31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 1 0.30 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 humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Whereas a fully accredited degree course in chiropractic has been established at Preston Institute of Technology, and
Whereas three hundred students who pay their own fees are in all five years of the programme, and
Whereas students and the profession can no longer carry the financial burden amounting to over $1,000,000 per year, and
Whereas a debt of $240,000 is being incurred in 1 980, and
Whereas if funding is not approved by August the course will close and students’ careers placed in grave jeopardy,
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should ensure that funding of the Preston Institute of Technology Chiropractic Programme by the Tertiary Education Commission be no longer delayed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Sinclair, Mr Jarman,Mr Jenkins, Mr Peter Johnson, Mr Charles Jones, Mr Kerin, Mr Killen, Mr Porter, Mr Eric Robinson, Mr Shipton and Mr West.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That there is an urgent need to ensure that the living standard of pensioners will not decline, as indeed, the present level of cash benefits in real terms requires upward adjustment beyond indexation related to the movement of the Consumer Price Index, by this and other means your petitioners urge that action be taken to:
Taxation relief for pensioners and others on low incomes by:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman, Mr Charles Jones and Mr West.
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 Australian Government promotes carcass trade and that all future shipments of live animals overseas for slaughter be banned, and thereby stop a repetition of the shocking loss of life through burns or drowning as occurred with the incineration or drowning of 40,000 sheep on a ship to abattoirs in the Middle East, or the more recent cruelty to horses being exported for slaughter in Japan.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman, Mr McLean and Mr Wilson.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that they want the victims of the Hilton bomb disaster to receive a fair and just compensation. They remind the Prime Minister and his Government that they found the sum of $190,000.00 to compensate the Hilton Arcade shopkeepers for their loss of business and we the undersigned regard the loss of life and permanent injury even more important than the loss of business. The police involved were guarding the Prime Minister’s life and one of them lost his life, because the Prime Minister and the other international heads of state were inside the hotel. Three other police were seriously and permanently injured as a result of the bombing. The undersigned petitioners call upon the Prime Minister and his Government to compensate these unfortunate victims.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Calder and Mr Connolly.
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:
An amendment to the Human Rights Commission’s Bill 1979 which secures the rights of human beings before as well as after birth be upheld by the Parliament.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Chapman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Taxpayers who incur child-care expenses in order to earn income should be able to have those expenses exempt from income taxation in the same way as other taxpayers can deduct business expenses from their assessable income.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Aboriginal people in the State of Queensland do not have a Lands Commissioner.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Federal Government will appoint a Lands Commissioner for Queensland.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representatives without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia. As requested by the Private Hospitals Association of Victoria, Per Oaklands Private Hospital respectfully showeth:
That there is a need to assist both the Private Hospitals and Patients by requesting the Government to:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will take action to achieve these objectives.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Divison of Isaacs respectfully showeth:
That the Family Law Act should be amended to limit child support orders to a set scale, to provide custody of children to the parent not primarily responsible for the breakdown of the marriage and establish a set schedule for division of matrimonial property that cannot be varied at the discretion of any judge.
These measures would reduce the divorce rate and reestablish stability and security in family life.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Act be amended to abolish the maintenance and alimony system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Burns.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Hornsby respectfully showeth:
That there is an urgent need to establish an Annex of the Hornsby Post Office on the Eastern side of the railway line to meet the growing needs of all sections of the public and commerce in the area.
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 Nursing Profession shown below respectfully submits:
That the decision of the Federal Government to not implement those aspects of the Sax Report supported by the Nursing Profession is a retrograde step in nurse education in this country.
Further, it is discriminatory in three ways:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
The Members of the House of Representatives exert all possible pressure to have this decision reversed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Thomson.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House -
notes that the cost of promises on transport projects already made by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Transport exceed $4.8 billion and with expected additions will cost well over $5 billion;
deplores the crushingly high tax policies of this Government and its legislation to reintroduce double taxation by way of State income taxes;
condemns this Government for the excessively high rates of personal income tax and indirect taxes it has implemented;
rejects its proposals to re-establish double taxation by enforcing the imposition of State income taxes.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House -
deplores the wasteful increase in advertising expenditures by this Government of 42 per cent to a total of $45. 6m in-the 1980-81 financial year, and
condemns the Government for its abuse of taxpayers’ funds in establishing the Government Information Unit as a propaganda source for misguided Liberal Party election policies.
– Mr Speaker, I wonder whether you have noticed that present in the Gallery today are two members of Australia’s victorious Olympic Gold Medal swimming team, Mr Mark Tonelli and Mr Neil Brooks.
Honourable members - Hear, hear!
Mr Uren proceeding to give a notice of motion -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will put his notice in proposition form and not as a statement of fact.
Mr Morris proceeding to give a notice of motion -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will put his notice in proposition form.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That in view of the worsening situation in Poland, and reports of possible Soviet military intervention, serious consideration now should be given to the immediate admission into Poland of a United Nations monitoring delegation.
– 1 give notice, that on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House requests an immediate report from the Minister for Defence on alleged destruction of restricted access nature areas of the Little Desert in Victoria during Army exercises.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. In view of the widespread community resentment of the lucrative tax avoidance industry and suspicions harboured in the public mind from time to time that some prominent public figures might engage in this sort of conduct, will the Prime Minister join me in adopting the practice of aspirants to the office of public leadership in the United States of America so that we can simultaneously publish our taxation returns, including those for any business undertakings with which we might be associated, in good time for public scrutiny before the forthcoming national elections?
– I hope that the honourable gentleman will give the Government full support in implementing in this Parliament the recommendations of the report of the Bowen Committee of Inquiry.
Mr Sainsbury proceeding to address a question to the Treasurer -
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s question is out of order.
– How does the Prime Minister reconcile his pledge of 12 September 1978 that inflation at an annual rate of 5 per cent is within our reach by mid- 1979’ with the Budget prediction of an inflation rate of over 10 per cent for 1980-81 and the interdepartmental committee conclusion that ‘the outlook for inflation has worsened’?
– It is no secret- it has been the subject of question and answer in this House before - that the official advice available to the Government at the end of the financial year 1978-79 was a prediction of an inflation rate of around 5 per cent. That advice was properly included in the Budget Speech of 1978-79. Subsequently, there was a resurgence of inflationary pressures throughout the industrialised world. There is nothing unknown about that fact. The honourable member for Werriwa is raking over material which has been the subject of debate time and again in this House. The fact is that the performance of this country in 1980 in relation to inflation is way ahead of the average of the industrialised world.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Are discussions continuing with the Government of the United States of America regarding the use of Australian facilities by the United States Navy to support its Indian Ocean capabilities? Do such discussions include the use by the United States Navy of HMAS Stirling in Cockburn Sound? When does the Government expect to receive specific proposals from the United States? Is such co-operation in accordance with our obligations under the ANZUS Treaty? Would the use of such facilities by the United States be in accordance with Australia’s strategic interests?
– The fact is that HMAS Stirling has been used by units of the United States Navy for a number of years and it will certainly be the clear resolve of this Government that units of that Navy continue to use HMAS Stirling. It is almost 29 years to the day since this country entered into the ANZUS agreement. It was the first major foreign policy initiative taken by Australia following World War II. To my knowledge it was the only agreement, apart from an agreement with New Zealand, that Australia had entered into without United Kingdom participation. In the intervening 29 years the ANZUS agreement remains of fundamental importance to this country and, in the judgment of the Government, to the world and to this region. But like all agreements and undertakings there are obligations as well as benefits.
This country is under a clear obligation, pursuant to the terms of the ANZUS agreement, to consult with the United States. There is a clear obligation for both countries to enter into mutual aid projects for the securing of peace in the area. Earlier this year the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I, following discussions with members of the United States Administration, asked in what way we could further assist the United States. Unlike some people in this House we did not regard that as being an abandonment of sovereignty but a very proper and robust use of sovereignty. The United States alone carries the enormous burden of being the only nation to exercise a countervailing weight against the military might of the Soviet Union. It is a matter of astonishment to me that some people either have difficulty in acknowledging that or they are physically incapable of acknowledging that. It is a matter of distress to me that some members of the Opposition, instead of condemning Soviet expansionist policies, ‘ turn around and - criticise American defensive policies. No specific proposals have as yet been received by Australia from the United States for any further use of Australian facilities; but, if and when such proposals are received, they will be given proper consideration by this Government and they will be announced to the Parliament and to the country.
– My question is to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is it a fact that the Government - indeed it is suggested the Prime Minister himself - indicated to representatives of service station organisations that petroleum retailing franchise legislation would be enacted by 31 August 1980? Why has this promise been broken? When is this legislation proposed to be introduced and enacted? Will it be retrospective, as recommended in the so-called Fife Proposals of October 1978, and from what date will it take effect?
– I am unaware of any firm undertaking to have the legislation operative by 31 August. As I have explained to the House on a number of occasions, the Government has given a very thorough examination to many complex and, in many respects, new aspects of this proposed legislation. The Government is committed to introduce it. I fully expect it to be introduced into this House in the next sitting week. The details that the Government has embodied in the Bills will, of course, be explained very fully to the House and will be obvious from an examination of that legislation then.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Has the production line of Australia’s best car, the Holden Commodore, been halted at the Dandenong plant and 760 workers in my electorate stood down? Has this situation arisen due to 67 windscreen glass workers at Geelong illegally sitting in? Can the Minister inform the House what steps union members at General Motors-Holden’s Ltd Dandenong can take to recover their lost wages and substantial damages? Has he information indicating that a few union officials are, for political reasons, deliberately destroying the job security of the workers and the prosperity of Australia?
– I am aware that 760 workers have been stood down at the General MotorsHolden’s Ltd plant at Dandenong in the honourable member’s electorate. As the honourable member suggests, that is for no other reason than the completely irresponsible action of a few workers at the Pilkington ACI Operations Pty Ltd factory in Geelong. The Government shares the honourable member’s concern that the livelihood of hundreds of workers can be denied by the actions taken elsewhere of a few who have nothing to do with the plant in the honourable member’s electorate. For its part, the Government has always emphasised that differences which arise between employees and their employers cannot be properly resolved by strike action. They can be properly resolved through the orderly processes of the conciliation and arbitration system. In answer to the second part of the honourable member’s question, there are substantial rights available for both individuals and organisations which may wish to use the law, either industrial or civil, to protect their interests. But it is always prudent to seek expert legal advice on what is the most appropriate course of action in any particular set of circumstances.
-I ask the Minister for Trade and Resources: Is the Government protesting about the statement that France is selling up to 70 kilograms of weapons grade uranium to Iraq? Does the Minister acknowledge that when Australia concludes a safeguards agreement with the European Atomic Energy Community, the way will be open for exports of Australian uranium to the Euratom member states, including France? Does the Minister acknowledge that by providing uranium to France, Australia will be directly and indirectly assisting France in the export of bomb grade materials to countries such as Iraq?
– I was looking to my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs who normally looks after international negotiations with regard to safeguards. I will have the question referred to him.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Has the Government noted reports raising the possibility of armed Soviet intervention in Poland where the workers are in fundamental disagreement with the socialist Government? Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the Government’s assessment of the situation?
– Recently a member of the Polish Communist Party Central Committee said that the unrest was leading Poland to a catastrophe of incalculable proportions.
– It sounds like you.
– Of course, if honourable gentlemen want to treat what is happening in Poland as a matter of some light concern and as being of no interest, that is their privilege.
– The Polish Government is saying exactly the sort of thing you are saying:
-The honourable member will remain silent.
– Come on, that’s right. You know it exactly.
-The Prime Minister will resume his seat. The honourable member for Lalor will cease interjections of that kind. I ask honourable gentlemen on the Opposition benches to listen to the reply of the Prime Minister in silence. I call the Prime Minister.
– A member of the Polish Communist Party Central Committee has said that the unrest was leading Poland to a catastrophe of incalculable proportions and that was a clear warning of the possibility of Soviet intervention. This is not the first such warning from the Polish Government in relation to the situation that has arisen in Poland. It is with sadness that the world needs to note that the warnings are not surprising in view of the history of the use of Soviet armies which have imposed the will of the Soviet Union on neighbouring countries. Indeed, since 1 945 it is the Soviet Union–
– What about the police at Noonkanbah?
– The honourable member for Port Adelaide will remain silent.
– What of them?
-I warn the honourable member for Port Adelaide. I call the Prime Minister.
– Since 1945 the Soviet Union has established a very considerable empire. I hoped that all honourable gentlemen would treat this matter with some degree of seriousness. I also hope that they will recall that the Soviet Union has shown itself very capable of moving its armies into Warsaw pact countries - in 1956 into Hungary; in 1961, in relation to one of the several Berlin Wall crises; in 1968, Czechoslovakia about the third time in 30 years that Czechoslovakia had been betrayed; and in 1979 moving outside the Soviet bloc, the eastern block, into Afghanistan. Yet there is no good reason why the Polish situation should lead to Soviet intervention. Nobody could suggest that freedom, some element of basic human rights within Poland, could be a threat to the Soviet Union, unless the only thing the Soviet Union fears is freedom of its own people and freedom of eastern European countries.
The workers of Poland are expressing their legitimate rights. They are dedicated to peaceful protest and reform they seek consultation with the Polish authorities and are also pledged to avoid violence. This situation has arisen because in the eastern bloc countries, and in the Soviet Union itself, the basic, simple human rights that every Australian takes for granted are totally ignored. It is important that Polish and Soviet authorities accept these facts and that they seek a solution which extends, rather than limits, individual freedoms. It is indeed tragic and ironic that in asserting their demands for freedoms the Polish people may again fall victim to further suppression as they have so often in their history.
Poland is a neighbour of the Soviet Union. There are Soviet troops in Poland and in Poland’s neighbours to the west and to the south. As Poland is surrounded by Soviet and eastern bloc interests, there is not much, one must regret, that the rest of the world can do except watch and see and hope and, for those who are capable, pray that there be some element of freedom in Poland. What many people around the world can do is to express their concern and make plain their opposition to the prospect of Soviet armed intervention yet again, and to make plain too their sympathy with the Polish people and their hope that Poland’s problems will be resolved from within Poland and not imposed upon Poland by the Soviet Union.
I believe that all honourable members who put aside for a moment their partisan views and attitudes to the events that will be besetting us over the next months would want to join me in support of the kind of view I have just expressed. The circumstances are very serious. I think that some comfort can be derived from the fact that even the Soviet Union has shown in recent times that it can be sensitive in part to opinion strongly expressed by a great mass of countries - not coming from Western countries alone but coming from Islamic countries and Third World countries and coming overwhelmingly from the United Nations. If anything will save the Polish people it may well be the extent and the depth of the world reaction to the invasion of Afghanistan.
– Following those sterling sentiments, I ask the Prime Minister to continue in that vein. I refer the Prime Minister to his impending overseas visit to receive international recognition of his humanitarian qualities, a recognition that has so far eluded him domestically. Before the Prime Minister leaves, will he act immediately to remove the single greatest blot on the international record which has brought him this medal - the Fraser Government’s continued recognition of the odious Pol Pot regime, which is completely abhorrent–
-Order! The honourable gentleman will put his question and not make a statement.
– I am not making a statement; I am putting a question. I am asking the Prime Minister whether he will remove immediately the single greatest blot on the international record which has brought him that recognition, namely the Fraser Government’s continued recognition of the odious Pol Pot regime, which is completely abhorrent to the decent and compassionate people of Australia.
-The reasons for the Government’s policy as it has been to the present are good and they are sound.
Opposition members interjecting -
-Order! I point out to honourable gentlemen on the Opposition benches that the question seeks an answer. The right honourable gentleman is entitled to give that answer without continual interjection because of a disagreement. The Parliament is a place where disagreements constantly occur and the purpose of having Standing Orders is to ensure that those differing views can be put in silence.
-The reasons for the Government’s policy to the present point are sound, lt needs to be said at the outset that recognition of a government, of a country, does not imply any kind of approval of what that government or country does. There have been examples through the years of Australia maintaining recognition of a country–
– Why don’t you support your Foreign Minister?
-Order! The honourable member for Reid will remain silent.
– What about the two Australians he killed?
-Order! The honourable member for Cunningham will remain silent.
– What about the two Australians he killed?
-I warn the honourable member for Cunningham.
– There have been many examples down through the years–
– Why don’t you support your Foreign Minister?
-The honourable member for Reid will remain silent.
– There have been many examples through the years of Australia maintaining recognition of a government that has been abhorrent in nearly everything it has done. Idi Amin’s Government in Uganda is one example. The Soviet Union’s purges in the 1930s is another. It needs to be said quite plainly that recognition of a government does not in any way denote any element of approval of any part of a government’s policies or practices. What Pol Pot has done is something that all Australians condemn with all the strength and vigour at their command.
– What about the two Australians he killed?
– Why don’t you support your Foreign Minister?
-I warn the honourable member for Cunningham and the honourable member for Reid that if they interject again I will name them.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I suggest you might warn the Leader of the Opposition. He is prattling like a mad chook.
– There is no point of order. I call the Prime Minister.
– He is endorsing the murder of 3 million people.
-The honourable member for Chifley will remain silent.
-The circumstances that need to be held in mind are very clear. The Pol Pot Government was overthrown by an invasion from Vietnam which involves the continued use of well over 200,000 troops and those troops are sustained by foreign support to the tune of $3m a day. That is very substantial outside support sustaining the Heng Samrin regime and an invasion of 200,000 troops from Vietnam.
– Supported by the Soviet Union.
– Of course supported by the Soviet Union. We need to understand that the member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations are in the front line of difficulties and problems as a result of that Vietnamese Soviet-supported invasion. Thailand in particular is in the front line of those difficulties, not only with mass refugee movement across the border from Kampuchea itself but also with the active intervention of Vietnamese armed forces across the border into Thailand. There are possibilities in the future that those incursions into Thailand will be increased.
The ASEAN countries are very much in the front line of the difficulties posed by that Vietnamese aggression. They would want, as I believe, to be able to solve this matter by negotiation and consultation, by a political settlement. But, up to this point, Vietnam has shown no signs of being willing to settle for any political settlement apart from that which condones and supports the position that it has achieved by force of arms. Therefore, I have in mind the view of ASEAN countries expressed to me with great force when I was in Japan for Prime Minister Ohira’s funeral service which was held just after there had been a recognition of the Heng Samrin regime. Representatives of ASEAN countries at the funeral were particularly concerned that there should be no further diminution in the position in relation to Pol Pot especially preceding the debate which would inevitably take place in the United Nations in relation to credentials before the United Nations. Certainly there was no question of anyone at any time wanting to support the transfer of credentials from Pol Pot to Heng Samrin. That had not been suggested at any time under any circumstances. With the debate on those matters coming forward in the United Nations and with the other moves to support Heng Samrin, the ASEAN countries would have been particularly concerned to find any diminution of support. So, that is one reason.
But the second reason, Mr Speaker–
– What does the Foreign Minister think?
-Order! The honourable member for Lalor will remain silent.
– We would like to know what the Foreign Minister thinks.
-I warn the honourable member for Lalor.
-The second reason is, I believe, a more important one. Once Pol Pot’s regime, was derecognised, that very fact in itself would give some encouragement to Vietnam and some encouragement to Heng Samrin because they would both know that a move away from Pol Pot would mean that the next step would be further towards them. It is not possible to move away from Pol Pot without moving a distance towards that Vietnamese supported regime of Heng Samrin.
– Fiddlesticks. The Malaysians do not believe that. That is fiddlesticks.
-The Leader of the Opposition will remain silent. The Prime Minister will resume his seat. Any person listening or observing may believe that there is a concerted effort to prevent one of the members of this House, who happens to be the Prime Minister, from being heard. I ask honourable members on my left to understand that, because they have a different point of view, they are denying the democratic process by preventing a member from being heard.
-The second reason of which I was speaking was that to derecognise Pol Pot is to take half a step towards Heng Samrin and the Vietnamese supported regime, for the very simple reason that the whole world would know that once derecognised Pol Pot would never again be recognised. Therefore, if this country were to re-establish any kind of diplomatic relations, it would be with that Vietnamese supported regime. There is no way of avoiding the fact that a move away from Pol Pot is in part an encouragement to that Vietnamese supported aggression. The Government believes strongly that it would be’ wrong to take that position at this time, especially when Vietnam has shown no signs whatsoever of wanting to come to a political settlement in relation to a most brutal invasion of the Kampuchean people who have been hurt, damaged, killed and maimed successively by different governments or parties attempting to obtain government. If the honourable gentlemen of the Australian Labor Party wish to give any encouragement to Vietnam in their support of that aggression, that is not the position of this Government.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that a conference on the issue of future wage fixation was held this week under the auspices of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? Will the Prime Minister please advise the House of the Government’s submission to the conference?
-The Government has put a position to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which it believes should be capable of being supported by all the parties involved in this particular matter. The Government has indicated that there should be a firm and continuing commitment by all parties to refrain from pursuing wage and other labour cost increases outside the wage fixation principles and a rejection of industrial action in support of such increases. That commitment would be a precondi-tion to other elements of the package which would be highly favourable for members of the trade union movement. Under the proposal put by the Commonwealth there would be automatic wage indexation every six months for movements in the.consumer price index, discounted for price increases resulting from Commonwealth Government policies, for example, oil pricing or indirect taxes.
Claims for wage increases based on work value would be subject to rigorous examination and testing by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, when determining wage increases based on work value, would pay particular regard to skill and responsibility. There would be no’ productivity hearing until October 1980. This suggestion was put originally in the latter part of last year. It is proposed that what the Government has suggested as something that ought to make it possible to reach consensus should apply for a fixed period of about two years. Unfortunately, whilst there has been a good deal of support in a number of areas in Australia for that approach, the Australian Council of Trade Unions has not shown itself to be persuaded by it. Only this week it put forward demands which I think the total Australian community would regard as unbelievably selfish. The demands put forward by the ACTU this week include, of course, the right to collective bargaining, regular automatic wage adjustments based on movements in the consumer price index, a relaxation of indexation guidelines to cover inequities and work value restrictions, and national productivity increases used in part to reduce working hours and achieved through private negotiations. We have had reports of the ACTU program to attack 22 industries in relation to a 35-hour week. If one adds all these things together it is quite plain that the trade union movement will be trying to re-establish the kind of wage escalation that occurred during the early to middle 1970s. That is something which this Government will totally resist.
– You can talk as much as you like but you cannot tell the truth.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will withdraw unqualifiedly.
– I withdraw.
– This is something which the Government has opposed completely, lt is a completely and utterly selfish position. I think it is worth noting that it was only a day or two after the so-called agreement was reached with the ACTU that it took this approach into the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. So much for agreement with the Australian Labor Party. It is quite clear that there is no agreement and no social contract. The prospective President of the ACTU, Mr Cliff Dolan, has made that very plain in this morning’s Press. It is very clear also why in these matters the Labor Party must agree with what the union movement wants. The Leader of the Opposition said only a short while ago: ‘Yes, I believe they are absolutely essential’ - that is, the trade union movement.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Prime Minister is obviously quoting from a document. I ask whether he will table that document.
-Is the right honourable gentleman quoting from a document?
– I am quoting from part of a document, and I am very happy to table the part that I am quoting.
-The right honourable gentleman has a document. Is the right honourable gentleman quoting from a document which he is holding? Is the right honourable gentleman quoting from a document?
– I was using notes, Mr Speaker.
-The Prime Minister will continue his answer.
– According to a report in the Australian, on 16 January 1978 the Leader of the Opposition made it perfectly plain that he had to do what the union movement wanted because he said that the union movement was essential to the Labor Party. He said that it was important to the Labor Party historically, and that without the financial support that the Labor Party gives–
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As best I could hear, the Prime Minister’s reply to you was that he was not quoting from that document. He is either cross-eyed or there is something the matter with him. If he is not reading that document then I am not here.
– The honourable member for Newcastle should have listened to the reply. I asked the right honourable gentleman whether he was quoting from a document. His reply was that he was quoting from notes. Under the Standing Orders he is not required to table notes but he is required to table a document if he quotes from it.
– According to the same journal the Leader of the Opposition went on to say that without the financial support that the trade union movement gives to the Labor Party it would wither and die, or go into extinction, or would have to obtain funds from other sources. I suppose that if the Leader of the Opposition did that he would have to have a breakfast like his predecessor’s.
– My question which is directed to the Prime Minister relates to his earlier answer concerning Pol Pot. Is he aware that Pol Pot’s henchman Khieu Samphan has expressed his warmest thanks for the Australian Government’s recognition of the Pol Pot regime? How does he reconcile that with the principle of human rights and the extermination of three and a half million Kampucheans under the Pol Pot regime?
-The honourable gentleman made the point for himself. He asked: How does he reconcile that with the murder of three and a half million Kampucheans under the Heng Samrin regime? The honourable gentleman has answered his own question.
– Will the Minister for Post and Telecommunications inform the House and the nation whether the latest programming of new television installations in inland Australia will be on schedule? What are the current plans for Australia’s domestic satellite and for the use, in the meantime, of alternative satellite facilities? Finally, may I say that the great majority of people in the areas involved–
– No, the honourable gentleman may not say.
– Greatly regret the Minister’s retirement–
– No, the honourable gentleman may not say. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– From his portfolio and from politics.
-I warn the honourable member for Kennedy.
– I just heard those final remarks of the honourable member, and I thank him very much. I remember with a great deal of pleasure all my experiences in the outback with the honourable member for Kennedy. I am delighted to say that the remote area television program is basically very much on schedule and that earth stations are being installed throughout the Australian outback as a part of that program. In some places normal translator or transmitter facilities are being used and in other places earth stations are taking a signal from–
– Why don’t you try telling the truth?
-The Minister will resume his seat. The honourable member for Melbourne will withdraw.
– I withdraw.
-I say to the honourable member for Melbourne that if he continues to interject I will deal with him without further warning. I call the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.
– This program will bring Australian Broadcasting Commission television live broadcasts to many locations throughout the Australian outback. I am delighted to say, in particular to the honourable member for Kennedy, that transmitters will be used in this calendar year, 1980, to start broadcasting in Capella, Jericho and Corfield in his electorate, and at the end of September the broadcasting will start at Exmouth in Western Australia, in the electorate of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie, Andamooka in South Australia and Cooktown in north Queensland. Other locations will start to receive the broadcasts as soon as possible after that. I have provided all honourable members with details of programs which affect their electorates. On the matter of Australia’s full scale domestic satellite program, naturally I hope that we will be making an announcement before very long.
Mr Hayden having addressed a question to the Prime Minister -
-Order! The question is hypothetical and is out of order.
- Mr Speaker I raise a point of order. I suggest that the question is well and truly in order. This is a matter for which the Prime Minister is responsible and it is an issue of concern to the community. He administers the Ministry and is responsible for either accepting resignations or dissuading those who tender them. The Minister for Finance comes in here with all the unctuousness of a chief floor walker from David Jones. It is a disgrace.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Kingston.
– Mr Speaker, I raised a point of order with you and I–
– There was no point of order.
– I ask you to explain why there is no point of order when clearly the Prime Minister has a responsibility to this establishment for the administration of the Ministry.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The question is out of order. It is a hypothetical question and therefore is out of order. I call the honourable member for Kingston.
– I ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether the Australian Institute of Sport has the acceptance and support of Australian sportsmen and sportswomen. Does the Minister believe that the Institute will make a significant contribution to Australian sporting performance and does the establishment of the Institute confirm the preparedness of the Government to support Australian sport?
– I am very grateful to the honourable member for the answer to his question. The Australian Institute of Sport has been received with great enthusiasm around Australia. I am grateful to honourable members - I hope on both sides of the House - for sending out a pamphlet that I distributed during July. I asked them to send it to all the sporting bodies in their electorates. Up to this point, over 300 young Australians have applied for admission to the Institute.
– It was Frank Stewart’s idea, of course.
– I heard what the honourable member said. I have searched through his policy and there is not one word there about the Australian Institute of Sport. I should think it might be better for him not to say anything about it.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the Minister reads the speeches I have made over the last few years he will see that I have repeatedly stated support for the Institute of Sport.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– If he wants to find a dishonest statement he should look at the comment he made after we released our policy.
-Order! The honourable member for Robertson knows that that outburst was unparliamentary and disorderly. I warn him that if there is a repetition of it I will deal with him.
– If the honourable member for Robertson is able to show me a reference to the Institute in his policy document 1 will apologise, but I have not been able to find it there. I can only say that so far, as I was saying, over 300 young people have applied for admission to the Institute, including over a dozen of our Olympic athletes. I am very grateful that the honourable member for Robertson drew attention to the fact that two Olympians are present in the chamber this morning. I will be very glad if they follow up the letter that I have written to them and to all other Olympians, whether they went to Moscow or not. I will also be very happy to greet them in my office later and give them an opportunity to see the facilities that are being constructed in Canberra for the Australian Institute of Sport.
I hope honourable members noticed that the other day I announced the appointment of Mr Don Talbot as the Director of the Institute. I hope everybody is enthusiastic about the fact that this fine Australian has decided to come back and lead this major development in Australian sport. Already his involvement with the idea that he might become the swimming coach has had an effect in relation to swimming. At this moment the Amateur Swimming Union of Australia is deciding whether it will introduce the club system into swimming in Australia. If it so decides it will have a considerable effect on swimming in Australia. The establishment of the Australian Institute of Sport is a most significant development. It will not only affect athletes at the top level but also filter through to the grass roots. I do hope that the policy on this development will become a bipartisan policy and I do hope that the Opposition, as well as the Government, will support it in the coming months.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he shares my endorsement of and admiration for the actions taken by the trade unionists in Poland to obtain the right to strike, the right to picket and the right of association. If he shares my admiration for them, will he take early action to repeal section 45D of the Trade Practices Act and repeal those sections of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which permit the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to insert bans of clauses into awards and to impose savage penalties upon people who seek to strike in this country?
– I had thought better of the honourable member for Hindmarsh. He knows quite well that all Australians would share, I think, an equal admiration for the courage of the Poles who want basic freedoms which the honourable member for Hindmarsh has taken for granted, whether within his trade union activities or outside them, over many years. The honourable gentleman really does himself no service in following the suggestion of Mr Hawke on AM this morning that there is any comparability between any conditions in Poland and Australia. Other people might want to destroy their credibility but I would not like to see that happen to the honourable member for Hindmarsh.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Can he advise me whether any agreement has been reached with the Government of Queensland on the construction of the Burdekin Dam?
– Some time ago I announced the Government’s approval in principle for support of the construction of the Burdekin Dam, as a result of very strong representations that have been made by the honourable member for Herbert and by interested groups in Queensland which have been fighting for the construction of the dam over decades. I am delighted co be able to say that, as a result of discussions that had been foreshadowed with the Queensland authorities, a number of options were recently put in front of both governments. As a result of those discussions there is agreement between Queensland and the Commonwealth. By way of a grant outside the National Water Resources program, we will be providing funds for the complete cost of the dam, which is about $84.5m in June 1980 prices. That will be spread over a number of years. The offer is made to Queensland on the basis that that State from 1 July 1980 finances the initial works associated with the project and that it will bear the cost of the irrigation and area development works, possibly through recourse to the special infrastructure borrowing agreements of the Loan Council. Queensland has accepted that obligation in a discussion that I had with the Premier this morning. I am confident, therefore, that this approach of the Commonwealth will be well received in Queensland.
This decision to finance the Burdekin Dam will not be at the expense of other projects under the
National Water Resources Program. I would like to draw to the attention of the House the potential benefits to Queensland and as a result to Australia of the decisions which have now jointly been made by the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government. It is estimated that the project will generate an increased average annual gross value of production of some $1 17m, assuming a sugar price of $220 a tonne. The current figure will of course be much higher when current sugar prices are taken into account. In a sense that is a relatively modest estimate. It is also likely that urban centres adjacent to the Burdekin basin will in the longer term draw their water requirements from the dam. There are some population estimates which show that the Townsville population could exceed 160,000 by the year 2000. I am advised that the next source of that city’s water supply would be the Burdekin Dam.
There are many advantages as a result of the construction of this dam. lt is not just a question of water for irrigation or a question of conservation of what is a scarce resource in Australia. It is also a matter that will be of significant advantage to other elements of the Queensland community. I think it ought to be noted that this project will stand alongside other great water resource projects as a great development in Australia’s history. We all can recall the great projects and developments that have taken place, the most notable of which is the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme. It is very pleasing to the Government to know that the Burdekin is now going to share in that kind of development and cooperation between governments.
– Could the Prime Minister table the cost benefit report on the project for the benefit of the House?
– There is no point of order.
– No. I rose and you called me. I have not mentioned anything. I merely asked whether the Prime Minister as–
– Will the honourable member resume his seat for a second? I called the Leader of the Opposition because I thought that he was rising to seek the call for a question. I now understand that he was not so much seeking the call; instead he was putting a request across the table to the Prime Minister whether he would table a document. There is no point of order. As a matter of indulgence I will acknowledge that the request was made.
Dr Klugman proceeding to address a question to the Minister for Education -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is out of order.
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs would be aware of suggestions of a proposed strike by Customs officers to force a public inquiry into the allegations of corruption within the Bureau of Customs. Can the Minister say what action he is taking to research these allegations and to try to avoid such a strike?
– Since those allegations of corruption in the Bureau of Customs were made by some representatives of the Customs Officers Association early last week and a little earlier, I have had a telephone discussion with Mr Spanswick, who is the Secretary of the COA, and also with Mr Bennett, who is the New South Wales President of the Association. I told both those officials that they have a duty to report any suspicions they have of corruption to the Secretary to the Department, to Mr Wilson who is in charge of the Internal Affairs Unit of the Department or to the Australian Federal Police. I invited them to Canberra; they declined to come. They did not give me any details.
Mr Wilson, a former commissioner of the Australian Capital Territory Police, went to Sydney and sought to interview them. Mr Wilson spoke to a number of officials but was not provided with any details that could be described in any way as suggestive of corruption. He concluded that at present there is no substance in the allegations of corruption. The Secretary to my Department has spoken to Mr Bennett. He offered to go to Sydney at short notice to discuss the matters with the officials. He has written letters to them pointing out that it is their duty to make details available. On Tuesday of this week he received some advice that the officials would make available a document which they said they did not want to make public, although apparently they were going to send it to a number of members of Parliament.
I can only surmise that the action they have taken is intended to support some industrial grievance which they have. They know very well that procedures are laid down for dealing with those matters. I must say at the moment that I can only conclude- I think any responsible person would conclude- in the circumstances that there is no apparent substance in the allegations. In the absence of substance all they are doing is undermining the standing of Customs officials in the eyes of the community.
– Pursuant to section 22 of the Public Service Act I present the Public Service Board annual report1980.
– For the information of honourable members I present the interim report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Australian Financial System. I emphasise that this interim report does not contain any recommendations. These will be contained in the Committee’s final report which I expect to receive in the first half of next year. The interim report should also, in view of the wide public interest in the inquiry, generate further constructive public comment and discussion on the broad ranging and complex issues before the Committee. The Government is highly appreciative of the efforts of the Committee chaired by Mr Keith Campbell.
– For the information of honourable members I table details of special flights by the Royal Australian Air Force for the period 1 January 1980 to 30 June 1980. Copies of this report are available at the Table Office.
– For the information of honourable members I present two documents entitled ‘Human Rights Bureau Directive’ and ‘International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ together with the text of a statement by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) relating to the documents.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report by Mr Justice Williams into costs under. Family Law Regulations together with the text of a statement by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) relating to the report.
– For the information of honourable members I present a summary of findings of the survey into the information needs of migrants in Australia, together with the text of a statement by me relating to the survey. Six copies of the full report are available in the Parliamentary Library.
– Pursuant to section 50B of the Defence Service Homes Act 1918, on behalf of my colleague the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, (Mr Adermann), I present the annual report of the Defence Service Homes Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1979. An interim report prepared by the Corporation and providing substantially the same information was tabled on 8 November 1979.
– Pursuant to section 171 of the Trade Practices Act 1974I present the annual report of the Trade Practices Commission for the year ended 30 June 1980.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) - by leave - agreed to:
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Immigration (Unauthorized Arrivals) Bill 1980
Preference to Australian Goods (Commonwealth Authorities) Bill 1980
Australia Council Amendment Bill 1980.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 9 September next, at 2.15 p.m., unless Mr Speaker shall fix an alternative day or hour of meeting, to be notified by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House.
– I wish to say briefly that the Opposition is not opposing this motion because we believe the timetable that we have received will be adhered to. We still hope that the Government will be allowing more than 6½ hours Budget debate this year, which is all that it would seem at the moment it will be allowing if the debate is to be terminated on our first day back after the week’s recess. There has been no announcement of an election. We can see no reason why the term should be shortened. We trust that after this week off we will have not only that full three weeks that has already been indicated in a program in which to discuss and scrutinise the Budget, but also that after a further week off, we will have a further three weeks of sitting of this Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– On behalf of the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act I present the report of the Committee together with the transcript of evidence and minutes of proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Mr RUDDOCK (Dundas)- by leave- The report I have just tabled concludes an inquiry which has involved 1 5 members of parliament - 10 from the House of Representatives and five from the Senate - in an extensive study of family law in Australia. It is one of the larger committees of the Parliament. The matter has not been other than of a controversial nature, as honourable members would be aware. In view of the special nature of the material it may surprise observers to learn of the substantial agreement that has been achieved in this report. Although one member of the Committee has added a dissent repudiating the findings of the majority and other members have expressed dissent on particular aspects there is, nevertheless, strong support within the Committee for the general approach adopted in the report and for the Committee’s major findings. In particular there are certain themes which run through the report and which are generally supported. Paramount amongst these is the importance attached by all members of the Committee to the institution of marriage and the importance of family life within marriage. The Committee shares a concern that marriage be supported and that steps be taken to ensure the stability of marriage. In our view there is a role for family law in supporting an ideal and stable view of marriage. It will be seen that the approach favoured by the Committee is that more emphasis be placed on marriage and the obligations that it entails, rather than the deterrent effects of the provisions of the divorce law as a factor influencing the stability of marriage.
Those people considering matrimony should be appraised of the responsibilities involved and the consequences that will result from marriage breakdown. As a means of highlighting this approach, the Committee recommends that the Marriage Act and the present Family Law Act be consolidated into one Act. It could then be more clearly a complete Act dealing with family law and would indicate more clearly the intention of relying upon the marriage power to support the provisions of the Family Law Act. We, the Committee, take the view that ill-advised marriages and impetuous divorces would be more effectively deterred if the consequences of property settlement and other rights upon divorce are known in advance of marriage. Those experiencing marital stress and seeking assistance with their problems should have available to them services that can help them at the relevant time. In chapter 1 0 we make recommendations regarding these services.
The Committee does not doubt that the family remains the natural and fundamental group unit of society. What is needed is more objective data to assist those responsible for the formulation of policy in regard to the family so that it can be supported adequately to fulfil the role which society expects of it. This understanding of the family is important in many areas of government policy.
The Committee particularly welcomes the establishment of the Institute of Family Studies with its capacity to undertake research. It is considered that the Institute should be provided with every possible assistance to implement a research program which will provide answers to many outstanding questions about the state of families in Australia.
The Committee concluded that the provisions of the divorce law are not a significant factor in influencing family stability and breakdown. Accordingly, the Committee recommends no change to the grounds of divorce and suggests that any change of that sort is not warranted at the present time. In reaching this decision, some members of the Committee believed that it is still too early to assess the impact of the 1975 reform and that further experience of the operation of the Act is required before a final pronouncement can be made. These members are not fully convinced of the virtues of the single ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage. However, other members, of the majority, believe that experience in the Act so far has vindicated the belief of its original sponsors and that the single ground of irretrievable breakdown provides a rational, practical and compassionate means of terminating marriages that have irretrievably broken down. Other members have added dissent to the Committee’s conclusion on grounds.
The focus of attention should now shift to measures intended to prevent marital breakdown which can provide support to couples experiencing difficulties in their relationship. It should be the objective of society to prevent marital breakdown by the provision of appropriate support to families rather than by enacting laws which lock individuals into relationships which have become intolerable.
This report has been carefully structured. There are two other themes contained in it. Firstly, the report is very supportive of the concept of the Family Court as a helping court which engages to the fullest extent possible in conciliation enabling parties to resolve disputes so as to avoid solutions being imposed on them by the order of the Court. In this connection we emphasise the importance of bargaining and negotiation between separating couples in regard to all aspects of their affairs. It is stressed that this process does not involve compartmentalising matters in dispute into custody, property and maintenance.
All these matters are important in themselves but are inextricably linked together with the past lives of the parties as marriage partners and their future lives as individuals. Neat solutions are not always possible in the tangled circumstances that result from the trauma attendant upon the breakdown of a significant relationship. The best hope of the parties and their children for future happiness and stability lies in the parties resolving these issues between themselves. They can be helped to do this by court counsellors who can deal with unresolved, emotional issues freeing the parties to make adult decisions about their differences. They can be helped by court registrars conducting pre-trial conferences, preferably in the presence of a legal adviser, so that the possibilities for compromise and agreements can be explored. They can be helped by legal practitioners who discharge their duty to the court in the spirit of the Family Law Act by discouraging confrontation and polarisation. For such a system to operate there is a clear need for the conciliation functions of the courts to be strengthened and we make appropriate recommendations on this matter in this report.
Another theme that has governed our thinking is related to what I have just said concerning bargaining. This is an absolute necessity to ensure that the provisions of the Family Law Act are precise regarding rights. In respect of custody we propose criteria that the Act should contain which we hope will provide courts and parties with clearer guidelines and will facilitate the bargaining process by providing an appropriate legislative backdrop. In relation to appeals, we consider that certainty will be aided by our recommendation that the Full Court of the Family Court should be composed differently. We recommend that there should be a panel of 1 0 justices comprising six justices of the Family Court and of the Western Australian Family Court as permanent members, with four positions rotating between other justices of the court on the basis of seniority. Full Court benches would be selected from this panel by the Chief Justice.
But it is in regard to property that 1 consider our recommendations will be most helpful. The provision of the Family Law Act regarding the distribution of property on divorce gave the court extensive powers to redistribute property. The contribution of a spouse as a homemaker and parent was clearly acknowledged for the purpose of participation in property distribution. The adjustment of rights upon dissolution of marriage gives rise to resentment where a party loses an interest which, according to the general principles of property law, might have been regarded as his or hers. It is the thinking of the Committee that if it is clear that one of the consequences of marriage is that property rights are reconstituted then the bitterness and resentment occasioned by what seems to be an arbitrary interference with recognised rights by the Family Court at dissolution of marriage will be reduced.
We have, therefore, recommended that the Government look closely at the possibility of developing a matrimonial property regime, that is to say, a set of rules which would operate during and after marriage and which would predetermine the share in various assets that each party should take from the marriage upon its dissolution. We consider that the details of implementing such arrangements should be examined by the Law Reform Commission. Superannuation rights - a matter of some controversy in the Australian Capital Territory in particular - should be embraced in such an inquiry. The sharing of these is a matter of great complexity which will have to be carefully examined.
The implementation of a full matrimonial property regime ought not to be attempted in the absence of a careful examination, from the legal stand point, of the implication for various State legal systems and its effect on property rights generally. We are confident, however, that the marriage power of the Constitution would support the development of a concept of a matrimonial property regime here in Australia. We consider that a step should be taken in this direction immediately with what is, for most people, the principal matrimonial asset, that is to say, the family home. This is a very important recommendation from the Committee. We see no reason why the Family Law Act should not include a provision creating a presumption of joint ownership for the marriage partners in the property identified as the matrimonial home and right of ownership which could be protected by caveat and dealt with as each marriage partners’ property during marriage and upon dissolution.
We accordingly recommend that this be provided for in the Act subject to the right of either of the parties to take formal steps to exclude separate property from the operation of the provisions. That matter has been very closely looked at in the United Kingdom as a result of the work of its Law Reform Commission and has been the law in Victoria, under a Victorian marriage Act, for some time.
Turning to the broader social context in which the Family Law Act operates, great importance is attached by the Committee to the eventual creation of a unified jurisdiction in family law. In 1975, with the enactment of the Family Law Act, the Commonwealth moved for the first time to assert fully its constitutional power in regard to marriage and in relation to divorce and matrimonial causes. A departure of some significance from previous practice was the establishment of a federal court - the Family Court - to administer the Federal Family Law Act. Early hopes that a unified jurisdiction in family law would be achieved were shattered by the decision of the High Court of Australia in the cases of Russell v. Russell and Farrelly v. Farrelly which, while affirming the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to enact the Family Law Act, qualified the power in two significant respects. It ruled that jurisdiction in relation to property of the parties to a marriage did not arise until proceedings had been commenced by the filing of an application for dissolution. This meant that the Family Court was inhibited in its power to deal with property disputes between parties who were separated but who had not commenced dissolution proceedings. Even more significantly for the administration of the Act was the ruling of the High Court that the Family Court had no jurisdiction over children who were not ‘children of the marriage’. In other words, if one of the children in the family of the separating couple was the child of only one of them, either by a former marriage or adopted or the illegitimate child of one but not both of them, then the Family Court had no jurisdiction to make an order respecting the custody of that child. If contested proceedings were to take place, they would need to occur in another forum, such as a State Supreme Court. I believe the inherent injustice of that- dealing with children from different family situations in different courts- would be acknowledged by all honourable members. In extreme cases the possibility existed that parties in dispute over children might be involved in proceedings in the Family Court, in respect of children of both of them, and in a State court in respect of a child not capable of characterisation as a child of the marriage.
