, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Chile. Colombia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Ecuador, El Salvador. Finland, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary. Iceland, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Liberia, Luxembourg. Mexico. Monaco, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama. Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United States of America, Uruguay, Yugoslavia.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 19 February 1980:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I did say that my best advice was that if a subscriber opted to instal a facility which could receive direct broadcasting services by satellite the capital cost of such a facility would be below $1,000. If the subscriber opted for direct broadcasting plus direct telephony by satellite then the capital cost would be considerably more, but the Honourable Member would understand that exact costs are very much dependent on actual demand and thus the size of production runs. The above figures are based on actual experience in the Canadian application of satellite communications.
asked the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1980:
How many persons in the Electoral Divisions of (a) Hughes, and (b) Cook, currently receive pensions from his Department and how many persons are receiving each type of pension.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Some pensioners are in receipt of both disability pensions and service pensions.
Human Rights in the Soviet Union (Question No. 5468)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1980:
Further to his reply to my question No. 2562 (Hansard, 8 November 1978, page 2579) and in view of the continuing evidence that the Soviet Union is persecuting political, religious and national dissidents to quieten them before the Olympic Games (see the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on Human Rights in the Soviet Union, Conclusions and Recommendations, paragraph (61)), will he now energetically seek’ assurances from the Soviet Government that it will cease to hold in custody during the Olympic Games those who may protest against Soviet violations of human rights.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government is aware of reports that the Soviet Union is persecuting political, religious and national dissidents to quieten them before the. Olympic Games. The Government deplores any acts of persecution whether or not they are related to the holding of the Olympic Games in Moscow.
The Government’s position remains as stated in my reply to the honourable member’s earlier question No. 2562. The Government is deeply attached to the need to promote and defend the cause of human rights throughout the world. This position has been stated publicly on many occasions. The issue of human rights in the Soviet Union is one which has drawn the particular attention of the Government. The Government has called on the Soviet Union to implement the important principles of human rights embodied in the United Nations instruments as well as the 1975 Helsinki Accords. It continues to do so. The Government’s stand on human rights will be maintained for as long as basic human rights are denied in the Soviet Union or elsewhere. The actions of the Soviet Union which the honourable member has drawn attention to can only serve to strengthen that resolve.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 26 February 1 980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In 1920 the League of Nations conferred a Mandate over South West Africa ‘upon His Britannic Majesty to be exercised on his behalf by the Union of South Africa’. Until the demise of the League in 1939, South Africa duly administered the Territory in accordance with this decision. After World War II, however, South Africa contended that it continued to administer the Territory ‘in the spirit of the Mandate’ but that its obligations to the League did not carry over to the United Nations.
For the next two decades the United Nations sought to persuade South Africa to bring South West Africa into the UN Trusteeship System. These efforts were unsuccessful. Finally the United Nations, concerned at the application by South Africa of discriminatory laws and practices in the Territory, and with South Africa’s systematic violations of the human rights of Namibians, adopted a resolution in the General Assembly on 27 October 1 966 which terminated the Mandate and declared that South West Africa was henceforth the direct responsibility of the United Nations.
At a Special Session of the General Assembly the next year the Assembly established a United Nations Council for South West Africa, aided by a United Nations Commissioner. The Council was asked by the Assembly to proceed to South West Africa to take over the administration, to ensure South Africa’s withdrawal and to make arrangements for elections based on universal adult suffrage. In 1968 the (renamed) Council for Namibia attempted to enter the Territory but was refused permission by South Africa to do so. South Africa had also refused to accept the Assembly’s termination of the Mandate and refused to recognise the competence of the Council for Namibia, and indeed the United Nations, with regard to the Territory.
This remains the position today; despite repeated appeals by the United Nations General Assembly and by the Security Council, and in defiance of rulings of the International Court of Justice, South Africa continues illegally to occupy the Territory. Although the Council for Namibia has been, inter alia, mandated by the General Assembly to promulgate laws in Namibia until a Legislative Assembly is established, to consult with the people to draw up a constitution, and to transfer all powers to the people upon the declaration of independence, it is effectively prevented from doing so. Within the strict terms of international law, the Council has the right to exercise the normal responsibilities of an administering authority. These would include the right to control the entry of persons to the Territory. But again, the Council is unable to exercise this responsibility. One thing it can do, however, is to facilitate the travel of Namibians seeking to leave the Territory, by issuing United Nations travel documents. This it does and Australia recognises these documents.
As a member of the Council for Namibia Australia has endeavoured to do whatever possible to end South Africa’s illegal occupation of the Territory, to facilitate the exercise of an act of self-determination by the people of the Territory and to secure for them other basic human rights. In this regard, we have given our full support to the proposals put forward by the five Western members of the Security Council in 1978 (USA, UK, FRG, France and Canada and subsequently endorsed by the Council for an internationallyacceptable and peaceful solution to the Namibia problem. A
UN Secretariat Mission led by the Commander-designate of UNTAG (United Nations Transitional Assistance Group for Namibia), General Prem Chand, has commenced a tour of Angola, Zambia, Botswana. Namibia and South Africa to discuss military questions relating to implementation of the Western/UN plan.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 March 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1980/19800320_reps_31_hor117/>.