The Commonwealth amended the Family Law Act in 1976 in the light of the Russell decision to ensure that the Family Law Act complied with the limits of the Commonwealth’s powers as enunciated by the High Court. This has meant that the issue of jurisdiction referred to above cannot be re-considered by the High Court. In the Committee’s view the Commonwealth and indeed the State governments have a duty to ensure as far as is reasonably possible that the ordinary citizen is not inconvenienced when his or her domestic problems reach the point of litigation, by the technicalities of Australian constitutional law and Federal-State relations. What the Committee wishes to emphasise is that the results of the decisions in Russell v. Russell and Farrelly v. Farrelly have had grave consequences in this area of the law. In the Committee’s view it is imperative that a solution to the problems that have arisen in this area of the law be found so that the difficulties and hardships that have been experienced as a result of the incomplete jurisdiction under the Act, in the areas of custody and matrimonial property, can be prevented.
This Committee attached great importance to co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth. It would therefore prefer to see a solution or solutions to the difficulties of the fragmented jurisdiction in Australian family law that are agreed to by both Federal and State governments and that are adopted in the spirit of mutual co-operation. The Committee therefore recommends that the proposed reference of powers from the States to the Commonwealth in the outstanding areas of children and property be proceeded with as a matter of urgency. This matter has been under consideration for a long period and that urgency ought therefore to be quite apparent to all those involved. If the agreement of all States proves impossible to procure the Commonwealth should proceed to enact legislation in this regard on the recommendation of a majority of States.
In the report alternative approaches which the Commonwealth and States might take to achieve a united jurisdiction in family law are canvassed. It would be possible, for instance, to institute a dual court system with exchange of judicial commissions between State and Federal judges. The Committee considers that the possibility of joint commissions for Federal judges or of a dual court system should also receive thorough examination by both the Federal and State governments. Even if the proposed reference of powers is achieved there will remain certain family law matters within State jurisdiction. It seems desirable to the Committee that even though it may not be possible constitutionally for all family law matters to be subject to Federal legislation the situation should be achieved whereby the same judges hear and determine both State and Federal family law matters. Whilst State family courts may be a means of establishing such a single forum, the Family Court of Australia is in existence. In the Committee’s opinion it would require very grave reasons to recommend the dismantling of the existing Federal court system.
Whatever results from the reference of power, it is recommended by the Committee that the Commonwealth move to amend the Family Law Act to exploit to the fullest extent its legislative powers with respect to children, the rights of third parties and the re-introduction of the original definition of ‘child of the marriage’. It is considered that the Commonwealth should particularly seek to assert fully its power in relation to matrimonial property. This Committee considers that the Commonwealth will certainly have no other choice but to so legislate if, in addition to refusing the reference of powers, the State will not co-operate in a scheme of dual commissions or dual courts systems.
The foregoing leads me to that part of the report concerned with the jurisdiction of State courts of summary jurisdiction- the magistrates’ courts. It was submitted strongly to the Committee by the legal profession and the Family Law Council that the existing concurrent jurisdiction of State courts of summary jurisdiction should be phased out. Other witnesses, however, drew attention to the delays being experienced in certain registries of the court and argued that these delays could be overcome by extending the jurisdiction of magistrates’ courts. At the present time, counselling services are available to courts of summary jurisdiction on an extremely limited basis. Courts of summary jurisdiction are not structured or equipped at this time to conduct pre-trial procedures under regulations 96 and 99 of the Family Law Act. Magistrates have complained that they are not receiving support in the way of the provision of legal resources, such as the reporting services supplied by reporting companies such as CCH Australia Ltd and Butterworths Pty Ltd.
The Committee considers it essential that parties who by reason of their residence in remote locations or who, for other reasons must have their matters dealt with in a court of summary jurisdiction rather than the Family Court should not be disadvantaged in regard to the quality of service they might expect to obtain. Some of these discrepancies could be overcome by ensuring access to counselling and conciliation services. It is considered that this is a matter of urgency and should be dealt with immediately. All proceedings under the Family Law Act should be dealt with by specialist tribunals as envisaged originally in the concept of the Family Law Act. The opportunity should also be taken wherever possible to establish courts which can exercise a comprehensive jurisdiction in family law, comprehensive in the sense that the jurisdiction includes State as well as Federal family law matters. State governments may be prepared to confer State commissions on federal judges and vice versa or to create State family courts like that in Western Australia.
However, it is considered that another option is available. This is for the States to create special courts of summary jurisdiction with the attributes of a Family Court. Such special courts would exercise the jurisdiction in specified classes of proceedings under the Family Law Act and would also deal with a wide range of family law matters under State law. It is considered that such courts could, in addition to dealing with matters arising under the Family Law Act, deal with such matters as juvenile offenders, adoption and affiliation and the domestic disputes of those in de facto relationships. In putting forward the proposal the Committee wishes to make the point that family law problems are likely to surface elsewhere than in the divorce court alone. Proceedings in court involving juvenile offenders may often indicate, for instance, a family in trouble. It should be possible for the services of counsellors to become available in such situations. This may lead to later proceedings in the Family Court being averted.
It is not sufficient, in the Committee’s view, for the therapeutic services provided by the Government to be simply placed in a Federal box marked divorce’. If the aim of preventing marital problems and averting family breakdown is to be achieved, services should be available and able to operate on a wide front. In certain provinces of Canada this has been observed and services mounted accordingly so that they are available over a range of crisis situations affecting families which may not involve, but which may be a prelude to, divorce. I was able to observe such a system in operation in the city of Edmonton in the Canadian province of Alberta during a study tour made last year on behalf of the Committee.
Clearly, it would not be open to the Commonwealth alone to implement such a system, nor in our view would it be appropriate. There are constraints on the power of the Commonwealth to legislate for the activities of State courts exercising Federal jurisdiction. One approach considered by the Committee involves the provisions of section 39 (2) of the Judiciary Act, which invests State courts with Federal jurisdiction. The Committee has therefore recommended that the Federal jurisdiction of courts of summary jurisdiction be exercised in each State by magistrates, specifically named, and specially authorised by the Governor-General to exercise such jurisdiction. It is envisaged that the Governor-General would authorise the exercise of jurisdiction only by magistrates considered by his advisers to be appropriately qualified to exercise the jurisdiction. The Act should be amended to empower the Governor-General by proclamation to confer jurisdiction on identified State courts and in respect of identified elements of the jurisdiction in family law matters.
These courts would have available to them the services of court counsellors. Given the existence of the substantial resources available to the States in the welfare area it is not considered that the counselling service should be provided by the Commonwealth, although some court counsellors from the Family Court would be assigned to these courts on an exchange basis. The bulk of workers would be experienced officers within the State public services. The Commonwealth would fund the States to provide the services that are provided in matters arising from a Federal law. It is recognised that the Commonwealth currently provides funds to the States in respect of services provided by courts of summary jurisdiction under the Act. It is envisaged that the Commonwealth and the States would co-operate to ensure a uniform and consistent level of legal services in domestic relations. This would be done in a similar fashion to the manner in which legal aid services are currently funded. Each State would establish a statutory authority called the Domestic Relations Commission, to provide the services required. It would employ and deploy staff to the courts and would be responsible for constructing appropriate courts and facilities. It is anticipated that the services would be provided on a regional basis to ensure ready access by citizens. It would also play a co-ordinating role in regard to the services provided by agencies providing services in the field of marriage counselling. It would be the responsible funding agency, rather than the Commonwealth, for approving the voluntary marriage guidance agencies. Federal funds for this purpose would be channelled through these agencies. It would be responsible for promoting the services available and providing educative material for media relay so that the range and level of services would be adequately known in the community.
In this report we make numerous recommendations to improve the Family Law Act itself. 1 will not detain the House by dwelling overly on these. I might mention that we have produced a comprehensive media release which I have had copied and which I intend to make available to all honourable members.
– Thank God for that.
– The honourable member has his copy already. But it will be made available to all honourable members so that it may assist them in finding their way through this very voluminous and comprehensive report. It may be appropriate- I have mentioned this to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) - if I formally table this document for the information of honourable members.
In summary, we recommend amendments that would enhance the powers of the Family Court in its custody jurisdiction by giving it jurisdiction to declare children wards of the court, to clarify certain terms such as custody, guardianship, care and control which are employed indiscriminately in legislation relating to children, and a number of recommendations which if adopted should strengthen the enforcement powers of the Family Court where children are abducted or court orders respecting children are disregarded. Similarly, in relation to maintenance, we make recommendations which will clarify and improve the provisions of Part VIII of the Act together with some very important recommendations relating to the manner in which benefits received by social security clients should be taken into account in determining the liability of their estranged spouses to contribute to their support.
It is the Committee’s view that the obligations to support a dependant should not be transferred to the taxpayer. At the same time it is undesirable that spouses in need of support should be required to pursue often futile maintenance action. We propose that the Department of Social Security should take the responsibility for recovering from liable relatives such part of the obligation as they can afford. We also propose administrative reforms that would provide a better framework for the recovery of maintenance. In relation to injunctions we recommend that the Act be amended to empower the court to attach a power of arrest to injunctions, which will assist the police in the protection of women threatened with assault by their husbands.
We have considered the questions whether the Family Court should be more open than it is and whether a more extensive right to public proceedings of the Court should be given to the media. The view of the majority of the members was that the Court should be more open and we accordingly recommend that the present situation be reversed - that is to say, there should be a presumption that the Court should be open with a power in the Court to close the proceedings in appropriate circumstances. It is strongly felt that open justice is such an important element of the administration of our courts that the power to close them should be exercisable only in very grave circumstances. The Committee recognises the right of parties in matrimonial causes to privacy. Accordingly it is recommended that where proceedings are reported the media should be prohibited from using names or identifying the parties to the proceedings. This will enable a better coverage of the work of the Court by the Press so that the public will be better informed about this very important area of the law.
I would like at this point to acknowledge briefly the work of Mr Don Nairn, our Committee Clerk, and the support that he has been given by his staff, particularly Ruth Windsor who has been with us most of the time in a stenographic role. I would particularly like to include in my thanks Mary Finn and Margaret Lawrence who acted on a part time basis to assist the Committee. They are both very able lawyers who have contributed significantly to the production of this document. Kathleen Jupp, who is referred to in the bibliographical notes, produced a very comprehensive report on the effect of the Family Law Act upon the institution of marriage and the family. I believe that work, which is part of this report, will be very valuable to those who are examining this report in the future and to pay attention to future directions in this area. I wish particularly to direct attention to our specialist adviser, Richard Gee, of the Sydney Bar. He was very helpful to our Committee. He is a very competent counsel in Sydney. I think that has been demonstrated by the fact that since we have concluded our writing of this report he has been appointed a member of the Family Court and is now Mr Justice Gee of the Family Court in Parramatta.
The inquiry attracted considerable public interest and the Committee was flooded with submissions concerning the Act and its operations. It would have been possible to have dealt with the matter in a more superficial way and met the original reporting deadline of 31 December 1979. As the inquiry proceeded, however, it became apparent to members that the issues involved were complex and warranted careful attention. Consequently, our report considers the provisions and operation of the Act in considerable detail. This course was largely dictated by the number and quality of submissions we received and the community concern reflected in them. If we were to do justice to the material placed before us and to weigh the merits of submissions made to us in the course of the inquiry, it became apparent that we would need to look at both the detail of the legislation and its administration and the wide social context in which it operates.
The Committee is aware that many people with an interest in the outcome of the inquiry have been eagerly awaiting the Committee’s report. We are also conscious of the anxiety of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) to have the report tabled. We very much regret that the circumstances and the need for a thorough examination have necessitated the two extensions of time which have been granted to the Committee by the Parliament. We can only agree with the Attorney in his recent speech in Launceston when he said:
The Committee has an extremely difficult task. In this area of Family Law there are no easy solutions. No new laws can be made to disguise much less eradicate the human anguish associated with the breakdown of a marriage and the financial and emotional consequences that go with it.
I commend this very valuable report to the House.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) - by leave - proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I assure the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) that I will be very brief. I appreciate the position. I say on behalf of members of the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act, particularly those Opposition members, that this was a non-party matter - it was dealt with accordingly. We place on record our acknowledgement of the work done by the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock), the Chairman of the Committee, and also officers of the Committee.
As honourable members can appreciate from the statement made by the Chairman of the Committee, a fair amount of law is involved in this matter and to some extent that makes it a rather dry subject for discussion. But I suggest we must consider it in relation to the social problems that are involved. The Committee is well aware of the number of people who gave evidence to it and who asked whether the law could be improved to alleviate the difficulty of the situations in which they found themselves. We took evidence from judges; we took evidence from social workers; and took evidence from the people most affected. It is significant to note that the quantity of evidence we received was voluminous. It was quite obvious from the evidence that people had many problems in respect of family law. This is not surprising because we are dealing with an area of family breakdown.
It is worth placing on record the fact that a great many people make a success of their marriage. They do not need the law. They are people who can manage by themselves and we must give them some credit for that. Consequently, not many of these people came before us because they are able to make a situation work. Those of us in political life know that the average person in our street is well able to look after a family. Fortunately, that person does not have the problems and pressures that are placed on many other people. - Marital problems cost the taxpayer about $400m in terms of support for deserted wives and children. That is a fairly substantial sum of money which, of course, is a burden on a number of people who as well as having to maintain their own families have to pay for this assistance by way of tax. We understand that but it is important, as the Chairman has indicated, that we make the family concept clearly understood and, if possible, marriage more successful. But this objective requires a number of other actions that we cannot bring into law.
I make the point that laws cannot compel people to separate and they cannot compel people to reunite. In this area we are dealing with personalities or the problems of the family unit which are many and very serious. Society understands them. The problems of housing, unemployment and social conditions create tremendous pressures and are understandable causes of breakdown. Society also suffers a penalty when the breakdown occurs. But we have to look at the people who are involved in that breakdown. We have to make sure that these people are not injured mentally and physically and/or financially if possible. So we have to look at the interests of the spouses and particularly the interests of the children. The law has to grapple with how it has to divide property, how it has to try to divide incomes and how it has to provide custody of children between two areas of parental control. Everybody can understand that it is not possible to find easy solutions. So, the judges have a very difficult task.
The Opposition would like to place on record the great tragedy of the murder of Mr Justice Opas who obviously was killed in the line of duty. Honourable members have to understand the great problems that people face in this area and they have to understand the bitterness and hate that is engendered in such cases. As I said earlier, laws have to try to grapple with the problems. Society needs some sort of concept whereby it can guarantee at the outset of marriage that the parties understand the obligations of marriage and understand that facilities are available to them if problems should arise. If there are pressures on a marriage I think it is important that people should be able to turn to community centres to seek guidance and assistance when problems first arise.
I am aware of the time restraint on this debate but I want to make the point that this report contains 72 recommendations to alter the Act. I agree with most of them. I want to make some comments about two of those recommendations. I think recommendation 45 will be a significant improvement. It recommends that when there is a contest on any matter- it does not matter whether it is related to maintenance, custody or property - there should be compulsory pre-trial conferences. I think it is important to get the parties together quickly rather than have them in an adversary situation. If we can achieve that I think we will cut down much of the litigation. As members of the Committee are aware 70 per cent of legal aid is now absorbed in family law cases.
– It is 80 per cent.
– It is 80 per cent. I am reminded also that the number of cases that are in adversary combat are a small percentage. So a small percentage of cases is taking a fair amount of time. I think it is important that when the Government examines this matter it should give top priority to recommendation 45. The other matter to which I wish to refer is a matter of law and I should like to put my view. There were a few problems in respect of recommendation 27 which related to a suggestion that the provisions of sub-section (2) (o) of section 75 should take into consideration conduct. That has caused some problems. I wrote to the Chairman of the Committee about this matter. He was good enough to reply to me. I should like to place on record the fact that I do not think we need to worry too much about altering that provision now because of decisions that have been made.
I should like to put on record some comments which relate to this type of matter. In the case of the marriage of Ferguson it was held that the principles laid down in the marriage of Soblusky case could apply. Justices Watson and Wood held that the conduct of a party was relevant under section 79 only if the conduct had produced consequences which had diminished the value of the property.
Mr Justice Strauss held that fault or guilty conduct which brings about the termination of a marriage relationship, even though gross and obvious or wilful, is not relevant to questions of maintenance of a spouse or children or alteration of property rights unless in particular circumstances it has economic or financial consequences. Mr Justice Strauss in his statement said that subsection (2) (o) of section 75 was to be construed as referring to matters ejusdem generis with or germane to the matters mentioned in section 75 (2) (a) to (n). In the case of Groutsch in 1978 Mr Justice Murray held that the economic consequences of a spouses’s conduct whether or not fault be adjudged must be taken into consideration. He said that he saw the assessment of conduct as requiring a value judgment, although not necessarily requiring allocation of guilt. I make that point because I think it has to be read into the situation. If we leave it as it is it could be thought that we were erroneous in law. In other words, there has been a development of interpretation of that section the inclusion of which I do not think the Committee has been able to readily agree to. I want to thank my colleagues for their assistance in the course of the deliberations of the Committee. It is a matter in which many honourable members would have liked to participate. We await with interest the action the Government will take to quickly bring to fruition the recommendations made in this report.
– Are you prepared to table and incorporate in Hansard the correspondence that passed between us in this matter?
– Yes. I seek leave to table and to incorporate the correspondence in Hansard.
The documents read as follows -
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
23 July 1980
Mr P. M. Ruddock, MP
Chairman Family Law Committee Suite 301 Eastwood Centre 1 60 Rowe Street Eastwood, N.S.W. 2122
As you would know, Recommendation 24 of the Report (para. 5.45 at p. 148) has caused considerable comment from members of the Committee and quite a number of members will be dissenting from the recommendation.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Report appears to be defective in that it does not refer to relevant cases decided in 1978.
While these cases concern s. 79 of the Act, the considerations applicable are also relevant to s. 75. Indeed s. 79 (4) (d) specifically applies the matters referred to in sub-section 75 (2) to s. 79. Our comments in the report apply to both s. 75 and s. 79 (para. 5.44 at p.1 58).
The expressions in the cases also specifically include considerations relating to maintenance. I would suggest that the following paragraphs be added after para. 5.43:
Two cases decided in 1978 under s. 79 of the Family Law Act are relevant in this context. In the first case In Marriage of Ferguson FLR 342; (1978) FLC 77,604, the Full Court of the Family Court held that similar principles to those laid down inin Marriage of Soblusky applied to s. 79 of the Family Law Act. Justices Watson and Wood held that the conduct of a party was relevant under s. 79 only if the conduct had produced consequences which had diminished the value of the property. Justice Strauss held that fault or guilty conduct which brings about the termination of a marriage relationship, even though gross and obvious or wilful, is not relevant to questions of maintenance of a spouse or children or alteration of property rights unless in particular circumstances it has economic or financial consequences, other than those which merely flow from the breakdown of the marriage and, in that case, it may be taken into account.
Justice Strauss further stated that s. 75 (2) (o) was to be construed as referring to matters ejusdem generis with or germane to the matters mentioned in s. 75 (2) (a) to (n).’
In the second case, In Marriage of Groutsch (1978) FLC 77,356 31 FLR 507 (note), Justice Murray held that the economic consequences of a spouse’s conduct whether or not fault be ajudged, must be taken into consideration. He stated that he saw the assessment of conduct as requiring a value judgment although not necesarily requiring allocation of guilt, if conduct is to be taken into account when weighing up whether it is just and equitable to come to a certain decision concerning the alteration of property rights of parties.’
It follows, therefore, I think, that our para. 5.44 is based on a misapprehension of the relevant case law and that Recommendation 4, which is causing so much concern to members of the Committee, is unnecessary.
While I appreciate the difficulties involved in altering the text and/or the recommendations at this stage, I do not think that we ought to put out a report which is erroneous in law.
I think that the Committee ought to meet again to consider this matter because I think that were these cases to be drawn to the attention of the members of the Committee, that we would be able to reach a consensus.
I would be grateful if you could convey my views to other members of the Committee.
Yours sincerely, LIONEL BOWEN
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
4 August 1980
Mr P. M. Ruddock MP
Suite 301 , Eastwood Centre 160 Rowe Street Eastwood, N.S.W.2122
Thank you for your letter of 23 July concerning recommendation number 24 in the Family Law Act Committee’s Report.
In view of the difficulties that would be experienced in relation to the printingand tabling of the Report,I will not press the matter which I raised. I would merely point out that Ferguson’s case was a decision of the Full Court, and the Sublusky decision considered and applied in Ferguson, must be read in the light of the later decision .
I think thatfacts or circumstances of a broadly financial nature’ that you refer to are, in the light of Ferguson’s case, considerably wider than may have been initially thought.
However, I appreciate the difficulties that would be occasioned by pressing the matter at this stage.
Yours sincerely, LIONEL BOWEN
JOINT SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE FAMILY LAW ACT
Parliament House Canberra, ACT 2600 Telephone 72 1211 28 July 1980
The Hon. L. Bowen, M.P.,
Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600
Thank you for your letter of 23 July 1980 concerning recommendation number 24 in the Family Law Act Committee’s Report. I have given some thought to your observations on the interpretation of s. 75 (2) (o) of the Family Law Act and that dicta from the two recent cases: In the Marriage of Ferguson (1978) FLC 77,604; and In the Marriage of Groutsch (1978) FLC 77,356. As I recall the discussion when it occurred during our deliberations the desirability of extending the scope of s. 75 (2) (o) was a proposition discussed at the final Committee seminar on Children and Maintenance on 29 November 1979. The relevant pages of discussion are attached at Attachment 1 . Members of the Committee were impressed with the support the proposition that some elements of conduct should be relevant to maintenance, received from the two practising lawyers present at the seminar: Mr Broun and Mr Buckley.
You might also recall that Senator Missen informed the Committee that the original insertion of s. 75 (2) (o) in the Family Law Act occurred at the request of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs during its consideration of the Clauses of the Family Law Bill. Mr Watson, Q.C. (as he then was) undertook to draft a provision in sufficiently broad terms to permit the court to consider conduct or behaviour when relevant without using the word ‘conduct’. This he did in respect of s. 75 (2) (o). Senator Missen’s point was that a Full Court of the Family Court had interpreted the provision very narrowly and that the situation could only be overcome if the provision were redrafted to make the legislative intention very clear. This is fully supported by the attached extracts from the Hansard transcripts of the Senate Committee hearings which is attached at 2.
Although the extracts quoted from your letter seem to give support to the proposition that the courts will adopt a more flexible and broader interpretation of s. 75 (2) (o) than the exposition in our report might suggest, I do not consider, however, that these extracts support your contention that paragraph 5.44 is based on a misapprehension of the relevant case law or that recommendation 4 is unnecessary. In particular the Groutsch case, I would suggest, is merely the dicta of a judge at first instance and would not override the Full Court decision in Sublusky’s case which is generally interpreted as the leading case on the matter. Nor can I see that the decision in Ferguson’s case adds or detracts anything from the SuBlusky decision. The headnote of the Sublusky decision reads:
The Full Court allowed his appeal on the basis of the relative financial circumstances of the spouses. It rejected the argument that the wife had disqualified herself by her conduct. The Court examined both Australian cases under the Family Law Act and English cases, notably Wachtel v.
Wachtel (1973) 2 W.L.R. 336 concerning the relevance of conduct in maintenance cases. It also considered the history of the current legislation and concluded the paragraph should be interpreted as follows:
The Court noted that even if the Wachtel test or some equivalent test were appropriate the facts in this case would have fallen short of ‘obvious and gross’. They indicated no more than a fairly strong case of constructive desertion and as such had no relevance in maintenance proceedings under Part VIII of the Family Law Act.
I have been aided in the preparation of this advice by our Committee Secretariat and advisers. I am extremely reluctant to convene further meetings of the Committee at this late stage as it would almost certainly mean that the printed version of the Report would be delayed and our whole program to table the report before the expiry of our extended reporting date of 30 August jeopardised. I would only give consideration to doing so should you wish to press the point after reading the attachments to this letter.
I would be happy to discuss the matter further with you at your convenience. If you wish to pursue your suggestion I would propose to circulate our correspondence to all members of the Committee and consult them as to whether they desire a special meeting.
– I am the only total dissident to the report of the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act. The Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) has been good enough to indicate to me that I will have the opportunity to speak on the matter at a later date. I should like to say that all members of the Committee regret the death of Frank Stewart in the line of duty during this particular inquiry. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, 1 present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Replacement of operating theatres and surgical wards at the Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, Western Australia.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Speaker has received letters from both the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) and the honourable member for Ballarat (Mr Short) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107 Mr Speaker has selected the matter which, in his opinion, is the most urgent and important - that is, that proposed by the honourable member for Werriwa, namely:
The Fraser Government’s unjust denial of invalid pensions to many deserving Australians.
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 -
– If the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) won the petulance pentathlon for his performance in relation to the Olympic Games then the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) must be awarded the accountant’s star of merit for working out that one way to cut costs in her Department is to crack down on invalid pension recipients. Honourable members who sit opposite are infamous for their attitudes towards the less fortunate in our society. Hundreds of thousands of poor families with children are being thrust ever deeper into poverty by inflation and by this Government’s freeze on certain social security benefits. Let me instance several examples. For five years this Government has frozen the $36 a week benefit for the unemployed under 1 8 years of age. Until this Budget it had frozen for two years the $51.45 benefit for single adults who are unemployed. Now, it has only increased by $2. For lOi years - until this Budget in which the
Government has made a small concession - it had frozen the $3 to $6 a week permissible income for the unemployed. In this respect there is a small concession in this Budget but it is long overdue. For four years it had frozen the family allowance. To top it all off the Fraser Government has now decided to hound invalid pensioners.
I wish to make seven points. Firstly, the Fraser Government is reticent to extend any social welfare reform. It acts only when it can no longer decently resist. Secondly, there has been a crackdown on invalid pensioners. Thirdly, the crackdown follows a review of departmental procedures. One need only refer to the Lanigan minute. Fourthly, the crackdown has highlighted glaring injustices to certain individuals. Fifthly, these injustices have exposed the inadequacies of the system used to assess whether people should be on invalid pensions. As all honourable members know a court case is pending on that matter. Sixthly, the processes of review are mysterious and arbitrary. Seventhly, reform of the system is needed.
The Government’s ideology towards individuals is marked by an emphasis on free choice, private enterprise and personal responsibility. It prefers to allow people as much as possible to govern their lives without official interference. However, the corollary of this philosophy is that in adversity people are expected to stand on their own two feet with a minimum of Government assistance. Thus the present Government has a pronounced distaste for the concept of the welfare state, viewing it as not only financially burdensome but also morally repugnant. Therefore, such communal concepts as universal health insurance have been replaced by a system of voluntary insurance and grudging subsidies for the aged, chronically ill and socially disadvantaged.
The harshest aspect of this doctrine of individual responsibility is the stigma of dole bludger or welfare parasite that this Government loves to fasten on those who are driven by economic circumstances or personal misfortune to depend on social security benefits. One of the worst examples of social injustice perpetuated recently has been the blatant victimisation of invalid pensioners. It is ironic that Liberal Party policy states categorically that it aims to protect citizens ‘against arbitrary bureaucratic decisions by the use of an ombudsman and effective tribunals for appeal against the exercise of administrative discretions’. Obviously, invalid pensioners are an exception. There has been a crackdown on invalid pensions. There is no sense honourable members opposite saying that there has not.
Let me now outline what has happened in my electorate in an effort to show that this Government has callously and inhumanely cracked down on invalid pensions in order to save a miserly amount. As always the poorest, the weakest and most vulnerable are being attacked by the Government and the Department of Social Security, a Department established to protect them. Since June I have had a succession of people visiting my electorate office about the receipt of a circular from the Department of Social Security stating that their invalid pensions would cease by a certain date due to re-assessment. They were advised to register with the Commonwealth Employment Service for employment. Some of the people I interviewed had been receiving the invalid pension for up to 10 years, and the letter came as rather a shock. The decisions conveyed in the letters to the invalid pensioners were made without any further medical examinations, and were merely a result of some bureaucratic arbitrary decision.
One person who saw me had had an accident at work about 10 years ago. He underwent serious surgery, and then about six years ago he had a car accident and further intensive medical treatment. This person cannot sit or stand for long periods and has permanent back injuries. Not only will this person face the intolerable unemployment situation in my electorate, which at present amounts to about 7,000 people out of work, with about 100 vacancies each month, but 10 years of invalidity have cut him off from the world to the degree that he has difficulty communicating in English and can speak only Yugoslav. One could mention dozens of documented cases from all over Australia. There has been a crackdown on invalid pensioners, but I will not spend time today instancing cases of poor individuals who have been affected by the Government’s policy. It is obvious to all honourable members from the publicity over recent months that there is a widespread crackdown taking place throughout Australia.
The loss of the invalid pension deals the seriously disabled a shocking financial blow. A single person receiving unemployment benefit, which is the only recourse for most rejected invalid pensioners in my electorate, loses $9.55 a week in income. A wide range of fringe benefits is also lost, including free health care, free pharmaceuticals, rebates on telephone rental, if the person has one, and rates and electricity charges. These fringe benefits, especially the free health care and pharmaceuticals, are worth up to $50 a week for the seriously disabled who require constant medication and health care. I point out that two of the people singled out in my electorate are under constant and active medical care, yet they have been rejected. In addition, rejected invalid pensioners have to get themselves to a CES office every two weeks and prove that they have applied for jobs. We all understand what the new work tests involve. Unemployment benefit recipients every now and then have to prove that they have gone to local employers, that they are answering newspaper advertisements, and that they are engaging in a lot of activity on their own behalf to get a job. I do not know how people who are crippled, who cannot sit in trains, who cannot drive, are going to undertake this process. I hope that the idea is not to get people off the invalid pension, on to the unemployment benefit, and then to move them off that and on to sickness benefit or something else. If that is the idea, it would be a very cruel process.
During the autumn session my colleague Senator Grimes asked the Minister for Social Security how many people with 80 per cent incapacity, whatever that may mean, had been placed by the CES in the last year. The Minister, Senator Guilfoyle, did not know because the CES does not classify handicapped people in terms of percentage incapacity. However, she did admit that her Department employs only six paraplegics and one quadraplegic in a total staff of over 1 1 ,000, despite its overall responsibility for programs for the handicapped. Not so long back I think it was Senator Carrick who announced that the Government would try to employ disabled people in the various government departments. At this stage, only a handful of people have been employed in government departments, which largely perform sedentary work. That shows how hard it is for disabled people to get work in the wider community. I think that at this time the Department of Defence employs the greatest number of disabled people.
A CES report for 1978-79 revealed that of the 46,541 handicapped people registered, 9,873 got work. For the past three years, only 20 per cent of registered handicapped have found jobs, and fewer handicapped people have been registering for work. One invalid pensioner noted:
I am genuinely overwhelmed by the societal no man’s land my pension application and my diabetes has landed me in during the last seven months. It is all I can do just to preserve some dignity and self respect,, to persist in writing out another application for work when yet another employer opts for a healthier person to do the same job for which you’ve applied, given your qualifications and training.
Section 23 of the Social Services Act 1947 states that a person must be 85 per cent incapacitated to work and permanently incapacitated in order to qualify for an invalid pension. The law does not state what factors a doctor or bureaucrat should take into account when making an assessment. Senator Guilfoyle attempted to cover up the crackdown in three contradictory moves. Firstly, she stated that the law governing invalid pensions had not changed. She then changed ground slightly to assert that a confidential memo sent last May to Department of Social Security State offices from Mr Lanigan, the head of the Department, had merely clarified the law. She then proceeded to claim that the dramatic increase in lost pensions was part of the normal review process. The Australian Council of Social Service has taken up this cause Australia-wide on behalf of invalid pensioners and other beneficiaries with respect to this arbitrary process. At some time a meeting was held between the Minister and this organisation, and some agreement was reached. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter from ACOSS to the Prime Minister showing the areas where there is still some contention.
The letter read as follows -
AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL OF SOCIAL SERVICE INC.
1 49 Castlereagh Street Sydney, N.S.W., Australia 2000 P.O. Box El 58 St James, N.S.W. Australia 2000 Telephone (02) 235 8188 29 July 1980
The Rt. Hon. Malcolm Fraser, C.H., M.P.
Prime Minister, Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
Dear Prime Minister,
I refer to the Sydney Morning Herald article (28.7.80), in which you were quoted as saying that the Federal Government was not cracking down on invalid pensions and that ‘one Of the things we have done is to make sure that arbitrary decisions of government or bureaucrats can’t deny the people of Australia rights to the sorts of benefits to which they would Otherwise be entitled’.
During the meeting on July 15, between ACOSS representatives and the Minister for Social Security and senior officers of her department, the Minister also referred to the need for clarification’ and ‘consistency’ of eligibility within the existing law. At that meeting also the Minister assured ACOSS that there would be no overall review or ‘crackdown’ on those pensioners granted a pension not ‘subject to review’.
Despite the flavour of some press reports of that meeting, various important issues of concern remain outstanding for this Council.
First, the Minister referred to the legal opinion by Hulme and Griffith (April 1979) as a ‘clarification’ of the existing Social Security Act.
The Council considers that this opinion and further instructions by the Department represent a change in the interpretation of the Act towards a much more narrow interpretation, based on strict legal and medical factors only.
In particular we challenge the Hulme and Griffith opinion that the ‘availability of work is irrelevant’ since the words of the Act read ‘incapacity to work’.
Moreover the Hulme and Griffith opinion and current directives to Commonwealth Medical Officers and other general practitioners involved in assessing eligibility, have moved from a notion of ‘incapacity’ to a much narrower and only clinically based criterion of ‘impairment’.
It is our opinion that much more multi-faceted criteria should be used - including the availability of work for persons with certain disabilities.
Our view in this matter has been supported not only on the grounds of a compassionate administration of the law, but as a sound legal interpretation of the Act.
The fact that there has been a tightening up in the interpretation and procedures for determining who should be eligible for invalid pensions has been confirmed by Commonwealth Medical Officers, private practitioners, and social workers who have contacted ACOSS in recent weeks. This change in interpretation has been reflected in the case studies being presented to ACOSS and other agencies of people being taken off or refused invalid pensions, and the much longer waiting periods involved in any application.
The Council has also been informed that some persons (particularly the mentally handicapped) are presently being discouraged by Department of Social Security counter staff in applying for invalid pensions, and are automatically applying for unemployment or sickness benefits.
The Council is presently seeking legal advice from senior counsel in regard to the Hulme and Griffith opinion. This advice will be available soon in the anticipation that a legal challenge will be made seeking a further interpretation of the Social Security Act. In this regard we note and endorse your comment that you ‘hope and expect the policy to be administered with compassion and concern’ (SMH 28.7.80) .
Secondly, while the Council welcomed the Minister’s assurance that there would be no general review of those pensioners ‘not subject to review’ we are still concerned by several aspects.
Since the meeting with the Minister we have received several case studies/complaints from persons who have been taken off the pension but who at the time of being granted the pension were not told that their pension was ‘subject to review’. Their condition has deteriorated since their original application.
The Council has also received at least one case study of a person working in a sheltered workshop who was removed from the invalid pension even though a delegation of disabled persons to the Sydney office of the Department of Social Security (17.7.80) was told that such persons would not be reviewed.
As yet the Council has not received information from the Department of Social Security as to the percentage of invalid pensioners granted a pension ‘subject to review’ (or details as to their disability category). It should at all times be a basic right for pensioners that they should be told whether their pension is subject to review and during what time scale.
In this regard we are also concerned by a Health Department Instruction circulated by the Department of Social Security (February 1980) which stated that ‘the Director General of Social Security has also drawn attention to the need for review of the continuing entitlement of existing invalid pensioners’ and ‘Directors of Medical Services in his Department will be asked to survey existing invalid pensioners’.
We emphasise again that our concern is not only about any review of those people currently on invalid pensions, but also about the impact of any change in interpretation of the Social Security Act for those applying for pensions.
One complaint brought to ACOSS by social workers, referred to changes in the assessment and evaluation procedures by the Commonwealth Medical Officer and Rehabilitation Service, which are now causing long delays (of four months or more), in processing claims for invalid pensions. Such delays bring added emotional stress and financial hardship to disabled persons and their families. The changes are considered administratively inefficient, and contrary to good rehabilitation principles.
A third major area of concern is the lack of an independent appeal structure. If an invalid pensioner appeals his case, he is presently transferred to the Department of Health and reviewed by a medical officer within that Department. The Council notes that a listed specialist can be made available for the pensioners under review. However, the final decision regarding the appeal is made within the Departments of Health and Social Security. Invalid pensioners appealing on medical decisions do not have access to any independent appeal structure, with other than the possibility of a purely medical review. The Council is strongly of the opinion that an independent appeal structure, including other than medical advice, is required. This requires access to a lower level appeals tribunal as well as to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
It is also of major concern to the Council that no reasons are provided to people as to why they have been taken off the pension. They are asked to provide additional medical evidence but do not know on what grounds the previous medical/ specialist opinions have been challenged.
In this regard we also draw your attention to the need for advice and assistance services in assisting people in preparing their appeals and/or knowing their entitlements.
The fourth major area of concern is the inadequacy of unemployment and sickness benefits. In particular we stress the need to remove the gap between what an invalid pensioner and what a sickness and unemployment beneficiary receives. Our pre-budget submission draws attention to the need to provide fringe benefits to all beneficiaries after one month on benefits.
Such fringe benefits provide free pharmaceuticals, free optometrical consultations, free medical treatment by doctors, telephone rental concessions, hearing aid services, transport concessions. Obviously all these are extremely valuable for handicapped persons.
The Minister for Social Security has herself noted the present anomalies in this regard.
Attention is also drawn to the following anomalies and gaps between the entitlements of pensioners and beneficiaries. the unemployment benefit for a single person is lower than the invalid pension ($5 1.45 compared to $61. 05) unemployment and sickness beneficiaries face a much harsher income test (only allowed to earn $6.00 pw before any extra money reduced $ for $ compared to $20.00 pw and 50c in $ taper for pensions). The Council urges that the harsh income test for beneficiaries be made equal to that of pensioners. that unemployment and sickness beneficiaries are not presently eligible for supplementary rent assistance ($5.00 pw) that disabled unemployment and sickness beneficiaries are presently not eligible for incentive allowance of $5.00 pw for those working in sheltered employment.
We urge that the provision of fringe benefits to beneficiaries and the provision for the other allowances and increased benefits, listed above, be given highest priority in this year’s budget allocation.
Finally, we draw attention to the lack of opportunity of access to employment for the physically and mentally disabled. A range of social and physical barriers presently deny any opportunity or access to work. We urge that various employment programs be implemented to deal adequately with the special needs of all long term unemployed and the mentally and physically disabled, and to encourage the availability of work for such persons.
As one example of this the particular difficulties faced by the disabled in obtaining employment in the Commonwealth Public Service should be reduced and a program of positive discrimination implemented.
We would appreciate your earliest response to the issues we have raised on behalf of a particularly vulnerable sector of the community. We hope it will be possible to resolve the current unfortunate situation without the need for more extensive community and legal action.
MURRAY GEDDES President c.c. Minister for Social Security.
– I thank the Minister. Anyone can see that the spate of lost invalid pensions is much more than that. I concede that a single member of parliament cannot know the full dimensions of a problem, but it is relatively obvious that there has been a crackdown. This came about because in May last year Mr Lanigan sought legal opinion from outside the Government to clarify the definition of 85 per cent incapacity, and apparently accepted the most restrictive, that from tax avoidance lawyers Mr S. E. K. Hulme and Mr Gavan Griffith. The confidential Lanigan departmental minute entitled ‘Control of Invalid Pensions’, dated 23 May 1979, claimed a 9.4 per cent increase in invalid pensions for the year - higher than the so-called normal growth. Firstly, the number of invalid pensioners for the year ended June 1979 was 7.7 per cent above the previous year, not 9.4 per cent; and secondly, Mr Lanigan did not define what he meant by normal growth. It is certainly pertinent to this debate that invalid pensions have risen by less than any other pension or benefit over the past 10 years. The same Lanigan minute stated:
Thus a doctor cannot prove beyond doubt that a patient is eligible or ineligible for an invalid pension. The patient is at the mercy initially of the Commonwealth Medical Officer, and then senior Health Department officials and Mr Lanigan or the Department, who can veto the medical verdict without ever conducting a medical examination. Recently one invalid pensioner suffering from a chronic heart condition informed me that the extent of his medical examination by a Commonwealth Medical Officer was to touch his toes. The CMO then pronounced to my constituent that he did not pass the 85 per cent incapacity test.
In February and March this year, as a result of Mr Lanigan’s legal inquiries, new procedures were outlined in Social Security instructions headed ‘Invalid Pensions - Revised Procedures’. The minutes were numbered 80/16 of 25 February 1980 and 80/22 of 17 March 1980. These Revised procedures were to adjust the confidential Department of Health publication Handbook for the Guidance of CMOs’, which amounts to an interpretation of the law. The handbook used to charge doctors specifically to take into account social and environmental factors and the ‘availability of work within travel or educational capacity’ when assessing a person’s eligibility for an invalid pension. Social Security instruction 80/ 16 of 25 February 1980 reversed this. It states:
All references to environmental or social factors which may enable a doctor to certify that a person is permanently incapacitated for work have been removed.
There is no sense in the Government using a legal interpretation as the reason for its action. It is for the Minister and the Government to evaluate the justice of the legality and move to amend the law if it is seen as unjust. But by this means the criteria for eligibility for invalid pensions has been narrowed to a more strictly medical interpretation of the law. It means that a 60-year-old man who cannot speak much English, lives in an area of high unemployment like Liverpool, and who has been in receipt of the invalid pension for 10 years can still be rejected on so-called medical criteria.
The whole question of 85 per cent incapacity as criteria for eligibility for an invalid pension needs to be reviewed. It is interesting that the First Assistant Director of the Department of Social Security in Victoria, speaking in early August at a rally organised by the Combined Pensioners Association in that State, called for the present system requiring 85 per cent incapacity to be abolished. The subjectivity of 85 per cent incapacity can never be clarified, legally, medically or by any other means. Another significant change in procedure is that senior Health Department officers have been appointed to double check all assessments made by CMOs, whether these assessments are for application or review. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter from the Department of Health.
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
Australian Government Centre Cnr. Spring and Latrobe Streets Melbourne, Victoria 3000
Invalid Pensions - Revised Procedures
Your attention is drawn to revised procedures relating to Invalid Pensions to be implemented following a recent review by Department of Social Security and Department of Health. The rationale for these procedures is to develop a more accurate assessment of each application, so as to reduce the likelihood of incorrect or inappropriate recommendation for an invalid pension.
For this reason the instructions in section 35 of the CMO Handbook (pages 35. 1 to 35.3) have been amended, and supercede the current instructions contained in paragraphs 1 to 4 of sub-section A and paragraphs 1-6 of sub-section B. A copy of these amendments is enclosed for your guidance. A reprint of this section for the CMO Handbook will be forwarded when available.
The changes made in the amendments are intended to bring forcibly to the attention of the examining CMO the fact that to certify that a person is permanently incapacitated for work he must find the person to be no less than 85 per cent incapacitated for work. All references to environmental or social factors which may influence a Doctor to certify that a person is permanently incapacitated for work have been removed. In addition, conditions in the labour market which may make it difficult for a claimant to obtain work are not relevant to the medical assessment.
In conjunction with the revised procedures, a new medical report form SA16 will be used. This requires a more detailed and careful examination of each applicant for an invalid pension, from the CMO. From now on, all medical report forms SA16 will be vetted and reported upon by a senior medical officer in the Victorian Divisional Office before the forms are referred to the Director-General of Social Security for final determination. The senior medical officer will have to satisfy himself that on the evidence available before him the recommendation of the examining CMO is in accord with the new criteria for invalid pensions as contained in the amendments. Consequently, examining CMOs are requested to include as much as possible relevant clinical comments and examination findings.
Examining CMOs are requested not to divulge to the applicants their recommendations, as apart from any action the vetting senior medical officer may take, ultimate determinations of all claims are made by the Director-General of Social Security.
Section C of the new form contains a box for coding of the major disability. This should be completed using the simplified code in the CMO Handbook pages 35.7-35.9 (Sub-section G).
A specimen form SA16 is enclosed for your information.
Yours faithfully, (R.C.Webb) Director (Victorian Division)
Since printing of the new Form SA16 it has been agreed that the details required in Part II and Part III (2nd Page) are more complicated than required. This will be corrected when the forms are re-designed and reprinted. However as an interim measure a simplified questionnaire in lieu of these parts will be included with the existing Form SA 1 6 and this should be completed by the claimant.
– I thank the House. On 23 May 1980 the Minister for Social Security could not say how many reviews of the positions of invalid pensioners had taken place in the past four years because this type of information would cause a considerable amount of clerical effort. This type of excuse is not much solace to the people who no longer receive the pension. Assurances by the Minister that those already on pensions are not at risk are meaningless unless full comparative figures on the numbers of medical reviews and cancellations following them each year are made available. I had another three people tell me of their troubles last week.
Senator Grimes placed a question on the Notice Paper regarding pension review procedures and received an obscure answer from the Minister. I have written to the Minister requesting information on the review procedures within her Department and that of the Department of Health, and was fobbed off. Pension eligibility and review procedures need to be clear and uncontestable. Invalid pensioner applicants and appellants should be given the right to present their cases to panels of independent medical and social experts. The present system of claiming and appealing is very obviously weighted against the pensioner. I would like to leave the final word on this matter to Professor Ronald Sackville of the University of New South Wales, author of Law and Poverty in Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The wording of the matter of public importance raised by the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) is as follows:
The Fraser Government’s unjust denial of invalid pensions to many deserving Australians.
The criteria for an invalid pension have remained unchanged since 1947, through both Labor and non-Labor governments. I quote from this year’s Budget handbook the criteria for payment of an invalid pension. It states:
Invalid pensions are payable to people aged 16 years or more who are permanently incapacitated for work to the extent of not less than 85 per cent or are permanently blind.
There is a medical assessment and, apart from an income assessment, that is the basis for payment. I acknowledge the sincerity of the honourable member for Werriwa on this issue and other issues. However, when one looks at the words of his matter of public importance and at what he said in his speech, as well as the wording of the Social Services Act and the definition, there are a number of contradictions. There is a contradiction within the honourable members own terminology, because he is saying that there is an unjust denial of invalid pensions to many deserving Australians. Nowhere in his speech has he given evidence that a person who has a right to an invalid pension, because of the criteria and the medical assessment, has been denied such a pension.
The honourable member is talking about deserving Australians who, because of a degree of incapacity- but a less than permanent incapacity of 85 per cent- the problems of high unemployment, and problems of language- he has listed them well- are in very difficult circumstances and are deserving of compassion from our society. There is the point that, perhaps until now, this particular category has not been covered properly. I believe the honourable member for Werriwa is deserving of criticism for making no acknowledgment in his speech of one of the most significant extensions of social welfare policy of this Government in the Budget of last week- that is, the payment of fringe benefits to sickness beneficiaries. That picks up completely the sort of person about whom the honourable member is talking, but they are being picked up, appropriately, not by trying to stretch some form of definition or degree of permanent incapacity beyond what the Act has stated since 1947, through both Labor and non-Labor governments.
I want to refer to a few facts. The number of invalid pensioners in Australia in July of this year, 229,000, compares with 1 69,000 at the end of the Labor Government in 1975, and with the figure of 134,000 in 1970. The population of Australia has not increased in those 1 0 years to anywhere near the extent that the number of invalid pensioners has increased. Does this indicate some form of repressive government action? Does it indicate that the society is suddenly becoming permanently incapacitated or, more correctly, does it indicate that the medical assessment in some ways- I acknowledge this - has not been applied by the Act as it should have been?
– You are a hypocrite.
-The honourable member for Melbourne will withdraw.
– I will withdraw but I hope that pensioners are listening to what this character is saying.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, that term coming from that person does not bother me at all. He should know what it means. It is also interesting that he uses that word when a person is giving facts. I have been called a hypocrite just for giving the facts. That is a terrible indictment of the attitude of the Opposition to this whole question. I quote a few more facts. Queensland figures indicate that at the end of June this year there were 36,818 invalid pensioners in Queensland compared with 34,706 last year. That is a significant increase. Does that indicate some form of witch hunt? The number of cancelled invalid pensions for the year to the end of June 1979 was 165; for the year just ended, to June 1980, there were 174 cancellations. Does that indicate a witch hunt? There are a few other facts. Federal Government spending on invalid pensions in the past financial year increased by $106m- from $690m to $796m. It is estimated in the Budget that for the next financial year that figure will increase to $936m, an increase of 14 per cent which is above the general increased level of expenditure estimated for social security.
For the benefit of Labor members who are interested in what their Government paid in the last year of its office, in 1975-76 the figure was $407m. So, there has been an increase of 95 per cent. Other assistance to the disabled - the handicapped children’s allowance, Commonwealth rehabilitation services and voluntary organisations - rose from about $62m in 1975-76 to $104m in 1979-80- a rise of almost 70 per cent. Does that indicate a repressive Government which is not acknowledging the needs of the invalids, the handicapped, in this society? The number of invalid pensioners rose by more than 9,000 during last year. Does that indicate mass cancellations of or refusals to grant invalid pensions? I will repeat that since 1975 the number of invalid pensioners has increased from 169,000 to 229,000.
There have been many statements made by many people, particularly by welfare professionals and candidates for and members of the Opposition. Firstly, the consequences of many of these statements have been to worry needlessly large numbers of very sick and disabled people. It has been a very cynical political exercise to frighten unnecessarily the handicapped and invalids of this country. Furthermore, these statements have not been supported by evidence. The honourable member for Werriwa, who I acknowledge is sincere in this, has provided more examples than every other member of the Australian Labor Party and its candidates put together. In spite of all the publicity and the panic that this has created, where is the solid evidence? Secondly, the Minister for Social Security has made clear the Government’s position on many occasions. The law relating to invalid pensions is quite specific, and it has not changed, lt is the responsibility of the Department of Social Security to ensure that all pensions and benefits are paid according to the law. Is the Opposition saying that the Department should break the law in its determination of this? The Department of Social Security is not undertaking medical reviews of all invalid pensioners. As has always been the case, medical reviews have been carried out on pensions granted subject to medical review. I understand that about 4 per cent of invalid pensioners are being reviewed in any 12-month period. I submit that that is less than what is generally the case in the other areas of social security pension benefits.
Opposition members interjecting -
– I just ask honourable members to listen. They may hear something of interest here. Thirdly, those who are dissatisfied with a determination have the right to appeal.
– Just wait for it; I concede that the honourable member has made a valid point here. In the case of appeals, medical evidence is reviewed by a senior Commonwealth medical officer of the Department of Health.
– They have all got their instructions.
– I ask the honourable member to listen; he might learn something for a change. It might replace some of the blind prejudice he has. The Government is sympathetic to the view that there should be a right of appeal on medical matters to an independent tribunal. The Government is presently looking at ways this could be done through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Government acknowledges, as it has in a whole range of reviews of administrative procedures, that there is a need for such a right of appeal. We are looking at that. When the Labor Party was in government it had a chance to do something about that but it did not do so. I believe that it is important for the Government to show that justice is appearing to be done as well as being done by providing this extra level of appeal.
The most significant thing that the Government has done constructively in this area has been to extend fringe benefits to sickness beneficiaries. That has been the major complaint of people who believed that they were entitled to an invalid pension and who have not got it. One has to acknowledge that a person who has a degree of incapacity of less than permanent incapacity is a person who will have medical expenses and other expenses higher than average and who will not be able to gain work, particularly in the difficult circumstances that prevail at the moment. I believe that what is being advanced by the present Government is most appropriate to overcome what is acknowledged as a weakness in criteria for the range of pensions and benefits. This is a compassionate and constructive action. It is far more appropriate than the negative scare-mongering tactics of the Opposition on this issue, providing needless worry to the invalids of this country.
Let me refresh the minds of those who need refreshing by stating some facts. The numbers are up for invalid pensions, the costs are up and the cancellations are average. I have been advised that the Department of Social Security has stated that the number of complaints about invalid pensions is no greater than or different from the ordinary run of complaints that come through. The honourable member for Werriwa is, I acknowledge, the only person opposite who has produced facts to any degree. The appeals procedure could be better and its improvement is being investigated. Fringe benefits have been extended to sickness beneficiaries.
What has the Labor Party done about this matter? As I have already said, it has not produced the evidence. The honourable member for Werriwa did not produce the evidence by using the definition that he used in this debate. He was talking about the many deserving Australians - there are all sorts of deserving Australians - not just the question of invalid pensions. He did not provide the evidence on that.
– The cockies.
– For the information of the honourable member, I point out that the average income of farming people in Australia was well below the minimum wage during the period when the Labor Party was in government. What did it do about that? As Opposition members do not like me quoting other people, I shall quote from something said by the honourable member for Port Adelaide, Mr Mick Young, who is a wellknown member of the front bench of the Labor Party. In a recent book which I am sure all Labor Party members have read and which is entitled / Want to Work, Mr Young argued that invalid pension figures are being inflated to sweep human beings off the unemployment statistics. In his book, M r Young said:
The pressure is on the administrators of unemployment benefits to keep the figures down at all costs. In 1975, the last year of the Labor Government, there were 32,394 new invalid pensions granted. In 1978, up to 30 October there were 43, 1 73 granted. New invalid pensions are up one-third on the number four years ago. Have we suddenly turned into a nation of cripples in those four years? The simple fact is that it’s a very convenient way of sweeping human beings off the unemployment statistics.
There we have a prominent Labor Party front bencher saying in a book published this year that invalid pensions have increased in the dramatic way that they have not because of the fact that we have become a nation of cripples and not because the criteria are being applied restrictively but because the problem of unemployment has to be solved, with reasonable compassion extended to the unemployed, in an acceptable and correct way, not by bending the criteria for invalid pensions. What Mr Young is saying completely contradicts what the honourable member for Werriwa said. I hope that those two gentlemen get together at some stage in the near future.
I will give another example of the Labor Party’s position on this matter. The alternative Budget was presented by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) the other night. The honourable member for Werriwa, in the introduction to his speech, referred to this Government being a miserly government on unemployment benefit levels and family allowances before he finally got to the question of invalid pensions. There is not one definitive promise in that alternative Budget about the Labor Party increasing invalid pensions. What hypocrisy! The Labor Party has beautiful double standards. It says in its alternative Budget that it will be economically responsible and that it will not do this or that and then it moves an amendment about increasing expenditure for every piece of enabling legislation relating to the Budget that goes through this House, as happened last night in the debate on the Delivered Meals Subsidy Amendment Bill. If increased expenditure is a real priority for the Labor Party - if it is genuine about that - why did it not include reference to that in the alternative Budget? This is a cynical political exercise by the Labor Party to frighten unnecessarily the unfortunate people in our society who are invalid.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The discussion is concluded.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– I move:
On 15 August 1980 my colleague the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) and I announced the Government’s decision on the recommendation made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on textiles, clothing and footwear. The Government in deciding not to accept the recommendations of the IAC, because of the loss of employment that would follow from those recommendations, has decided to introduce a new program of assistance for these industries for a period of seven years from 1 January 1982. Tariff changes to implement the new program will be introduced at a later time. However, as an interim measure, it has been decided that a range of products not presently subject to quota should be brought under tariff quota control to ensure the effectiveness of the current assistance arrangements which are to operate until the end of 1 98 1 .
The changes contained in the Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled give effect to the interim arrangements which are to operate on and from Monday, 1 September 1980. The new products now being brought under quota include rainwear; certain plastic and plastic coated apparel; men’s contrasting suit sets; woven overalls, not being industrial overalls; knitted tights having a value of $ 1 .80 or more; certain woven undergarments and waist encircling foundation garments; continental quilt covers and bed ruffles; and handicraft towels and towelling products. A comprehensive summary setting out the nature of the 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 Cass) adjourned.
– I move:
Excise Tariff Proposals No. 3 (1980), which I have just tabled, formally place before Parliament alterations to the excise tariff introduced during the winter recess by authority of gazette notices Nos. 1 and 2 (1980) under Section 160B of the Excise Act. The Proposals increases the excise duty on stabilised crude petroleum oil from $140.1 1 to $157.21 per kilolitre operating on and from 1 July 1980. This alteration followed determination, by the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick), of new import parity prices from 1 July 1980, in accordance with the Government’s decision that all Australian produced crude oil should be priced to refineries at import parity levels.
The choice facing the community is between paying realistic prices for petroleum products, or not having access to adequate supplies and being wasteful in its use. The Government’s crude oil pricing policy has the dual role of reducing the demand for petroleum products in Australia and accelerating the development of indigenous energy reserves.
Maintenance of the import parity pricing policy is fundamental to the Government’s energy policy and to maintaining an adequate supply of liquid fuels over the long term. The supply of oil available at lower prices would not be as great as the supply of oil available at market prices. Similarly, low oil prices would increase consumption and would fail to encourage conservation measures. The Proposals also increases the excise duty on naturally occurring liquefied petroleum gas from $41 .65 per kilolitre to $43.48 per kilolitre operating on and from 1 July 1980. This change followed new average wholesale prices for naturally occuring LPG being set by the Minister for National Development and Energy in accordance with Government policy.
Following the increase in the price of Saudi Arabian light marker crude, the maximum wholesale price for domestic sales of naturally occurring liquid petroleum gas has been increased in accordance with the policy announced in April and is now $227.63 per tonne. This price also applies to ex-refinery LPG. The Government’s policy has the effect of relating the domestic LPG price to the movement in overseas prices. I commend the proposals.
– There can be no justification for the Government’s import parity oil pricing policy. It is a rip-off, a tax by stealth perpetrated at every petrol pump in the country to spread the burden of taxation beyond direct taxation through income tax and through the pay packet to indirect taxes which have become a feature of the Fraser Government. In the last couple of years, the revenue from the crude oil levy has risen from $400m to an estimated $3,054m this year. The revenue from petroleum products is about 1 1 .8 per cent of the total Commonwealth budgetary receipts. So, the public of Australia is paying a massive increment to tax of about $950 a year for the average family through this mechanism which is called import parity.
Australians do not have to pay this price because 67 per cent of our oil is produced in Australia from fields discovered before 1970, largely from the Bass Strait fields where 93 per cent of our production flows. Most of that oil is produced for around $1 a barrel. Yet the Government makes Australians pay $27.50 a barrel for the privilege of using it. Why should Australians be asked to pay the world price of $27.50 a barrel for oil which is produced at a cost of one dollar a barrel? Quite simply the reason is that the Government believes that the public of Australia would be so stupid as not to understand that it was not the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries or the Arabs charging the price but the Australian Government. It thought it could hide behind the Arabs and blame them for a tax it was imposing. The result now is that everybody who wishes to fill the tank of a medium sized sixcylinder car will find that the cost is about $25.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) two days ago indicated in his energy policy statement that he expects oil prices to continue rising. From that statement we can understand that the international price of oil will continue to rise, both in the view of the Prime Minister and in my own view and that will mean under the Government’s policy that that price will translate straight into Australian prices with this automatic link or nexus which the Government calls import parity. In other words Australians are not to get the benefit of oil in their own country. We do not pay the world price for electricity because Australia has an abundance of coal. We do not pay the world price for gas although we do not have an abundance of it, but the Government is making us pay the world price for oil. All of this is under the guise of an energy conservation program.
What we have seen are very modest results - a drop of 0.7 per cent in the consumption of petrol. Yet when we compare that drop with what has happened in the United States of America, we find that the consumption of petrol dropped there by 10 per cent - not 0.7 per cent - without an import parity policy, as the Americans do not have one. It has dropped in America simply because that country has other direct measures such as mandatory fuel consumption standards on motor cars. But there is no way that the Fraser Government would take on either the Ford Motor Company of Australia Ltd or General MotorsHolden’s Ltd in Australia and make them introduce modern and efficient engine plants. No, the Government will allow them to run down their investment in their old engine plants and the result will be that Australians will be getting 1 3 miles to 14 miles to the gallon out of their four and five litre cars. The latest Commodores have 5-litre engines.
The direct measures which the American Congress has undertaken have reduced substantially the consumption of petrol in that country. In Australia, $3.5 billion will have changed hands in the last financial year and the result of that massive cost on the public of Australia under the Fraser Government’s policy is a reduction of 0.7 per cent. Petrol prices have risen by 33 per cent in the last financial year. Despite that massive increase, the drop in consumption is only 0.7 per cent - a very modest gain indeed. Obviously the policy is just too expensive for a country like Australia and too inflationary for the Australian economy to bear. There can be no glib justification by the Minister of import parity pricing.
The other justification that the Government seeks to make is that a high price is needed to encourage exploration. This is a phoney argument because both the Australian Labor Party and the coalition parties have agreed to pay the world price for oil yet to be discovered, that is, import parity for new oil, but not existing reserves in the Bass Strait. The Labor Party introduced that policy in 1975. It has been continued by the present Government and has the support of the Opposition. That is the policy under which exploration in Australia continues.
The companies operating in Australia, with the exception of Esso-BHP, largely do not produce any oil or gas in Australia and can get nothing out of the old oil policy. Therefore, they are searching for oil and gas here simply on the promise that they will be paid import parity if they discover new oil. Why should not we pay them import parity because we would only have to pay it to, say, some Middle East state?
Why should we pay import parity for oil which was discovered over 10 years ago in the Bass Strait, for which all the production platforms have been established in respect of which production is at the rate of about 400,000 barrels a day. Why should we have to pay the world price for that oil? Quite simply, we should not. It is no encouragement for exploration. The encouragement for exploration comes under the new fields policy. It is just a tax rort, a rip-off, a tax by stealth, a hoax on the Australian motoring public where the Fraser Government has established a branch of the Taxation Office at every petrol pump. The city dweller, the farmer and the industrialist all pay through the nose for fuel which is produced in their country and which should be available to them at prices much less than the prices which the Government is determined to charge them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 p.m. to 2.15 p.m.
Motion (by Mr Garland)- by leave- agreed to:
That Excise Tariff Proposals Nos. 5 to 7 (1979) and Excise Tariff Proposals No. 1 (1980) constituting part of Order of the Day No. 68, Government Business, be discharged.
Debate resumed from 20 August, on motion by Mr Garland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 4) 1980 is to increase the excise duty on liquefied petroleum gas from $14 to $41.65 per kilolitre. The Opposition opposes the legislation. It is not specifically opposed to this particular increase in the excise but more generally to the Government’s whole package in relation to liquefied petroleum gas which was announced on 8 April and to which this legislation gives effect. The Opposition is opposed to the measure simply because the Government does not have a credible policy in relation to liquefied petroleum gas. It was hoped that Australia could be supplying about 10 per cent to 1 5 per cent of its liquid fuel requirement from liquefied petroleum gas which, for the benefit of those listening, is propane and butane which in Australia is largely naturally occurring in the Bass Strait oilfields and which is also produced synthetically at refineries.
The great expectation which we had for the conversion to liquefied petroleum gas of taxi and bus fleets and other private vehicles has not materialised. In fact, the conversion of motor vehicles has slowed markedly in the last eight or nine months. When we look at the problem underlying the slow down in conversion we find that it is the malaise of the Government’s policy. Not so long ago the Government had a policy of pricing LPG on the basis of production costs. These costs were the costs of producing LPG gas from a refinery and not the production costs of naturally occurring gas from, say, Bass Strait. The only problem with this policy .was that there was no incentive for domestic producers to sell in Australia. Esso-BHP, in particular, was selling most of its LPG off-shore to Japan.
Some time ago when the Prices Justification Tribunal lifted the price of synthetic LPG, the price went beyond that for the naturally occurring gas. The Victorian Gas and Fuel Corporation started to switch its buying from synthetic LPG at the refineries to the naturally occurring gas and the British Petroleum Company at Westernport in Victoria started to flare its LPG; that is, just lit the gas up and burned it in the atmosphere. The Government reacted to that policy by linking all of Australia’s LPG pricing to export parity, or to the price which LPG was bringing on the world market or, more particularly, the price for which
Esso-BHP was selling its LPG on the world market.
After the Iranian crisis, with the general shutdown of Iranian production and the disappearance of the glut of oil which was then evident on the world market, and because of the demand for hydrocarbons generally, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries saw an opportunity to give a high product status to LPG which until then had been the sawdust in the petroleum system. In previous times OPEC had been unable to secure the kind of prices for LPG that it was able to secure for it after the Iranian revolution and after the drying up of hydrocarbon supplies’ in most parts of the world. So, the world price of LPG rocketed. Because Australia, under the Fraser Government, had tied the price of domestic LPG to that of exports, the price of domestic LPG skyrocketed as well. The result was that householders living in, say, Orange or Bathurst in New South Wales or in parts of Victoria which were not hooked up to a natural gas pipeline but which were hooked up to a LPG town reticulated gas supply - that is, a small, local town gas system supplied with LPG by road tanker - and who were previously getting their gas at prices somewhat akin to the prices paid by people in Sydney and Melbourne who were hooked up to pipelines, found that the price increased dramatically by 300 per cent or 400 per cent. Therefore, such people were in a very parlous position because of the kinds of costs that they had to bear for their normal cooking and heating needs.
The Government immediately tried to minimise the electoral damage to itself by then blaming the Prices Justification Tribunal for lifting the price. As we all know, it was not the Prices Justification Tribunal’s fault. It had been told by the Government to price domestic LPG in accordance with export prices. When the export prices rose as a result of the Iranian situation which I have just described, of course, the Prices Justification Tribunal felt bound by the Government’s policy to pass those prices on to Australian consumers. Then, of course, there was really a panic within the Government with all kinds of pressure from the National Country Party because its electorates were affected by the high gas prices. We then saw a change in the policy which the Australian Financial Review described as such a confusing muddle as to be a ‘dog’s breakfast’. The result is that we now have three prices for LPG, none of which relate to production costs.
The Government then arbitrarily decided to pick a price of $205 a tonne for LPG. Formerly, the price had been around $250 for propane and $290 for butane. The Government arbitrarily decided that the price would be $205 a tonne and that the price differential between the $205 which people would have to pay and the $250 and $290 which they were previously paying would be borne by the oil companies. The Government on the quiet told the oil companies to sheet the extra cost of the loss of income which resulted from the change in policy by adding it to the price of petrol. The Government said to the companies: ‘The next time you go to the Prices Justification Tribunal to recover the cost of the reductions in LPG prices, add it to the price of petrol and we will turn a blind eye to it’. That was a very dishonest policy because it meant that the motorists of Australia were then covering the price of liquefied petroleum gas. It was not costing the Government anything. The Government just quietly sheeted it home to the motorist hoping that nobody would discover the fact that the Prices Justification Tribunal had been told by the Government to pass on any increases sought by the oil companies. It was only because some telex was leaked somewhere, as so much is leaked these days from the Government - it is like a sieve - which showed that the Government had given an indication to the oil companies and to the Prices Justification Tribunal that the motorist should pay for its liquefied petroleum gas policy.
So we have three crazy prices - one for consumers, one for motorists, one for industrialists and, in certain industrial classifications, the world price. The price increased and the Government said that this would make people continue to convert their vehicles to use LPG. What was happening was that the differential between the petrol price and the liquefied petroleum gas price - the differential which was encouraging people to convert their cars to LPG - was narrowing. Naturally, people were not prepared to spend the money to convert their vehicles from petrol to liquefied petroleum gas if there was not much difference between the price of the two products. The reason there is not so much difference is that the Government charged the world price for LPG but it did not have the guts to charge the world price for oil under its import parity pricing policy. If the Government had done the decent thing and adopted the terms of its own oil policy and charged the world price for both fuels, the gap in the price would have widened. There was nothing wrong with the Prices Justification Tribunal. It had done its part in terms of the Government’s instructions. It had lifted the LPG price to equal the world price. The Government was falling down on its job by not sticking to its policy on oil.
Before the suspension of the sitting for lunch I said that we think the Government’s policy on oil is wrong and that we should not be charging Australians the world price. In terms of the Government’s policy, it said it wanted to lift the price of Australian oil to equal the world price. If the Government had been charging the world price, that gap in the price between petrol and LPG would have started to widen automatically. The attractiveness of conversion would have become apparent to most people and the conversions would have continued. Instead, the price gap narrowed and people stopped converting.
Then a couple of cars exploded. Apparently were not converted properly or safely to use LPG. Between the closing gap in the price and the explosion of a couple of motor vehicles, I think in Sydney or Melbourne, people decided that it was a bit risky to covert their vehicles to LPG. The Government has not recovered that impetus. People are not converting to LPG in the way the Government thought they would. In addition, we have this sort of crazy policy now under which we have three different prices. In less than three months of the Government changing the price, the price was set at $205 a tonne and it was then increased to $228 a tonne- only $20 less than it was before the policy changed. One wonders what the whole point of the increase was. The Government then introduced a subsidy of $80 a tonne for household consumption. Before that subsidy was even paid to any household consumer, the price had risen to $228 a tonne. Therefore, there is real confusion in the market place about the price of LPG under the Government’s policy.
There is a distinction between the Government’s policy and the Opposition’s policy. Under the Government’s policy, prices for LPG in Australia are determined by the costs which are applied to the base price of $205. That is reflected by increases in the feedstock going into refineries. Under the Fraser Government’s policy, Australian oil which is sold to Australians, which is produced for $1 a barrel in Bass Strait, and for which the Government now makes us pay $27.50 a barrel, will continue to rise in price as the world price rises. Therefore, as the oil price rises - the feedstock for the refineries rises - the products coming out at the other end of the refineries reflect the higher cost. Under the Fraser Government’s policy, the price of LPG will continue to rise as the costs of the oil feedstock rise.
By contrast, the Australian Labor Party’s policy is to break with this policy of import parity, and not pass on increases in the world price to Australian prices. Because the price of feedstock for a refinery would be much more stable under a
Labor government than it would be under the Fraser Government all of the products coming out the back end of the refinery - kerosene, distillate, petrol, naptha and LPG - would reflect that stability. Under Labor’s policy we would have an LPG policy tied to production costs reflecting that stability. Under the Government’s policy prices will continue to rise.
The real hoax upon the electorate has been in respect of household LPG. In January the Government announced that consumers would receive a subsidy of $80 a tonne for household LPG. As I indicated earlier, the reason for that is that the high price which has formerly been charged under the Government’s policy was starting to hurt people particularly in country towns. Because of the electoral impact, the Government put in an $80 a tonne subsidy. It is now seven months since that announcement was made. Very few consumers have received any subsidy. The scheme is proving impossible to administer. I hark back to the description of the policy in the Australian Financial Review. It was described as a ‘dog’s breakfast’. Payment is to be made retrospective to 28 March. But how is the Government to determine who consumed what LPG and for what purpose? How is it to determine what was used for domestic consumption and what was used for industrial purposes?
The Government has a policy that it cannot administer. I notice my friend from Tasmania, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), squirming in his seat. He might like to go and tell the Launceston Gas Co., for instance, about the realities of the Government’s liquefied petroleum gas pricing policy. He might like to go and tell the people of Tasmania that they are paying through the nose for town reticulated liquefied petroleum gas thanks to the policy of the Liberals from Tasmania .who believe that Tasmanians, like most Australians, should pay through the nose for everything - petroleum, kerosene, diesel and particularly, liquefied petroleum gas. People in Tasmania just do not have the opportunity to be connected to a natural gas pipeline. They must use LPG. Under the Government’s policy they are paying through the nose. So are people in Orange, Bathurst and Lithgow in New South Wales. Under the Government’s policy, people in all those country towns in Victoria and New South Wales are now no better off with a subsidy than they were when it was first mooted because the subsidy is just not being paid. It is a real promise which has been broken. If the Government wants to abide by its promise, it will have to come up with another arrangement to satisfy the policy it introduced in January.
The prospect that LPG can satisfy up to 15 per cent of our liquid fuel needs will not be realised. Most people believed that this target would be met by 1985. It is now more likely that it will be met by about 1995. The Government intends to substitute fuels and says: ‘We want the right fuels used in the right applications. We want liquefied petroleum gas taken out of industrial consumption and used in transport applications’. The Government has the curious policy of seeking to encourage the conversion out of industrial applications by making the price cheaper. What a stupid and contrary policy that is! What a contradiction to encourage industrial consumers from using liquefied petroleum gas by making the price cheaper. Of course, if it is cheaper industrial consumers will not stop using it. The Government introduced some tax measures for conversion from liquefied petroleum gas. But why would a company using LPG change from using LPG when the price now is $50 a tonne cheaper than it was when the policy change was introduced? Of course it would not shift out of LPG; it would stay in it. The use of LPG in transport applications only just will not happen in the future.
The big market for LPG will be in petrochemicals. From where I stand, I am quite happy to see the Australian petrochemical industry using LPG. If it isa matter of selling our exportable surplus to Japan or using it domestically in petrochemicals, I say use it domestically. If it were not for the Labor Party’s vigilance, the Government would have allowed the North West Shelf producers to sell LPG unsegregated. They were going to sell LPG, liquefied natural gas and methane to the customers who would be buying North West Shelf gas. We made it clear to the consortium - in the end we virtually had to threaten it - that if a Labor government came to power it would force the consortium to strip the LPG. We are the ones - not the Government - who got the consortium to change its policy. Seven hundred thousand tonnes of LPG will come out of the North West Shelf project when it goes into full production and that will be available in Australia, thanks to the Labor Party and not to anybody else. It is all right for the consortium to say that it was considering such action. It was considering it all right, but it was not going to do it. Instead of the Government standing on its dig and insisting that the consortium strip it, it sat back and we had to do the dirty work and convince the consortium that it should strip it.
There is a great future in Australia for LPG. About 300,000 tonnes will be available from the Cooper Basin and from 600,000 to 700,000 tonnes will be available from the North West Shelf, which is about a million tonnes over and above the two million tonnes we produce currently. One would hope that LPG would give Australia a very high level of energy independence in liquid fuels. Certainly in Japan and other places LPG is used extensively, particularly in taxi fleets or vehicles which go back to a single depot where LPG is sold. The difficulty faced by oil companies in Australia is the establishment of LPG outlets in the same way as they have established outlets for petrol. Eventually we will have to get down to solving the problem. But LPG does give us a lot of options in liquid fuels for the time being- until we get to building pipelines- in reticulated gas for townspeople and for the petrochemical industry. LPG is a great fuel for us and it should not just be sold wholesale to whoever wants to buy it. Sure, we can allow companies to sell what we do not wish to consume- our exportable surplus- but we ought to have the option of determining what we want to consume ourselves and what we think ought to be made available for export.
I have mentioned the Labor Party’s policy. It is basically to price LPG on a production cost basis. We would take the price of LPG at refineries before the Government switched to export parity and then add the cost increases which have occurred in the meantime. That would be the price at which it would sell in Australia. Because the price of feedstock going to refineries would be far more stable under the Labor Party’s frozen old oil policy or broken nexus policy, LPG under a Labor government would be considerably cheaper than it is under the present coalition. After months of deliberation the Government finally came up with an LPG policy which some people in the relevant departments really thought was a coup. I think it is a great shame that sometimes in the administration of this Government and in the administration of departments of the Commonwealth there is a ‘fix it’ approach to things rather than a basic approach to the real problem. It is always the ‘quick fix’ sort of approach- keep the Government off your back and come up with a tricky scheme. This tricky scheme has tricked everybody, including the consumers, who will not benefit from it. It is, as the Australian Financial Review described it, a dog’s breakfast of a policy, lt does not deserve our support and it will not get it.
– in reply - The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) has been attempting to explain to us the Australian Labor Party’s policy–
– Which one?
– The honourable member for Denison may well ask which one. The honourable member for Blaxland was attempting to explain to us that the Labor Party’s policy on liquefied petroleum gas is superior to that which the Government has put in place. I therefore want to reiterate briefly the Government’s position. We have said throughout that the use of LPG and the distribution and consumption of it in this country is complex. What the Government has sought to do by a three-tier system - not a simple system- is to try to take into account the realities of the situation. The quantity of LPG produced in Australia at present is far greater than that which we are consuming. Most people believe that in six or seven years we will consume all our production and that we will become an importer. But we have various objectives to achieve. This country cannot ignore the world situation in respect of petroleum products. Petroleum products will never be cheap again and they will be scarce, and the Australian economy is moving well along the track of adjusting itself to the realities of that situation. At present we are able to provide some 70 per cent of our oil needs but, in a few years, if we do not discover more oil that supply will run down very sharply, so it is in everybody’s interests that the Australian economy adjusts. The honourable member for Blaxland knows that that is the situation.
In respect of LPG, the Government decided that the petrochemical industry should pay the world price, as the honourable member put it, that is, the negotiated price, from refineries. In order to encourage the conversion of some motor vehicles - it is believed by many people that up to 10 to 15 per cent of the total number of motor vehicles could be running on LPG in a few years but in any case we ought to encourage the conversion to LPG- and the use of LPG for industrial purposes it was decided to set a rate lower than the negotiated or world rate. The honourable member for Blaxland spent some moments discussing the problem of the differential between the prices of LPG and motor spirit. In other words, if a person is thinking of buying a car that can run on LPG or of converting his car to LPG, he will be more confident if he knows that the price of that LPG will have a fixed relationship with petrol, that the price of LPG will be cheaper in comparison with that of petrol. So we have achieved that fixing. On the one hand, the honourable member complains about the parity pricing policy and on the other he says that the Government does not have the courage to keep up that policy fully. The Government’s policy is that it will adjust the price from time to time, not every day when the price of a particular product rises, as it did in the case of LPG. We have recently announced increases and we have stuck to a revision of prices in relation to Saudi Arabian light crude about every six months but, as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said, not on fixed dates. What this policy has done is to provide for encouragement of the use of LPG in motor vehicles. It is a matter of making those commercial decisions, and they are being made. That conversion is taking place. It may not be at such a rapid rate as would please the honourable member for Blaxland or a lot of us but it is happening, and it is part of the Government’s objective.
The third tier was designed to provide consumers - householders - with a subsidy, which is at present $80 a tonne, so that they did not have to bear the full impact of an LPG price rise, even though they had to bear some of it. That was done because it simply was not possible for consumers and many distributors to handle an enormous rise which took place so quickly in the world market. But one cannot get away from these problems by making suggestions about what amounts to a deferral of the problem. That is the main criticism I would make of what the honourable member for Blaxland has said. There are many criticisms which one can make in this highly complex situation. But what we as responsible people have to look at is the effect of our policy on the country.
The Opposition’s pricing policy amounts to an attempt to postpone the inevitable adjustment in this economy. Australia really does have to adjust, in this as in other fields, to the reality of the position - that is, the scarcity of oil, the need to conserve oil, and the need to try to provide for the requirements of commerce, households, the petrochemical industry and so on. So we have set in place this three-tiered system. I believe that it is by and large a successful system.
Anybody can make criticisms here and there but if we tried to deal with this matter as the Opposition is proposing we would reach the stage where adjustment would not be made quickly enough. When our surplus of LPG goes down and we reach a level of full consumption, we will have to import. We will not get lower prices under Labor for oil or LPG except perhaps in the very short term.
The honourable member for Blaxland’s proposal to link the price of petrol to the consumer price index amounts to an adjustment of the price by a means other than the real world price. This proposal is only deferring the problem. The problem will catch up with us one day. I do not think there is any doubt that this Government - or any government - has to grapple with this situation.
Nobody likes paying higher prices for anything - certainly not petrol and certainly not LPG. But we have to look at the overall position. I believe that this system is working out overall, not without some problems, to the benefit of the people.
The Labor Party obviously sees in this situation an opportunity to rake up support and to attract people who naturally are unhappy about the changes that are taking place - changes which are beyond the complete control of any Australian government. It hopes to attract people to the belief that there might be some easier way. There is no easier way. Any government must be alert to changing circumstances. We propose to stick to this policy because it is an important one for the whole of our national well being, for the use of this valuable resource within our economy, for the changes that will have to take place in our economy to meet changing conditions and ultimately for the wealth of all Australians.
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 19 August, on motion by Mr Macphee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence to suggest that the House has a general debate covering this Bill, the Income Tax (Individuals) Bill 1980, the Income Tax (Companies and Superannuation Funds) Bill 1980 and the Income Tax (International Agreements) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1980, as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering these four measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The House has before it a number of tax Bills which deal with a wide range of matters. By far the most important of these Bills, and certainly the one which will have the most impact on Australian taxpayers, is the Income Tax (Individuals) Bill. This Bill formally imposes the rates of personal income tax for 1980-81 as were declared in the Income Tax (Rates) Act 1976 by amendment in the last session. These rates were determined by the statement of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) on 6 March which announced the Government’s decision to apply only half tax indexation for 1 980-8 1 .
At this stage, the Government proudly trumpeted the fact that this half tax indexation adjustment, which in fact turned out to be less than 40 per cent indexation after discounting together with an increase in the spouse allowance, would mean a $4.15 a week tax cut to taxpayers with a dependent spouse. What it did not mention with as much fanfare was the fact that the great majority of Australian taxpayers, or more precisely 80 per cent of them, would receive a miserly 90c a week which is not even enough to buy three litres of petrol or a bottle of beer. Not surprisingly, given the fate of previous Fraser Government tax cuts, these meagre tax cuts soon disappeared, swallowed up by the latest increase in petrol tax of 2c a litre which meant an extra 90c to fill up the petrol tanks of most family cars. So the 90c given on the income tax side disappeared at the petrol station. This was poor consolation indeed for Australia’s taxpayers who have had to endure five years of the tax policies of this Government, policies which have made the Fraser Government the highest tax government in Australia’s history. No amount of Government rhetoric or obfuscation can hide the fact that the Fraser Government is indisputably the highest taxing government in this nation’s history. Every possible measure of tax incidence makes this point clearly. Government supporters had better get used to this statement because it will be repeated many, many times before this election is over.
The Australian people now realise the truth about the taxing policies and the many unkept promises of the Fraser Government. Every time they fill up their car, do the family shopping or open their pay packets, they plainly see and feel the effects of the Fraser Government’s policies. They realise that their living standards have fallen markedly over the past five years, that the income tax bite is taking more, that petrol taxes have skyrocketed, that medical insurance costs more and that the money they have left over buys less - and that all of this has come about because of the policies of this Government.
Before going on to examine the increased tax burden in more detail, it is worth reminding the House of some of the promises made by the
Government concerning taxation. In his 1 975 policy speech, the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said:
We will encourage people’s initiative and enterprise, not batter them into the ground with punishing taxes . . .
He also said:
One of the most significant contributions to prosperity will be our personal income tax reforms.
One of his gems was:
We will reduce the tax burden. We will put an end to Labor’s tax rip-off.
We will fully index personal income tax for inflation over three years.
He said further: . . it will make government more honest with your money. They will no longer be able to rely on the secret tax increase of inflation.
Those are some selections from the present Prime Minister’s policy speech in 1975 in which he in no uncertain words clearly indicated his intention to reduce the burden of taxes on the Australian people.
Again, come election time, the Prime Minister promised further tax cuts. In his 1977 policy speech, he said:
We have reduced taxes . . .
Under Labor, taxes doubled. We have ended the big tax rip-off.
He also said:
This Government has brought in the largest and fairest reforms ever made to Australia’s tax system . . .
From February 1–
That is 1978: further tax cuts will come in for every Australian wage and salary earner . . .
He also said:
The Australian people will not accept a return to high taxes.
I interpolate to say he might well be right there. He went on to say:
The Government will bring taxes down further - not increase them.
These promised tax cuts, exemplified by a fistful of dollars in the Government’s election advertising, lasted a whole seven months, until the 1978-79 Budget, when the present Treasurer imposed the iniquitous 1.5c tax surcharge which imposed an eight per cent tax increase on those on lower incomes but a much lower increase for people on much higher incomes. It should not be forgotten that the Treasurer was at pains to stress at that time that this was to be a temporary surcharge and that the legislation would expire at the end of the 1978-79 financial year. As it transpired, this promise also turned out to be one which was easily disposed of. At the end of 1978-79, the surcharge was reimposed or extended for a further five months until November. Now the Prime Minister has the astounding gall to describe the final, long-overdue removal of the surcharge at the end of November last year as a tax cut. It was nothing more than the removal of an unfair impost which taxpayers had every right to feel ought not to have been imposed in the first place, particularly given the promises made about tax cuts at the last election. 1 summarise what has happened to this point. We had the promise of a tax cut before the last election; the tax cut introduced soon after the election lasted seven months; the promise of tax cuts was broken by what was described as a temporary tax increase; the Government’s promise was further broken by the extension of that tax increase; and then when the tax surcharge was removed the Government claimed it had cut taxes. What a tremendous attempt at fraud on the Australian people. Associated with this, of course, has been a lack of full tax indexation so the tax incidence has increased as well as the application of the income tax surcharge. While recalling the Government’s undertaking on taxation it is illuminating to recall a truly remarkable statement of the Prime Minister which appeared in the newspaper the Australian on 12 June last year. Of course these comments were made after it was made clear that the Government was going to break its promise to limit the tax surcharge to the financial year 1978-79. It was clear that it would continue for some time. The Prime Minister was reported in the Australian as saying:
We never said taxes wouldn’t go up. We never said that at some stage we might not have to collect more taxes to pay the government’s bills.
What an incredible statement from a man who only two years earlier had promised to bring taxes down further, not to increase them. This statement clearly shows the bind which this Government has got itself into because of the inconsistencies between its promises and its actions in regard to taxation. I now turn to examine the evidence which unequivocally shows the record levels which taxes have reached under this Government. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table headed ‘Increased Incidence of Taxation under the Fraser Government’.
– I want to look firstly at total Commonwealth tax receipts as a proportion of gross domestic product. This table has three segments, one of which deals with total Commonwealth taxes as a proportion of gross domestic product. The other two segments look at the net pay-as-you-earn tax receipts as a proportion of total tax revenue and as a proportion of wages, salaries and supplements paid. Looking at total Commonwealth tax receipts as a proportion of gross domestic product, we find that during the three years of the Labor Government total tax collections averaged 22i per cent of GDP but in the first three years of the Fraser Government total Commonwealth tax receipts averaged 23.4 per cent, about one per cent more than the average under the Labor Government. However, since then it has gone up even further. In 1 979-80 it was 24 per cent and for 1 980-8 1 , using the Budget projections for tax receipts and also for the increase in GDP, the figure will be 24.6 per cent. It is moving up all the time. It is well above the level of 22.5 per cent which was the average under the Labor Government.
During 1 979-80 total taxes collected increased by 17.2 per cent while this year they are budgeted to rise by 16.4 per cent. With these large increases in total taxes imposed by this Government naturally the proportion of tax to GDP has risen even further. As I have said in 1980-81, 24.6 per cent of GDP will go in taxes. That is far above the average of the Whitlam years. This movement has been acknowledged in the recent report of the interdepartmental committee on economic strategy from which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) quoted the other night. Of course, that is a very important body. That is the Government’s senior source of departmental advice on economic management. In that report it was stated:
Since 1975-76 . . . the overall burden of taxation (as a proportion of GDP) has increased. Indeed, the increase in the burden of taxation was the most important factor underlying the reduction of the deficit achieved in 1979-80.
I add to that the words ‘and again in 1980-81’. That committee is saying that the means of reducing the deficit is by imposing large increases in taxes. It was that way in 1979-80 and, of course, it is certainly what is happening again this year. It is the reason that the Government is able to point to a domestic surplus. It is swamping the deficit with massive increases in taxation. How has this dramatic increase in the tax burden occurred under a government which promised generous tax cuts? Close examination of the figures will reveal that the increased burden has not been shared equally across the community. It has come about firstly because of the substantial increases in income taxes attributable mainly to two broken promises of this Government. I have already mentioned them. They are the income tax surcharge introduced in 1977-78 which continued at a reduced level to the end of the last financial year and the failure to fully index taxes against the effects of inflation.
Tax indexation has never been fully introduced by this Government despite assurances in 1975 that it would be introduced over three years to make governments more honest with the taxpayers’ money. In 1976-77 we had 93 per cent indexation; 80 per cent in 1977-78; 35 per cent in 1978-79; no indexation at all last year; and 39 per cent indexation for the current financial year. Of course, the net effect of the failure to fully index taxes has been that as money income rises with inflation taxpayers are continually pushed up the tax scale so that they pay a continually higher proportion of their incomes in taxes. The Fraser Government clearly has relied on the secret tax of inflation and, to use its own words, has decided against making governments honest with the taxpayers’ money. Wage and salary earners in particular have felt the brunt of these policies as is shown in the table I have incorporated in Hansard. Net pay-as-you-earn taxes, that is taxes paid by wage and salary earners, have risen from an average of 41.6 per cent of total Commonwealth tax collections during the three years of the Labor Government to an average of 44.2 per cent of total collections for the period of this Government. That has occurred despite the enormous increase in petrol taxes.
Last year alone net PA YE collections jumped by 17 per cent. This year they will go up by 13.6 per cent, a total increase in two years of 33 per cent. I repeat that in two years - last year and this year - on the Budget projections, taxes on wage and salary earners will go up by 33 per cent. During this time average weekly earnings, an index of the movement in wages and salaries generally, will rise, on the Budget assumptions, by 23 per cent. Wages and salaries will go up by 23 per cent and taxes on wages and salaries will go up by 33 per cent. That is a tremendous increase in the tax incidence in those two years - last year and this year. As a proportion of wages, salaries and supplements, paid net PA YE tax collections have gone up from 1 6.3 per cent during the three years of the Labor Government to reach 19.6 per cent last year. That is far above the level set by the Labor Government. These points have been in general, broad terms. But what do they mean for the individual? What they mean is that there has been a substantial increase in the tax burden for almost everyone but not quite everyone. 1 seek leave to incorporate in Hansard two tables which deal with the increase in the tax burden over the period of the Fraser Government.
– I thank the House. The first of these two tables deals with taxpayers without dependants. These tables show the change in the income tax burden for taxpayers at various income levels, assuming that their incomes increase in line with average weekly earnings from 1975-76 to 1980-81. Of course, we can use the Budget assumptions for average weekly earnings increases in the current financial year. The first table which deals with taxpayers without dependants shows that all persons earning under approximately $ 1 6,000 in 1 980-8 1 -that will be about 80 per cent of taxpayers who pay tax as a single person- and whose incomes increased in line with average weekly earnings from 1975-76 to 1980-81 are now paying a higher proportion of their income in income tax than they paid in 1 975-76. I emphasise that point. Taxpayers who pay tax as a single person - 80 per cent of people are in that category - will have had an increase in their tax burden from 1975-76 to 1980-81. They are the people who will earn less than $16,000 this financial year. Those who earn above that level will, of course, have had some tax reduction but for those below that level there will be an increase. Importantly, the further one goes below that $16,000 level the greater has been the increase in the tax burden. Thus, if we take a person who earned $6,000 in 1975-76, with the movement in average weekly earnings he will be earning $9,852 in this financial year. On our assumption that he moved in line with average weekly earnings, his income has gone up by 64.6 per cent, but his tax has gone up by 82.4 per cent. So there has been a significant increase from 17 per cent to 18.9 per cent in the proportion of his income that he pays in tax.
– How many years was that?
– From 1975-76 to 1980-81. If we take the person who earned $7,000 in 1975-76 and who moved in line with average weekly earnings, he will be earning just under $1 1,500 in this financial year. Also on the assumption that he has moved in line with average weekly earnings, his income has gone up by 64.2 per cent, but his tax has gone up by 74. 1 per cent. So the proportion of his income that he pays in tax has gone up by over one per cent. This is an extremely important development. It means that the burden of tax on people who earn below $ 1 6,000 has increased, and the lower one goes below $ 1 6,000 the truer that is. Of course, that has enormous consequences for the equity of the tax system. Before I leave that table, I should also emphasise the other end of the scale. If we take someone who earned $50,000 in 1975-76 and whose income increased in line with average weekly earnings, he would be earning $82,000 in this financial year. But despite an increase in income of 64.2 per cent, his tax has increased by only 52.7 per cent. So the proportion of his income paid in tax has fallen from 53.3 per cent to 49.6 per cent, giving him an effective tax cut of $58.40 a week, compared to what he would have paid if he were paying the same proportion of his income in tax now as he paid in 1975-76. At the other end of the scale, of course, there has been an increase of several dollars in the categories I have mentioned.
All of those figures relate to a table for taxpayers without dependants. If one looks at the table for a taxpayer with a dependent spouse, and this is certainly a minority of taxpayers, but an important minority because they are family people, one will see that there has been an even greater increase in the incidence of taxation on them. The cut-off point in that increase for taxpayers who claim a dependent spouse is not the $16,000 level but the $24,000 level. In other words, taxpayers who claim the dependent spouse rebate and who earn less than $24,000 in this financial year will be paying a higher proportion of their income in tax than they paid in 1975-76. It may be said: ‘Of course that is true, because in 1976 the system was changed in respect of family allowances and tax rebates for kids, and that increased the tax burden but gave families more by way of family allowances’. We have taken account of that in these estimates and have treated family allowances as a negative tax. However, the point I am making is still correct, that is that the $24,000 income is the cut-off point, and all persons with a dependent spouse who earn less than $24,000 in this financial year will pay a higher proportion of their income in tax than they paid in 1 975-76. The more they are below that $24,000 mark the truer that will be and the greater will be the increase in their tax burden. So a person who this year earns just under $10,000 and claims a dependent spouse rebate will be paying just under $5 a week more in tax than he would have paid had there not been an increase in his tax burden imposed by the Fraser Government.
These tables are well worthy of study. I do not have time to go into them further, but they demonstrate unequivocally that under this Government there has been a substantial increase in the tax burden affecting the vast majority of taxpayers, affecting both the taxpayer who pays tax as a single person and the taxpayer who claims the spouse rebate. Additionally, the Fraser Government’s cutbacks on public expenditure in regard to health insurance must also be taken into account. Certainly this is not a tax, but the effect on people is much the same as an increase in tax. In 1975-76 all Australians were entitled to free or near free medical cover. Today they must pay in the order of $3.60 a week for 100 per cent medical cover for a single person or over $7 for a family. Of course, these increases, which are like a tax but not paid to the Government, also involve a loss of welfare for the vast majority of people.
Two other factors to be taken briefly into account when assessing the reasons for inequitable increases in the tax burden are, firstly, the explosion in tax avoidance over recent years, which is now responsible for lost revenue in the order of $ 1,000m a year. All this avoidance by high income earners means that they are not paying even the reduced rates of tax which this Government kindly allows them to pay, if they were to pay their taxes as originally intended. Every dollar these people successfully avoid is a further dollar that has to be taken from wage and salary earners - so much so that wage and salary earners are now paying around $4 a head to make up for the activities of tax avoiders. I note in this regard that the Government’s claims that it has stopped tax avoidance are wrong. There has been a thirteenfold increase in the number of tax avoiders identified by the Taxation Commissioner in the first three years of the Fraser Government. Secondly, there is the explosive rise in petrol taxes under this Government. The crude oil levy has increased from $257m in 1975-76 to an estimated $3,054m in 1980-81- an increase of over 1,000 per cent. When we add on the increased excise on petroleum products we find that in just five years there has been an increase of $3,000m in petrol tax to almost $4,000m. Petrol taxes have risen during this period from 5.9 per cent of total tax receipts to 12.6 per cent now and cost each family up towards $1,000 a year. Clearly, under the Fraser Government every pump has become a tax office. This tax is grossly inequitable as every person, regardless of whether he is a millionaire or on the minimum wage, pays the same tax on a litre of petrol. The large increase in this tax has added to the highly inequitable tax structure which has developed under the Fraser Government.
In conclusion, I want to summarise the Government’s record of tax achievement. Four out of every five working Australians now pay out a bigger share of income tax from their weekly pay packet than they did under the last Budget of the Labor Government. Total tax receipts have almost doubled since this Government came to office. More taxes have been collected in the last four years under this Government’s policies than the combined taxes collected in the previous 1 1 years by the Menzies Government, the Holt Government, the Gorton Government, the McMahon Government, and the Whitlam Government. What a record of tax achievement this is, a record to be proud of for a Government which promised to end the big tax rip-off.
I now wish to deal briefly with other Bills covered by this debate. Firstly, the Income Tax (Companies and Superannuation Funds) Bill 1 980 merely declares the rates of tax to be paid by companies and superannuation funds for 1980-81. These rates are unchanged from 1979-80, except for a minor change involving certain superannuation funds which are in the nature of accumulation trusts. We do not oppose that Bill. The next Bill before the House is the Income Tax (International Agreements) Amendment Bill (No. 2). The purpose of this Bill is to ratify a new double tax agreement between Canada and Australia, signed on 21 May 1980, to replace the original agreement concluded in 1 957 and now outdated by a number of tax changes in both countries, but especially in Canada. Basically, double tax treaties aim to prevent two companies imposing the same tax on identical incomes. Such an occurrence would have a harmful effect on the international movement of goods, services, persons and capital. This is achieved by stipulating which nations have taxing rights on different classes of income and by limiting tax in the source nation on certain types of income. This may involve some revenue loss, but that is more than made up for by the benefits from facilitating international trade and exchange of information.
Of particular importance are the provisions contained in the treaty facilitating exchange of information between taxing authorities in both countries and authorising tax authorities to adjust reported taxable profits where they do not reflect results which would be expected to accrue if the parties were not at arm’s length. These provisions provide a weapon for the Taxation Office to use against multinational corporations which indulge in transfer pricing activities to reduce artificially their Australian tax. Such a provision is doubly necessary in the light of the attitude of the High Court of Australia to section 1 36 of the taxation Act, which was originally designed for use against transfer pricing. Only last week, in the Commonwealth aluminium case the High Court held that section 136 did not apply because an almost totally foreign-owned company was not foreign controlled merely because a majority of Australian directors were present when relevant decisions were made by the company’s board. In the light of this almost incomprehensible decision, the treaty provisions are almost the only weapons available to the Australian Taxation Office in the fight against transfer pricing - at least until the Government overcomes its tardiness and acts to amend section 1 36 in the manner called for by the Opposition.
Finally, 1 will deal with the provisions of Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 4). This Bill will give effect to most of the tax measures announced in the recent Budget. First, there is to be a provision for accelerated depreciation brought about by a 20 per cent loading onto existing depreciation rates. Given the acknowleded inadequacy of existing rates, the Opposition supports this measure but we wish to re-affirm our intention to abolish the investment allowance on return to office. The investment allowance is little more than an outright subsidy to replace labour with machines. Accelerated depreciation, on the other hand, is a deferred tax which assists industry modernisation and encourages the build-up of a more soundly based capital structure but does not result in any ultimate tax loss. The Opposition does not oppose the change in the basis of assessing provisional taxpayers who do not elect to self-assess, but finds it hard to fathom the rationale behind the decision to assume only a 7f per cent growth in these incomes when wages and salaries are assumed to grow by 1 2 per cent over the same period. Over the past two years the growth of non-wage incomes has far outstripped the growth in wages and salaries.
The Opposition does not oppose any of the other provisions, but I wish to say a few words about the superannuation provision for selfemployed persons. This provides a $1,200 deduction additional to the existing $1,200 concessional expenditure rebate for contributions to an approved superannuation fund by self-employed persons or employees who do not participate in employer funded schemes. The Opposition recognises that under present tax laws people who do not participate in employer funded schemes are at a disadvantage in that they do not receive the benefit of tax deductible employer contributions and cannot build up the same level of retirement benefit as supported employees. However, there are other relevant factors which restrict the ability of the self-employed and others to build up comparable benefits. The maximum lump sum retirement benefit is set for the self-employed at $155,400 compared to a range of up to $277,000 for others, depending on salary. Also, contributions by the self-employed are closely restricted by age to less than the total contributions for employees based on a reasonable end benefit.
Despite all the Government’s rhetoric about ensuring comparable superannuation treatment between the self-employed and unsupported employees and those who contribute to employees’ funds, it seems that it has not thought the issue through thoroughly and that further changes may need to be made concerning these factors. Also, it is interesting to note that due to the complex formula determining allowable contributions, only self-employed persons over 35 years of age- I emphasise over 35 years of age - will be able to take full advantage of the $1,200 deduction. It is also doubtful whether the Government has thought through the tax avoidance possibilities of the provision. It seems most likely that enterprising accountants will now be encouraged to set up tax avoidance schemes for groups of wealthy selfemployed involving loan-backs of tax deductible contributions in the same way as companies abuse their internal superannuation funds for tax avoidance. Given the Government’s refusal to take action against this scheme, despite continued revenue losses from its open use over the last few years, it would be expecting top much for appropriate safeguards against abuse of the new provision to be introduced. Finally, 1 wish to move an amendment to the motion that the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 4) be now read a second time. I move:
I move that amendment because the Opposition believes that the provision for deduction will be of much more assistance to high income earners, that there is no reason why it should provide more benefits to wealthy people than to people on lower incomes, and that a rebate of 40c in the dollar would be absolutely equitable treatment to all taxpayers making superannuation contributions.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the amendment seconded?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I second the amendment. There are four outstanding myths about taxation in Australia which must be dispelled. Myth No. 1-
– I move:
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! There is not yet a question before the House in regard to the amendment. The amendment is being seconded. I call the honourable member for Lalor.
– There are four outstanding myths about taxation in Australia which must be dispelled. Myth No. 1 is the idea that Australia’s taxes are among the world’s highest. The reality is that in comparison with other economically advanced nations, such as the members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Australia’s taxes are at the low end of the scale. Myth No. 2 is the idea that the Fraser Government is committed to tax reduction. The reality is that tax rates are higher under the Fraser Government than under any other government in Australia’s history.
Motion (by Mr Hodges) proposed:
That the honourable member be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-The Fraser Government is scared to debate taxation. This is the greatest tax rip-off Budget in history. Only one speaker on this side of the House has spoken on the Budget and now the debate is being gagged.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Bendigo moved the gag when he was out of his seat.
– Order! There is no point of order.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Willis’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is:
That this Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the greatest tax rip-off in the history of the Commonwealth is being perpetrated by this Government.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 .
– The Opposition has taken the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 4) into the Committee stage because it is incensed at the way in which it has been handled. It is our intention to go through at the Committee stage the Bills which were debated cognately at the second reading stage because the Government is simply railroading the legislation through the Parliament. The Government is quite obviously absolutely scared to discuss taxation. It is quite unprepared to discuss taxation because it is supersensitive about the fact that it has presided over a large increase in taxation in this country. The Government is dead scared to have the matter discussed. It is quite happy perhaps to have some discussion on technicalities but the last thing it wants is a discussion on what has happened during its period in office in regard to the total incidence of taxation and its impact on taxpayers individually. The Opposition does not oppose this clause.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That progress be reported.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman - Mr A. W. Jarman)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That Orders of the Day Nos. 3, 4 and 5 be postponed until a later hour of this day.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Macphee, and read a first time.
The major purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the proposal announced in the Budget Speech to provide some relief from Australian tax in respect of certain income which Australian residents earn from their personal services rendered overseas. Other proposals included in the Bill are the removal of the termination date for deductibility of gifts in accordance with the taxation incentives for the arts scheme and the extention of the scheme to cover gifts to Artbank. There are to be increases in the monetary limits that govern the way in which applications for relief from payment of income tax in cases of hardship are handled. Yet another feature is an amendment to make it clear that it is mandatory for the Commissioner of Taxation to allow credit to an employee for tax instalment deductions where the employer has failed to issue a group certificate or a tax stamps sheet.
Taxation Relief for Australians Working Overseas on Approved Projects
The purpose of this initiative by the Government is to enhance the ability of Australian consultants and contractors to obtain a greater share of the growing market overseas for consultancy and contracting services. Until now, Australian firms have had to cost their tenders for overseas projects on the basis that the earnings of Australians performing services for them were subject to tax in Australia at normal rates if the overseas country did not tax them. Competitor firms from a number of other countries have, on the other hand, been able to cost their tenders on the basis that they will be able to pay their employees at lower rates because the employees’ earnings have been wholly or partly free of tax in their home country. The tax exemption proposed in this Bill will allow Australian firms to reduce their costs while maintaining the after-tax value of remuneration paid to persons working on overseas projects.
Total or partial exemption will be available to Australian resident individuals performing personal services overseas for a continuous period of three months or more on an overseas development, construction or other eligible project that has been approved by the Minister for trade and resources on the basis that it is in Australia’s national interest. One of the conditions for exemption is that the services be performed for an Australian resident, the Commonwealth, a State or Territory or for the government of the country where the project is located. Services under contract with certain international organisations such as the World Bank may also qualify.
Full exemption of remuneration derived by a person from qualifying services will be available where those services are performed on a single approved project for a continuous period of 12 months or more. Where the services are performed on a project for a continuous period of between three and 12 months, an exemption of a minimum of 25 per cent of the foreign source income, increasing on a time basis to a 100 per cent exemption for an assignment of 1 2 months, will be available. The exemption will apply to tax-free remuneration derived by a person that is directly attributable to the performance by the person or personal services abroad on an approved project, and payments for recreation leave entitlements which accrue during the time spent on the project. The exemption from Australian tax will not be available, however, where the income is exempt from tax in the other country solely because of provisions of a double taxation agreement aimed at avoiding double taxation. Safeguards have been included in the Bill to counter possible attempts to obtain a greater exemption than was intended; for example, by inflating the income that is paid for services rendered overseas on an approved project.
The Bill contains rules which will permit people serving on approved overseas projects to return to Australia for limited periods - not exceeding one-sixth of the time spent overseas on the project - without affecting their entitlement to exemption of foreign remuneration earned overseas on the approved project. It also contains rules covering travel between Australia and the site, time off for sickness, and cases of hardship where due to unforseen circumstances a person is forced to return to Australia before the completion of his or her assignment to an overseas project. (Quorum formed). Cases where the original person is replaced by another person are also covered. In these latter circumstances, the proportion of income exempted will not be reduced because the time actually spent on the project by a person is less than the time planned to be spent. This measure will have effect in relation to approved projects which commence after Budget day, 19 August 1980.
Taxation Incentives for the Arts
The Bill will also give effect to the Government’s decision, announced by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) on 8 August 1980, to continue the taxation incentives for the arts scheme beyond its present termination date of 31 December 1980 and to bring the Commonwealth’s new art rental scheme, Artbank, within the ambit of the incentives scheme. The taxation incentives for the arts scheme has applied since 1 January 1978 on a three-year trial basis. Under the scheme, gifts of property made for inclusion in the collections of the Australiana Fund, a public library, public museum or public art gallery qualify for deduction at their current market value regardless of the amount paid by the donor for the property or the length of time the donor has held the property. This contrasts with the general position under the income tax law which restricts deductions to gifts made within 12 months of their purchase by the donor, and to the amount paid by the donor for the gifted property. Some $2.7m worth of items have been donated under the incentives scheme and the amendments proposed by this Bill will continue it indefinitely. Further amendments will mean that gifts of property made on or after 1 July 1979 to the Artbank Collection will also qualify for deduction under the incentives scheme.
Release From Tax in Cases of Hardship
Some amendments to provisions of the income tax law under which, in cases of hardship, taxpayers may be released from liability to pay tax are proposed by the Bill. The power of release is conferred on a relief board, but where the amount of tax is $2,000 or more the case must first be referred to a taxation board of review for examination and report. Where the amount of tax does not exceed $200 the Commissioner of Taxation is empowered to exercise the powers of the relief board. Changes in money values since these amounts were set have had the result that many cases of a kind that were previously dealt with expeditiously and economically by the Commissioner of Taxation now have to be dealt with by the relief board. An increasing number of clear-cut cases now have to be referred to a board of review for examination and report before being determined by the relief board. This all leads to delays and adds to administrative costs. It is proposed, therefore, to raise from $2,000 to $10,000 the level below which the relief board may, without prior reference to a board of review, determine applications for relief from income tax. Correspondingly, the Bill will increase from $200 to $500 the amount up to which applications for relief may be dealt with by the Commissioner of Taxation.
Credits for Tax Instalment Deductions
Honourable members may recall that when the then Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs announced in this House on 1 3 September last the Government’s decisions about the priority of crown debts in cases of company insolvencies, he spoke about the special position of unremitted tax instalment deductions. Associated with that is the question of whether the employees concerned will be given credit in their assessment for tax instalment deductions made from their pay where the employer has failed to issue a group certificate or tax stamps sheet. As foreshadowed by the Minister, the present Bill confirms the practice of the Commissioner of Taxation by making it clear that it is mandatory for credit to be given.
Finally, the Bill will also correct some minor drafting defects contained in the recently enacted Income Tax Assessment Amendment Act (No. 2) 1980. Details of these and of the major features of the Bill I have outlined are contained in an explanatory memorandum that is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
Honourable members will recall that I tabled the report of the Tertiary Education Commission for 1981 in the Parliament on 21 August, this report being in response to the Government’s guidelines of 22 May 1980. The Government has accepted the Commission’s financial recommendations for the calendar year 1981 in relation to universities, colleges of advanced education and technical and further education institutions.
The Government’s guidelines to the Tertiary Education Commission for 1981 provided in total $82.7m for the capital and equipment programs of universities and colleges of advanced education, $6 1.8m for TAFE recurrent funds and $9 1.5m for TAFE capital funding as well as $0.4m for tertiary evaluative studies, all amounts then being in December 1979 prices. The equipment funds approved for universities, totalling $34.5m, represent an increase of $0.2m over the 1980 grant. For colleges of advanced education, the $ 16.7m approved for expenditure on equipment is an increase of $0.3m on the 1980 grant. In the capital programs, where forward commitments will decline in 1981, the Government has approved the commencement of a number of new building projects for 1981 for both universities and colleges of advanced education, details of which are set out in the Commission’s report.
This Bill amends the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Act 1978 and implements the Government’s decisions on the financial recommendations in the report for the States and the Northern Territory. The Bill provides grants for capital projects for universities, colleges of advanced education and technical and further education for 1981 and grants for expenditure on equipment by universities and colleges of advanced education for the same year. The Bill also provides the 1981 program of recurrent grants for technical and further education. Funds available for TAFE in 1 981 include an increased allocation of $45m for general operating costs and an amount of $ 16.8m for specific purpose recurrent programs.
The Bill extends by one year the existing program of grants for special projects relating to the training of technical and further education teachers. The Government considers that the projects are making a valuable contribution to improving the educational skills of TAFE teachers and has approved the availability of this type of financial assistance to the States and the Northern Territory for the final year of the triennium, 1979-81. The Bill also provides that an amount of $54,000 be set aside from the 1981 recurrent grants for technical and further education for a pilot program of staff training for senior TAFE educational executives. Funding for this program will be made available from the allocations to the States and the Northern Territory for the established system of grants for TAFE staff training.
In accordance with established cost supplementation procedures, the Bill makes appropriate adjustments. to the grants provided by the principal Act. Supplementary grants provided by the Bill total $61. 1m. In respect of recurrent grants for universities and colleges of advanced education, which are provided on a fixed triennial basis, it is necessary to provide supplementary funding in this Bill to allow for movements in costs since the grants were last adjusted in the 1 980 autumn sittings.
The amounts shown in the Bill for grants for capital projects in 1 98 1 are expressed in May 1 980 cost levels. Equipment grants for 1981 are expressed in March quarter 1980 cost levels. The recurrent grants for TAFE for 1981 are shown in August 1980 cost levels for salaries and March quarter 1980 cost levels for the non-salary component of the grants. This Bill also provides the final cost adjustments for the 1980 program of capital grants for all sectors. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
I remind honourable members that on 21 August I tabled in the Parliament the report of the Schools Commission on its recommendations for the calendar year 1981 which responded to the Government’s guidelines for financial assistance for schools in the States and the Northern Territory. The Government has accepted the Commission’s financial recommendations for 1981 with one modification to accommodate approval of a subsequent notification of a request from New South Wales to transfer some $6. 5m of its funds for government schools from its capital to general recurrent allocations. The Commonwealth has permitted the transfer of funds between these programs and the New South Wales Government has taken advantage of these arrangements in recent years and again for 1 98 1 .
This Bill will implement the Government’s decisions on the approved recommendations of the Schools Commission. The implementation of this program will mean that the base level of funds for 1981 for all schools in the States and Northern Territory will increase by 3.2 per cent in real terms. All individual major recurrent and capital programs will be at least maintained in real terms in 1981 and some will be increased. Funds for migrant and multicultural education for all schools will be increased in line with the recommendations of the Galbally Committee and general recurrent funds for all non-government schools will be increased to maintain the linkage with increases in average standard per pupil costs in government schools. Per capita grants for the lowest resource non-government schools, in level 6, will be increased by one percentage point to bring them to 35 per cent of government schools standard costs for primary students and to 33 per cent for secondary students, representing an estimated additional $11 and $19, respectively, per student in March 1980 prices.
Included amongst the approved recommendations is a change in the basis of allocating government schools’ general recurrent funds to a uniform per capita rate across the primary and secondary sectors; previously, a differential rate applied for primary and secondary enrolments in government schools. This change is consistent with the spirit of general recurrent funding and helps overcome any inequities arising from differences in the structures of primary and secondary education in the States and Territories where some have five years of secondary education and others have six years.
The Bill provides for the continuation of the general resources and specific purpose programs for schools in the States and the Northern Territory. It follows the same format and provides for the implementation of the programs in 1981 in substantially the same terms as the existing legislation for 1980. The Bill includes provision for Sim, additional to the guidelines for 1981, for the provision of services to facilitate the integration of some 300 handicapped children in normal schools, as announced by me in the Parliament on 20 August. These funds will be additional to the $ 17.9m in December 1979 prices, approved under the special education programs administered by the Schools Commission. Parts II and III of the Bill provide for government schools programs and non-government schools programs respectively. Part IV provides for the joint government and non-government schools programs, including the new program for handicapped children, mentioned earlier. On the recommendation of the Commission, there has been a broadening of the provisions for the Schools Exchange and Travel
Scheme, referred to in the Bill as temporary transfer of teachers, to include interchanges with New Zealand and with industry and commerce.
Allocations of grants for 1981 for the various programs, for the States and the Northern Territory, are detailed in Schedules 1 to 10 of the Bill. Capital grants are adjusted to May 1980 prices and recurrent grants to March 1980 prices, except for the non-government schools general recurrent and migrant education programs which include some allowance for estimated future cost increases. The estimated cost of the 1981 programs, as now supplemented, is $782. 2m. The grants will be adjusted in subsequent legislation for further cost movements. Grants for the current programs for calendar year 1980 are also adjusted under Part VI and Schedule 1 1 of this Bill, in accordance with government policy. The salary and wage components of recurrent grants are adjusted to March 1980 prices. In addition, the nongovernment per capita and migrant education grants, in accordance with established practice, include provision for cost increases to the end of 1980. The additional cost of these adjustments is $2 1.9m. Finalisation of the adjustment of 1980 grants will also be effected in legislation to be introduced during the autumn 1981 sitting of the Parliament. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
– I move:
Commonwealth office accommodation in Townsville is at present spread over a number of leased and Commonwealth owned buildings. Some of this accommodation is unsuitable for its purpose, particularly in not providing privacy to members of the public transacting business with government departments. In order to consolidate Commonwealth activities in a central location, it is now proposed to replace existing fragmented accommodation with a single office complex in the civic precinct in Walker Street. The building will accommodate 600 people. There will be a basement providing storage areas and secure parking for official vehicles; three floors of office accommodation; and site landscaping and an open parking area. The building has been planned to harmonise with adjacent low rise construction, and provision has been made for further long term development of the site. All office accommodation will be air conditioned and the design takes into account the tropical situation. The estimated cost of the proposal at August 1980 prices is $8.7m.1 table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have been trying to get the Manager of Opposition Business (Mr Hurford) to come into the House because I wish to move a procedural motion in which I think he will have some interest. I ask the leave of the House to move the suspension of Standing Order 103, the 11 o’clock rule, for the remainder of the Budget sitting.
– I move:
-The Opposition objects to the way that the House is being run. It is all very well for the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) to stand and say that he was looking for the Manager of Opposition Business. As he knows - I am sure he will concede now- his looking was by means of making this public announcement. I was in my office nearby attending to my duties when I heard him say that. I came rushing into the House. There is no question of my presence being sought earlier.
– I did send someone out. I am sorry that I did not get you in time.
– Thank you. I am glad that the Leader of the House has conceded that that is the position. However, the point is that there is no reason why the Budget should be rushed through the Parliament in this way. The Opposition made its objection to the 11 o’clock rule being suspended last night. We made our objection to General Business on Thursdays being ruled out. We made our objection to the fact that committees are meeting with so little notice that no honourable member will be able to prepare for them properly. We made our objection to the unprecedented way in which the Budget is being rushed through this Parliament with fewer hours for debate on the motion for the second reading of Bills than has been given in the history of this Parliament.
If there is a reason for this action such as an early election, why does not the Government announce that early election? When it was proposed to hold an election on 25 October in 1969, the date of the election was announced on 20 August. It is now 28 August and no such announcement has been made. We understand that the only reason there is no such announcement is that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will go abroad and he does not want to look foolish by calling an election before he leaves. I believe there is no excuse for calling an early election. The Australian people are faced with too many elections as it is. This Parliament ought to go its full course and the Budget ought to be properly scrutinised. We object to this course of action. However, there is a trade-off on this occasion for the Opposition not to call for a division on this matter, but I record our objection.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 27 August, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– On Tuesday night honourable members on this side of the House listened very carefully to a speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) hoping that they would find some clue as to the way the Opposition might think after the next election if it happens to be returned to power. Although we listened intently, we heard nothing that could give any hope for the Australian economy being carried forward under that sort of government in any way that could provide opportunities for our children in the way that we have been used to for many years. The more we listened to that speech the more we heard the personal abuse that poured forth from the Leader of the Opposition’s mouth, the more promises we heard that were completely unattainable and the more we realised that like the 1975 Budget speech of the Australian Labor Party, the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition, was a complete hoax. We heard allegations against this Government about levels of taxation. We heard allegations against this Government about ways in which we somehow should have created jobs in the economy. We heard of no positive means by which this country could be set on its course other than the means by which the present Government is setting the economy on its course.
We heard that between 1976 and 1980 there was a difference of $ 1 6 in real wages for the average family, a statistic that is completely unsubstantiated, a statistic that is completely selective, a statistic that denies the fact that
Australia now has a non-farm growth rate of some three per cent, something the Labor Party could never have achieved at this stage with the sorts of policies that it was offering to us when it went out of office. We heard that a Labor Government would put a tax on pretty well everything that moved while at the same time it would offer somehow a tax reduction.
I think it is interesting to remember that in the months leading up to the Budget the Labor Party has quite clearly stated its policy on taxation, first of all through the lips of the shadow Treasurer, who quite plainly has told the Australian people that as time goes on we would have to expect much higher taxation in order to fuel the programs of the Labor Party. That is something that the Labor Party has not tried to run away from, even though there seems to be some very minor alternatives offered in this Budget. The thing that was not said that probably needs to be repeated over again and that the Australian people need to remember is that the Labor Party is committed again to an estate duty, a tax that this Government removed two or three years ago and which has been of tremendous help to many people in my electorate, particularly those involved in primary industry.
The Labor Party has promised some form of supertax on people on high incomes. We do not know the size of the super tax at this stage, but we suspect that it would mean that many of the productive elements in our society, many of the people who are on high incomes, but who nevertheless are essential in some number in our society to participate in investment, will be beaten up by the tax man to such an extent that much of the incentive the present Government has been able to restore to this economy would be blown out again. We also need to remember the penalising resource tax that the Labor Party has in mind. Such a resource tax would mean that a Labor Government would say to a person who took an old-fashioned risk: ‘You go out and take the risk. As soon as you start to make money out of your risk, we will tax you’. That sort of attitude is just not on in our country.
– When have Australians ever been risk takers economically?
– Our society has basic freedoms. It is a society that wants people to take risks because we know that when those risks are taken and the profits made, then and only then can we afford properly to look after as they properly deserve the disadvantaged people in our community and in other countries. If people think that they can run down an economy, that they can take away incentive, and still hope to carry out the programs that the Labor Party advocates, they need to look at what happens in the socialist countries which have tried to do those things. Just have a look at Sweden.
– What about Sweden?
– Just have a look at it and see the way the Swedish economy is travelling at the present time.
– Have a look at the per capita income in Sweden.
– Just have a look at how much tax the average taxpayer pays in Sweden, and at the productivity of that country at the present time. Another tax the Labor Party is offering us is a capital gains tax- another way in which it can get at anybody with enterprise. I do not have a great deal of time to talk about these things, but let me say that the Australian people need to remember the promises of the Labor Party. Not only do the promises contain the goodies about which the Leader of the Opposition spoke the other night, they also contain these heavy imposts on the people of enterprise in this country. When asking what the Opposition dennes as a person of enterprise, perhaps one can get a clue from its family income supplement. It is talking about a family income supplement that is very difficult to understand. It is very difficult to see how on earth the Opposition could have devised a scheme that will be so selective. Just supposing that it brought in that scheme, it is talking about a $14,000 family income as a cut-off point. If that is to be the cut-off point, the Opposition should understand that that is barely above average weekly earnings. I take it that the Labor Party will define something over $14,000 as an income that will be beaten very hard for taxation.
In my view, this is a Budget that can fairly be described as good. I said the other night that it is not a difficult time to have goodies handed around, and I am proud to be a member of a government that is prepared to be responsible just before an election. I believe that the Australian people are looking for that. The Labor Party, as the Leader of the Opposition has shown, would run a very heavy deficit through many promises which were catalogued in the newspapers yesterday. That deficit, of course, would bring us back to the old problems of which we know so much - the problem of high deficit crowding out productive investment, the problem of high deficits putting pressure on interest rates, the problem of high deficits almost directly creating high inflation, and the psychological problem of very high deficits when people realise that it really means that the Opposition is trying to send the country broke.
The time for pump priming, the pump priming that is very much a part of any socialist policy in our society, is completely non-applicable at the present time. Even Keynes, the man who devised the idea, would say that ‘this is an inappropriate time. Without going in to all the theory, there is a point where extra pump priming takes away more investment that it creates, where it takes away more jobs than it creates, where it has the effect of putting up interest rates more than it reduces them, and where it ultimately destroys more freedom than it encourages. It would take a longer debate than this to talk about the fallacy of the pump priming principle at the present time. I suppose that what we should do is merely point out that the present policies of the Government, which are looking for balanced budgets, lower government expenditure and lower taxation, are the policies that are producing the jobs. As the Budget Papers show, those jobs have appeared in the measure of over 200,000 in the past 12 months.
The Labor Party still goes on. It still wants to have more government, bigger government. It just follows the socialist principles. I have looked through some of the things that it has talked about, some of the things that will interfere absolutely with our freedom, and I will catalogue just some that I have underlined from a list of firm commitments leading up to, firstly, this Budget, and secondly, the coming election. The Labor Party will have a department of economic affairs, which really means economic interference. It will have a national trading corporation. It will bring back the good old Australian housing corporation. I have been involved in the construction industry and I can tell the Opposition what the builders think of that. A Labor government will have a textile and clothing authority, a motor vehicle authority, the infamous Australian hydrocarbon corporation, a national fuel and energy commission, an independent authority to regulate the oil industry, and a national research, development and innovation corporation - I suppose it will go on the Inventors on Wednesday and Thursday nights. It will have a single buying agency for overseas film and television material. I suppose that means that everything that we and our children want to watch on television will be censored through the Labor Party’s single buying agency for overseas film and television material. I do not suppose anybody will get an import licence unless he buys through Labor’s little agency.
Labor will have an independent overseas and Australian wire news service. What will that do to the news that gets in and out of this country? I suppose it will be very selective, like the news media tentacles of the Wran Government in Sydney. We will have a unit to monitor financial arrangements and transactions of vertically integrated mineral industries. I do not know what that means, but it will cost a lot of money. We will have a government agency to co-ordinate and facilitate the sale of Australian primary products. I suppose that means the farmers - dairy farmers, wool growers, beef growers, and perhaps the fishermen, in my electorate - must all have their sales co-ordinated by some government agency. We would have an interstate commission. I admit that the interstate commission was mentioned in the Liberal Party constitution; however, under the terms of Labor Government radioed to us, one wonders what freedoms would be left in this country.
This Budget fulfils the criteria of a good Budget. It is responsible to the productive elements of our society and it is responsible to the relatively disadvantaged people. It means that just for a change we will manage within our means. Certainly, under our sort of government, under some sort of free capitalist government, we will have the scope to do very much better in this country in the 1980s than we would under the alternative which I know that most Australians, if they sat down and thought about it, would abhor.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Hunt) - by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Right Honourable the Prime Minister each speaking on the Budget for a period not exceeding 30 minutes.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to talk for half an hour, because that is what the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has sought and I get the spin off from that decision.
– We would have given it to you anyhow.
-I thank the honourable member. The House is discussing the last Budget of the Fraser Ministry; within 60 days there will be a new government in Australia. In the interim period an election will be held on the performance of this Government, certainly over the last three years and it should be over the last five years.
– Are you looking forward to it?
– The Opposition does look forward to it because the issue will be one of credibility. We now see from the opinion polls that the Government is failing miserably. It is failing because of its leadership - the leadership of one man, the Prime Minister. Its problem is that it has a lack of credibility.
– It is no good sighing or expressing hopes that the position will improve; it will not. Australians want to know whether they can own and control their own country. They have to consider whether this country has a future. If one looks at the policies promised to the voters of Australia a mere three years ago, one can see that there has been a complete breach of all those promises. A contractual arrangement has been broken by a Prime Minister who has no regard for political integrity or the fact that when one makes promises at elections, people expect those promises to be kept. In modern times, we can say that the Prime Minister has the ‘top 40’ - a top 40 of broken promises. They are all listed and clearly understood. I refer honourable members to some of them. What he said was something like this: ‘We will maintain Medibank, we will fully index income tax, we will support wage indexation, we will work co-operatively with the trade unions, we will ensure the maintenance of real wages, we will provide jobs for all who want to work, we will reduce interest rates, we will bring down taxes, we will end Government extravagances and excesses and we will provide honesty and integrity in government’. That is just a sample.
However, what should we look at from the point of view of the judgment of the Australian people? Will they not make their judgment on the basis that the Government is too weak to stand up to reactionary Premiers, is unable to defend the rights of Aborigines, is anxious to maintain recognition of the butcher Pol Pot and is unable to congratulate four Australian swimmers who won Olympic gold medals? The Prime Minister is a person who really cannot cope with the job. It is not much good him going overseas to get a somewhat tarnished medal on the basis that he is interested in human rights, when he cannot even maintain and support those rights in his own country.
Look at what has happened to law and the process of the legal system under the Fraser Ministry. It has harassed and defamed the Greek community in the social security frauds case and shown massive improprieties in investigating authorities - improprieties on which the Government has refused to take any action. It has humiliated invalid pensioners in order to save a very minute amount of money. It has failed to set up a human rights commission. It has failed to enact the freedom of information legislation, it has dismantled the Australian Legal Aid Office and it has sold out the interests of the Aborigines. The position is that if a person is a Greek, an invalid pensioner or an Aborigine, the law is used against him. But if he is a media magnate, there will be no question of any breach of the law and no action will be taken.
This Government has no meaningful industrial relations policy. All it has done is pass a host of repressive and punitive industrial laws and made speeches - particularly addresses to the nation - on what is wrong with trade unionists. We cannot get anywhere with this sort of leadership. It is natural that people will vote against the Government. Is it any wonder that the public opinion polls have given the Prime Minister a popularity rating of below 40 per cent? It is on that basis that one must look at this Budget. It is a Budget that covers all aspects of society, including education. Those honourable members who have anything to do with schools in their electorates will know that the requirements of those schools will not be met by this Budget because in real terms the education vote is reduced. So we have a reduction in every aspect of Australian life.
The foreign investment policy in Australia is an open door to those who want to buy us. The majority of Australia’s resources are owned by foreigners; certainly our major industries are dominated by foreign interests. The Pagewood automotive plant is in my electorate and that has now closed because of a decision made in Detroit. What do the 1,200 workers involved in that situation think of the Government? They ask why the Government has failed and what did they do that was wrong. Two-thirds of those workers were invited to come to Australia as migrants, where they were told there would be prosperity, hope and a future. They now ask why this Government has failed. That is just a small tip of the iceberg because much more is coming unless we grab hold of this country, with its magnificent resources, and use our ability to lead people to develop their own resources. They should be given a better share of the economic gains and a guarantee that they will have reasonable, and much improved, living standards.
Important issues are involved in discussing the Budget. I deal first with economic matters. It was deemed that inflation would be reduced if
Malcolm Fraser was elected Prime Minister. What are the facts? Inflation is running higher than in 1977. In March 1979 the annual rate was 10.7 per cent; 12 months before that it was 8.2 per cent. As another example, 1 refer to the rate of inflation of materials used in home building. Twelve months ago the rate of increase was 8.4 per cent. It is now 1 6.3 per cent. The unemployment figures are obtained from a number of sources. The Government usually uses the lower figures, which come from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. However, on the figures from the Commonwealth Employment Office - the normal figures, because that is where the people are registered - we find that as at June last, 427,429 people were unemployed. A year before that 389,300 were unemployed. So, there is a massive problem automatically shown up by the statistics.
Since the Fraser Government came to power the number of unemployed has increased by 1 8 1 ,500 people. What a dismal record for a government that said there would be jobs for all who wanted them. That is a definite broken promise if ever there was one. The Opposition reminds those unemployed to indicate that broken promise to their friends and relatives. That, in itself, should amount to one million votes against the Government for its failure on that promise alone. In regard to job opportunities, we are now advised that job vacancies in Australia decreased by 7,100 between February and May of this year. We have the extraordinary situation of massive unemployment, but job vacancies reducing. In other words, there is a complete regression from the point of view of economic growth. What was the chance for our young of getting a job, expressed as a ratio, in, say, 1974? It was 1.7 to one. After only a few years, what is the ratio? It is now 37.4 to one. We have the possibility that by 1985 there might be a 1 00 to one chance of getting a job.
Let us look at what the Prime Minister promised about interest rates. In 1 977 he said that once the election was over the Government would be able to reduce interest rates by up to 2 per cent. The position is that in the last two years they have been increased by more than 2 per cent, posing further dramatic problems for people who are buying homes. They know full well that when the interest rates on their mortgages are increased their monthly contribution will increase by $5, $6 or $10 a week, depending on how much they have borrowed. Will that help the little person who is buying his own home? We say that taxes are rising; the Government says that they are not. The position is clear indeed. It is on record and can be proved that this Government is the highest tax government in history and the most inequitable tax government in history. Living standards are falling. With the tax changes, particularly the petrol tax, the freezing of family allowances, the abolition of Medibank and the increase in health costs the average Australian family is $18 a week worse off than it was when this Government came to power.
Let us look at a summary of the situation. Fraserism, to use a term, could be equated with failure. What does that failure represent? It represents failure on the issues of employment, economic growth, inflation, ministerial propriety, monetary policy, taxation promises, interest rates and the ability to keep promises. That is an incredible record for a government that now claims that it is entitled to another term of office. The only reason why this Government is saying that this Budget is a good Budget is that it has a magical feature - the surplus. It is an extraordinary situation when the only way one can get a surplus is by selling the business and winding up with a few measly dollars. We will be out.of business with this sort of government; there will be no business left. It is ridiculous to talk about having a surplus.
The Government has balanced the Budget by increasing taxes. Budget receipts this year will amount to 26.7 per cent of gross domestic product, the highest proportion ever recorded in a peacetime position. Every year the Fraser Government’s Budget receipts, as a proportion of GDP, have exceeded those of the Labor Government. The average during the Labor Government was 24.4 per cent. Under five years of this Government the, average has been 26 per cent. The position is that if taxes are increased there is less for the people to spend. We have also the problem of the national debt. In 1975 the national debt was $441 per head; it now stands at $1,264 per head, which is an increase of 1 87 per cent.
Let us look at the second line of the Government’s strategy, the monetarist philosophy. This philosophy is based on the proposition that if one controls the money supply one automatically controls inflation. That cannot be proved. I ask honourable members to look at it from the point of view of an argument put forward by a professor at the London School of Economics. He was able to show, in a rather amusing fashion, that the correlation between the money supply and inflation could be equated to the level of increases in prices and the level of dysentery or the level of the rainfall. That is about the way in which we are looking at it from this Government’s point of view. Perhaps the useful service the Government has performed for monetarism could be equated with what the Boston Strangler did for the fortunes of the door-to-door salesman. It is a bankrupt, useless proposition.
An analysis of the Government’s economic strategy was conducted by no less a person than Hugh Stretton. It is worth repeating what he said. He said:
In a world in which scarcely any free-trading economy ever got rich, we are told that free trade is the way to national wealth.
In a world in which no primary producing country ever made its people rich or skilful unless it also protected, industralized and diversified its economy, we are told that the way to stay rich is to reduce and specialize our secondary industries.
In a world in which productivity reflects education, skill and research, we are told to cut public production of all three.
In a world in which public and private enterprises are so closely meshed that they almost always vary together, we are told that they vary inversely and that the way to increase total production is to cut public production.
In a world in which inflation has risen roughly in step with unemployment, we are told that maintaining unemployment will reduce inflation.
We are also told that lower wages and welfare will make the lower classes work harder, but higher salaries and profits will make the upper classes work harder.
As technical progress increases potential productivity, we are told to employ less people, pay them less, and prepare for lower material standards all round.
That is an excellent summary of this Government’s philosophy. That is it in a nutshell. The Government has opted out of its responsibilities for looking after people. It has opted out of its responsibility for looking after this nation. It has failed on every count that one would want to bring before the Parliament at this time. The Government states that the outlook for the current year is strong in economic activity, led by what it calls a private sector demand. But in a rare spasm of realism it says that it recognises that the Australian economy and, in particular, exports will be affected by slower economic growth overseas. However, it blithely expects private consumption expenditure to accelerate and business fixed investment to rise strongly.
Let us look at the evidence for that. The national accounts released with the Budget show that the gross national expenditure in constant dollar terms for the last financial year was 5 per cent less than it was for the previous financial year. Private consumption expenditure in constant dollars and seasonally adjusted fell by O.S per cent in the June quarter. Private capital expenditure fell by 1 .4 per cent and total expenditure fell by 3.2 per cent. Yet the Treasurer (Mr Howard) claims in the Budget that there has been a recent encouraging lift in expenditure. He is blinded by his own rhetoric. If this Budget is about growth it is about growth in unemployment - the
Myers report does not call it unemployment any more; it calls it jobless growth - and about growth in taxes, growth in inflation and further economic stagnation.
Inflation will increase because of the Government’s adherence to its stupid oil pricing policy. Last year that policy contributed 2.5 per cent to the inflation rate. Unemployment will increase because tax revenue is rising faster than public services. Unemployment will increase because the continual erosion of family living standards will mean that people will buy fewer goods. Unemployment will continue because of the Government’s continued assault on, for example, the housing industry. In real terms, net payments to the States for welfare housing are a mere oneseventh of the amount paid to the States in 1974-75- a measly $7 5m.
The Government is anxious to compare itself with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. Let us look at that. In 1974 Australia’s real growth was 2.8 per cent, but for the OECD it was only 0.6 per cent. In 1975 our growth was 2.3 per cent but for the OECD it fell by 0.5 per cent. So in those years Australia was well above the average for the OECD. What happened when this Government came to office? In 1976, for example, the average growth rate for the OECD was 5.3 per cent. What happened to Australia? We plummeted immediately to below the OECD average- to 3.8 per cent. In 1977 we managed only a 1.1 per cent growth rate whereas the growth rate for the OECD was 3.8 per cent. The consequence of all this is reflected in unemployment comparisons. Up to 1976 Australia’s level of unemployment was always less than the OECD, but on the entry of the present Government into office and in every year and in every quarter since 1976 Australia has exceeded the OECD average in respect of unemployment. The result is that Australia is disgraced by being the only OECD country with the longest average duration of unemployment for individuals. For example, in Australia the average period of unemployment for an individual under 20 is six months, but in the United States of America it is 7+ weeks and in the United Kingdom it is 5i weeks. For those over 25 years of age the average period is li months but in the United States it is 13 weeks and in the United Kingdom it is 16 weeks.
We should never forget the social costs of unemployment. The United States Congress states that a one per cent general rise in the rate of unemployment led to a 4. 1 per cent increase in the suicide rate, a 3.4 per cent rise in mental hospital admissions and a 5.7 per cent increase in deaths.
As a matter of interest, last year 20 per cent of the suicides in New South Wales were committed by the unemployed.
It is a national scandal, is it not, that the Government of our nation which has a quarter of a million unemployed people under the age of 25 years - the third highest level of unemployment in the Western world - continues to refuse to invest in their future but at the same time is scouring Europe and elsewhere to persuade tradesmen to migrate to this country. What an anomaly and what an indictment of the policies of this Government! Where is the evidence for this claim, Mr Deputy Speaker? Let me refer you to it. The proportion of employed males aged 15 to 19 years in apprenticeships fell from 41 .3 per cent in 1976 to 38.7 per cent in 1979. Yet last year the Government underspent its already miserly assistance on apprenticeship training by $11 ,4m.
This Government stands indicted because the level of taxes that it has imposed has eroded the living standards of the people. The Opposition can prove this claim. During the five years that this Government has been in office the level of pay-as-you-earn tax has doubled but wages have risen by only 50 per cent. In 1975-76, wage and salary earners paid $24 a week on average in PAYE tax but in 1980-81 they will be paying $42 a week on average. What about the additional taxes? Let us look at the oil tax. In 1975-76 each Australian household paid $1 .20 a week for oil. In 1980-81 each household will be paying $14.20 a week. If honourable members analyse and assess those two taxes on the basis of the average Australian family, they will find that, compared with the position in 1975, a two income family is now paying $50 a week extra in tax.
– How much cheaper would petrol be with your Party?
– It would certainly be 5c a litre cheaper.
– Is that right?
– Yes, and I would be thankful if the honourable member would make a speech on that matter.
– How quickly would we run out of it?
– How quickly would we run out? I have not the time to debate it with the honourable member but we make the point- we will develop it as we go along - that the oil tax that the Government is taking from the people totals $3,500m or $4,000m.
– We will give you an extension of time.
-I cannot get an extension because your Prime Minister is to debate this matter next. The issue is this: The Government is taking $4,000m a year from motorists. That is equivalent to an increase in income tax of 29 per cent. How much of that tax is the Government spending on alternative energy or fuel conservation research? It is spending a paltry $18m. The Government is socking the people who use the bowsers to get taxes and to retain that money. All it is offering for alternative energy resource research is a paltry $18m. That is where the Government’s policy will fail.
Let me remind honourable members that roads are a problem in New South Wales and in every other State of Australia. The Government’s appropriation from the petrol tax for road construction in New South Wales is a mere 14 per cent of what that State pays. It has given that State a five-year road program that will not even maintain that level of contribution. In the final period of the five-year term, the increments will be a mere 6 per cent which will be at least half the rate of inflation. So, in practical terms, while the Government is collecting as much as it can from the motorists it is giving less than ever for road construction. Because of its oil parity pricing policy the average cost of bitumen for road construction has increased by 1 8 per cent because of the tax revenue grab. The Government will in no way allow State governments, main roads authorities or local governments even to maintain the roads we have.
In the few minutes left to me, let me make the Opposition’s position very clear. While we have been discussing domestic areas, let me not overlook international affairs. The Budget Speech mentions international aid and what this Government has contributed. One of the points that we have been trying to get the Prime Minister to recognise is that he is failing in the international sphere. I think he is also in disagreement with his Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) particular in matters relating to countries north of Australia. Honourable members will know that we are denying aid to Vietnam. 1 have been to Hanoi and I know full well that the Catholic Bishop of Hanoi wants aid for his people. This Government denies all aid to Vietnam because it suits China. This Government’s Indo-China policy is now being dictated by China. It is not necessarily in the interests of Australia. Unfortunately the Prime Minister makes out that it is his own policy. If that is what he says- he repeated it today- he must bear the odium of it because nothing but odium comes from the continued recognition of Pol Pot who stands guilty of genocide. This nation cannot continue to approve of murderers and butchers who are responsible for the genocide of their own people. It is not open to Australia to put its recognition on the basis that it does not mean anything. It means a substantial amount to those unfortunate people.
I refer honourable gentlemen to the statement made by Khieu Samphan, who was the President of the Pol Pot regime. As recently as March this year, he expressed his warmest thanks to the Government and the people of Australia for helping to mobilise opinion in respect of Kampuchea. I have been inside the refugee camps of Kampuchea. The people there certainly do not like the Vietnamese. But their No. 1 enemy is Pol Pot. Where is the guarantee that, if the Vietnamese forces leave Kampuchea, somebody else will save the remnants of the Kampuchean people from Pol Pot? Is it not a fact that in the absence of any preventative force Pol Pot will again swarm over the remnants of his people? This man is a butcher of infamy, even by the standards of world history, when one looks at the numbers of people killed, including two Australians. I was told that a 16-year old boy admitted executing 750 people. Their only crime may have been to smile, or to wear glasses or to know how to read and write. That was their only crime! The torture chambers bear testimony to the treatment to children of six, seven and 1 1 years of age whose only crime was that they were the children of businessmen. For that, their only crime, they were cruelly annihilated.
Why does the Government continue with the fallacious argument that it is helping to establish peace in the region? Its actions are bringing about world destruction. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher, has no problem through not recognising Pol Pot. It is therefore ridiculous to suggest, as the Prime Minister did, that any move away from Pol Pot is a move towards Heng Samrin. It is a move towards achieving human rights. It is a move to indicate clearly to everybody in this region that people will not get away with that sort of infamy. It is a move to indicate to China, which I now understand contrary to the policies of the 1960s is a new found friend of the Prime Minister, that such behaviour is not the way to remove regional problems. If there is another clash between China and Vietnam, we will have to bear a very heavy responsibility. If the people of Vietnam need aid why can we not provide it? If they need food and shelter, why can they not get it? What is the Government doing for the cause of peace? It clasps its hands and says that it is in the interests of world peace that it continues to recognise Pol Pot. Nobody else in the world would sensibly argue that.
Let me finish on this note. The President of the Notre Dame University in the United States, Father Theodore Hesburgh, having recently been to Kampuchea, commented on the issue by saying:
No civilised country should have diplomatic relations with Pol Pot. We ought to be ashamed to see Pol Pot anywhere except in gaol.
The criteria of recognition relate to a number of factors - effective control of a territory, permanency of occupation and the support of the majority of the people. Pol Pot fails on all of those three issues. Yet this Government is led by a Prime Minister who is so afraid of what China might say that he now says that we must continue to recognise the Pol Pot regime and still vote with a few countries at the United Nations, to support Pol Pot. That is a summary of a Budget which covers not only the international area but also the national area. It is one of great problems. It contains issues for the Australian people to judge. It will be judged on the credibility of the Prime Minister. It will be judged on the issue of whether people can be trusted to maintain their promises. I think the verdict will be heavily against the Government.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) really did not entirely do himself justice. He spoke a few moments ago about roads. He ignored the fact that we have begun the largest ever five-year program of assistance for roads - an amount of $3,650m over a five-year period - which will enable longterm planning to take place. We have increased the funds available for local roads and for national highways. This will be a very considerable advance.
The honourable gentleman went on to say that he would again try to promise cheaper petrol to the consumers of Australia. But he did not say - one could expect him to try to hide it- that cheaper petrol now would be about the most selfish policy that this generation of Australians could possibly embark upon. It would be very easy to use up all the Bass Strait reserves now. That would make life easy for us. But what about our kids in 10 years’ time or 20 years’ time as those Bass Strait reserves start to run down? They would then have to go through an adjustment process infinitely harder than anything being asked of the honourable gentleman today. In his heart he knows it. He is too decent a bloke not to know that he is doing nothing other than playing politics with this issue. In his heart he knows that our policies are not only right but also very necessary for the people of Australia. In his heart he also knows- because he has a good heart- that it is our policies which will bring on the Rundle shale oil deposits with a pilot plant worth $300m or $400m which, if successful, will come on stream as the Bass Strait reserves start to run over the edge of the cliff. In those circumstances we will have a situation in which there will be security and independence for Australia in the future and we will be making a decision- we have made decisions- which will make this country a better and more secure place for our children. The honourable gentleman should be supporting us in it.
Today at Question Time I said something about Vietnam and Kampuchea. I do not wish to add to that except to say that it is ironic and odd that the honourable gentleman was taking a stance - I know that he did not mean it because he was just being political - which could only give comfort to Heng Samrin and to Vietnam and its invading armies in Kampuchea. What really is the point of Australian taxpayers providing aid for Vietnam itself when, if Vietnam stopped its aggression and turned those 220,000 soldiers in Kampuchea to tilling the fields and growing rice, it would need no damned aid? But the honourable gentleman would not suggest that. We tried earlier to give aid to Vietnam and many other parts of the world did. Vietnam rewarded us all with an invasion of Kampuchea and further suppression of a people who had been treated in a dastardly, terrible and brutal way by Pol Pot. The honourable gentleman owes it to himself, if he does not owe it to the Australian Labor Party, to put those issues in the course of this debate.
I really want to speak about the Budget, which is the subject of this debate. Twelve months ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) described last year’s Budget as without doubt the most contractionary in the 1 8 years he had been a member of the Parliament. Perhaps the first thing I should do is to welcome his declaration that this Budget is also a contractionary Budget. If he is as wrong about this year’s Budget as he clearly was about last year’s, we can look forward to another very good year indeed. His outdated and discredited diagnosis on Tuesday evening ignored the fact that in circumstances of continuing inflation the key elements of the Government’s Budget- limiting the growth of the Commonwealth Budget outlays and, through the further substantial reduction in our deficit, reining in the public sector borrowing requirement- not only allow the expansion of the private sector but also offer the only chance for sustainable economic growth in the 1980s. That is the choice before us. Do we want sustainable economic growth, through the containment of inflation, that has been secured by the Liberal-National Country Party Government or do we squander our hardwon gains through big spending, big deficits and high inflation which Labor guaranteed us on Tuesday evening?
The year 1979-80 brought Australia further along the road to national economic recovery with a Budget which, by the Leader of the Opposition’s standards, was much more contractionary than this year’s Budget. Yet for the second year in a row, in 1979-80, growth accelerated notwithstanding the adverse effects of industrial disputes on output in the second half of the year. The public sector contributed less than one-quarter of one per cent to the growth in non-farm product of over 3 per cent. Even that cartoon figure Blind Freddy- a character not unknown to the Leader of the Opposition- could not have failed to see the strengthening of the economy last year. Let me remind the Leader of the Opposition that at the time of last year’s Budget he said:
If my assessment of economic growth is correct- it was last year- there will be less than 2 per cent growth for the year in the non-farm sector.
How does what the Leader of the Opposition said then tally with the facts today? The increase of 3.1 per cent in non-farm growth - not the 2 per cent predicted by the doom mongers of the Labor Party- was one percentage point more than in 1978-79. Employment in the 12 months to July this year rose by 212,000, the highest annual increase for 10 years. The Leader of the Opposition promises an increase in some policies of 50,000. In other policies he promises a growth in employment of 100,000 over the year. We have provided a growth of 212,000 through our policies. That is real job creation, real growth and real wealth instead of the phony programs which would be a charge on the taxpayer, which would increase inflation and which, thereby, would increase unemployment. Real private investment in dwellings was over 10 per cent higher last year. Consumer spending strengthened over the course of the year, rising in real terms at an annual rate of 2.9 per cent in the second half. Exports increased in real terms by no less than 14.5 per cent for the year as a whole. Private sector external transactions recorded the largest surplus since 1 972-73.
Just as important as this strengthening year by year was the strengthening in the course of the year when internally generated demand took over from exports as the major impetus to growth. These are unchallengeable achievements. What the Leader of the Opposition did not say on Tuesday evening was that the interdepartmental committee on economic strategy recorded:
There is general agreement about the appropriateness of the overall economic strategy. It is agreed that no substantially different alternatives are available.
As a nation we have come a long way since 1975, the Hayden days, when total economic disorder and investment decay were created through the same economic prescription that was paraded before us on Tuesday evening. Labor in the 1980s is Labor in the 1970s recycled. This Government has laid sound foundations for the economy in the face of a difficult and demanding legacy. As a result we are on the edge of what is potentially one of the most exciting eras of economic development in Australia’s history. Certainly there will be difficulties in realising that potential. Above all, we will need a continuation of the right policies. In particular, we will need a continuation of a firm policy stance from government to make sure that inflationary pressures are contained, for the containment of inflation must remain the principal economic priority of government if the well being of all Australians is to be secured.
The Labor years taught us bitterly what many economies throughout the world are now learning, that inflation has the capacity to destroy our living standards; that inflation will destroy our national confidence, our capacity and our will; that inflation strikes at those least able to defend themselves- the old, the sick, the disadvantaged and the low income earners; that inflation - as it did in the mid 1970s- cripples investment, development and business expansion on which our national wealth depends. The interdepartmental committee report on economic strategy further confirms our policies when it says:
Realisation of the investment potential depends most importantly on maintenance of a stable economic environment through firm anti-inflationary policies conducive to foreign as well as domestic investment.
That is why the first priority of economic management of the 1980s, ignored on Tuesday evening by the Leader of the Opposition, must remain the containment of inflation. A political party which does not attack the source of inflation is little better than a political party which ignores breaches of the law. Inflation robs people of their freedom and their security. Our success in the fight against inflation, in absolute and relative terms, is the cornerstone of the economic recovery that is now under way in Australia. The last thing we need in the period ahead is the so-called stimulatory policies of the Opposition which could lead only to a disastrous acceleration of inflation. The Leader of the Opposition has forgotten that, as Treasurer, in his own Budget in 1 975 he firmly declared: . . it is inflation itself which is the central policy problem. More inflation simply leads to more unemployment.
That was precisely the result of Labor’s disastrous years. On Tuesday evening, Mr Hayden demonstrated that he does not even believe now what was written for him then. During his reply to the Budget he boasted that the cost of his programs had been hidden from no one. Let us just examine his statement ‘hidden from no one’ for a moment. He announced that five of the Labor programs, and a tax cut in one full year, would cost no less than SI, 435m on his own costings. Honourable members should remember that figure. But what he had hidden from everyone was the commitment he made on the radio program AM. What a wonderful way to make policies! It is the most expensive show on earth now.
The commitment he made on AM on 20 August was to raise pensions to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings with a further commitment in the longer term to increase them to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings. The total immediate cost of this to taxpayers - about $500m- was hidden from us in his reply to the Budget Speech. So that is one count. On the most conservative of estimates, Mr Hayden should have been talking last Tuesday evening of $2,000m and not the lesser figure. That hides from us the cost of all the other 250 Labor programs, and not one of them has been costed. Yet yesterday morning on radio Mr Hayden announced that the cost of the programs would be $835m. Of course, this is sheer myth.
The man who said that the cost of his programs would be hidden from no one conveniently hid from a national radio audience the cost of the tax cut, the cost of the commitment to increase pensions, and the cost of more than 250 other Labor programs. Which Mr Hayden are we to believe? Can the Labor Party believe that he is still committed to the 250 programs? Even without these do we believe the 20 August Mr Hayden, the $2,000m man, or do we believe the last Tuesday evening Mr Hayden, the $ 1,435m man? Or do we believe the last Wednesday morning Mr Hayden, the $835m man? Which is the real Mr Hayden? Which Mr Hayden are we being asked to afford and what confusion will the Labor Party try next? What deception will next be tried on the Australian taxpayer?
Let us take the figure of $ 1,435m which can be deduced from his speech in the House last Tuesday evening. One of the items listed in that speech was $180m for new jobs. Yet Labor’s job opportunities program, announced in March this year, contains the following commitments:
The community service corps . . . $200m a year; The work program . . . $110m a year; private sector employment . . . $20m.
That is a total of $330m a year. Which Mr Hayden do we believe? The March $330m Mr Hayden, or the last Tuesday evening $180m Mr Hayden? But there is another Mr Hayden - the August 1977 Mr Hayden. On 1 1 August 1977 the now Leader of the Opposition, in company with Mr Whitlam - who I sometimes wish would return to this Parliament - announced a plan to place more than 50,000 people in work in a full year - not the 100,000 positions being promised now. Both those figures are much less than the 2 1 2,000 jobs we provided through our policies last year. But now we have 50,000 jobs rather than the 100,000 being promised now. Mr Hayden gave us some selections of cost in 1977. In a full year these costs were $800m gross and $550m net. That is only for 50,000 jobs. Yet in March of this year he was going to create 100,000 jobs at a cost of $330m. On Tuesday he was going to do it for $180m. No wonder one of his colleagues in the Labor Party in Queensland who love him so much was prompted to remark recently:
Bill Hayden I think is a confused man.
We will allow him his confusion. That is no justification for perpetrating this kind of deception on the working men and women of Australia at their expense. It is these people who have to pay for these promises. It is every taxpayer who has to pay for these promises. It is an expense which, on our costings, is $2,500m in only six areas of expenditure, with the cost of the tax cut to be thrown in on top of that and also the cost of 250 other uncosted programs. But we know how members of the Labor Party put their hands into the till.
The statement by the Leader of the Opposition last Tuesday evening was a statement of selective ommission. There is no mention of more than 250 programs to which that Party is committed. That commitment has been clearly enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition. In June this year he was unapologetic when he said:
What I do say is that we have the sanction of our platform to devise policies . . . and we are prepared to implement them as a government.
The platform and subsequent policy releases for over 250 programs involved massive spending of taxpayers’ money. Aware of the overwhelming electoral opposition by taxpayers to having their money wasted on socialist planning, in a tape recording to Australian Labor Party members in
March this year the Leader of the Opposition said:
We have to present our policies in an attractive and digestable form . . .
Now this requires us to be selective.
Does this mean that Mr Hayden is going to hide some of his commitments from the electorate because he knows how unpopular they would be? How much of the taxpayers’ money would be involved in the hydrocarbon corporation drilling dry holes? The fuel and energy commission again represents big money. The national superannuation scheme represents even bigger money and so does Medibank and a national investment fund. I could go on and on and big money is involved in every item. Where have we been given the costs of any of these commitments? Does this mean that because the Leader of the Opposition is afraid of losing votes certain policies will be ignored in an attempt to deceive the taxpayers of Australia? Does this mean that Mr Hayden is aware that if he announced all his spending programs together he would lose massive electoral support? Does this mean that he recognises the impossibility, the recklessness and the irresponsibility of the totality of the Labor package? Is this what Mr Hayden means when he says that he must be selective? The simple truth is that he has not costed the programs; he cannot cost them and, because of his fear of the electoral reaction, he will not cost them. This Government and this Parliament will not allow the Leader of the Opposition or his party the latitude of such selectivity. Let them stand up and be costed. They would not be worth much.
But the backdowns and the omissions from the Leader of the Opposition’s statement do not end there. Less than two weeks ago, on 1 3 August, the Leader of the Opposition was reported as saying categorically: ‘A Federal Labor Government would offer cheaper health insurance and lower petrol prices and sales tax’ and ‘Labor would also consider lowering income tax’. In the ultimate flight of fancy, the Leader of the Opposition said that these aims could be achieved in a ‘trade-off with the union movement. What happened on Tuesday evening? The commitment of 13 August - about two weeks earlier- had evaporated. We were given no commitment, only options; and then only one of the three that had been promised only 1 3 days before. The Leader of the Opposition has no doubt awoken to the opposition within the electorate to his big spending proposals, but he is bound by the left wing of his party and the resolutions of its conference. He may seek to avoid mentioning Australian Labor Party commitments, but he will not be allowed to ignore them by his back bench, his shadow Ministry, the rank and file or the union movement. The consequences for Australia must not be taken lightly by this Parliament or by the Australian people.
The economic prescription outlined by the Leader of the Opposition on Tuesday evening is rejected by major industrialised countries; rejected by academics; rejected by the metropolitan Press; rejected by businessmen; rejected by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; rejected by the International Monetary Fund; rejected even by the Democratic Party of the United States of America; and, as the Leader of the Opposition should now know, rejected by the report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Economic Strategy. But it was once rejected by the Leader of the Opposition himself when he said:
Some might argue that a large deficit could be offset by a tough monetary policy - but this would mean greatly increased interest rates, disruption in financial markets, further depression of business confidence and serious company failures. That is an unacceptable option.
It is not possible to provide more and more Government services or transfer payments from the Budget without ultimately having to pay for them through cutting back after tax earnings via increased taxes . . . It is not possible to get quarts out of pint pots.
He is now trying to get gallons out of a thimble. Yet now the Leader of the Opposition says that he can increase expenditure and reduce taxes. How is he going to manage this? He told us on AM on Wednesday morning that deficits can be funded by an increase in the money supply’ - in other words, go to the printing press. What great selfconfessed economic wizardry is this? It is no wonder that Clem Jones, the former Lord Mayor of Brisbane and one of the more successful Labor Party administrators in recent years, remarked:
It is recognised that Bill Hayden has admitted he cannot read a balance sheet.
The Leader of the Opposition wants three-yearly Budgets so that he can get Bill Hartley to tell him what the red figures mean.
The other significant omission from the statement by the Leader of the Opposition in his reply to the Budget Speech was the promise to increase taxes dramatically - a good promise. In December last year he reminded us that his revenue raising programs were ‘somewhat more radical than had been outlined up to 1972’. He warned us then about our taxation future under Labor when he said:
That is a bit vague - and other measures of that nature . . .
In what constitutes an elaboration of the ‘other measures’ the Opposition’s frankest spokesman on economic affairs has said that it is ‘wrong’ that we do not havesome form of tax on capital, be it death duties, capital gains tax, wealth tax or perhaps some kind of combination of those, or all three’. We have had it and we have been warned.
The Labor Party is now enjoying a renewed fascination with the concept of a capital gains tax. I recall the announcement by the then Government in 1 974 to introduce a capital gains tax, just as I recall the announcement of the abandonment of that intention five months later. The fascination with this general topic seems to be based on an unproven belief that there is a large number of relatively very wealthy people in the community; so much so that Mr Willis believes that $700m will accrue annually from this tax. That ought to be warning enough. What is one to make of such illusory revenue sources?
The so-called social contract promised a royal commission into income and wealth which ‘would not be frustrated in its endeavours by uncooperative attitudes from those with something to hide’. There is no doubt that the fires of envy still burn very brightly in the Labor Party. But such taxation threats will not escape the attention of hard-working Australians for they would sound the death knell of enterprise, initiative and reward for effort and risk taking. They would put an immense and enormous burden on the working men and women of Australia. They would destroy economic freedom.
To complete Labor’s picture of economic incredibility, the Leader of the Opposition announced that he and the union movement had achieved:
For the first time in this country … a politicalindustrial agreement on procedures for an effective and economically sound policy covering prices, wages and non-wage incomes.
His statement to the Parliament was not 24 hours old when the newspapers carried details of Australian Council of Trade Unions demands - in accordance with the agreement, of course- made before the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, demands which bore no resemblance to restraint but which obviously had the total endorsement of the Leader of the Opposition. After all, he had come to an agreement about it. As reported in the Press, they included demands for regular automatic wage adjustments based on movements in the consumer price index; on top of that, the right to collective bargaining; on top of that, the use of national productivity increases to further wage demands; and, on top of that, the pursuit of the 35-hour week on an industry after industry basis to be spearheaded in 22 industries around Australia. What disaster would that be? What disaster is the Leader of the Opposition supporting? This is presumably what the Leader of the Opposition calls ‘effective and economically sound policy’. It was not surprising to read today that the ACTU senior vice-president, Cliff Dolan, has said:
And he made it plain in the same report that there was no agreement.
It is perfectly clear that the union movement will not accept any limitations on its freedoms for the sake of Bill Hayden’s social advancement. When to this lack of restraint by the union movement we add those provisions in Labor’s policies which grant immunity to unions from penalties for strike action- actions that would place the union movement above the law- we have a clear picture of the nature of the special relationship that the Leader of the Opposition says he has with the union movement, lt was that relationship which led to award wages rising by 40 per cent and, in some cases, by more than 40 per cent in the year to March 1975. It was that relationship that forced unemployment to double under that Administration. I think that relationship between the Leader of the Opposition and the union movement is like the special relationship, and it is a good one, that exists between a ventiloquist and his doll - a slight twist from the left wrist and Bill’s head nods up and down.
This Government will continue to work to reduce further both the share of resources taken by Commonwealth Budget outlays and the Budget deficit itself because we remain firmly committed to winding back inflation. Economic responsibility will continue to be our watchword. Strengthening private sector demand and pressure of rising prices from overseas over the last 18 months call for continuing firm fiscal and monetary policies in the period ahead if inflation pressures are to be contained and our inflation rate is again to resume its downward trend. We will be aiming, in particular, to secure a lower growth in the money supply this year with monetary policy playing an enhanced role. The 1980-81 Budget, in association with an appropriate monetary policy and with the co-operation of the great majority of Australians, is directed to making sure that this nation can realise the bright economic future that is now before us. Under this Government, under these parties, those prospects and Australia’s potential will be realised in the 1980s in a way which will be the envy of nearly every other country.
– The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is the fourth speaker from the Government side to speak in this year’s Budget debate; he is also the fourth Government speaker to ignore the Budget. No member from the Government side seems very intent on giving support to the Budget which was brought down by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) last Tuesday week. Interestingly enough, the first speaker the Government put up after the Treasurer - and so we can take it for granted that that man is the second most important Government spokesman on economic matters - was the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). Everyone in Australia knows the right honourable member for New England. I take it that he is now the Government’s second most important spokesman on economic matters. The third person to speak was the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson). He never mentioned the word ‘Budget’. They seemed to be intent on talking about Australian Labor Party policies. They are not concerned about the money which the Labor Party intends to spend on some of these programs. What they object to are the programs themselves.
This Government is opposed to debate, concern or consideration in respect of unemployment, health or education. Members of the Government do not want to discuss these matters. All they want to discuss is what they think they can do about inflation. This is the third election at which this Government has cried ‘wolf. The secret of the Government and the Prime Minister is that five years ago in 1975, 1977 and again in 1980 - they use the same catchcry: ‘Leave us in office; we will get inflation down; we will reduce the level of unemployment; we will get interest rates down; everything will be rosy in the garden in Australia as long as you leave the LiberalNational Country Party Government in’.
The Government having failed Australia and the Australian people for five years, I will tell the House what the Government intends to do between 1980 and 1983. It intends to sell Australia down the drain to any overseas bidder which wants to take away our resources. That will be the Government’s economic answer between 1980 and 1983. The debate on this Budget should not be about what happened in the early 1970s and the late 1960s. The debate should be about the performance of this Government between 1975 and 1980 and the future of Australia between 1 980 and 1 953 and who can do that best.
The Prime Minister talked about people not being able to understand balance sheets. Let me say this: The families of many Ministers seem to be able to do balance sheets pretty well. Whilst some of them are not bom with silver spoons in their mouths, they are born with $400,000 in their bankbooks. If one had the choice one would take the $400,000. We know honourable members opposite can read balance sheets because a number of them have been in and out of the courts. That is the sort of government that will go to the polls in a few weeks time. We are discussing and debating this Budget at a time when we know that in a few short weeks people are going to be asked to vote. They will base their decision on questions such as: Has this Government done the job it promised to do in the last five years? Is it capable and competent to carry out the task that is required for Australia between 1980 and 1983? Has it failed in what it promised to do in that five years? Is it time for the Australian people to change the government? These are the questions important to this debate.
This Government has shown its arrogance by bringing down a Budget demonstrating complete contempt for the problems of this country. The people were told in the Budget that there would be no reduction in unemployment, that there would be no reduction in the level of inflation and that there would be an increase in the price of petrol. Complete arrogance was portrayed not only by the Prime Minister but also by the other Ministers who have spoken in the debate. This is the most arrogantly framed Budget that has been brought into this Parliament since Federation. It is no wonder the Prime Minister, the Minister for Finance and the right honourable member for New England do not want to talk about the Budget. It is no wonder that they want to talk about the proposals of the Labor Party. They have to do this because there is nothing in the Budget that they can talk about. There is nothing that they can be proud of. They can point to nothing that they have achieved between 1975 and 1980.
The Prime Minister told us that the Democratic Party in the United States of America is opposed to the concepts that have been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). Have a look at this example of someone who is opposed to the Labor Party ideals on job creation. Jimmie Carter goes to the people of the United States in a few weeks on the platform of jobs. He would enact a $12 billion anti-recession jobs program to provide at least’ 800,000 additional jobs. The Democratic Party Of the United States is not opposed to job creation. It is not opposed to spending federal moneys to create jobs. But the Australian Prime Minister says that the Labor Party would be the only party to advocate such a scheme in Australia. Let me, on behalf of the Labor Party, tell the House that we would much prefer spending taxpayers’ money to put the kids of Australia into jobs than for those kids to be on drugs and sleeping in the gutters of Australia. This is what has happened as a result of the policies of the Fraser Government over the past five years.
Honourable members opposite must be proud of a policy which has created 40,000 homeless Australian kids. We do not hear the Prime Minister talking about that. We do not hear about the number of unemployed people who are committing suicide in this country. The Prime Minister does not talk about that. He will be on his Boeing 707 aircraft on Sunday with his four or five dozen bottles of Glenfiddich whisky, sucking it down as if there are no problems in this country. All the time he talks about what he is going to do in the future. Well, the people of Australia have had enough about what this Prime Minister will do about the future. We have had five years of his medicine. His cry of ‘wolf in 1975 and 1977 will not work in 1980. The problems deserve a different remedy. The remedy that we are putting forward is the remedy that will win the support of the majority of people in Australia. They are the people who cannot get themselves or their kids into hospital; they are the people who are not able to live on the income that they are bringing home every week.
As Bill Hayden has pointed out on numerous occasions - and the figures are available to prove this- the average family is $ 1 6 a week worse off in 1980 than it was in 1975 when Malcolm Fraser became Prime Minister. The Budget does not tell us the full story of what will happen in 1 980-8 1 . We know that the price of petrol will go up. We know that the price will go up substantially. Every time the price of petrol goes up, living standards go down. That is what has happened to the average family in this community. The honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) and the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) should not leave the chamber because the people in their State - in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie - are being ripped off by these petrol taxes. They are paying a higher price in Tasmania than is being paid anywhere else. We never hear the honourable member for Franklin or the honourable member for Denison say they are worried about the working people of Tasmania.
They will jump up and down about the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. What desperate phoneys they are. They do not stand up for the people.
Let us examine what has occurred in the last five years. We know that since this man became Prime Minister the cost of living has gone up by 55 percentage points; income tax has gone up by 89 percentage points. People are $16 a week worse off. We can relate the performance of this Government to what the Prime Minister has said over the years. The Australian people will be looking at the policies of the parties. But there is nothing in the Budget on which the people of Australia can base their vote.
It is now rumoured that the Prime Minister will have certain goodies in his election policy speech. But the big question is: Can we believe the Prime Minister? If he were going to cut taxes, break with world parity pricing on petrol, spend more on education and look after the Aboriginal people, his intentions would be contained in the Budget for 1980-81 . What is there in the Budget? There is nothing - absolutely nothing. Anyone who reads this document will find that there is no advantage this year over last year for any group of people. Almost every group of people affected by the Budget - and that is everybody in Australia - will be worse off in 1 980-8 1 than they were last year.
We are told that there will be goodies in the election policy speech of the Prime Minister. Let me tell honourable members that, if we put the 1 975 and 1977 election speeches of Mr Fraser to a lie detector test, the machine would break down. We have not perfected a lie detector yet which could possibly process those two policy speeches which have so many untruths and so many commitments in them. At the time the Prime Minister knew that he could not carry out or he had absolutely no intention of carrying out those commitments. Let us have a look at some of his promises in the short time available. I will run through them for the sake of the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) who might like to pass them on to his constituents. The Prime Minister said: ‘I can promise you honesty and integrity in government’. That is the first promise he made which we will look at. As I have said before in this Parliament this has got to be the most honest government we have ever had because we have never had a government in which more Ministers have been cleared by the courts than in this Government. Almost every Minister who has gone before a court has been cleared by the courts in spite of the fact that prima facie cases have been proved. It has been a very good government! We have missed Ministers from time to time as they had to take leave to go into the courts. But the Prime Minister has provided honesty in government!
In 1975 he said: ‘We will maintain Medibank’. This Government had absolutely no intention of maintaining Medibank. The people know, through the moneys they are now paying into health insurance, what a rip-off has resulted because of the way in which the Government has altered the health insurance in this country. But there was a commitment to maintain Medibank. The Prime Minister said that his Government would maintain the Australian Assistance Plan. It is so long since the Government scrubbed the Plan that most people of Australia cannot even remember it. But the Government made a commitment to keep it and it broke that promise. These are all quotes from the Prime Minister. He said: We will support wage indexation’. This Government did not even support wage indexation at the first hearing in 1976. On seven of the nine occasions on which the Government has been to the courts it has said: ‘Wage and salary earners of Australia should receive no wage increase at all’. This Government has done everything in its power to destroy wage indexation. The Prime Minister said: ‘Under a Liberal-National Country Party government there will be jobs for all those who want to work’. Let me dwell on this point for a moment. The Prime Minister told the people of Australia in 1975 and again in 1977 that under his Government there would be jobs for all those who wanted to work. Let me remind the Australian people that since this Government came to power unemployment has increased at the rate of 100 people a day. The names of an additional 100 people a day have been added to the unemployment list. I will tell honourable members opposite something else which the Government has admitted in this Budget. For the first time it has admitted that it does not intend to do anything about unemployment. If the families of Australia have unemployed kids they will have to live with it because this Government has absolutely no intention of doing anything about it. The Prime Minister said: ‘We will reduce the tax burden. We will put an end to Labor’s tax rip-off’. For God’s sake, that was the Prime Minister talking to us in 1975 and 1977. I do not know what strange inhibitions take over the Prime Minister at election time when he gets his speech writers together. His speeches must be written in Disneyland because he keeps telling us about all the things he will do.
Honourable members opposite can go outside and talk to any of the wage and salary earners in Australia and ask: ‘Are you paying less tax as a proportion of your income in 1980 than you were in 1975?’ If honourable members opposite think that people are paying less tax now than they were five years ago then their fathers should have bought them boxing gloves, because it is just not true. The people of Australia are paying significantly more tax now - income tax, petrol tax and health insurance tax - than they were previously. Those people who watched Nationwide on the Thursday evening after the Budget would have seen an interview with the family of a tradesman who works six days a week and earns a gross pay of $290 a week. After he meets his commitments he has $3 left. He cannot even take his kids to see their grandparents on the other side of Melbourne because he cannot afford the petrol. This is not the only family in Australia which is living under those circumstances. He happens to be one of the lucky people who have a job. This Government is destroying the Australian family because of the burden of taxation that exists in Australia at the moment. If the Government wanted to do something about the situation it is the Budget documents in which such action would have been set out.
I would not believe the Prime Minister. I hope all Australians join with me in this view between now and the election. I would not believe anything he says in his policy speech because he has said it all before. When the Prime Minister gave tax cuts in 1977 and he had the brilliance of his advertising agency and of the Liberal Party throughout Australia, we saw photographs of people with $5 notes in their hands saying: ‘Vote for us, you will get all this money.’ On I February the people of Australia got their tax cuts. Just a few months later on 1 7 August, not only did the Government, when the Budget was introduced, take the tax cuts back but also it took a little more. This Government brought in tax increases six months after it showed advertisements about the tax cuts that were to take place in Australia. Honourable members can see that this Prime Minister has promised a number of things that have not worked out.
I ask honourable members to listen to this quote of the Prime Minister. He said: ‘There will be no international safaris by members of parliament. Australia does not need a tourist as a Prime Minister.’ On Sunday he leaves on his twenty third trip. His trips have cost untold tens of millions of dollars. As the Sydney Sun newspaper asked tonight, why does the Prime Minister need a 707 aircraft with a staff of about 40 people to go and pick up a gold badge in Washington? Have the taxpayers got to pay $3,000 an hour just for the running of the plane for the Prime Minister to go to Washington to pick up a gold badge? He was not that generous with the Olympians. He is taking an entourage of people comprising Press secretaries, stenographers, advisers - those bootlickers - to Washington with him so that he can pick up his gold badge. Who do honourable members opposite reckon will pay for it? It will be the Australian taxpayers. Perhaps the Government will have to increase taxes again to meet the grand style of living that has been adopted by this Prime Minister who said that Australia would not have a tourist as Prime Minister. He spends more time overseas than he does here. In fact, I do not think he likes the place at all. I think he would much rather spend his time in Washington.
Of course the Prime Minister told us that spending on essential education, health and welfare programs would be protected against inflation. He should tell that to the teachers, the doctors and the nurses. Honourable members opposite need not take our word for what is happening in health and education. They should go and talk to the people who exercise their professions in those fields. They will tell honourable members opposite what is happening in education. The Government could save the teachers a lot of money because they are spending money on advertisements which ask political parties to commit themselves to putting back real value into the dollar in expenditure on education. If the Government explains to them what it has done for education they could stop their advertising campaign. But the fact is that the Government has cut spending on education.
The Prime Minister said: ‘The real value of pensions will be preserved.’. The Prime Minister said what a terrible thing it would be for a political party like the Australian Labor Party to set as an objective that the pension would be restored to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. The Australian Labor Party did that when in government. Honourable members should remember that that was an objective of the Australian Labor Party in 1 972 when it was elected. That was one of the reasons we were elected. 1 will tell honourable members opposite something else about pensions - something which the Prime Minister did not tell the pensioners in Australia in 1977. He did not tell them that he intended to cut the indexation of pensions from twice a year to once a year. He saved $26m by doing that in 1978. What did he do with that money? The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) knows what he did with that money. He spent $40m buying two VIP aircraft. The pensioners paid for those aircraft. The aircraft the Prime Minister will leave in on Sunday for Washington to pick up his gold badge was paid for by the pensioners of
Australia. I hope that the pensioners do not believe what is contained in the policy speeches of the Prime Minister. The Australian Labor Party stands by its commitment. I have another quote from the Prime Minister. I am prepared to stay here during the dinner hour so that all his remarks can be recorded.
– Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide may be prepared to remain here but the Chair is not. I remind the honourable member–
– You do not look hungry. The Australian Labor Party stands by its commitment.
-Order! I remind the honourable member that he has the Chair’s indulgence to speak for five minutes during the dinner break. I would hope that he would respect the forms of the House because of that.
- Mr Fraser promised to keep all his promises. I ask honourable members to listen to them. This is one of his own quotes. He said: ‘I will keep all my promises’. He said: ‘On my own visits overseas, commercial aircraft will be used as far as possible. The argument that Qantas cannot provide adequate security is a specious argument and false.’. This was said by the Prime Minister who spent 40 million bucks on a specious argument. He said: ‘Unemployment will fall from February 1978 and keep falling’. Last Thursday 423,000 people were unemployed. Any dopes opposite who want to go and get the Commonwealth Employment Service figures, will see that 423,000 Australians are out of work.
Sitting suspended from 6.5 to 8 p.m.
– Before dinner we heard a somewhat irrational outburst from the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), who tried to make out that the Budget we are discussing in this debate this evening was a document which contained absolutely nothing. Of course, the outburst had to be irrational because in fact the document does contain a great deal, and a great deal is worthy of analysis. However, it is not my purpose this evening to go through the benefits of this year’s Budget in great detail. Nevertheless, I think that in something of an overview, some comments about it are warranted.
The Budget has produced and will produce a good number of benefits. At the outset it is important to take note that it does so within the framework of a balanced domestic budget - indeed, a domestic budget which contains a slight domestic surplus. At a time when we are looking for responsible, economic performance, that is something of an achievement. Within that framework of a balanced domestic budget, let us look briefly at some of the benefits that are contained in it.
Let us bear in mind for a start that there is a very substantial, real increase in defence expenditure at a time when we of the free world cannot say with any real confidence that we are without danger in this world. On a more personal level, let us consider the fact that this Budget has done something for the self-employed small businessman that has not been done before, and that is to extend to him some of the benefits of superannuation that he might not otherwise receive. Let us also consider that the same sort of benefit is being extended to the employed person whose employment does not cover him with what we would normally call superannuation.
Let us remember that this Budget incorporates the tax cuts that commenced on 1 July 1980. The Opposition seems to be making great play of the fact that it is promising, in some sort of pick-a-box way, $300m worth of tax cuts. But from 1 July this year there were tax cuts to the taxpayers of this country worth over $600m in this financial year. The bulk of those cuts, much as the Opposition would try to disguise it, go to families, the people who most need it.
Following that point, we should bear in mind that the Budget contains other benefits for those who are most in need. By way of example, in the social security area there are some improvements. They are not necessarily across the board improvements but they are improvements for those most in need, improvements for those who are unemployed and would like to earn more without losing the unemployment benefit, improvements for those who are handicapped or to their parents who have a need for some assistance. These are areas in which the Budget contains a great deal of benefit. Let us consider that the Budget also has provided a very significant increase in funding for manpower training programs of one sort or another. I will not go through the detail- it is in the Budget documents- but the increases are there and some 230,000-odd young people and older people will benefit from those manpower training programs.
It is quite clear that to talk about this Budget as a Budget of nothing is quite irrational. I make the point again that those sorts of benefits have been achieved within a Budget that is a balanced Budget domestically and therefore provides some sort of flexibility for this country in the future, the flexibility perhaps in the future to consider further tax reform. It is a Budget that maintains a monetary and fiscal discipline which has been recognised widely by the business, manufacturing and commercial interests of this country, by the people who are investing, by those who are expanding, and by those who are providing jobs. That recognition is there. It is a discipline then that is creating a sense of stability, a sense of confidence that this country has been building on for some years now, and I am confident will be able to continue to build on. This Budget builds on the groundwork of previous Budgets brought down by the Fraser coalition Government, Budgets which have been aimed above all else at tackling the great problem of inflation but also at creating a stable economic environment for growth in the 1 980s. I hardly need to remind the House that the 1980s is a most promising decade for this nation.
As I said at the outset, it is not my purpose to try to go through the Budget in detail to prove the benefits it has, to prove the good things it will do, in answer to the irrational outbursts of the honourable member for Port Adelaide. Rather, I would like now to turn to some of the benefits this Budget contains for the north Queensland region, part of which I represent. This Budget certainly does not neglect or ignore the need for a proper partnership of government in the overall enterprise necessary to develop the remoter parts of this nation. As far as the electorate of Herbert and the north Queensland region are concerned, I firstly bring to the attention of the House the fact that there is a projected expenditure incorporated in the Budget of $5m to upgrade Townsville airport for international purposes.
A number of people might ask why a relatively remote and isolated outpost of the nation would deserve that sort of expenditure. In 1978 the report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism made the point that of all the international visitors who came to this nation, on the latest statistics available, only about 4 per cent of them ever got north of Brisbane. Yet north of Brisbane are to be found some of the great attractions of this nation, whether we are talking about the Great Barrier Reef east of Queensland, about the wonders of the Centre, including Ayers Rock, or about such great places as Kakadu National Park, the Katherine Gorge, or whatever. Yet the whole vast north Queensland region, indeed the northern Australian region, was not attracting a fair share of the tourist traffic. So it was that we had a proposal from Qantas Airways Ltd, Australia’s long-haul flag carrier, to start using a north Queensland airport as an international gateway, and to start using it from February next year.
This Budget has recognised a need for the total development of a north Queensland region to add to the accessibility of that area.
I hope that some of the communities of north Queensland will forget their parochialism and will remember that the use of a north Queensland airport for international purposes will be of benefit to the whole of the north, and again I stress that that is not necessarily just north Queensland but the whole of northern Australia. I hope that, knowing that we will have an upgrading of Townsville airport, knowing that we will have an international gateway into and out of the northern region through Townsville, the northern community will be ready with the necessary smile, the necessary infrastructure and the necessary enthusiasm to promote the wonders we have to promote.
I turn now to the question of the Burdekin Dam. Today the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) answered a question about that project in Question Time. This matter is foreshadowed in the Budget documents, so it is relevant to consider it in the context of this year’s Budget. On page 76, Budget Paper No. 7, under the heading ‘Burdekin Dam Project’, the following comment is made:
It was announced in June 1980 that the Commonwealth Government has agreed in principle to assist the Queensland Government in the construction of the Burdekin Dam. When complete the project will provide irrigation for an additional 45,125 hectares adjacent to the existing Burdekin Irrigation Area for sugar, rice and horticultural production. Commonwealth and State officers are currently preparing a report to the two Governments on possible financing arrangements for the project.
As honourable members heard this morning in this House, those negotiations have been completed satisfactorily. They have been completed on the basis of the Commonwealth Government undertaking to meet the cost of the actual dam in the overall Burdekin project, with the State Government agreeing to take on the preliminary works which are under way. The State Government also will be responsible for the associated irrigation works. So far as north Queensland and Australia are concerned, this is one of the more imaginative projects to have been conceived for this country. The Burdekin Dam will be a mighty dam which will open up great tracts of country for the benefit of the whole nation. The Burdekin Dam is not just something that will be useful for north Queensland but its sheer size and scope will be enough to ensure that it is of national significance and will have a great contribution to make to the nation as a whole. Obviously that project will provide employment, stability and growth in the north Queensland region - the sorts of basic infrastructure requirements on which the overall development of one of the more remote parts of the country depends.
I turn now to defence and make the point that it has been announced earlier this year, and the Budget takes account of it, that there is to be an upgrading of the defence of this nation. Already this evening I have mentioned the real increase in defence spending. The north Queensland region is to receive its share of that. In the first place, Lavarack Barracks at Townsville are to be upgraded. As a result, an additional 600 defence personnel will be posted to the barracks. New houses will have to be provided for them, and there will be between 200 and 250 new houses for Army or defence personnel provided in Townsville. Also being considered at the moment by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Works is stage 2 of Lavarack Barracks, which involves an extension of the barracks costing in excess of $6m. The work largely involves the workshops and supply areas. The Public Works Committee completed its public hearings earlier this week. I expect that it will make its report in the near future. The planning is at a stage for tenders to be called in March next year to enable that expansion to take place. The Budget that the House is considering this evening provides for that expansion. It provides for the additional houses, the development of stage 2 of Lavarack Barracks and for the additional concern about defence in the north.
Two smaller concerns in money terms - but nevertheless they are important - are the Australian Institute of Marine Science located just south of Townsville and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority which is based in Townsville. Both of those organisations have been specifically directed by the Government to have concern in particular for tropical waters and the Great Barrier Reef region. I do not wish to take up the time of the House this evening to go into their areas of responsibility in detail, but in broad terms they are concerned about the tropical waters and the reef region. Both of those organisations have received in this Budget substantial increases in funds. The funding of the Australian Institute of Marine Science has increased by something like 30 per cent to 40 per cent, and it will provide additional support staff and equipment to enable it to undertake and maintain first class research in the region of the reef and on the reef itself. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which is carrying out its duties under its Act to zone progressively sections of the Great Barrier Reef as a marine park, has received a Budget increase this year of something like 70 per cent. That will permit the Authority to continue its task, with the necessary support staff and equipment, of preparing the various zoning plans, submissions under the Act.
I mention briefly that, nevertheless, there are areas of concern to northern Australia that have not necessarily been covered adequately in this Budget - at least not as adequately as some people might require. It is pleasing to notice that the Government has decided to continue the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy, a subsidy which is important for those involved in the sugar growing industry in particular. I think that subsidy has continued for some two years at the level of $20 a tonne. The decision in this year’s Budget is to continue it at $20 a tonne. It is pleasing at least that the subsidy is being continued because the Industries Assistance Commission report of three or four years ago recommended that the subsidy be phased out. It is being continued. At the same time, during a period when overhead costs - by that, I mean the fuel overhead costs and also the costs of the fertiliser itself - have increased, the subsidy has remained the same. There is a concern that perhaps the level of that subsidy, whether or not it is justified, deserves further serious consideration.
One welcomes in the Budget the Government’s decision to undertake a complete review of the tax zone allowances presently contained in the Income Tax Assessment Act, allowances which have not changed for quite a considerable period. We would have liked some recognition of some of the difficulties of living in the more distant and remote parts of the nation by way of improvements in this Budget in the tax zone allowances. In any event, we welcome the complete review of those allowances which is to be undertaken. Those of us who come from the more remote and northern parts of the nation can only hope that that review will be undertaken quickly and that it will reduce itself to tangible benefits for those of us who live in the north.
The final point I mention is one of concern - that of roads. This financial year the Budget contains some significant improvements in road funding in some areas. In particular, most welcome is the quite substantial real increase in funding for the national highway system which, in terms of coastal Queensland, translates to the Bruce Highway. I have detailed the deficiencies of the Bruce Highway in this House many a time and the fact that at least there is a substantial real increase in funding for that highway is very welcome. Nevertheless, a concern still exists in the north Queensland community that the new five year road program announced by the Government, however much of an advance it is - certainly I will not criticise or decry it - may not be enough. There is a view that the whole matter of road funding needs very detailed, careful and close study. Roads in this country will remain the most important way for many people to communicate, whether it be the farmer who has to drive to his local town to buy produce or to post his mail or people who live in a large provincial city such as Townsville who nevertheless sometimes have to go to Brisbane. Roads will be the most important way, most of the time, for most of them for communication purposes. Therefore, it is a most serious matter that roads get the scrutiny, consideration and funding that they require. As I said, there is a concern that, however good the Budget allocation is for roads this year, much more needs to be done.
Overall I hope I have demonstrated, quite contrary to the irrational outburst of the honourable member for Port Adelaide, that this Budget does contain much that is substantive, much that is a gain and much that contributes further to the economic confidence and stability of this country. It is a Budget within a balanced domestic budgetary situation which will enable this country to progress further for the benefit of all who live in it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Griffith has sought my indulgence to make a personal explanation regarding a Press article which has just come to his notice. It is not a regular practice to interrupt a debate for that reason but, because this matter is of a serious nature and the House is not sitting again until Tuesday week, I have decided to extend indulgence to the honourable member to enable him to make a brief personal explanation.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. A report appeared in today’s Courier-Mail under the heading ‘Society Hit by Smear’. I shall not read the report in full. It is claimed in the article that there is a smear campaign against the Society of the Helping Hand and that I am part of that campaign. Honourable members will be aware that I spoke in Tuesday’s adjournment debate about the Society. I related factually and objectively the allegations that arose from an extensive investigation. In my speech I called for an inquiry by the Australian Federal Police. The story quotes Mr Brian Hawkes, Treasurer of the Society. Mr Hawkes says that, contrary to my statement on Tuesday night, the
State police are not investigating the Society and that Reverend R. G. Griffiths has denied the alleged complaint to the State Government - that is the Queensland Government. Such statements reflect on me and I seek to put them right.
The Fraud and Consorting Squad of the Queensland Police has interviewed persons connected with the Society. There is, without any doubt, an investigation by a department of the Queensland Police. That is the first point. The second point is that I spoke to Reverend Griffiths yesterday and today about the letter which was incorporated in Hansard. He stated his only qualms were these: Firstly, it was not made clear that he was merely writing on behalf of several charitable organisations and, secondly, that the licence of the Society of the Helping Hand to raise moneys was revoked on the same day as the Welfare Services Department received the letter but not following the letter. The facts are that the Society is under investigation at a State level and the Reverend Griffiths did submit a letter to the Minister for Welfare in Queensland, the Honourable Sam Doumany, on behalf of charitable organisations. Those charitable organisations are named in the letter incorporated in Hansard, which is there for every honourable member to read and to come to his own conclusions. Those charitable organisations are Lifeline, Teen Challenge, Brisbane Youth Service, Windsor Youth Emergency Shelter, Queensland Council of Social Service and two other very reputable charities which I understand now do not want any publicity. Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you for your indulgence.
– My response to the fifth and final Budget of the Fraser Government will focus on two areas - housing and urban and regional affairs. These two areas were given high priority by the Federal Labor Government of 1972-75 because they were long neglected areas of social need and they demanded urgent, comprehensive attention. These two areas are now becoming increasingly important as people are being dislocated through major structural upheavals in the Australian economy and as wealth is being more unequally distributed through the massive transfer of funds taking place at the hands of the Fraser Government. During the last five years there has been a transfer of wealth of over $4,000m from the ordinary people of Australia to the private sector. The overwhelming majority of that has been going to the corporate sector. The housing and urban and regional affairs areas are once more being neglected by this Government. They will be given high priority again by the new Labor Government.
Let us first consider the general context of the 1980-81 Budget and examine one of the basic assumptions of the Government’s economic strategy, that is, the prospect of a large scale and rapid expansion of mining and mineral processing developments in a few regional centres, geared in the main towards exports. Let me make it clear from the outset that the Australian Labor Party seeks to encourage viable mining and mineral processing activity in Australia. We desire a strong exporting sector. We support the development of our natural resources. But let me also make it clear that Labor does not support the development-at-any-cost approach of the Fraser Government. We support rational, planned development that will give rise to a balanced economy where the human as well as the physical resources of our nation are put to their fullest socially responsible use. We desire the highest possible level of self-sufficiency in terms of our domestic market.
Labor is opposed to the Fraser Government’s strategy of too much of one kind of development at too fast a pace with too much foreign control for too few jobs. We condemn this Government’s strategy of the big double rip-off whereby, on the one hand, this Government allows big foreign companies to rip out our resources and sell off our energy with too few safeguards and at too cheap a price and, on the other, this Government rips of wage and salary earners and their dependants in order to provide huge handouts and massive subsidies to the big corporations, many of which are foreign-owned or dominated. We condemn this rip-off strategy because it represents a sell-out of Australia’s national interests, it locks Australia into a dependent role in the world economy, it undermines our ability to maintain a diverse manufacturing sector, it imposes intolerable social costs and it robs us of the ability to meet emerging social needs.
Let us consider the impact of the so-called resources boom on the structure of the Australian society. The major resource projects are confined to a few growth regions, such as Gladstone in Queensland, the Hunter Valley and the Lithgow area in New South Wales, the La Trobe Valley in Victoria, and in isolated parts of Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. Whilst a few regions are rapidly expanding, many others are static and some are experiencing an agonising decline. Many country towns and even some provincial cities are threatened. In Victoria, for example, the viability of regions had historically depended on manufacturing industries which are now either closing down or restructuring their operations with a smaller employment base. As a result, there is not only a very uneven distribution of unemployment across Australia between the States and within the States but also considerable dislocation of people out of the country towns into provincial cities, out of some provincial cities into capital cities and out of some capital cities, such as Hobart, Adelaide and Melbourne, into the larger capital city of Sydney or into the growth regions.
Within the capital cities there is also increasing dislocation of low income earners out of the centre to the outlying peripheries which are poorly served by public transport and community and cultural facilities. In the new growth regions where there is a massive public investment in physical infrastructure to assist corporate development there is a tragic neglect of essential social infrastructure, such as housing, education, health and welfare services. This dislocation is occurring at a rapid pace and is resulting in increased hardship for a growing number of people - young people, single parents, middle-aged working couples and older people. The brutal fact is that this Government has shown no concern for the problems experienced by these people. It has failed to plan the adjustments to structural change which are now taking place in our community and which will take place in the future as a result of actions taken by the corporate sector and by this Government.
Now, more than at any other time in Australia’s post-war history, there is a pressing need for comprehensive regional planning in conjunction with a national industry plan. There is a growing need for integrated urban improvement programs and an increase in the supply of public housing and relocation assistance measures. Honourable members must consider the record of neglect of this Government. When the Australian Labor Party came to office in 1972, it set about developing a wide range of effective urban and regional programs to redress 23 years of neglect by the previous Liberal-National Country Party governments. Our programs introduced some essential planning into the development of our major cities and provincial centres. They aroused enthusiasm, inspired hope and promoted the participation of people in decisions that affected them where they lived. After three years of a Labor Government many of those improvements were made, but many more remain to be made. Many of them stand as an epitaph to that Government that was in office between 1972 and 1975. Those programs have been at the forefront of this Government’s ruthless attack on social programs. In the past five Fraser Budgets, they have been systematically eroded and dismantled. As a result, the basic machinery for dealing with the unresolved problems of earlier years and the widespread social problems caused by the large volume and rapid pace of resource project development is no longer in place. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the Federal budgetary allocations for urban and regional development programs since 1974-75.
The table read as follows -
– The table shows that in real terms the total outlays for urban and regional development programs in 1980-81 are less than one-fifth the amount provided in 1 974-75. Outlays on those programs have been reduced from 1 . 2 per cent in 1974- 75 to 0.2 per cent in 1980-81. Expenditure for decentralisation assistance and growth centres has been cut by 70 per cent in real terms from 1 975- 76 to 1 980-8 1 . An amount of $9.6m has been allocated for decentralisation assistance in 1980-81, a cut of 16 per cent on last year’s expenditure. While the need for regional planning is expanding, the funds made available are contracting.
Let us look at the nature of the programs under the decentralisation expenditure. In 1978-79, twothirds of all funds made available went to private sector capital projects. The figure of 34 per cent went to State and local government authorities, of which 30 per cent was for provision of infrastructure for private projects. A mere four per cent was spent on community facilities. I emphasise that point: Four per cent on people, 96 per cent on infrastructure for the private companies. Such a low level of expenditure for such important social needs at such a disruptive time in Australia’s history is a national scandal.
Let us now look at the Government’s record in the area of housing. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard tables showing the changes in Federal Budget outlays on housing since 1974-75.
– The tables show that Federal Government outlays on housing have been reduced from 3.9 per cent of total Budget outlays in 1974-75 to one per cent in 1980-81. In real terms expenditure on housing in 1980-81 is less than one-third of the spending in 1974-75. It is clear that the Federal Government is withdrawing from its responsibilities to ensure housing security for the people of Australia and is leaving it up to the private sector and the State governments to fill the gap.
I turn now to the emerging situation both in the private sector and in the States. The tables I have incorporated show that real net Federal payments to the States for housing have fallen from $5 1 5m in 1974-75 to $76m in 1980-81. That is, the States are now receiving only one-seventh of the amount they were receiving six years ago. Victoria - and South Australia and Tasmania are now receiving less than one-eighth of their allocation six years ago.
In 1974-75, the States had made available to them three-quarters of their Federal payments for use in housing programs while one-quarter was absorbed by debt repayments. Now they have available only one quarter of Federal payments for use in housing programs but three-quarters of their money is absorbed in debt repayments. While the debt repayments have risen, the Federal payments for the States have fallen miserably. So much for new federalism and so much for shifting the responsibility for housing on to the States! The responsibilities have been increased but the funds provided have been reduced.
That is why the New South Wales Housing Minister, Mr Sheahan, has announced that the registered waiting lists for public housing in that State will grow to 40,000 next year because the net Federal funds available to New South Wales have been cut from $1 59m in 1974-75 to $24m in 1980-81. At this time of widespread dislocation and unemployment, when over one per cent of Australia’s population is homeless and when around a quarter of a million people are living permanently in mobile or temporary accommodation, such a savage restriction on housing funds is a national disgrace. This Government should stand condemned on this issue alone. After unemployment, housing is the most serious social problem in Australia at present. This Government is guilty of neglect in doing nothing to overcome unemployment and in doing nothing to resolve the critical problem of housing.
Let us consider the private housing market and look first at the single program on which this Government hinges its claims for assistance to first home seekers and to provide so-called stimulation to the home building industry; that is, the Home Savings Grants Scheme. This Budget provides for an increase in the upper house price limit to which the home savings grant applies. At the same time this Budget reduces the funds for the scheme by $20m. In other words it increases the price of the house. Although more people want houses the Government, for some reason cuts the funds by $20m. Such a reduction must mean that fewer people will receive grants and the current nine months waiting period will be increased substantially. Already the grant comes too late to be useful for anything other than legal costs or furnishings and other things needed within the home. Even the new house price levels, cutting out at $45,000 for the full grant, are inadequate to be useful to most home buyers in Metropolitan Sydney where the bottom end of the market price for a new house and land package is $43,000 and where the median price for established homes is $72,000. 1 challenge any Liberal member to find in his electorate a block of land and a house for $45,000 which would enable the people in that electorate to get the full grant.
The main problem with the Home Savings Grants Scheme is the inequity that results from using a house price criterion of eligibility when there is such wide regional variation in housing prices across Australia. At the cut-off level of $45,000 it is possible only to buy a home at the bottom end of the market in Sydney while in Brisbane or Hobart a home towards the top of the market range can be purchased. The main effect of the Home Savings Grants Scheme is to transfer taxation funds - that is, our funds - to those in the community who least need the assistance. The needy people are now virtually excluded from the home ownership market. With rising home loan interest rates more will be excluded, as well as those who now own their homes being faced with heavier repayment burdens.
The upward pressure on home loan interest rates is a reflection of another major burden in the housing market that this Government has no policies to resolve. As a result of the competition for finance in the Australian capital market to provide funds for the large and expensive physical infrastructure required by aluminium smelters and by other resource development projects, the availability of home loan finance is being restricted and interest rates are being increased. Semigovernment authorities such as electricity undertakings are offering interest rates up to 12.3 per cent while banks and building societies can offer only around 9 per cent to 10 per cent. Investment is being attracted away from the major mortgage lenders as Statement No. 2 of the Budget Papers acknowledges. In 1979-80 savings bank deposits grew by 7.2 per cent compared with a rise of 9.9 per cent in 1978-79. The Budget statement said that ‘savings bank deposits slowed in 1979-80’ and noted ‘a marked decline in the growth of trading bank housing loans’.
Home buyers are faced with the dual prospect of a contraction in the availability of home loan finance and rising interest rates. Let us remember that the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney, when recently announcing a record profit, called on the Government to permit a further rise of one per cent in home loan interest rates in order to protect its profits. I understand that pressure is also coming from the Bank of New South Wales and from other banks. Let us be clear that such a rise will mean an additional $22 a month in repayments on a $30,000 loan repaid over 25 years and will exclude all those individuals whose incomes are less than $305 a week. That represents 85 per cent of single income earners or single income tax payers; in other words, a family with only one income.
The squeeze on the housing loan market is a direct consequence of the rapid pace of large scale resource development taking place under this Government. The volume and pace of that development, its control in the hands of a few foreign corporations and the sell-out conditions provided by this Government are imposing massive social costs on the Australian people. This 1980-81 Budget reveals clearly that this Government is prepared to deny its responsibilities to provide for the needs of people in order to expand public support for corporate profit.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is a rather strange feeling to stand here this evening and to make what will be my last speech on a Budget in this House. I am one of the folk who know what will happen in the future and it is in one sense rather strange to think that it is 28 years since I made my maiden speech in this place and on that occasion was heard in complete silence as the courtesies of the House were extended to a new member. So, I would like on this occasion to make one or two comments which are perhaps a little different from those one would normally make in a speech on the Budget.
I think, first of all, of the staff of this Parliament in their various avenues. 1 think of the Clerk and his assistants many of whom, over a number of years, have served this Pariament and the members well. I think of the attendants, of those in the refreshment rooms, of our transport officers, who do such a fantastic job in looking after members’ travel arrangements, and of the Commonwealth car drivers - both here in Canberra and in the various States- all people who make the work of a member possible. I often wonder whether we really appreciate completely the contributions that those people make to the working of this Parliament and, if I may say so, without whose efforts in their various aspects and capabilities this place would not run.
Then I think also of the electorate that it has been my privilege to serve. The electorate was created in 1949. The first member for the electorate was the late Jim Eggins who served for a brief period before he passed away. The boundaries of the electorate changed and as you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, some of the northern part of the electorate is now in the electorate of Cowper, your electorate. The electorate was represented nobly by the Right Honourable Sir Earle Page for many years. It was also represented by that gentleman when its boundaries were moved further south in New South Wales. I think of the people of that electorate who have given me the opportunity and the privilege of serving them and this country for such a period. Without their support and assistance it would have been impossible for me to have achieved anything. I have been conscious all the time that I have been the member of my responsibility as the representative of those people.
I believe Australia is facing almost the crossroads. The political future of this country might almost be said to be in the melting pot. There are many opportunities. There is a great future for this country. But I believe this will be so only if each one becomes aware of his or her responsibility in that regard. 1 noticed that it was suggested recently that the New South Wales Parliament might be elected for a four-year term. If my memory serves me correctly, I advocated that for the Federal Parliament not long after I was elected - not merely because I had been elected as a member but because I believe that at least a four-year term is necessary. Over the period it has been my privilege to be a member of this House we have had numerous elections, a double dissolution and Senate elections being held separately from those for the House of Representatives-all of which in my opinion have militated against a real sense of what this Parliament is all about.
People have had to go to the polls so frequently - we must include also State government elections and local government elections - that the real sense of what an election is all about has frequently been forgotten by those who ought perhaps to be aware of their responsibilities.
I express my appreciation and thanks to all those who have played their parts in the functioning of this Parliament. I thank also, as I said, the people of my electorate who have given me the privilege of being their servant for such a period. I express my appreciation also to the friends I have in the Australian Labor Party, in the Liberal Party and, of course, in my own party, the National Country Party of Australia. I thank my leader and deputy leader and other Ministers and particularly, Mr Deputy Speaker, you and the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) who have been closely associated with me in the State. I think of many other honourable members of the National Country Party who have served this Party and who had a sense of responsibility for what that service meant. I hope this Party never forgets that as an important part of its platform.
I mentioned earlier the importance in my mind of our democracy and our parliamentary system. We talk about it frequently and 1 think we fail to realise exactly what it means. I am not favourably disposed towards this new committee system that has been inflicted upon us. There is an inherent danger in that committee system. It is exemplified here this evening in the fact that so many of our members are at committee meetings. As important as those committees might be, I still believe that the most important forum in Australia is this chamber- this Parliament. I have said in this Parliament that the humblest person has the right to have his case presented and argued by his member of Parliament. We must never forget that. I remember in the early days- I will admit that one has to be careful not to say that things are not done today as they were in the olden days - when the Estimates debates in this House were real debates, when the Minister was at the table and the Committee of the Whole debated the Estimates. Questions were asked of the relevant Minister and there was a searching of the department’s estimates that were before the Committee. I believe that that is what is needed today.
One detrimental feature of our parliamentary system today is television. Our elections are fought on television instead of out on the hustings and we have lost that common touch, that grassroots appreciation of what this political life is all about. I concede that times change but sometimes we can say that they do not change for the better.
– I am committed to three committees tomorrow afternoon.
– As the honourable member for Melbourne has said, this is one of the difficulties. One finds that one shoots from one committee to another and from one place to another. I am a member of a committee that is meeting at the moment. Perhaps I can say that the members of that committee are lucky in that I am not down there with them. We have to work out these problems and find solutions.
I mentioned earlier that a government should be elected for a four-year term. This would give a political party an opportunity to work out a better and more balanced program than is the case at present. We have to look also at the suggestion that was made at one stage that people from outside the Parliament should be elected to the Cabinet. I think that would be one of the worst things that could ever happen. Whatever the situation may be, one has in the Cabinet people who are also members of parliament. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has to face his electorate and literally report on his stewardship. I know that the Cabinet brings in men from outside to give advice and to put certain matters before it. It is an advantage to be able to meet representatives of various groups such as the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the chambers of commerce and manufacturing and mining interests. They should be brought before the Cabinet so that its members can talk to them. In addition, rural industry representatives and others should be brought before the Cabinet. But we should still retain the system whereby our Cabinet comprises Ministers who are members of this House, who are responsible to electorates, and who have to report back to those electorates.
I want to comment now on the European Economic Community. Over a number of years, at the various Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conferences that it has been my privilege to attend- I regret very much that I will not be at the conference in Lusaka but the Whip of our Party, the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), will nobly and well represent us- I have been highly critical of Britain being a member of the EEC. I strongly opposed this even before Britain became a member. I think we are tackling this problem in the wrong way. We are conveying an impression that we are disturbed because Britain’s membership affects our trade balance, our exports and our economic situation.
This may be one factor but the major factor for which I am strongly critical of the British and of the EEC as a whole is that it is detrimental to the economic stability of Europe and of the Western world. The EEC is building an artificial economic barrier which I believe, unless it is watched, will ultimately destroy the economy in Europe and also have a detrimental effect on the Western world. The only country to gain a real advantage from this is the Soviet Union. We must get this story across to the British people. I think they are starting to realise that it is costing them a tremendous amount to be a member of the EEC and that it is of no value to them.
There are political aspects, and those political aspects are dangerous as well. We must emphasise this economic detriment. Australia’s objection to British membership of the Community should be based not only on the exports of our agricultural products and other things, but also on the fact that it is detrimental to the whole of the Western economic system. It is an artificial situation of subsidies, over-production, increased subsidies, more over-production and ultimately the Community will completely destroy itself. This is where Australia has to take a more active and a more aggressive attitude in getting this story through to the people of Europe and the United Kingdom. We have to do this before it reaches a situation of no return.
I want to make one comment in regard to borrowings by the States. The policy of this Government has been a very wise one. The Government has faced up to the problems and the difficulties of inflation. As has been said on many occasions, our economy has a stability that is admired and respected in many countries. That confidence in the Federal Government will be lost completely if we allow the States to borrow to an excessive degree. That will undermine the Federal Government’s economic policies. This is something we have to look at. I will quote a brief statement from the Reserve Bank of Australia report and financial statements, 30 June 1980, which deals with the economic background. It states:
Disturbances in world economic conditions were a troublesome background to our monetary and external policies in 1979-80. Inflation worsened markedly in many western countries. A factor in this was the sharp increase in the price of oil . . .
In general, countries responded to the acceleration in inflation by tightening policy, especially monetary policy.
I believe that a tightening policy can be overdone and I have said so on previous occasions. But because of our situation, because of our setup as far as the States are concerned, I think we have to be careful, as I said, that we do not allow the States to borrow to the degree that it undermines the economic policy that this Government is trying to put forward.
Over many years I have spoken about the part Australia must play in international affairs. I mentioned earlier the conferences of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association that I have attended and the other international conferences I have had the privilege of attending with many members of this House. 1 wish that some people could see our delegations in action at those conferences. Generally speaking, the parliamentary delegation from Australia is a delegation which represents the Australian people and the Australian Parliament as a whole. A CPA seminar is being held here at present and at that seminar there are representatives from the States and from various other countries in our area, such as Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Papua New Guinea. This is where Australia can play a singularly important role. I believe we have a very important role to play in the Pacific area at the moment. I think we indicated that by the steps we took in the recent trouble in the New Hebrides - now called Vanuatu. Whilst I am a little critical of the role played by the British and the French in that matter and whilst I think that perhaps we should have been more positive, at least it shows that Australia is playing an important part in this area.
All this brings me back to the point I made when I began this speech, that is, the importance of this place, of this Parliament, not only to Australia but also to the part that Australia has to play in the Western world. This country faces many problems and many difficulties and anybody who closed his eyes to those problems would be foolish. The expression ‘this is the lucky country’ has been used frequently. 1 sometimes think we fail to realise just how lucky we are. But, as I see it, that will continue only if each and every one of us plays a part and makes a contribution. While I have not always agreed with the Press, 1 believe that it too has an important part to play and I believe that it makes a very valuable contribution to the progress of the reality of democracy in Australia.
– This is the last Budget ever, I believe, of the Fraser Government and certainly the last before the 1980 election. This election will obviously be fought in presidential style. Over the past few years elections in Australia have been increasingly presidential rather than parliamentary in nature. That is greatly to be deplored. It is impossible to distinguish between the credibility of this Budget and the credibility of the Prime Minister (Mr
Malcolm Fraser) who leads the Government. In the election contest coming up the Prime Minister utterly lacks personal credibility with the electorate. His assurances simply cannot be believed. In fact, his accuracy is in inverse proportion to the vehemence with which he makes promises. He is recklessly indifferent to the truth, callous in his attitude to the poor and the weak and committed to the philosophy of winning at any cost.
The Prime Minister refers sometimes to the democratic processes and speaks, as he spoke today when talking about the revolt of trade unionists in Poland, as if he is in favour of working people being able to protest; but in fact he talks cant and humbug. He is the most arrogant and the most confrontationist Prime Minister in our history. This is the political leader who won supreme power in his own party by his use of the knife. He knifed John Gorton in 1971. He was of little help to the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) in 1972-73. He sandbagged and knifed Billy Snedden, as he then was, just as he later knifed Sir John Kerr and Reg Withers, both of whom had helped him claw his way to the top. He is the politician who tore up 75 years of constitutional usage in persuading the Senate to block the passage of the Budget. He created a situation in which political stability was to be put at risk every time that one party had a majority in the House of Representatives and another party had a majority in the Senate or there was an even division. Malcolm Fraser was a consenting adult in the perversion of vice-regal power in a way that was never contemplated by the founders of the Constitution.
In his pragmatic but unprincipled party, the right honourable gentleman not only survived but also appeared to prosper for the most pragmatic of all reasons - he was a winner. He had the killer instinct and after every crunch so far he has won. But mounting unemployment, the senseless rigidity of the pension policy he has pursued, his failure to provide properly co-ordinated services in cities, the gross and growing inequality of wealth, the mounting tax burden in the community and the elitist nature of our education system which perpetuates poverty and incapacity among the poor all add up to a terrible indictment of this Government and this Prime Minister. I know what the verdict of history will be.
– Give us his bad points now.
– The best thing that can be said about him is that he is coming to the end of his term. I expect that the voters of 1980 will take the same view.
I want to make some reference to the taxation philosophy that goes through the current Budget. There are four outstanding myths about taxation in Australia which must be dispelled. Myth No. 1 is the idea that Australia’s taxes are among the world’s highest. The reality is that in comparison with other economically advanced nations, such as the members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Australia’s taxes are at the low end of the scale. Myth No. 2 is the idea that the Fraser Government is committed to tax reduction. The reality is that tax rates have been higher under the Fraser Government than under any other government in Australia’s history, both absolutely and relatively. Specifically, they are far higher than they were under the Whitlam Government. Myth No. 3 is that Australia takes excessive amounts from the productive sector of society and redirects them towards welfare recipients. The reality is that Australia is the meanest affluent white capitalist country in the world, devoting only 1 2.8 per cent of output to welfare - far below that of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and Belgium, West Germany and France; although we are fractionally ahead of Spain and Portugal. In Japan, many welfare schemes are paid for directly from the private sector.
– And Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
– One could hardly describe them as white capitalist countries. Myth No. 4 is that high taxes cripple initiative and that tax reductions lead automatically to stimulus of business activities. This is a very widely held myth but there is really very little evidence to support it. The reality is that Australia, internationally, has low taxes, but it also has a very low level of initiative, creativity and enterprise. That suggests that our failures in that area are due to factors other than the tax rates.
I draw attention to the very valuable report of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment on industrial research and development in Australia. The Committee reported that, while our overall expenditure on research and development is comparatively low among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations, it is not at the bottom of the scale. Figures 5.1 and 5.2 in the Committee’s report contain graphs and I regret that this material cannot be incorporated in Hansard in that form. Figure 5.1 shows that in respect of patents granted world wide in 1975 per million population Australia ranks eighteenth out of 24 nations in the survey. Whereas Switzerland, for example, has something like 2,500 patents granted world wide per million population, so far as one can judge from the graph Australia appears to have about 1 50 or 200. Figure 5.2 shows the number of patents granted world wide in 1975 in thousand millions of United States dollars of gross domestic product. In this case Australia ranks twenty-first out of 24. Whereas Switzerland again has 300 patents per $ 1,000m, Australia has approximately 30.
– What about energy research?
– Our performance in energy research- in almost any area of research that one cares to name- has been pathetic. What this reflects is a certain recessive quality in Australia which makes us reluctant to seize initiatives.
It is appalling when we reflect on the extent to which the commanding heights of our economy are in fact controlled overseas. It is astonishing to compare Australia’s performance with that of Sweden, with a population of only eight million, not much more than half, of ours. Sweden has an apparent disadvantage which, paradoxically, is an advantage. Sweden has its own cultural tradition; its people have grown up with their own language, and have developed a degree of cultural intensity. They also do a great deal of research which we should emulate. Australia is in a curious position. We are part of the richest world market. We make up only four per cent of the English speaking world. That means that whilst theoretically we have access to this enormous market, the contrary is also true. We can be swamped, we can be overwhelmed, by that 96 per cent of English speaking people outside Australia.
Think of these Swedish names which are famous through the world, Electrolux, SKF, Bofors, Volvo, Saab and L. M. Ericsson. These are Swedish multinational companies, from a country with only eight million people. I once did a trot around Parliament House to count the number of Volvos and Saabs that were parked outside here. I counted 35 in the parking area.
– I have a Falcon.
– The honourable member of Grayndler would be disappointed to know that if one goes outside the Riksdag in Stockholm one cannot find even a single Holden.
– Did you trot around the Riksdag?
– It is one of my favourite parliamentary buildings. In Australia the commanding heights in our economy have been sold out. The commanding heights of the Australian economy - coal, copper, aluminium, uranium, motor manufacturing, food processing, advertising, computers, drugs, chemicals, plastics and petrol- all have one thing in common: We have lost national control over them. That is not to deny that there are obviously some advantages in terms of technology transfer that we receive when foreign capital comes in. But we have manifestly lost the capacity to make decisions over our own economic destiny.
Just as there are advantages in the concept of moving more and more into a global economy with an international division of labour there are also dangers. There appear to be enormous advantages. But there is also great risk that we will lose control of our national destiny. There was a very significant example of that recently in the closure of the Pagewood plant of General MotorHolden’s Ltd. That decision was not made by the Australian Government. It was not made by the New South Wales Government. It was a decision made in Detroit and that information was simply passed over to us by telephone.
I refer just for a minute to the amount of gross national product taken in taxation. It is very striking that in Australia 29.5 per cent of gross domestic product is taken up in taxes. In Sweden, the comparable figure is 53 per cent. Nevertheless the Swedes are able to penetrate world markets. For capital the Swedes have been very careful about excluding foreign investment. The greater social instrument used in Sweden is the national superannuation fund. Very little of its economy is nationalised, run by government departments, by government corporations or qangos.
In Sweden, characteristically, all contributors to the national superannuation fund have sums deducted from their salary each week which go into the largest single investment fund in Sweden. It is one of the largest investment funds in the world. The fund buys shares in all the Swedish corporations, but it does not hold a controlling interest. I do not think it has anything like a controlling share. The proportion is generally about 1 5 per cent to 20 per cent. But that does give it the right to elect someone on the board of these companies. It means, of course, that trustees acting for the contributors to the fund and the management of the fund have a great thing in common. They want to maximise profitability to provide the greatest possible return to contributors and investors. That is something we need to look at very seriously in Australia. Some constitutional problems would have to be overcome. We have to think very carefully about how we are to provide for the citizens of Australia, particularly the aged, those forced into retirement or those who retire voluntarily. We need to examine whether it is possible to follow the Swedish model to avoid inordinately high taxation rates.
In Sweden, 53 per cent of gross domestic product goes to taxation. In Holland the figure is over 46 per cent, in France and Germany about 39 per cent each and in the United Kingdom over 36 per cent. I repeat that the Australian figure is 29.5 per cent. Among the relatively industrialised countries only the poorest - Greece, Portugal, Turkey and Spain plus Japan, where many of the welfare services are provided by private firms, rank behind us.
– The Treasurer has been going round saying that we are a low tax country.
– Relatively speaking, we are a low tax country compared to the industrialised Western world. In terms of our Australia, this is the highest taxing government in the history of the Commonwealth. The legend that was propagated was that the Whitlam Government was an extraordinarily high tax government and this Government was pledged to reduce taxation. The reality is quite the reverse. I would like to quote again from Hugh Stretton, who was quoted earlier in the debate by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). Hugh Stretton refers to backlash against high tax which he points out is highly mythological. He comments: . . look at the latest OECD table of welfare spenders. At the top are Scandinavia, the Low Countries, West Germany and France - the whole of north-western Europe - all using more than 20 per cent of national output for welfare purposes, and all but Denmark effectively free of backlash. Next, but some way behind, comes the United Kingdom at 16.7 per cent, with some recent backlash and tax revolt signified in the election and the reactionary policies of the Thatcher government. Drop a bit further to the rather meaner 1S.7 per cent that the United States devote to welfare, and you find that the backlash has been running for two or three years, since the Californian Proposition 13.
I might add to that that some of the more recent referenda that have been conducted in the United States have indicated a defeat for Proposition 1 3-type referenda because voters recognise what that proposition means. If taxes are cut back it means that the people do not get their garbage collected, they do not get their streets cleaned and they do not have buses for their children to go to school. That is the reality. Stretton goes on:
Get right to the bottom, to the meanest affluent white capitalist country in the world, which is Australia devoting 12.8 per cent of output to welfare, and you find, as you might expect, that the meanest country effectively invented the welfare backlash and pioneered the reactionary shift in the pattern of taxation. Both movements have been led by the Fraser government for four years now.
So the myth that tax revolts are caused by ‘welfare overload’ is obvious rubbish. The opposite is nearer the truth - the generous countries do not have backlashes, the mean countries do.
I want to draw attention to the reality of what unemployment and cutbacks on welfare mean when we look at specific electorates in Australia. When we talk about the economy we often aggregate figures, running them together instead of disaggregating them. If we look at unemployment for example, the real point where suffering is experienced is not in the broad. It is experienced in individual electorates. I seek leave of the House to incorporate two tables in Hansard. I spoke earlier to the Minister for–
– The Minister for Health.
– I spoke to the Minister for Health earlier and sought his approval to incorporate two tables.
– You did not, you know.
– I spoke to the Minister for–
– The Minister for Primary Industry.
– I sought approval from the Minister for Primary Industry to incorporate two tables.
– You would not have won PickaBox on that.
– I have the flu, like everybody else.
– Surely that does not affect your thinking.
– Yes it does. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table of figures taken from the 1976 census, corrected to 1977 boundaries, giving profiles comparing Kooyong, one of the prosperous Liberal electorates in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, and Lalor, one of the electorates in the deprived west of Melbourne.
The tables read as follows -
The 1976 Census figures (corrected to 1977 boundaries) give the following electorate profiles:
– I thank the House. When honourable members pore over these figures tomorrow when they get Hansard, they will see the nature of the problem. Lalor illustrates the problems that arise by failure to adjust to structural change and the inevitable limitations of a restricted educational base. If it is taken for granted that boys leaving school will work in factories and girls will work in supermarkets- jobs in both areas are being cut back by new technology - then youth unemployment must increase. Figures released by the Commonwealth Employment Service understate the extent of unemployment in Lalor. Unemployed women whose husbands are working may not register with the CES. Girls from ethnic families who cannot find work often are absorbed within the family and do not register. In February 1980 the CES branches in Lalor reported 5,828 registered unemployed with only 86 vacancies. The only CES branch in Kooyong, at Camberwell, serviced a very large catchment area in the eastern suburbs. In February 1980 it reported 2,713 registered unemployed with 107 vacancies of which about two-thirds could be attributed to Kooyong. This illustrates the class and regional basis of unemployment in Australia. That fact has to be grasped in our social planning.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have always had great admiration for the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) since the days when I used to watch him on television when he used to be known as the Quiz Kid, or the Whiz Kid or some such name. I was sorry that he started his speech tonight in the way that he did with a vitriolic attack on the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He seemed to think that it would be marvellous to live in Sweden and to adopt the Swedish attitude. Having travelled in many countries, as no doubt he has, I think that Australia is one of the greatest countries in which to live. I would like to think he would not want to emigrate to Sweden or to live in a country other than the one in which he was born.
The Budget for 1980-81 has been greeted by political commentators and people alike around Australia as a sound blueprint for the year 1980-81. One source described it as a ‘steady as she goes’ Budget. I think that is a pretty good compliment to a steady government. So far as the Government is concerned it believes that it is a responsible Budget. The Opposition naturally has been critical of the document because in its view the Budget contains no drastic throwaways of the kind that it inflicted on this country during its period in office from 1972 to 1975. Honourable members on this side of the House make no apology for that because if one looks at the record of this Government one sees that it is obvious to all that the economy is in a far better condition now than it was when this Government was returned to office in 1975 after three years of Labor mismanagement. It is also clear that we are in a far better position today than comparable countries overseas, including Sweden which the honourable member for Lalor seems to eulogise so much.
An economic survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development stated in June this year that despite the deterioration abroad, the management of the Australian economy had remained broadly unchanged since this Government came to office. On coming to office this Government adopted a steady economic policy approach which, through relatively restrictive fiscal and monetary policies, aimed at removing the imbalances impeding the return to sustained non-inflationary growth. Australia’s level of competitiveness in economic trade is much higher now than when this Government took office from the Labor Government. This is reflected in the recent strengthening of manufacturing output, exports, investment and employment opportunities particularly in the last 18 months or so.
The external current account has improved considerably, and the deficit in 1979 fell substantially. Labour market conditions overall have been improving since early 1979. The survey shows that Australia is better placed than many other OECD countries to cope with the consequences of any weakened prospects which may occur for the world economy in the year ahead.
The OECD expects real gross domestic product in Australia to rise by 2i per cent in 1980, equal to the increase in non-farm GDP in 1979. Strong business fixed investment is expected to contribute importantly to a strengthening in output growth in the second half of the year, and real GDP is forecast to increase at an annual rate of 3i per cent during the first half of 1981. The survey sees the course of inflation as being an important factor in determining the durability of the more encouraging signs that are evident. The survey points out that given a continuation of tight fiscal and monetary policies, the outlook for inflation seems likely to hinge considerably on the wage determination system. On energy policy the survey endorses Australia’s import parity pricing policy for oil, as an essential basis for an efficient energy policy.
As the Prime Minister pointed out in a statement to the House this week, the Government’s oil parity pricing policy reflects the need to pay market prices for a scarce national resource, and the Government’s policy has greatly strengthened Australia’s capacity to withstand world energy problems. Consumption of major petroleum products in Australia fell by 1 i per cent last year. By contrast, energy exploration has accelerated considerably and alternative energy sources have become more economic. Projects like Rundle shale oil, which may involve the largest resource investment in Australia’s history, could not have been realistically contemplated, without the Government’s oil pricing policy. Australians still pay amongst the lowest retail prices for petrol and diesel by world standards. For example, in Italy super-grade petrol costs 74c a litre, in Japan 64c a litre, and in the United Kingdom 55c a litre. In Melbourne- my home town - it is around 30c a litre.
Budget funding for energy research is to rise by almost 50 per cent to $ 13.5m in 1980-81. A further $2.5m will be provided for energy information and energy conservation programs. These expenditures supplement the very significant taxation incentives which have already been provided to encourage greater energy exploration and development and the use of energy resources other than oil. The total cost to revenue of these incentives in 1979-80 was at least $50m, and this figure is expected to rise as industry takes increasing advantage of them.
Inflation in Australia up to the June quarter was running at 10.2 per cent, which was in line with the forecast of a little above 10 per cent made in last year’s Budget. Inflation in Australia remains well below inflation in many comparable industrial countries. For example, over the year to May 1980 the average rise in consumer price indexes in the member countries of the OECD was 14.4 per cent. In the United Kingdom it was around 16 per cent and in the United States of America more than 13 per cent. This relatively better performance by Australia, however, should not induce any sense of complacency. The outlook for the industrialised countries is for a reduction in the rate of inflation during 1980-81. For Australia to maintain its international competitiveness it is therefore necessary to intensify our efforts to control and reduce our rate of inflation. We are not living in a period of world-wide boom, and this Government must exercise responsible economic management. It is important that inflation be strictly controlled. The whole thrust of this Budget is designed around this purpose, which is vital for sustained economic growth. This is not a time for grandiose schemes such as the Labor Party brought in when it was in office. What is needed is stable and sound economic management, and this is what we intend to give to the people of Australia.
A central part of the Government’s policy has been reduction in the size of the Budget deficit, with restraint on expenditure in order to reduce the call on the public sector and the community services. The Budget outcome for 1979-80 showed that the 1979-80 deficit was $ 1,449m less than the deficit recorded in 1978-79. The deficit was also SI 65m less than the original Budget estimate. Outlays were within 0.5 per cent of the Budget estimate of that year. This year the first domestic surplus for seven years is forecast. Australia will be out of the red for the first time since Labor took office. This result has made easier the task of financing the deficit. As I have pointed out, of particular significance is the reduction in the deficit from the estimates at the time of the last Budget. This has further eased the pressures on domestic financial markets in recent months and has helped to cushion the effect on Australia of high interest rates. Increases which have occurred in interest rates, such as the increases in home loan interest rates, inevitably would have been greater if it were not for the budgetary policies which the Government has followed consistently.
The pursuit of these policies since this Government came to office has contributed to the growth in activity in the Australian economy during the past year. This growth has stimulated employment at a much higher rate than anticipated previously. Last year, exports grew by almost 15 per cent in real terms. Overall growth was 2.2 per cent, reflecting stronger non-farm growth of 3.1 per cent, which was partly offset by some fall in farm product from the very high level of the previous year. Business profits increased strongly during the year but we would all agree that there is a need for further improvement to support increased investment and employment. Whilst unemployment is still higher than we would like, the Government has, as announced, increased funds for manpower and training. It has also increased assistance to industry for export expansion, research and development. These actions should lead to more jobs being created.
In the Budget the Government relaxed the income test on eligibility for unemployment and sickness benefits. Benefits will be withdrawn on a 50 per cent basis from private income earners within the following ranges: $3 to $40 a week for single persons aged 16 and 1 7 years, with a parent living in Australia; and $6 to $50 a week in all other cases. An unemployment benefit recipent over 21 years of age who earns $50 a week from casual work would currently have the benefit reduced by $44 a week. Under the new proposal the benefit would be reduced by only half this amount, providing an extra $22 a week to the recipient.
My electorate of Deakin is in the rapidly growing eastern suburbs of Melbourne, and includes, amongst others, the suburbs of Vermont and Wantirna. I have many young constituents who are purchasing their first home, and I am particularly pleased that the value limits for the Home Savings Grants Scheme will be increased substantially. I am sure that the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) feels the same way about first home buyers in his electorate. At present a full grant is paid on house and land valued at up to $35,000, with pro rata grants being paid on house and land valued to $40,000. Under this Budget, the value limits will be increased to $45,000 for a full grant, phasing out to a nil grant at $55,000.
I have always been a firm believer in the Government’s immigration policy, and my electorate contains many people from Asian and other countries. I am glad that the former Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar), who did such a great job in that portfolio, is at the table at the moment. My electorate also contains the East Bridge migrant hostel, where there are at present many Asian refugees. In the Budget Speech it was announced that the migrant intake is expected to rise to 95,000 in 1980-81, compared to 82,000 last year. Provision is made for the entry of 30,000 people under the assisted migration program, an increase of nearly 8,000. This is very different from the sad story under the last Labor Government, when Australia had a net migrant outflow of approximately 5,000 per annum. Migrants do not take jobs from Australians, they create jobs, as the former Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has pointed out many times. A total of $28m is allocated under this Budget to continue the adult migrant education program in the coming year. Altogether, more than $25m is being provided for programs and services for migrants following the recommendations of the Galbally report.
We in Australia cannot cut ourselves off from events overseas. There are international problems in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and now unfortunately in Western Europe. The highest priorities have been given in the Budget to the strengthening of our national security. The $3,541m which we are providing for defence is $533m more than last year. This is an increase of 17.7 per cent in current prices- no less than seven per cent in real terms. In other areas such as social security, which accounts for 27 per cent of Budget outlays, the Government has maintained the present levels of support and given higher levels of support to areas of particular social need.
This then is the record and policy of the present Government, but what is the alternative? Under the previous Labor Government, within two years inflation leapt from 4.5 per cent to 17.6 per cent; Government spending grew outrageously; jobs were lost; company profitability- the key to new investment and job creation - collapsed; foreign investment fell by two-thirds in two years of Labor government; investment in mining and resources development virtually ceased; and business and consumer confidence was lost completely. Yet what sort of rhetoric are we getting from the Opposition? Honourable members only had to listen to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) the other night. Over recent months the Opposition has been unveiling policy after policy that would lead to exactly the same results as we experienced under the treasurership of the present Leader of the Opposition between 1972 and 1 975, when he was a member of that Government. The Opposition’s own costing of its employment policy is some $330m. I thought the Prime Minister’s description today of the Leader of the Opposition as a multimillion dollar man was just so right.
The Opposition has indicated also its commitment to reintroduce Medibank. This would involve further expenditure of some $600m in the health area. We have that million dollar man again. At the same time, the Opposition would do nothing to control the rising cost of health care for Australians. The Minister for Health, who is at the table, is nodding his head in agreement with me. The Opposition also has announced a housing policy at a cost, estimated by the Opposition itself, of approximately another $188m. Who will pay for all this? Of course, it will be the taxpayers. In addition, the Opposition has foreshadowed the announcement of further expenditure. It is also committed to the establishment of a large number of authorities, committees and inquiries - probably jobs for the boys - which must impose further burdens upon the Budget and consequently upon the poor old taxpayer, who the Australian Labor Party is only too ready to sock as it did the last time it was in office. Of course, it will also kill incentive.
Despite various problem areas in the economy, private enterprise is now better placed than it has been for many years to grow and expand. Under this Government there has been little rise in government expenditure in real terms since 1975-76. The deficit has been reduced from around 5 per cent of the gross domestic product in 1975-76, when the present Government took over from that muddled Labor Administration, to approximately 1.65 per cent in 1979-80. We are now out of the red. Let us stay that way. If the Labor Party is returned to government we will be back in the red. In addition, Australia has experienced economic growth under this Government. The value of exports and foreign investment are at their highest level since the early 1970s. Let us keep it that way with a Fraser Liberal-National Country Party Government. The Government’s economic strategy is succeeding; it is working. The Budget announced last week continues a policy which will ensure that this country continues on a path to stability and progress well into the 1980s and beyond. If this is not sufficient reason for reelecting the Fraser Liberal-National Country Party Government, 1 would like to know what is. If we have another Labor Government in the near future we will be back where we were in the morass of 1972 to 1975.
– This Government was elected on a gimmick which said simply that running the economy was as simple as turning on the lights. All the people had to do was vote for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and this Government and it would be like turning on a light; they could be trusted because members of the Government were men of exquisite business knowledge and capacity, and so the economy would come right. The Government was given an opportunity. The Fraser Government has had control of both Houses of Parliament and has had no impediment to any aspect of its legislative program. It has had a considerable period to turn on the light, and if there is any sense of judgment in the Australian community this must truly be the last Fraser Government Budget.
There are a number of aspects which honourable gentlemen opposite simply will not face. The first aspect - it has been outlined and not contested seriously by the honourable gentlemen opposite - is that as a result of the economic policies of this Government there are now more Australians unemployed than at any time in our history. No honourable gentleman opposite can contest that simple fact. On the Government’s own statistics, taking the most conservative figure, 423,000 Australians are” out of work. Another 118,000 are not registered as unemployed but would like to get work. What does the average Australian who has a child of 17 or 18 years of age who is leaving school tell that child to do in terms of his future occupation? What comfort can he be given by the honourable gentlemen opposite or by the Prime Minister? What comfort can he get from this Budget? The Prime Minister, with all the available economic advice and knowledge, promised solemnly, on behalf of all honourable gentlemen opposite, that if the people voted for them, there would be work for all who wanted it. It was as simple as that. The Government has had the power in both Houses; it has been able to test every aspect of its economic policy. In simple, human terms, how can Government members explain the situation. Who is to blame?
For all the rhetoric and nonsense that we hear, from an evaluation based on the position in simple terms of the number of decent Australian citizens who want work and cannot get it, the community is facing a grave economic and social crisis. No honourable member on the Government side, not even the most ardent, blind supporter of the Prime Minister, could truthfully say in this House that one of the great accomplishments of the Prime Minister has been to produce the highest number of unemployed Australians- higher even than the number of unemployed in the Great Depression. That is a singular achievement of the men who were going to turn on the lights. We were told that it would be all right if we trusted the Prime Minister and the band of mediocrities that he leads, because really the emphasis was on solving inflation. Do not honourable members remember that a part of the simple process of turning on the lights was to place a great emphasis on solving inflation? All we had to do was vote for these people and there would be work for all and inflation would be solved. The average Australian is a reasonable human being and nobody expected the problem to be solved overnight. But, what does the Treasurer (Mr Howard) give us in this Budget? What are the economic predictions and forecasts? Is there one honourable gentleman opposite - and there is not one–
– There are more here than there are on the other side.
– If numbers are what is relevant, of course that is true. My problem with the other side of the House is the lack of quality. That is the problem of the Australian people.
– Tell us about Victoria.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Giles)Order! Previous speakers were heard in comparative silence and I request the House to allow the honourable member for Melbourne Ports to put forward his opinion in the same fashion.
– Thank you, for your protection, Mr Deputy Speaker. The reason for the restiveness of honourable gentlemen opposite is that they do not like being reminded of their own promises. They do not like being reminded of their references to turning on the lights and the fact that they told the people of Australia that the main and central thrust of their economic policy was to solve inflation and that if they could do that all would be well. They have had a long term in office. They have had a longer period in government than any government since the Menzies Government. They have had time to implement their economic philosophies. The Treasurer has been asked by the media whether this Budget means that inflation will come down. He has also been asked whether he can assure the Australian people that inflation figure will drop - not escalate - by the end of the year. Because the Treasurer has not developed some of the capacity for duplicity of the Prime Minister - he still tends to answer direct questions honestly- he was not able to give -
-Order! As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports knows, he must not reflect on another member of this House. I will not ask him to withdraw that remark because it has become rather common place for that to happen, but I would ask him to remember that he must not reflect on another member of this House.
– I was not reflecting on the Treasurer; I was paying a tribute to him. I said that he still tends to answer questions directly and honestly. I thought that was fairly complimentary. When he was asked a very direct question -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will not argue with the Chair. When I said that he was reflecting on another member I was not referring to that remark.
– I repeat that I said that I think that the Treasurer still answers questions with some directness. He was asked this direct question: Will this Budget reduce inflation? Will it go up or down? All he could say was that on the economic indicators of his own Budget it would go up. I think this must cause some difficulty to the honourable gentlemen opposite who said it was really like turning on the lights. The other central part of their economic thesis was that interest rates would come down.
– Tell us what you will do.
– The first thing we will do is get rid of the honourable member for Canberra and that will be relatively easy. What has happened to the other aspect of the promises of these men who allegedly were such extraordinary business managers and who said it would be so easy to get interest rates under control? When the Treasurer was asked to look at his own economic documents, the Budget Papers, and to say whether interest rates would go up or down, what could the Treasurer say? All he could say, with that candour which we have all come to know, admire and almost love, was that there was a real expectation that they would go up. One of the promises made by this Government was that there would be work for all who wanted it. It is now presiding over the largest number of unemployed in the history of Australia? These people who said that they would control inflation have acknowledged in their own Budget documents that it will go up. They say also that interest rates will go up. One is inclined to ask: How can we trust these people and how can we trust the accuracy of their economic predictions.
There is some seriousness in all of this. One of the problems that I think exists in Australian society at the present time results from the fact that this Government came to office by raising a level of expectation in the Australian people. A dilemma of all newly elected governments is that, having made promises, they have a duty to try to sustain the promises. Nobody in Australia believes that this Prime Minister or this Government is capable of honouring a single promise that it has made. That has produced a degree of underlying cynicism, not merely towards this Government but towards the whole body politic. One can fail to fulfil promises, fail to meet expectations and make assumptions which continually strain the credibility of fellow Australian citizens for only a certain amount of time and then political cynicism takes over. What we are facing in this society at the moment, as a result largely of the personality and the political style of operation of this Prime Minister, is not merely a crisis of confidence in this Government but a crisis of confidence in the way in which governments as such operate in this country.
What are the facts? The Prime Minister once stood up and said that he would end the great tax rip-off. The figures are there; they have emerged from the Budget Papers and documents. This Prime Minister is the greatest taxing Prime Minister in the history of the Commonwealth.
– What about the oil levy?
– There has never been a more insidious tax placed upon the living standards of the average Australian citizen than the tax which is collected at the petrol bowser, the tax which is sustaining this Government at all sorts of levels. What does this mean in terms of the living standards of the average Australian citizen. The one car family that uses a full petrol tank once a week uses about 69 litres a week for a six-cylinder Holden or Ford.
– I realise that the Prime Minister is a bit of a car fanatic and has all sorts of exotic cars and motor-cycles that he likes to drive around Nareen and feel the warmth of his 5,000 acres, but that is not something that is available to the average Australian citizen.
– Nor are the $40m aeroplanes.
– If they can get a cheap fare on Ansett Airlines of Australia they will stand in a queue. They do not have the benefit of the VIP flights or the luxury of giving a Maserati a bit of a burn around Nareen. But the Prime Minister is entitled to his relaxation like everybody else. I would not begrudge him that. He has enough burdens with putting up with some of the boring honourable gentlemen opposite. Why should he not enjoy the splendours of the farm?
– What do you drive?
– I drive a much better car than the honourable gentleman. But then I am a more worthy citizen and therefore more worthy of it than the honourable gentleman. The point I make is that the average Australian citizen does not have the benefit–
– Would you know any?
– I know more than than honourable gentleman. What is more, I represent more average Australian citizens than the honourable gentleman does and unlike him I speak for them in this House. What is this tax of the Prime Minister costing the average Australian citizen? What it comes down to is that he is now confronted with a bill of $29.40 a week or about $1,300 a year. That is a considerable outgoing. Of course it does not affect many of the supporters of this Government but it does affect the paying tax earner. One of the great injustices in our society is that to a small businessman, a large company director or a professional man, the purchase of a car and the petrol that is put into it are an income tax deduction. The great majority of Australian citizens, who are paying tax earners, cannot even claim as a tax deduction the fare that they spend to get to and from work. A public servant, a teacher or anyone else who works for wages, and who lives in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, like Diamond Valley, finds that driving in to the city involves a considerable outlay. This Government is prepared to say to the paying tax earner: ‘You can cop the burden of that1 because it does not really affect those people who turn up to the fund raising functions that support this Government. This is a tax that falls most heavily on those sections of the community which are least equipped to pay for it.
The real question that we now have to face is the credibility of this Government and its documents. The people of Australia will make their judgment on these issues very shortly. I have no doubt at all that it will take more than the attempts of this Prime Minister to misrepresent and to distort the policy of the Labor Party to confuse the average Australian citizen. The policies of the Labor Party have been released during the past 1 2 months. They will certainly stand any accurate test or proper examination. That is more than one can say for this Budget or this Prime Minister. No Prime Minister in the history of Australia has promised more and delivered less. No Prime Minister has been more socially divisive or has been prepared, in areas of foreign policy to adopt such incredibly differing standards. An example is his promise to the Australian people in his address to the Australian Olympic Federation. What did he promise? With all the confidence of a man who is expected to have some knowledge about these matters, he promised them a war in three years. Each day before the Moscow Olympics, this Parliament was divided on the issue of
Afghanistan and whether we should send an Olympic team to Moscow. Since the Games have been completed, those matters have not been mentioned. The Prime Minister went to the Australian Olympic Federation and said: ‘Unless you accept my analysis, there will be a war in three years’. Since then we have not heard him mention the situation in Afghanistan or the possibility of war. This Budget document is a false and specious document. It represents the underlying philosophy and attitude of this Prime Minister. The sooner this Government is out of office, the better. That will happen very shortly. As soon as the people of Australia are given the opportunity to make a real and effective political judgment, these men will go.
– The people of Australia will certainly pass their judgment on the knocking, the pessimism and the distortions of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding). Regrettably, because of the exigencies of the House, I am bound to move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I wish it recorded that the Opposition is disturbed at the way these Taxation Bills have been railroaded through this Parliament. I want it recorded also that this is part of the general plan of the Government to give inadequate scrutiny not only to the Budget but also to the Budget Bills, such as this one. We do not have the numbers to do all that we would wish in giving this matter proper scrutiny. Because of the program of business tonight, we will merely record our protest.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr MacKellar)- by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 19 August, on motion by Mr Macphee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move:
– I second the amendment.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Willis’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr G. O’H. Giles)
Majority . …… 31
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr MacKellar) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 19 August, on motion by Mr Macphee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr MacKellar) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 20 August, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr MacKellar) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 21 August, on motion by Mr Hunt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the Railway Agreement (Adelaide to Crystal Brook Railways) Bill is to enable the construction of a standard gauge railway between Adelaide and Crystal Brook in South Australia by the Australian National Railways Commission at an estimated cost of $82m which will rise to a limit of $92m if an extension of the standard standard gauge line is made to the container terminal at Adelaide’s Outer Harbour. The railway works involved are principally the conversion to standard gauge of the existing broad gauge line from Salisbury to Merriton with new construction at each end of this line form Merriton to Crystal Brook and from Keswick-Mile End to Salisbury. Connections are to be provided to Port Adelaide and Pooraka.
The Opposition does not oppose the Bill. The eventual linking of Adelaide to other capitals on the standard gauge rail system is long overdue and will remove the considerable handicap from which Adelaide and South Australia have suffered since Federation. It will reduce journey times between Adelaide and Perth, Adelaide and the Northern Territory and Adelaide and the eastern capitals. It will improve rail transport efficiency and reduce transport costs. Importantly, it will give South Australian manufacturing industries much improved access to valuable eastern markets. Clause 3 of the Bill repeals the previous Labor Governments Adelaide to Crystal Brook Railway Act 1974 and the agreement contained in that Act. The Schedule attached to this Bill contains the agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia. That agreement specifies the terms and conditions for the construction of the new Adelaide Crystal Brook railway by the Australian National Railways Commission. As well as terminating the 1974 Adelaide to Crystal Brook railway agreement, it restores the parties, as far as practicable, to their original positions by adjustments of property and finace. The agreement contains schedules setting out the works to be included in the project and the route to be followed, to which I have referred earlier.
In this legislation the Fraser Government has, after almost five years, recongnised the need for the construction of a modern gauge rail link between Crystal Brook and Adelaide. Construction of the line was commenced by the last Labor Government in 1975 but was promptly halted by the incoming Fraser Government in 1976. Now, after almost 4* years’ needless delay, work is to begin on a modified plati to link Adelaide to the standard gauge system. The viability of the new line has been enhanced by the integration of the former non-metropolitan South Australian railway systems into the Australian national railway system. This was a development pioneered by the last Labor Governments of Australia and the then Labor Government of South Australia.
Connection of Adelaide to the standard gauge system has been the subject of inquiry and consideration for almost 60 years.’ From 1921 to 1956 there were a number of proposals for standardising the gauge on all or part of the broad and narrow gauge railways in South Australia. The latest of these proposals was from the Wentworth committee which was followed by a scheme put forward by the then South Australian Premier, Mr Playford, in 1964. Subsequently, the South Australian Commissioner for Railways, Mr Fitch, advanced a gauge conversion plan similar to that to be found in the present legislation. After Mr Fitch’s proposals, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the South Australian Premier referred the matter to the engineering consultants Maunsell and Partners Pty Ltd, who reported in 1970. In 1974 Maunsell and Partners completed a detailed master plan based largely on the 1970 report and this was legislated for in the Adelaide to Crystal Brook Railway Act 1974.
The Fraser Government, on coming to office, immediately sought legal advice in an attempt to void its obligations under the South Australian Railways Agreement Act 1975 which integrated the non-metropolitan South Australian railway system into the activities of the Australian National Railways Commission. When it found that it could not remove South Australia from the national system, the Government then set up the Joy inquiry into the Adelaide-Crystal Brook standardisation project and meanwhile froze work on its construction. On 24 December 1976 the Joy inquiry concluded in its report:
We have been unable to find economic justification for implementation of the master plan recommendations either now or in the foreseeable future.
In 1976 the South Australian railways estimated that the original cost estimates had risen from $81m to $146m. The Joy inquiry further reported:
It is essential that decisions on the future of the line be reached and announced quickly.
Almost four years later we are still considering the decision on that report. No doubt a major factor not adequately considered by the Joy inquiry was the beneficial impact the standardisation project would have on the expanded rail system of the Australian National Railways Commission. The Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) in his second reading speech said that the project will contribute to the development of resources, agriculture and industry in South Australia and the Northern Territory. The Opposition agrees with this statement. That is why the last Labor Government commenced the Tarcoola to Alice Springs railway line which this Government sought to halt on coming to office. That line is now almost complete and the Adelaide-Crystal Brook project, with which we are dealing tonight, has expanded the role of the Australian National Railways Commission in the provision of a part-national system. After some 23 years of neglect by successive conservative governments, this Parliament and this nation should be concerned at the multiplicity of inquiries, varying advices and obvious inadequacy of advice supplied on the project to governments over the decades. No doubt that has contributed to the delays in its completion and to tonight’s decision.
In a changing energy scene, railways stand on the threshold of a great rebirth. But Australian railway systems lack uniformity in rolling stock, loading gauges, signalling and telecommunications, operating, managerial and accounting practices. No modern uniform rating system yet exists. In fact, the Commission still operates from an amended and updated 1918 rate book. Because this Government has shifted responsibility for the Adelaide-Crystal Brook project on to the shoulders of the Commission which will have to fund it from borrowings at interest rates of 12 per cent or more, that additional cost will be loaded on to the Commission and its operational costs.
Because railways have been used extensively as a provider of social and commercial welfare services by charging lower rates than would be commercially justifiable, they inevitably incur large losses which have to be met by the taxpayers, both State and federal. As losses have risen, pressure for cutbacks and expenditure by railways have increased. The Labor Party, in government, will require those losses of the Australian National Railways Commission associated with the provision of social and commercial welfare-type services that I have referred to, and which are required to be operated by the government of the day, to be identified and for the Commission to be suitably reimbursed. Only in this way will we get a rational and accurate assessment of the financial performance of the Commission. Simultaneously, Labor in government will require the Commission to devote greater effort to improved marketing of its services and to seeking expanded participation in performing those services in which it has obvious advantages. Regrettably, when it comes to publicly owned transport enterprises, the reaction particularly from conservative governments has been to put back operations instead of expanding revenues and market participation. There must always be rigorous and responsible control of expenditure in any undertaking. Equally, there must be vigorous and imaginative action to increase efficiency, quality of service and marketing.
Returning to the specific legislation before us, the Commission has indicated substantial staff reductions by attrition. This objective, understandably, has caused consternation among the employees of the Commission and particularly those in South Australia. The Minister for Transport has said, for instance, that there will be a reduction of 1 37 jobs at Peterborough as a result of the standardisation project. The Opposition is concerned that despite the soothing words of the Minister and the Commission, proper consideration is not being given to the railway officers employed at Peterborough and in South Australia generally.
Claims that the Commission is deliberately running down its passenger service, for example, in respect of the trans-Australian service and that adequate consideration is not being given to interested employees likely to become redundant appear, in the view of the Opposition, to have considerable substance. To date the Commission’s actions have not matched its words. In the area of industrial relations the Commission has not fulfilled its undertakings, as the letter I am about to quote from will show. I want to refer to a letter I have received from the South Australian division of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, signed by Mr D. J. White, the acting divisional secretary, and dated 1 3 August. In the third paragraph of his letter he refers to the question of a uniform issue to his members which was agreed to in principle by the Commission in late 1979.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I require the question to be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I quote from the fifth and sixth paragraphs of the letter:
I am addressing this matter to the Minister for Transport, who is at the table - as to whether he is aware, and if so, does he condone, of practices by the ANRC that cause divisiveness, and are anything but an enlightened approach to industrial relations in these modern times.
Our Members have the feeling, and rightfully so, that they are regarded as being of lesser importance in the role they play as employees of the Australian National Railways Commission.
As I said, that relates to uniform issues agreed to in principle by the Commission and a commitment that has not been fulfilled by the Commission- in fact, the Commission says: ‘We will look at it in six months time and make another decision then’. If there is to be the kind of improvement in efficiency in the operations of the Commission, particularly in relation to this project, and the improvements it offers to our national railway system, there has to be goodwill and good faith between both employee and employer. If there is to be that successful transition to an upgraded Australian National Railways Commission system, there must be that frankness and there must be a proper relationship between the Commission and its employees. Railway employees are among the most dedicated group of employees I have had the pleasure of meeting, but they need security of employment, they need confidence from their employer and they need sound leadership from and recognition by their employer.
We must remember, however, that this Government, like previous conservative governments, is bluntly opposed to the development of a truly national railway system, a development that is vigorously supported by the private sector, which those opposite claim they alone can represent. From across Australian industry - from transport and manufacturing industry leaders - there are constant calls for a modern, efficient national railway system. They now realise that only under a Labor government will there be developed an efficient national railway system, a system that this country desperately needs if our industries are to be able to compete and survive in the years ahead and to be able to meet the challenges of foreign competitors in the domestic and international market places. They know that this Government has proceeded with this project and with the Commission’s activities only because it could not dismantle the activities of the Commission and because its attempts to void the Tasmanian and South Australian rail agreements failed. Those same business leaders have ridiculed the Prime Minister’s latest pet project - the $1 billion election year gimmick of electrifying the Sydney-Melbourne rail link. Labor initiated the technical study for electrification in 1975 and in May last year I called for an economic assessment of the scheme. However, without information, without facts, without adequate advice, last December the Prime Minister declared it a vision splendid. If it were to be commenced now it would cost something like $1 billion, money which would be extracted from the taxpayers’ pockets. Electrification of the Sydney-Melbourne rail link is desirable in the long term, but only in the long term. Energy consumption is a factor but all government railways in Australia consume only 9 per cent of the total diesel fuel used in Australia. What is more important and more urgent at this stage is the upgrading and refurbishing of our rail systems. This Government promised $70m in five years for main line upgrading. It spent in the first two years a miserable $5.5m- a shortfall of $22.5m.During the 1977 election it promised $60m a year for urban public transport, essentially rail upgrading. In the first three years it has underspent that undertaking, that promise, by $55m. It has cut urban public transport expenditure this year by 44 per cent in real terms on the 1976-77 allocation. It has done little to upgrade the Sydney-Melbourne rail line, recommended in 1976 by its own Bureau of Transport Economics. We put it to the Parliament and to the nation that instead of promoting a $1 billion election gimmick the Government should have ensured the upgrading of the Melbourne-Sydney line at a cost of something like $10m to $12m.
– Point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– Order! I think I have just beaten the honourable member for the Northern Territory to making this point. I remind the honourable member for Shortland that the Bill is a specific Bill. It is not about electrification of railways and it is not really on the matter that the honourable member has been dealing with. I do not mind a glancing blow or a passing reference, but I suggest that in a few minutes the honourable member might get back to the subject of the Bill.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, it is part of the rail system. The new project to be constructed links in with it, and it dramatically affects the services to be provided between Adelaide and Melbourne and Adelaide’s access to eastern markets. I am sure, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you recognise that. I am not putting it in a partisan way.
– That is quarrelling with electrification, really.
– It is linked in with the improved services between Serviceton and Adelaide and the whole lot. I have only a few other factual comments to make. If, instead, we built the longer passing loops, put in centralised traffic control, straightened the curves and eased the gradients we could, on that line, double capacity, halve the journey time and considerably improve energy efficiency. That, I put to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, is an essential part of the activities of the National Railways Commission. The fact is that the Commission is based in Adelaide but we cannot isolate the Commission from the extremity services which it has to feed off and which must be part of the total service it provides to South Australia and South Australia’s access to markets and industry. As I said earlier, the Adelaide to Crystal Brook standardisation project is long overdue. It will dramatically improve the quality and efficiency of rail services in South Australia. We wish the project and the men who will work on the project well. I am deliberately cutting my time short to enable my colleague the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis), who has a special interest in this project, time to participate in the debate. The opposition does not oppose the Bill.
– I will make just two passing comments on the speech of the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). Initially, he complained about the delay in the undertaking of the work on the new standard gauge line from Adelaide to Crystal Brook. I think the crux of the matter really shows the difference between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party. In 1974, the project as proposed by the honourable member for Shortland had an estimated cost of $146m in 1976 prices, compared with $68m at 1980 prices for the standard gauge line proposed in this Bill. So nearly a cool $80m is being saved without taking into account the different dates of the prices. The saving obviously will be more than that.
The honourable member’s second point really was just scare tactics when he suggested that the undertakings by the Australian National Railways and the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) regarding the employment of the men on the line were not sufficient. The undertakings regarding employment have been quite specific. Both the Minister and ANR have made it clear from the inception of this project that no employee will be retrenched.
I return to the Bill. I quote very briefly the remarks of the Chairman of the Australian National Railways Commission, Mr Keith Smith. He said recently:
Rail is, let there be no doubt, far more efficient than road over distances greater than 300 km, and this distance criteria will reduce significantly over the next few years.
He went on to say:
Rail uses less than half as much energy as road to carry twice as much freight.
This makes it clear, I believe, that as rail becomes more competitive and more people try to use it, we will need an efficient, up-to-date integrated railway system. Firstly, I think we ought to look at the system as it is today. If we look at a railway map of Australia we will see that it shows quite clearly the different gauges which apply in the different States. In Victoria and South Australia the broad gauge is predominant while in Queensland and Western Australia the narrow gauge is predominant. New South Wales has the standard gauge and there are standard gauge connections from Sydney to Brisbane, Sydney to Melbourne and Sydney to Port Augusta in South Australia and on to Perth. With that system obviously there are enormous difficulties with rail rolling stock going inter-State as it has to change its bogies. Clearly, there is a need to standardise the rail system. I might add that this need was brought home to me recently when manufacturers in my electorate had to limit output in their industries because of the lack of rail transport, which was to some extent due to delays in bogie exchanges, delays which would be eliminated by the standardisation of the system. In the past the various rail standardisation agreements have enabled the progressive standardisation of nonstandard gauge railway lines in Australia in order to overcome the inefficiencies of break of gauge situations and optimise railway operations. In continuation of this policy the project which is the subject of this Bill provides a connection of the Adelaide metropolitan area to the Australian standard gauge railway system at Crystal Brook.
The project is the result of a number of Australian National Railways investigations and the final plan will mean the construction of approximately 40 kilometres of new standard gauge main line and the conversion of approximately 160 kilometres of existing Adelaide to Port Pirie broad gauge main line. During the construction period, it is estimated that 300 jobs will be created directly in South Australia and another 450 generated in supporting activities. These jobs will be distributed between the Australian National Railways forces and South Australian and interstate contractors and manufacturers.
The project entails the conversion of the existing broad gauge line between Salisbury and Merriton to standard gauge, Merriton being a place just south of Crystal Brook. The new standard gauge connections will be constructed from Merriton to Crystal Brook and from Salisbury to Keswick. Connections will also be provided from Port Adelaide to Pooraka. New passenger facilities will be established at Keswick. At present the schedule is for some standard gauge services by mid- 1982 and the completion of the work by mid-1984.
– What about an extension to Lonsdale?
– I am sure the Government would consider an extension to Lonsdale to take care of the important industries in the honourable member for Kingston’s electorate. ANR believes that the completion of the project will enable it to advance the achievement of its corporate aim of commercial viability before 1987-88. It may well advance that by two years. If this is so, it could mean that ANR’s reliance on the Commonwealth Government for funding of its deficit may come to an end. If that did happen, I think there is a great deal that could be done with that money which will amount to about $60m this year. For example, it could be used to continue the new Tarcoola-Alice Springs standard gauge to Darwin.
The project, which is the subject of this Bill, eliminates bogie exchange, gantry crane or manual transfer of virtually all traffic between Adelaide and Perth, Adelaide and Alice Springs and Adelaide and Sydney via Broken Hill. This will save an average of 27 hours on the AdelaidePerth and Adelaide-Sydney routes. That is an enormous saving which I believe has very great significance for South Australians and in fact all Australians.
Let me explain some of the problems which have arisen in my electorate. The solution of the types of problems to which I refer has application to the whole of Australia. As I said earlier, the shortage of rail transport has put limitations on output from manufacturers and primary producers in my area. These people were not able to get enough rail wagons to transport their goods to the eastern State markets. The wagons were being held up in bogie exchanges and in Sydney and Melbourne railway systems. It then became very clear to me that the longer a railway wagon takes to get from A to B or the longer it is held up at either end means the fewer trips it can make. Clearly, to increase the efficiency of the railway system it is necessary to get rid of or minimise these delays in order to get the maximum use out of our railway wagons. Therefore, arrangements were made to increase the incentive for those holding wagons in Sydney and Melbourne to despatch them. This example shows that we need to plan ahead for a change in people’s demands for transport and also to ensure that the system is efficient.
This standard gauge connection to Adelaide will mean a reduction in the time taken by a wagon going to Perth or Sydney by about 27 hours, and that is a great saving. Also this proposal includes a new bogie exchange facility at Dry Creek. This should be completed by mid- 1982 and it will considerably reduce the time taken to change bogies on rail wagons from towns and factories in my electorate such as Millicent and Mount Gambier. It will also reduce the time taken on the Melbourne-Perth line. Perhaps I can just explain that. As I said earlier the railway lines in Victoria and most of South Australia are broad gauge. Therefore any traffic going from Melbourne to Perth, for example, through Adelaide has to have a change of bogie in Adelaide. Similarly, the bogies on traffic going from anywhere in my electorate into Adelaide and then on- to the eastern States or Perth have to be changed from broad gauge to standard gauge. All of this takes time and holds up the wagons. This adds to the inefficiency of the use of the rolling stock.
– It shows up very well on the map.
– It does indeed. What does this saving of time taken to transport from or through Adelaide mean? I have already outlined the increase in efficiency in the use of railway rolling stock. But it will also have a more direct effect on the livestock industry in the north of South Australia and the Northern Territory. For example, the journey from Adelaide to Alice Springs will be reduced from five days to a little over two days on the completion of the Tarcoola to Alice Springs railway line which I understand will be opened in October of this year. The travelling time will be further reduced to about 30 hours at the completion of the standardisation of the Adelaide to Crystal Brook railway which is the subject of this Bill. This means that cattle from the north will not need to be transferred. There will not be as much bruising or the need for spelling so that stock will arrive in a much better condition in the Adelaide markets.
As far as Adelaide and South Australia are concerned, our vehicle manufacturing industry, our white goods industries and our other manufacturers will have access to more efficient rail transport by which they will be able to obtain their inputs from the eastern States and send their finished products to the eastern or western State markets.
– Motor vehicles are very important.
– Motor vehicles are very important to the South Australian economy. More than that, the new line will enhance the prospects of the natural resources development in the north of South Australia as developers will have much more economic routes to Redcliff or Adelaide or to markets further afield. I might add that proposals are under discussion to extend the line to Outer Harbour so companies such as the Western Mining Corporation Ltd, which is concerned with the Roxby Downs project, will have access to Adelaide’s port facilities. Roxby Downs is about 60 kilometres from the railway line up near Woomera. I do not know the intentions of the Western Mining Corporation Ltd in relation to the mine at Roxby Downs but I am sure that the new railway line will be of great assistance to it. Of course, the availability of this transport route could influence further exploration or development in the north of South Australia.
Discussion of the connection of Adelaide to a common rail gauge which links Adelaide with all the mainland State capitals overlooks the further extension of the line to Alice Springs and on to Darwin. The arguments for a Darwin-Alice Springs-Adelaide Tail link are numerous. Adelaide for a long time has been a major supplier of food, materials, men and expertise to Darwin and the Northern Territory and clearly a rail link would facilitate an increase in such trade. There has been talk of Darwin becoming a northern port. There has been talk of the need on defence grounds for a rail link. There has been a joint CommonwealthNorthern Territory review of the Darwin-Alice Springs rail link. Whilst I am unaware of the economic research which has been done on the viability of such a line, I believe that at least at first glance it seems to be a proposal worthy of support.
It seems to me that the railways, and ANR in particular, are going through a period of fundamental change and updating. ANR has been set the task to reduce its deficit and it is starting to do just that. Instead of an ever increasing call on the taxpayer for funds, it is becoming more efficient. This has meant that some very hard decisions have had to be made. In country areas of South Australia lines and some sidings have been closed. The people affected by those changes have been extremely good about it. In most cases, alternative arrangements have been made for mail and parcel deliveries and for larger wagon load freight. In some instances it is not possible to close rail links or rail lines where there are no reasonable alternative links or where other factors override the financial costs - for example, the social cost. It ought to be borne in mind that the people affected by such decisions often live in small, relatively isolated communities such as those in the Mallee area of my electorate. They do not have access to all the alternative forms of transport or communication that is available to most Australians. I said a moment ago that ANR is undertaking a period of fundamental change. Let me refer to a few examples where it is clear that we will have to pay some attention to the needs of the service if it is to continue to serve its purpose efficiently. I refer again to the remarks of the Chairman of ANR, Mr Keith Smith. He stated:
The section of line between Adelaide and the Victorian border is the most heavily used on the ANR system. The Overland’ passenger train between Melbourne and Adelaide is rapidly gaining a reputation as the ‘overdue’ train because of its regular late running.
One of the principal causes of delay on the ‘Overland’ is the inadequate crossing loops for the large freight trains which now run on the single-line track. Freight trains have increased enormously in size and many of the crossing loops built between twenty and thirty years ago can no longer accommodate them. On every night of the week, the ‘Overland’ has to work a path through three or four jet freight trains operating in both directions, as well as the Victorian intra-state train also using the mainline.
If the Australian Railways standardisation programme is to continue, the standardisation of the Adelaide-Melbourne mainline or the provision of a third rail for mixed-gauge operations must be given a high priority.
Mr Smith concluded:
Alternatively, we might well consider surveying an entirely new route for a standard-gauge tine, well away from the broad-gauge lines that currently feed into the main AdelaideMelbourne link.
The importance of the problem was outlined by Mr Smith in what he said there and it is a problem that Australia must face. I congratulate the Government for the foresight it has shown in introducing this legislation which will enable Adelaide to be linked to the standard gauge system. I see it as a first step towards the upgrading of a mode of transport which I believe will become more important as we progress into this decade of the 1980s.
– The purpose of the Railway Agreement (Adelaide to Crystal Brook Railway) Bill, as has been indicated by previous speakers in this debate, is to construct a standard gauge line from Adelaide to Crystal Brook. The Bill, of course, empowers the Australian National Railways Commission to construct and to operate that particular line. The Bill repeals the Act that was passed by the Australian Labor Party Government in 1974 which was introduced to carry out that project. I understand it was called the Maunsell plan which was a Liberal-National Country Party plan. The Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) referred to the construction as a milestone. This is true. It will connect all the mainland capitals by standard gauge.
One of the unfortunate things is that the construction of the line, which is dealt with in this legislation which will be passed tonight, should have been carried out four years ago. As mentioned by the shadow Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), when the Fraser Government came to power it immediately started making alternative arrangements. This project has had a chequered history. A considerable number of inquiries have taken place. Even recently the place at which the line will join the main east-west line at Crystal Brook has been the subject of an inquiry. I hope that this matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of all the people at Crystal Brook because this has been an emotional matter.
Naturally, the Australian Labor Party which has a good record as far as railway construction is concerned does not oppose this Bill. There is no way the Opposition will stand in the way of progress. As I stated earlier this line will link every State capital. Of course, nobody wants to stand in the way of that progress. This legislation corrects one of the mistakes made in the last century by the various States and at last we have reached the stage where, with the completion of this line, we will see every State capital linked. However, a price has to be paid for progress. The price which has to be paid in relation to this line will be carried by two traditional railway communities within my electorate. I refer to Peterborough and, of course, to Port Pirie. Peterborough is a small traditional railway town and will be hard hit by this project. Of course, Port Pirie will be hit at the same time. I assume - I do not know whether this is the case yet - that Port Augusta which is further up the line also will be hit hard. Once the restriction on the bogie exchange at Port Pire is no longer there, Port Augusta could also be a loser as a lot of traffic will go straight through instead of trucks coming off at Port Augusta.
The staff reductions in Port Pirie and Port Augusta have greatly concerned a number of local organisations, business houses and, of course, the people who are more directly affected, that is the members of the unions working in the railway systems in those town. The unions have held a number of meetings. In fact the matter was discussed recently by the United Trades and Labor Council of South Australia which took the matter to the Minister for Transport. He has now replied to those unions. I shall refer to an abridged version of what the Minister had to say in his reply to the United Trades and Labor Council of South Australia. A report in the Adelaide Advertiser states:
A total of 324 railway workers will lose their jobs at Port Pirie and Peterborough when the Adelaide to Crystal Brook standard gauge rail link is completed in 1 983.
The Federal Minister for Transport, Mr Hunt, says this in a letter received by the United Trades and Labor Council of SA.
He says 211 jobs will go at Port Pirie - 49 in the bogie exchange, 90 in transportation, 66 in train crews, four train examiners and two permanent way employees.
At Peterborough the cut will be 113 - 49 in the bogie exchange, 30 in transportation, 28 in train crews, three train examiners and three housing maintenance staff.
Mr Hunt says half of the 98 bogie exhange staff will be eligible for employment at Dry Creek when the bogie exchange becomes operational there.
I realise that the Australian National Railways Commission has given an undertaking that nobody will be laid off but will be found employment in other parts of the railway system. I suppose the numbers will be reduced by natural attrition. The honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter) mentioned the need to cut staff. In the reply that the Minister gave to the United Trades and Labor Council of South Australia he indicated what those reductions will be. There has been considerable updating in the last few years by ANR. In 1980-81 it expects a reduction of 358 employees; in 1981-82, 358 employees; 1982-83, 344 employees; 1983-84, 322 employees; and in 1984-85, 341 employees. There will be some reduction in staff. One cannot imagine what the effect will be in the traditional railway centres. Railways have probably been the greatest of our decentralised industries but one of the effects of the progress that is taking place is that a lot of the decentralised towns that have relied on railway services will go by the board. Unfortunately Peterborough will be greatly affected. It is possible that Port Pirie will be affected to a larger extent although it has another major industry. But both towns will be affected because of the services that will go. As I mentioned earlier, in those two centres 324 jobs will go. So much for progress.
Whilst I have been mainly concerned with the situation in Peterborough and Port Pirie I should like to indicate that there is great concern in Port Augusta about what will happen to that centre when the full effects of the standardisation takes place. The railway at Port Augusta, of course, is the largest industry. That centre formerly was the headquarters of the old Commonwealth Railways. The former Minister for Transport in the Whitlam Government has made statements about this matter. I have checked with him since and he is quite definite that his idea was to make Port Augusta the railway headquarters of Australia. Of course, once the Whitlam Government went out of office, those ideas were changed. The present Government decided that it would make Adelaide the headquarters of the national railway system. As a result of that, Port Augusta has been downgraded as a railway centre. There is a great deal of worry among some of the staff who are presently employed about what their future holds. Already quite a number of the clerical sections of ANR stationed at Port Augusta have been transferred holus-bolus to Adelaide, and apparently moves are afoot to increase those transfers. The people there are very concerned. Dedicated railwaymen who have lived there for many years now find in the latter stage of their railway careers that if they want promotion they have to move to Adelaide. Many of them have decided that they will not move to Adelaide, they will stay in the area where they have worked for many years, and in so doing they will reduce their opportunities for promotion.
The morale of the railwaymen at Port Augusta is extremely low, and I think that that is mainly because they do not know what the future holds for them. This low morale has been clearly indicated to me by the many railway staff in Port Augusta to whom I have talked. There is a fear that with the through running of trains Port Augusta staff will be affected in a similar way to the staff at Port Pirie and Peterborough. This concerns not only the unions but also the business people in the city, and of course the local government. The question of staff ceilings has also been a factor in the reduction of staff in these areas. As I said earlier, the Minister indicated this in a reply last year dealing with the number of staff employed. One thing about the letter the Minister has written to the United Trades and Labor Council is that the people in the first two centres I have mentioned at least have some idea of what the future holds, despite the fact that there will be an adverse employment effect. As the ANR is the major employer in Port Augusta, I feel that the people in that city are entitled to know what the future holds for the centre, and what the effect will be in relation to employment and general railway operation with the standardisation of the Crystal Brook railway.
I mention two other matters that are very closely related to the question of the Crystal Brook railway. Quite close to Crystal Brook are two railway lines that have been under threat of closure for some time. In my electorate and in the electorate of the honourable member for Barker a move has been made to try to keep these railway lines open. It appears from the economic surveys that have taken place that the lines eventually will be closed on economic grounds. However, those economic grounds do not take into account the money that will have to be spent to upgrade the road systems to replace the railway lines that will be closed. With our present fuel situation, I think it is a backward step to be in a hurry to close railway lines, and it is a step that we may regret in the long run. Again, the electorate of the honourable member for Barker has been affected by the threat to cut out country passenger services. An announcement was made about the passenger service lines that were to be cut out, but I think that the State and Federal Ministers must have got together, realised that there was an election in the offing, and changed that decision. I understand that it has now been deferred, but I hope it is not a question of deferring the decision until after the election and then closing the lines. Of course, I hope that after the election there will be a new Minister for Transport. I have nothing against the present Minister, but I am sure that there will be a new Minister for Transport and I hope that he will look sympathetically at these matters. I think it is a rather cynical attitude if the decision has been deferred because of the election and after the election the lines are closed.
In conclusion, I trust that the ANR will do its utmost to ease the problems that arise when staff are being displaced from country areas. I know that some things have been planned; the Minister mentioned some matters in his reply to the Secretary of the United Trades and Labor Council of South Australia. I am sure that in the long term Australia will benefit from the standardised line, and certainly the Opposition are not opposing it. However, we hope that every effort is made by ANR and the Government to ensure that those people who will be adversely affected by the standardisation program will receive just and sympathetic treatment from the Government and their employer.
– in reply - There is just one point to which I wish to respond. The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) sought an assurance from the Government that the Australian National Railways Commission would give due consideration to proper consultations with the unions in respect of the redeployment that will occur as a result of this development. The honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) also touched on that matter. I have checked with the ANR, and it is confident that it can shed the jobs which became redundant as part of the ongoing staff attrition program, but it. will entail some redeployment to new locations. and changed functions.
The Commission consists of a chairman and six commissioners, and -one of the commissioners happens to be the secretary of the Australian Railways Union, Mr Ralph Taylor. I have no doubt that the Commission will continue to give proper consideration to the jobs of people employed by the Australian National Railways. It has reaffirmed to me that its policy is that no employee will be retrenched. There will be close consultations with the employees and the unions, and offers of alternative employment in line with the guidelines set out by the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs. Of course, additional jobs will be created as a result of this development and as a result of the development of the Adelaide-Crystal Brook project.
On the wider employment front, the equivalent of 7,50 jobs will be created during construction of the project. About 300 jobs will be created directly and about 450 in supporting activities. We will make sure that there are proper consultations with the unions concerned, and I am quite certain that they will co-operate with ANR to minimise as much as possible disruption to those employed by the Commission.
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 Hunt) read a third time.
– I wish to make a brief personal explanation. I have just become aware of the fact that on 1 May this year I inadvertently made an incorrect statement. In the debate on the Fisheries Amendment Bill 1980, which was a cognate debate, I was discussing the Historic Shipwrecks Amendment Bill 1980. In the course of that debate I made the following statement:
It was found as a result of the Robinson case that it was beyond the power of the Western Australian Parliament to legislate in respect of the wreck which Robinson found.
What I meant to say was ‘in respect of the wreck which Robinson claimed to have found’. The important thing is that there is a dispute between Robinson and others as to who found the wreck. My own view is that Robinson was not the first person to find it and that, in fact, the first person to find it was a Mr J. A. Henderson. I did not want to give the impression that it was my view that Robinson was the one to find the wreck.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 21 August, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That, for the purposes of sub-section 8 (2) of the Parliament House Construction Authority Act 1979, the House of Representatives -
authorizes the commencement of work on the follow ing declared stage in the design of Parliament House, namely, the preparation of a detailed design of Parliament House (including specifications and tender documents); and
authorizes the commencement of work on the following declared stage in the construction of Parliament House, namely, the preparation and excavation of the site of Parliament House.
That a message be sent to the Senate acquainting it of the resolution agreed to by the House of Representatives.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, much has been said to commend and applaud all those who have been concerned with the new and permanent parliament house. I join in those remarks with great enthusiasm. I shall talk on the design at a later stage but I would like to open my remarks by congratulating those responsible for setting the timetable and for keeping to it. Members of this House should be made aware that the Parliament House Construction Authority, under the distinguished chairmanship of Sir Bernard Callinan and with his executive director, Mr G. R. Peatey, is keeping to the timetable. I do not merely wish them well in keeping to the set timetable for the next eight years but as a member of the Parliament I believe we should be telling all members of the Authority that it is their national duty to see that the timetable is strictly adhered to and met. As members of Parliament, we should be encouraging them to achieve this goal.
If the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, under the joint chairmanship of Mr Speaker Snedden and Mr President Laucke, has its way, I am sure all targets will be met. Under no circumstances can this building, which is one of national and even international significance, be allowed to fall into the mire of construction and administrative confusion surrounding the building of the Sydney Opera House. Already it is obvious that the Authority has learned from the mistakes made in the construction of the Sydney Opera House, in that clear and unambiguous instructions have been issued as to the purposes of the parliament building. We can reflect on the fact that one of the major problems related to the construction of the Opera
House at Bennelong Point concerned not merely forging into new engineering techniques to achieve a magical and inspired architectural design but aso that those with the responsibility were undecided as to what purpose the finished building should be put.
It is not my intention in this debate to recite the continuing saga of what prevailed in those days - as to whether concerts or operas should have had priority. But, I believe that as members of the client Parliament we should remind ourselves that we must not allow the Parliament House Construction Authority to move away from its fundamental purpose of providing a satisfactory work house for the running of the Federal Parliament of Australia. It is fundamental that the new parliament house does not become merely a national exhibit of architectural brilliance or the showplace of Australian cultural achievement or Australian artisan skills, important as those aspects must be. It has to be a requirement that all future actions and thinking should be primarily concerned with the creation - should I say the maintaining- of a working, efficient parliament house which will be concerned with the democratic government of a free and proud Australian bi-cameral in its form and federal in its purpose.
If we are to achieve a parliament building that provides the setting that the future of such a form of government in Australia rightly requires, we must be certain that the collective voice of all members of Parliament is heard and heeded as the construction proceeds. However, that is not to say that I would advocate there should be any petty interference or superficial commentary by members of this House or the Senate on the ongoing program of construction. We should be protected from a proliferation of interfering committees of quasi-architectural experts. But, I do believe that the fifth report of the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House put it appropriately when, in paragraph 21 of that report, it stated:
As the representative of the client, in this case the Parliament, the Joint Standing Committee will have a continuing and important role during development of the design.
I would change that to say that the Joint Committee must have this continuing role, for we must take care to see that executive government during the next eight years is not allowed to become the only parliamentary comment which shall be heard and heeded by the Construction Authority. I believe that the attitude of the Fraser Government so far has been most admirable. In expressing my views about the role of the Joint Standing Parliamentary Committee I hasten to add that there has been no indication to date that the Fraser Government has any intention of excluding the role of the Joint Parliamentary Committee in the continuing and ongoing development of the design.
What, then, of the design which was chosen by the assessors- a well chosen group of men who have themselves chosen well? I suppose many people will continue to debate the choice. After all, we all have individual tastes and preferences in such matters as architectural appreciation. For my part, I was attracted to the design of Mr Colin Madigan of Edwards Madigan Torzillo Briggs International Pty Ltd. No doubt, other members have been attracted to other final models and designs. However, when one reads in the assessors’ final report that the winning design of Mitchell Giurgola Thorp of New York and their nominated architect, Mr Richard G. Thorp, a 36 year old Australian born and trained architect ‘represents a total design accomplishment quite beyond that achieved by other entries in the competition’, one must be very happy with the choice of the distinguished panel of assessors. That panel included such internationally renowned and acclaimed architects as 1. M. Pei and John Andrews. It must be a source of great pride to all of us that an Australian architect, himself with distinguished international acknowledgment, is the winner. I am sure the name of Ric Thorp will become a household name in our country for his inspired and imaginative approach to what was a great challenge to all architects.
Whereas I began this speech by saying that I hoped the new parliament house would not become merely a national exhibit of architectural brilliance, I hasten to say that I believe the chosen design ensures that this facet of the national Parliament already has been achieved. I am confident that the quality of Australian workmanship and the skills of our building artisans, the equal of any in the world, will be manifested at every stage of the building’s development. What, then, of the Parliament House becoming a showplace of Australian cultural achievement? One has read of the plan to incorporate Australian works of art wherever possible. It is good to know that the exhibition of original Australian paintings shall not now be limited to the walls of ministerial and executive offices alone, as is presently the case. One can only hope that Australian sculpture also will be adequately represented.
I do not believe that we should revert to the tedium of having art competitions to commemorate the new building. I believe we should achieve the representative nature of all art forms by a judicial choice of existing art from all art forms which is geographically representative of all Australia. In this latter regard I would commend to the Authority the example shown in the parliament house in Brasilia, where there has been a most sophisticated representation not only of geographically representative art but also of the flora of that country on a geographical and representative basis. I commend to the Authority the thought that it could well have someone visit that parliament to see what has been achieved so well in this regard. Finally in regard to the area of art representation I hope the public areas of the new building will be equipped so that such cultural activities as the dance and singing can be performed and appreciated within the parliament of the country.
The new building is exciting; it has the beauty of functional efficiency. To quote the assessors, it has ‘the requirements of architectural quality, sensitivity to location, symbolic identity, functional efficiency, building feasibility and relative economy which the new parliament house building must satisfy’. In short, it is and will be a good work house for a representative parliament whose role is to protect and develop the rights of each and every Australian. I close by congratulating all those who have developed the scheme so far and wishing strength and purpose to those whose duty will carry them through to a proper conclusion when the building is opened in January 1988.
– I support the motion for the approval of the proposal to proceed with the contruction of the new and permanent parliament house on Capital Hill, as recommended in the report of the Parliament House Construction Authority. The building in which we are now operating was probably inadequate when it was first occupied. When I arrived here 25 years ago Gough Whitlam was unable to get an office. He operated from the party room.
– So did the honourable member for Wills.
– The honourable member for Wills, Dr Jim Cairns and I shared a small office on the Senate side as far from the House of Representatives as one could possibly be. The national Parliament has been inadequately accomodated in this temporary building for 53 years. In contrast, I think every Australian State has an appropriate and suitably imposing parliamentary edifice. Australians, in my view, are entitled to have a distinguished manifestation of nationhood symbolising the pride we have in past achievements and the high hopes we all share for the future.
I congratulate the architects, especially the Australian referred to by the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) 38-year-old Richard Thorp. Their concept of 60,000 square metres of conceptual inspiration deservedly won the greatest acclaim and approval of, I think, the 96 1 entries. I know that these entries were thinned out subsequently. I believe that those architects, more than any of the others, took the trouble to soak up the primary inspiration of Burley Griffin himself. That was probably the factor which won the competition for them. When the announcement of the winning architectural competitor was made at the Academy of Science I sat with a distinguished Australian finalist who has been referred to, Colin Madigan. We had been discussing his prospects and then the announcement was made. He appeared totally gratified with the high quality of the winning entry. 1 think that, in itself, speaks volumes.
On 3 December 1965 - nearly 15 years ago - the Parliament resolved to appoint a joint select committee to inquire into certain aspects of a new and permanent parliament house. The then Prime Minister pointed to the need for the committee to get experts to work out, as he put it, how various aspects of parliamentary life should be placed in a parliamentary building. It was not a great debate that ensued. When the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) interjected: We know more about getting into Parliament’ the then Prime Minister retorted: ‘And getting out’. There was that sort of light-hearted facetiousness. Arthur Calwell supported the motion and called for a report from the committee before the end of 1 966. Of course, that proved to be wishful thinking. Several others spoke. Mr Kent Hughes, later Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes, complained that a new wing of this building had bad acoustics and said we had better watch that in any new building. Billy Wentworth said that it would take 10 years to build it, so the present accommodation should be improved. Nevertheless, the committee was established and great debate ensued over the years about the site - whether it should be on Capital Hill or Camp Hill. There were very enthusiastic proponents of both sites.
On 17 September 1974 the honourable member for Burke, Mr Keith Johnson, was successful in gaining parliamentary approval and royal assent for a private member’s Bill. So he features very significantly in this great national event. On 19 October 1979 Mr Speaker delivered the Walter Burley Griffin Memorial Lecture to the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and, in my view, brilliantly traced the history and cavalcade of events that led to the architectural competition and the decision to build a new parliament house. I seek leave to incorporate that speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows -
ROYAL AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS ACT CHAPTER
Friday, 19 October 1979
WALTER BURLEY GRIFFIN MEMORIAL LECTURE
By the Speaker of the House of Representatives
The Rt. Hon. Sir Billy Snedden, KCMG, QC, MP
I am very pleased to accept the invitation of the ACT Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and its President, Mr Willoughby-Thomas to present the Walter Burley Griffin Memorial Lecture this year.
The decision to build a permanent Parliament House and the architectural competition now in progress have generated considerable interest amongst architects in Australia and overseas. I suppose it has not escaped your attention.
Before considering the possible impact of the project on Parliament, the profession and the community, let us look at the history.
The building of a National Capital is a duty imposed on Parliament by the Constitution. Selection of a site for the Capital was not an easy task and in the years following Federation many possible sites were visited, discussed and debated in Parliament and throughout the community.
In 1904 Dalgety was nominated by the Parliament as the site but disagreement over this choice immediately ensued with the Government of New South Wales.
In 1908 the Parliament repealed the 1904 decision and determined that the Seat of Government should be in the district of Yass-Canberra.
The next step to be taken was selection of the actual city site.
In December 1908 the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon. Hugh Mahon, directed the District Surveyor to make a thorough topographical examination of the Yass-Canberra district, so as to recommend the most suitable territory for the city site.
The Minister directed the surveyor to bear in mind that “the Federal Capital should be a beautiful city, occupying a commanding position, with extensive views and embracing distinctive features which will lend themselves to the evaluation of a design worthy of the object, not only for the present but for all time.”
The present site was recommended and approved in 1909 and in April 191 1 an international competition for the design of the city was launched.
The timetable was tight - entries closed in January giving competitors nine months only to submit their work.
One condition of the competition received very strong criticism. King O’Malley the Minister of the day, insisted that he be the adjudicator. The stipulation was declared to be “contrary to all precedent”, but O’Malley refused to alter this condition. The Royal Institute of British Architects and the Institute of Civil Engineers and affiliated bodies throughout the British Empire boycotted the competition which considerably reduced the field of architects and town-planners available to compete.
In all 1 37 designs were received.
A technical body of three comprising an engineer, an architect and a surveyor, appointed to report on the designs, disagreed in their choices; the Chairman recommending three designs entirely different from the three chosen by the other two assessors.
In his capacity as adjudicator, and no doubt drawing on all his wisdom, foresight and experience gained as a Member of Parliament, the Minister, Mr O’Malley, adopted the recommendation of the majority and awarded first prize of £ 1 ,750 to the 36-year-old Walter Burley Griffin of Chicago.
Almost immediately the Griffin plan was criticised as being too elaborate, and extravagant.
It was referred, together with the other prize winning designs, to a board of experts which reported that it was unable to recommend any of the designs and instead put forward for approval a design of its own!
The board’s plan was approved by King O’Malley, and when the formal opening ceremony took place at Canberra in March 1913 that was the plan on which the city was being constructed.
Following a change of government, Burley Griffin was invited to Australia to co-operate in the development of the city. Griffin showed little inclination to modify his plan and the new Minister, the Hon. W. H. Kelly, disbanded the board, cancelled the approval given its plan and appointed Griffin as Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction.
Even then final approval did not automatically follow for the carrying out of Griffin’s plan as there were still some misgivings and doubts about possible cost.
Griffin was not a pretty designer. He was also a determined tactician who did not intend to lose any opportunities which his appointment as Federal Capital Director gave him, and he set about laying the essential outlines of his own scheme as far as he was able.
He also obtained approval for and set in motion an international competition for the design pf the permanent Parliament House.
The outbreak of World War I and a change of government further delayed approval of the Griffin plan and caused cancellation of the Parliament House design competition.
Departmental correspondence of this period provides very interesting reading and shows how radically different were the policies of Griffin and the Departmental officers. Relationships were severely strained to say the least.
Finally, in 1916, Royal Commission was appointed to investigate various aspects of the Federal Capital.
After it has presented its report, which to a large extent substantiated criticisms by Griffin of Departmental obstruction, the redoubtable Mr King O’Malley, who in 1 9 1 2 had adopted Griffin’s competition design, but then in 1913 endorsed the plan submitted by the departmental board, now formally approved of the Griffin design and placed Griffin himself completely in charge of all work in connection with the National Capital.
Griffin remained in control until December 1920 when, after some further disagreements, he left Canberra with his plan well established on the ground and with the satisfaction of knowing that any later administration would find it difficult to set it aside.
Griffin’s work established him as a man of vision end advanced ideas. He envisaged Canberra as a city built in the grand manner to a plan which looks centuries ahead.
Parliament House - provisional building
In June 1914, the Commonwealth Government announced that, having under construction the Federal Capital City at Canberra, it desired to secure “the services of an architect, or architects, to design, in harmony with the objects and policies of the general plan of the city, the first of its important public buildings”, and invited designs in international competition from all qualified architects for the construction of Parliament House.
The premiums offered totalled £6,000 and ranged from £ 2,000 for First to £ 250 for Eighth in order of merit. (C.F. Present competition:
First Stage- 1 0 designs each received $20,000
Second Stage- five finalists to receive $80,000 each with the winner being engaged to design the Parliament House.)
In September 1914, in view of the conditions of war existing in Europe the competition was “withdrawn for the present”.
In August 1916 the competition was revived but in November the same year it was indefinitely postponed.
The Federal Capital Advisory Committee, in a report to Parliament in 1921, stated with regard to Parliament House: “The Committee regards the erection of the permanent Parliament House as a work which might be deferred for many years, or until the Commonwealth desires to proceed with it.”
The Advisory Committee recommended construction of temporary buildings and went on to say, “If this suggestion for temporary Parliamentary Buildings be adopted, the Committee believes that the Commonwealth Government would save the expenditure that would be required for the monumental Parliament House for many years.”
How true that statement proved to be.
At the time consideration was given to two alternatives.
The first was to house Parliament in a cheaply built temporary structure, just sufficiently durable to serve its purpose while the permanent building was in course of erection.
The second was for a provisional building which could serve for 50 years or more and after that be capable of use for other purposes for another 30 or 40 years.
Of course, it was finally decided to erect a provisional building on the site below Camp Hill. The building was opened in 1927 and has been extended and modified on an almost continuous basis since 1947. On an ordinary sitting day the House is invaded by 300 Members, Senators, Ministers and their Staff, to add to the 1 690 public servants regularly there. In addition, 550 visitors per day pass through the building.
The site for the permanent building
Pressures for a decision to build the permanent Parliament House built up during the 1950s and intensified during the late 1960s. At this time Canberra itself had entered a period of growth and with establishment of the National Capital Development Commission greater consideration was given to planning and development of the central area of the city.
Everybody concerned- Parliament, Government and planners were frustrated by the absence of a firm site for the permanent Parliamentary buildings. Until that was determined too much energy was dissipated on unproductive disputes between the proponents. The opponents merely sat back and won without effort as debate raged. Decisions were changed and disagreement between the two Houses of Parliament solidified,
Sensitivity to this reality gradually permeated through the Parliament and the final solution for these disagreements- a Bill- was first suggested by Senators Withers and Button in May 1969. Senator Reg Wright introduced such a Private
Members’ Bill (the Parliament Bill 1973) in November 1973; it lapsed with prorogation of the first session of the 28th Parliament. On 26 September 1974 backbencher, Mr L. K. Johnson, introduced a Private Members’ Bill which after some amendment passed both Houses and received Royal Assent on 17 December 1974. The Parliament, not the Government, and not the planners, made the final decision in 1974 with all Members and Senators exercising their vote free of party discipline.
The New Parliament House
While debate about the site was taking place there was a continuing build-up of the physical pressures in Parliament, which made an early commencement of the permanent Parliament House essential.
The Presiding Officers of 1957 prepared a paper setting out a strong case that Parliament had outgrown its temporary home.
The Presiding Officers argued that there is more in the concept of Parliament House than the number of rooms. They pointed out that, ‘in addition to providing the necessary accommodation for the proper and efficient functioning of the legislature, it is important that Parliament House should be regarded as a national symbol, manifesting not only to our people, but also to visitors to our national capital, Australian pride in democratic institutions’.
The basic arguments for building the permanent Parliament House set down in the Presiding Officers’ paper have been reinforced as time has passed.
At present the working conditions of every person in the Parliament are inappropriate to adequately and efficiently do the job. In many cases the accommodation is positively unhealthy. It is not a case merely of doubling up in an ordinary room but trebling and quadrupling. Busy Members, and especially Shadow Ministers, sharing their small rooms with a telephoning researcher and a clacking typewriter. Last year was the first time in the history of the Parliament that every M.P. has had a room allocated to him. One room was literally the broom cupboard. That lucky member has now moved in with a colleague and let it revert to the kingdom of brooms. Two other rooms were formally half of the toilet! They are a bit noisy and they don’t do much for the morale of the occupying members.
A new Parliament is needed to provide adequate space and a proper functional layout to permit all the users of Parliament to effectively and comfortably perform their duties. It will also be a national symbol which expresses the unique national qualities, aspirations and achievements of Australia.
In a lesser more local sense it will reinforce Capital Hill as the focus of Griffin’s plan for the National Capital and his concept of setting the most significant national building at the Apex of the Parliamentary triangle.
We are proud of our Parliamentary democracy which ensures us all free speech, free elections and a free representative Parliament. That heritage and the trust we have in it for the future should be enshrined in a symbolic Parliamentary building.
Preparing for the New Building
Preparing the Parliament’s ‘Statement of requirements for the new building’, has been a time consuming and exacting task for very many Senators and Members,
A Joint Committee of Senators and Members in a report presented in 1970 after years of enquiry set out a full schedule of the requirements of the building. It made recommendations on a host of questions and fitted a mass of detail into the overall concept,
Representatives of the Committee travelled overseas to gather comparative ideas and see the facilities of other national Parliaments. In almost every capital they were strongly advised to, ‘make no little plans’. The consistent theme was plan far enough ahead and provide flexibility. They did.
Political events seemed to overshadow the early seventies and absorb the attention and energy of those concerned to see a Permanent Parliament House. Even so there were continuing discussions and reports, there was still a feeling that the building was a dream. To be a reality, impetus and guidance were necessary.
In 1976 with Sir Condor Laucke, President of the Senate,I became Joint Chairman of the reconstituted New and Permanent Parliament House Committee. I was convinced that the existing accommodation was not adequate for the day’s needs and would hobble parliamentary democracy. We decided to do all we could to make the dream a reality. The first step was to set up a study to examine the feasibility of constructing and occupying the new building by 26 January 1988- the 200th anniversary of European settlement in Australia. The second step was to pep up the promotion of the project among Members of Parliament.
The study showed the date was feasible. That was a new imperative which finally built up the momentum necessary to overwhelm the opposition to proceeding with the project. Even then it could not have succeeded without bi-partisan political support. Neither party was prepared to risk the political odium of being branded by the other as a spendthrift etc. etc. When that was straightened out by support from all leaders and in both Opposition Caucus and Government Party room, the long struggle was over.
From its inception the Joint Committee had accepted the inevitability of success and had shaped its activity around the need for a design brief for the building.
The brief had to express the requirements of a number of groups each of whom have different functions. the Senate the House of Representatives the public the library, Hansard and catering and other facilities for Members and staff the Executive the media; and the Parliamentary departments
The building must also make suitable provisions for the two broad aspects of the Parliamentarian’s work.
One is the public aspect: the sittings of Parliament, contacts with the public, press, radio and TV, delegations and ceremonial occasions.
The other is the Member’s private aspect: the space and opportunity to think, read, confer and research.
An important requirement is the need to allow for growth and change - growth to take account of increases in membership of Parliament and staff increases; change to take account of alterations and adaptions in the way Parliament operates.
Finally, the building must be constructed by 1988 and within the cost constraints.
The Changing Parliament
All institutions continually change.
It is an inescapable fact that the Parliament will change, because of its changing membership and community and government pressures.
The pressures on the existing system, which reduce effectiveness of the system are: the volume of the legislative proposals. For example, in 1 972 the number of bills passed was 1 39, in 1 974- 1 66, and in 1 978-2 1 1 . This is for too heavy for proper consideration within the present system; the nature of the legislative proposals- these are becoming more complex and widerreaching because of the Commonwealth Government’s involvement in a greater range of matters. The system cannot possibly consider the proposals with the depth of understanding required to be satisfied that burden imposed or rights created are reasonable; the ever-increasing constraints of Party discipline - the requirements of strong party allegiance and discipline have overwhelmed the Westminster system of Government in its true form. All parties’ rules define explicitly or implicitly what is expected of a Member of Parliament who is elected under the endorsement of the party; this party discipline is reinforced by practices - with regard to total attendance, ambush, divisions, party room procedures.
This practice limits reason and proper thought from the very matters where it should be most applied. changing technology and methods of communication are using Television to take its proceedings to the people. We have, so far been unwilling to do so. If our system cannot cope with the present how can it possibly cope with the inventions of the future? We should make modern technological advance the servant of Parliamentary Government. If Parliament has something to be afraid of in being seen then we need to enquire whether there is fault in the system or in the people who serve it.
The multiplying scale of Government operations is one of the other dynamics with which the system is having difficulties in coping. The sheer weight of tommorrow’s load means we need to mobilise the totality of the intellect available to the House.
It is necessary for Parliamentarians and the community to ask whether the current Parliament serves it purpose:
Does it represent the people and through its legislative processes does it protect the rights of the people?
Does it enable policies to be incorporated into law speedily after full and open discussion?
Does it provide a forum for the discussion of national and foreign issues and current controversies?
Does it provide a continuing oversight of the working of the Executive Government?
There appears to be a deepening interest in Parliamentary reform, but we need a far more systematic approach and more concerted attention to overcome the neglect of the past.
The indifference of 77 years has allowed to develop a large backlog of issues which threaten the arteries of the Parliamentary institution. Parliamentary reform is not the knee jerk reaction of a disaffected member nor the cynicism of an old hand, it is a considered response to today’s needs - fired by urgency. The urgency is that if Parliamentary democracy cannot adapt to today and demonstrate to the people whom it serves its ability to perform the functions I have listed then it will atrophy. The agenda for Parliamentary reform is now long indeed.
It is one thing to draw attention to current difficulties and problems and quite a different thing to gain support for suggested solutions; it is easier to analyse what is wrong than to implement the reforms or to set matters right. Complex issues are involved in finding acceptable solutions but it is a great pity that Executive Governments have not so far been prepared to see the need to ensure the effectiveness of the Parliamentary institution as a matter deserving a high priority. There has been more reform in this parliament than any which has preceeded it. Legislation Committees and Estimates Committees which give detailed consideration will develop a major constructive contribution.
I believe that the House of Representatives must be reformed. Otherwise the institution of Parliament will be weakened.
For example, fundamental changes are necessary in the following areas: a budget for Parliament; the role of the Speaker; televising proceedings; role of Committees.
Each of these items involves issues of some complexity. They should not, indeed could not, be resolved quickly or easily. I do not argue for instant Parliamentary reform of a kind which would ignore the proper relationship between the three arms of government in the Westminster system. The system upon which the government of the Commonwealth is irrefutably based.
I believe that the move to a new building will facilitate some important reforms.
Adequate and functionally efficient office accommodation for Members and their staff will strengthen the arm of the private Member. Provision of up-to-date computer, information retrieval and communications technology throughout the building will give individual Members immediate access to a wider range of written, and audio/visual material.
Operations of Parliamentary committees will be more effective in the new accommodation. The greater opportunity for access by the public and the media combined with more functional arrangements will give increased impact to the role and work of committees. Inevitably their work like that of the House itself will be taken to the people by television.
As architects it is your profession to know the important relationship that the physical and aesthetic nature of a building has to the functions and work life of the institution it houses. The sheer importance of the institution, within this building, makes this project the most significant single architectural task that Australia has yet undertaken. There can be a more significant project only if the entire constitutional structure changes. Only if the fulcrum of the sovereignty of the people, which is the Parliament, is displaced by an alien concept of authoritarianism would that be possible.
I am a Parliamentary reformer; but, let me notionally join your profession as a designer - of Parliamentary functions.
There are aspects of the present Parliament and its procedures which I would like to see incorporated in the permanent House.
The shape and size of the chambers give the close proximity of Members to each other which creates a more direct involvement of all Members in the affairs of the Parliament. It produces an atmosphere of more vibrant communication. The Australian Parliament is combative often and unpredictable always, lt can transform from tranquility to uproar by half a dozen energy packed words/This is a healthy, and if constructively handled leads to more effective performance of the players. We must not lose this attribute of theatre in the round with every Member of Parliament a participant.
There are many Parliaments in the world in which the behaviour of the Members is impeccable. They speak only when programmed and clap on cue. Certainly they are very well behaved Parliaments. But they do .not hold the sovereignty of the people as our Parliament does. Members are elected to this Parliament to speak truth and demand the truth without any sense of fear or search for favour, lt is natural therefore, that Members will hold deep seated convictions which they will frequently express passionately. If that be a fault, I will accept it rather than surrender a truly free democratic parliamentary system.
In the new building I do not wish to see repeated the unplanned and confused mix of residents accommodation provided to its Members, media and staff which exists now. Yet it is essential to provide an arrangement by which these elements can interact without unnecessary restriction. The design brief calls for this. The winning designer must achieve it.
We all recognize the importance of looking ahead and planning for the future. This was never more important for the Parliament than it is now - both in respect to the. institution and the new building.
I am confident we can rely on the competing architects to be bold in their concepts. We, the politicians must match it. We need some of the vision shown by Walter Burley Griffin in his design for Canberra.
We should grasp fully Griffin’s perception of the physical future of the National Capital with Parliament House as its apex building. Then we should ensure that the institution within it is equally exciting and equally capable of sustaining the integrity of its purpose, as his plan has, not withstanding the pulls and drags of human inadequacy whether it be caused by rooted conservation, mediocrity or plain foolishness.
– I thank the House. Mr Speaker pointed out that on an ordinary sitting day the House is invaded by about 300 members, senators and staff to add to the 1 ,690 public servants regularly employed here and the 500 visitors who pass through the building each day. The joint committee set tip a study group which left Australia on 21 June 1968 to visit . parliamentary buildings in many exotic parts of the world. It went to Kuala Lumpur, New Delhi, Rome, Berlin, Bonn, London, Washington, Ottawa and even Honolulu. It gathered together all the great ideas that were featured in all those magnificent parliamentary buildings and laid down guidelines under which a brief was prepared for an architectural competition, so its contribution has been significant.
Its recommendations took into account the number of members and senators who would need accommodation in the future. For example, it contended that by 2000 there would be 108 senators, close to double what we have now, and 225 members, which would be about 100 more than we have now. It made positive stipulations about the requirements- the two parliamentary chambers, the halls and foyers, committee rooms, film theatrette, viewing room, facilities for visitors, the Executive and the Press, television transmission, office space, dining space, parking, security and so on. A very complex job was undertaken by that committee.
I want to place a little emphasis on the provision of space for the parties to preserve and exhibit their artefacts - the historical things. It is amazing how quickly things contemporary become historical. In this building we have no place to exhibit the portraits and photographs which have been faithfully preserved since 1901 - since Federation - of members of the Parliamentary Labor Party. I hope we will be able to feature such material. 1 hope that we will have provision for electronic voting as is featured in many parliaments round the world. I will not take the trouble to enunciate the statistics tonight. I hope that there will be escalators for the fast movement of members and people who use the place and that there will be proper facilities for lobbyists and even demonstrators so that the true voice of democracy can be heard, that voice of the people can ring out in this building and that the people can be sensibly accommodated while they are here putting a case to the people who represent them.
I hope that, as the honourable member for Cook said, the gallery has the capacity to cater for the large number of school children who come in to this building and who will come into the new one. When the announcement was made at the Academy of Science about the winning competitor, Fred Daly contended that there should be adequate facilities for retired members. I am prepared to support him in that respect. It is amazing that there has been so little criticism of this build1 ing. The little that has been made of it has been about the cost. The Australian newspaper of 16 August referred to the fact that the joint committee was stunned by the new price tag. I will have a little more to say about that.
On 27 June the Canberra Times referred to the security problems and said that it was a mixed bag from a security point of view. In the same newspaper there was mention that the Parliamentary Library was dissatisfied because part of the Library would be on the chamber level and other parts would be on the next two floors up. Just let me warn whoever is responsible that the Parliamentary Library is sacrosanct and needs to be effectively accommodated. It cannot be treated cheaply. It was mentioned in the Canberra Times again on 27 June, that the Press Gallery was relegated to the Senate side of the building and that the bar was on the House of Representatives side and not close enough to the Senate side. The criticisms are directed at funny little things. There is no significant opposition at all. I do not think the other comments that I have taken out really justify mention. We have never had a large and significant building gain so much popular acclaim and attract so little criticism. Australians generally are excited about the building.
I shall conclude by issung a warning about the cost factor. Several newspapers have made mention of this. I see in the Australian of 16 August an article headed: ‘New House cost now $220m plus’. The article reads:
The estimated cost of the new Parliament House in Canberra has soared by 46 per cent before the first sod has even been turned.
The joint committee, chaired by the Speaker, Sir Billy Snedden, and the Senate President, Sir Condor Laucke, was reported to be stunned by the new price tag.
I would not be surprised at that. A number of other newspapers have referred to this matter in different ways. I notice in the Sydney Morning Herald of 10 July the heading: ‘New Parliament cost under $400m, say architects’. The article makes the point that the architects believe that the final cost will be below $400m. Let me mention that we have had experience in Australia with rising costs. The most classic example was the Sydney Opera House, called Sydney’s seaside Taj Mahal. The increases in costings for that building were absolutely amazing. The original estimate was $9m. The final cost was more than $ 1 24m, representing a rise by a factor of 1 4 to 1 or 1,400 per cent. We are confronted with this situation. The competition figure for this new parliament house was $151 m the estimate for the winning design moved up to $ 156.4m, and the new estimate at August this year ran to $220m. So the estimate has already risen by 46 per cent. If the cost of this new parliament house is to increase at the same rate as the cost of the Sydney Opera House, the final cost of the new parliament house will not be the $1 51m that we started with but no less than $2,1 14m. I do not want to frighten the Parliament and I do not want to frighten the nation; nevertheless that will be the trend.
I do not think that we will get that 14 to 1 factor that characterised the incredible lack of control over the cost of the Opera House, but it should be remembered that there has already been criticism to the effect that we are making our decision before we have taken the time to firm up on the design plans and matters of that kind. I think I will take a bit of a punt and make a prediction that we will not get out of building this new Parliament House for less than $500m. If in fact we spend that amount and we have a facility, a parliamentary building, that effectively serves the needs of this nation and contributing to the advancement of this country, then even I will not begrudge the expenditure. But I put it to this Government, in the short time that it has in which to prevail over those matters, that it should be ever wary and watchful. On behalf qf the Opposition, I say that when we come to office after the next election we will be pushing for the early completion of this new parliamentary building so that it will be a feature of the 1988 centenary celebrations. I hope that we will have a lot to do with giving taxpayers good value for their money.
– The approval of this proposal in accordance with section 5 of the Parliament Act 1974 means several significant things for this Parliament. Firstly, it means that Capital Hill is the site for the new and permanent parliament house. It has always been said that parliament house is to be built on Capital Hill. When one looks at the design one could say that to a certain extent it is to be built into Capital Hill. Nevertheless Capital Hill is the site. Secondly, we are committed to the design. Thirdly, we have a responsibility, as parliamentarians, to support the financial appropriations that will be necessary to carry this proposed building through to its completion by 1988.
There will be a temptation in the years ahead for politicians; perhaps for short term political gain or popularity, to oppose or to question these appropriations.
I acknowledge the point made by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) that what costs $220m in May 1978 prices will obviously be at least $500m by the time the building is completed. Therefore, there will be these pressures upon Parliament. I hope that all parliamentarians live up to their responsibilities for the future of the Parliament as a national symbol for Australia by not giving in to short term political gain.
It is unfortunate that so soon after the design competition the estimate of $156m for construction has been re-estimated at $220m. But if an honest revaluation is ‘needed, the sooner it is done, the better. Several points should be made in regard to this new valuation. Firstly, the space is larger than the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House was required to work with. The Committee considered that the space it was forced to work with was less than appropriate. I think that the architect has vindicated as well as indicated, by his design, the provision for better public space and the ability for future expansion which may be necessary without the requirement to increase facilities in some core areas which would be difficult and very costly. Also allowance has been made for underground parking. Underground parking could be said to be expensive but, if it is considered within the concept of the design on Capital Hill, it Will be found that it is the sensible form of parking*.0
The initial cost estimates were necessarily hurried and limited because of lack of time and contact between the cost assessors and the architect. What I think is the important point in this question of the higher valuation or assessment of cost is that of the five final designs my advice is - I think it has been stated publicly - that the successful design was the lowest estimated cost. If we look generally at the movement in assessed costs as at May 1978 prices from $156m to $220m, it will be seen that this was the lowest cost of the five final designs.
I believe that the design is brilliant. More than anything else it will carry the proposal for the new parliament house to the public and through perhaps some difficult times in this Parliament until its completion in 1988. The design is functional; it is aesthetically pleasing; and it provides simple construction. Most importantly, I think it becomes part of the hill rather than a monument on top of it. I believe that position for the Federal Parliament in Australia is more appropriate for the Australians’ view of Parliament and parliamentarians. I support the approval of the proposal.
– I approve of the proposal and the general concept of the design of the new parliament house and the way it fits into Capital Hill. It certainly makes the hill the appropriate place on which to build our parliament house. It has been a long, slow step to reach this stage. By the time this Parliament is in its permanent home it will have taken 88 years to get there.
There were a long struggle and many debates in this Parliament about where the building should be sited. In the first place the lakeside site was suggested. There were suggestions that it ought to be built on Camp Hill or on Capital Hill. Eventually the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent House recommended that the lakeside site be chosen, but a number of people on the Committee thought that it ought to be located on Capital Hill. The then Prime Minister moved, and the then Leader of the Opposition seconded that the lakeside site should be chosen. An amendment was moved. Finally it was decided that the new parliament house would be built on Capital Hill, and that is where it will be built.
As soon as I saw the model I asked myself: Who now would put it back on the lakeside site?’. I think to the extent of its siting the building is eminently successful. It think it is about time honourable members got hold of the plans and had a good look to see whether the statements made about the building’s functional effectiveness are correct. I am a sceptic by nature; perhaps to say that I am an agnostic would be better. I have read of the building in glowing terms, lt has been said that the design was an exciting and stimulating solution which was functionally efficient, eminently buildable, extremely sympathetic to the site, brilliantly blending together the requirements of architectural quality, sensitivity to location and so on. Such words are not just approval; they show ecstacy. I have serious doubts about such remarks coming from the people who are responsible for the assessment. Whilst we accept the general principle of the design and most of its features we should look very closely to see whether the building suits members of this Parliament.
I was a member of the committee which examined parliament houses around the world. None of them worked. They all had great disadvantages. There has not been enough input at various levels about members or enough consideration of the work of the Parliament. The building does not have absolute approval from everybody. The comments of Mr Seidler were pointed out to me today or yesterday. He cannot be written off as an uninformed commentator. He said:
Do not think what I am going to say is sour grapes. My design was one of the last 10 considered, and I’m quite happy about that.
But the winning design is a disaster … I am prepared to hold forth in detail . . .
He said that the building did not make the most of the views which are available. That is my own opinion. I think the design is conservative and inward looking. I think it is unobtrusive to the point of being almost self-effacing. I am not sure that that is what it needs to be. I am offering opinions from which we might have to consider some issues. The building is expansive; but is it expandable? Does it make the most of the site which offers space, light, distance and accessibility? It certainly makes the most of the accessibility. 1 think the idea of underground parking and so on is very important. The general design, layout and usage of public spaces seem to me to be appropriate and first class; but does this apply to the other features of the site? The site of Capital Hill looks across one of the most expansive countries, a country which has the most effective natural light and where - whoever thought of this phrase ought to be congratulated - on a clear day you can see forever. What have we done about that?
I want to make several other points before I get round to the aesthetic aspects. I have here the plans. The building is as good as we can get with the material we have, but the distances between its sections offer a serious challenge to members. The building is spread out horizontally. These days it is much easier to deal with things vertically. I have before me the second floor plan. It shows that the Parliamentary Library reading room is one floor up from the chamber and at least 60 yards away. I think that is too far. The plan also shows the general layout for members. I am thinking about other honourable members as they get older and more harried and harassed. As my friend, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) pointed out, we started at the far end of this building. Unless my arithmetic and the scales are incorrect, the furthest distance a member will be situated from the House on the main floor will be 150 yards. The closest party rooms will be 50 yards. Some of the other places are further away. 1 do not think that is good for this Parliament. I think that somehow we should ask that the building be concentrated more vertically - we can still use all the horizontal aspects if we wish - because we will need to put into the place many functions which at the moment we do not consider. There will be many more members. The Parliament will have a different lifestyle. I am suggesting to honourable members from 25 years of experience in this very demanding institution - I do not suspect that it will change all that much - that we look very thoroughly at the details of the design. I hope that those honourable members who are on the various committees do not become shy, diffident or nervous because they believe they are only amateurs or only politicians. They are the people who will live and work in the building.
I think it is fair enough to accept this design because it is the appropriate design. But I have not seen the others; we were not given the advantage of seeing the others in concept. I disapprove of that as a way to treat the Parliament. I have felt from the very first consideration of a new and permanent Parliament House that the chambers should be so sited that they look out across the country which honourable members have been chosen to govern. How can we do that without upsetting the general concept of this proposed building? I think the chambers can be brought forward. The front part of the building which is to accommodate shadow Ministers, the Speaker and so on could be put on another floor or at the rear of the building. Surely that is not an architectural and building challenge that is beyond the capacity of Australians to design. I think the building could be raised by 1 0 or 1 2 feet.
We have this almost incalculable advantage of space and distance as part of the style and life of the nation and it ought to be incorporated in the building. That is why I say that this design is conservative. The building is well designed and it looks attractive. The photographs, the models and the ideas behind it are all of those things. But is that enough? I am not too sure, from seeing the pictures of the building, whether it will be readily identifiable except from the site. This building is readily identifiable but, of course, we become fairly skilled at identifying such features.
I make in all seriousness the aesthetic point about how the actual chambers ought to be fitted into the scene and the functional points about where the Library and the party rooms ought to be and about the distances of members’ rooms from the chambers. I have looked at parliament buildings in Kuala Lumpur, Delhi, Rome and Bonn. I have looked at the Houses of Parliament in London and Ottawa and at the United States Congress. I have thought from the very first time I started to examine such buildings that none of them satisfactorily take on board the questions of the nearness of the working areas of members to the chambers, accessibility and so on. I do not think they are impossible problems to solve. I make these points in all seroiusness as one who was involved right from the beginning in the second phase of trying to get a new Parliament House.
Another point I want to make is: Have we made the most of Capital Hill from the aesthetic point of view? First of all, I take it that the flagpole was something designed in the first shot. I do not think we want such a contrivance. I have suggested to honourable members that we put up a single pole, perhaps one of the longest pieces of Australian timber. That might be inappropriate. I do not know how we will run up a flag of the dimensions required. It will be good for the flagmakers and I do not mind that. But why is it that we are so shy about putting something on the hill? Will the building really dominate if it sits on the hill? Does the Parthenon dominate Athens? Do other buildings which are sited on hills, even some very big ones, dominate their surroundings? Durham Cathedral sticks in my memory from seeing it sitting on a slight hill. Humanity has usually reached for the sky in these matters. The Muslims have managed to produce the minaret. Our ancestors managed to produce gothic spires on churches - things of symbolic beauty and aesthetically pleasing.
One of our great problems when approaching this question is the Opera House- John Thomas Bigge syndrome. The error made with regard to the Opera House in the first instance was that it was designed without regard to all the engineering and other considerations. 1 do not think it is successful as an opera house. That does not happen to be one of my lines of deep study. But it is certainly architecturally satisfying and a credit to the people who resolved the building problems.
The Commonwealth has had a great deal of experience in building. For instance there is the new railway line, built in quite difficult country. It is not difficult so much in the physical contest with the scenery itself; the distances cause the difficulty. That railway line will be completed on time and within cost. I was associated with the National Library almost from the day the holes were dug. By constant scrutiny and careful examination - the National Capital Development Commission has had a great deal of experience with this type of building - it was put up on time and within cost. I do not think that is a real problem. It may well be that there are problems that we have not solved at all. I do not know what amount of earth is to be scooped out of this site, but I suggest it will be a very large amount of earth. I do not know where it will be put. We cannot take two, three, four hundred million tonnes of earth, or whatever it is, away from that site and plant that around the countryside without getting some objections. Those are matters that I hope the House and members will examine.
I suggest that in all probability by the time the centenary of this Parliament comes up in 2001 people will be thinking: ‘Can we not get some architect to put up something attractive on the hill as the crowning piece which has some architecturally aesthetic magnificence without being overpowering?’ It should be a building such as the Taj Mahal, which would give some point to the actual hill itself. I am not taken with the idea that the building ought to be buried. I do not mind if the building is put into the hill, but I think it is one of the philosophical difficulties that we face. We are afraid to be out in the open and up on the hill. We still suffer from the fears of the Opera House. I go back to the last century and the time of John Thomas Bigge who came to Sydney, I think in 1890 or thereabouts, because people had been complaining about the extraordinary extravagance of Macquarie. Bigge took one look at the plans for Sydney and asserted that streets and buildings like that would never be needed, and the plans were mostly blue-pencilled. That is why Sydney is as it is today.
Those things do not worry me, but I do hope that members will take the plans and make a close examination of them to see whether there is some way in which they can concentrate on those areas to which they are always moving and place them so that they reach them with the least physical exertion and waste of time. I do believe there must be more accent on the vertical than on the horizontal in those areas while still maintaining the spacious look and the grace of the building. I must not say that I am as ecstatic about the building as the assessors’ report and some of the members are. It is time to turn a very critical eye on anything that is to last for perhaps 1 ,000 years and serve the whole of the community for all of that time.
– I am glad to have an opportunity to take part in this historic debate in which the Parliament gives its approval to the construction of the new and permanent parliament house. I have some reservations about the selection procedures in the competition. I am particularly concerned that members of Parliament were excluded from having any direct knowledge of the nature and range of the entries in the competition. This is not to make any criticism whatever of the two members of Parliament who served as our representatives on the panel of assessors, Mr Barry Simon, the Liberal member for McMillan and Senator Gareth Evans, Labor, Victoria. They were intelligent, diligent and devoted, and they gave vast amounts of time and energy to their task. I am sure that they chose the best of the final designs. I am not advocating that the House, and least of all the Senate, should have taken a collective role in the judging. I am a democrat but not a populist in matters of aesthetic judgment. Nevertheless, we were not just kept at arms length. The whole assessing process occurred behind locked doors and the members of Parliament were entirely in the dark. I can understand some of the reasons for this. For example, the competitors included people of international reputation who, in a sense, put their reputations on the line when they enter an international competition. They obviously want to avoid a situation where they have taken the risk of entering the competition and they are judged as coming 456 out of a whole series of other competitors. That would be very damaging to them. I think it would have been possible to contrive a situation where members were able to inform themselves about the range of entries that were available without necessarily knowing the identities of the people who ultimately, as approved, would have been among the unsuccessful contestants. Symbolically, I feel uneasy when the Parliament is told that it is not entitled to the fullest disclosure of the procedures by which a choice is to be made about how it is to be housed and that appropriate decisions should be left to experts. The Parliament is composed of generalists and we are elected by other generalists to represent them. I feel some concern when we are told that vital and complex subjects are so technical that they must be left to be resolved by technical experts.
If the technocrat displaces the generalist then the whole moral basis of democracy and representative government is undermined. Just as war is too important to be left to the generals I think that architecture is far too important to be left to the architects. There have been some recent architectural disasters in public buildings in Canberra of which the ghastly new High Court building is a good example. At lunchtime today somebody remarked: ‘Looked at from the side it really does look like the backside of a modern hospital- the laundry part’. I note in the Bulletin the criticism of Harry Seidler but the views that he puts forward have to be taken into account even though it is conceivable that he would be accused of ‘sag rapes’, as Afferbeck Lauder used to say, as one of the unsuccessful contestants. Nevertheless, I think the criticism that he made needs to be examined and, if there is some validity in the criticism, I hope that some adjustments can be made. I might say - I hope that my electors do not hold it against me - that the cost does not particularly worry me.
I hope that by 1988 the Parliament will have so risen in stature that people will see it is an absolutely fitting place for this edifice. I think it would be appalling if the Parliament’s historic role contracts over the next eight years, and we are seen to be occupying a comparatively modest role in what will be a great national showplace. It would be tragic if that were the case. I thought there was a certain irony in what was said by the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) when he talked with enthusiasm about the parliament buildings of Brasilia and how magnificent they were. That makes the point precisely. The building is somewhat more magnificent than what goes on inside the parliament in Brazil. I hope that that is not to be taken as a parable to be applied here in Australia. I wish the whole construction very well and all I hope is that by 1988 we have a building that is worthy of the Parliament and a Parliament that is worthy of the building.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
– What are the actual procedures by which an examination of the project will be carried out as it goes forward? Will amendments even of a fairly significant nature be possible under that motion?
– The concept, as I recall it, is that the Parliament House Construction Authority will be the principal body which, from day to day, will supervise the construction. At the same time the Parliament itself will have the capacity from time to time at any developmental stage to pass a resolution which would declare that progression as a stage for the purposes of requiring legislative approval by this chamber. From time to time in this House a number of motions akin to this will be introduced reflecting the progress.
I believe that the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House has a capacity to make recommendations to both the Parliament and the Government with respect to items about which it would wish the Parliament House Construction Authority to be concerned or certainly as to matters which members of the Committee believe the Parliament needs to determine. In other words, whilst the Parliament House Construction Authority will have a capacity to make recommendations on matters which it believes to be recommended stages in development, I think that through the parliamentary committee there can also be recommendations which will come back to the government and which, if approved by this chamber, would be declared approved stages. I am sure that through consultation between the members of this House adequate supervision will be exercised over the progress of the building and one would hope that the building date can be attained.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Coal Miners’ Strike in Queensland
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-I want to express my deep concern at the stubborn refusal of the Government to take positive action to end the strike by coal miners in central Queensland over the proposal to tax their subsidised housing. This strike is a matter of deep principle to the miners. As the Deputy Premier of Queensland said today, it is a matter of mere legal interpretation for the Fraser Government. But most of all, it is a disaster for the State of Queensland, a significant loss of revenue to the national Government and a serious threat to coal users. One is forced to the conclusion that this Government is prolonging the strike for reasons which it is not prepared to admit. For that sort of shabby exercise, it is responsible for losses so far of $400m, including a total of nearly $40m revenue lost by the Queensland Government. Obviously, in a State Budget, that sort of money presents very serious difficulties.
The Fraser Government has made only one apparent gesture towards a resolution of this dispute. That was the decision, announced in the Budget, to set up an inquiry into changes in income tax zone allowances. According to the Treasurer (Mr Howard), a review of zone allowances might be expected to offer a compromise that would satisfy the miners. I believe that proposition is nonsense, if only because there is no natural relationship between the two subjects. I am glad to say that I am supported in that view by no less an authority than the Treasury.I have had the opportunity to study a confidential briefing paper prepared for the Government by the Treasury for use at the last Premiers Conference in June. This document states quite flatly:
A substantial increase in zone allowances is unlikely to relieve pressures for higher wages and better conditions. The unions are more likely to pocket the allowances and go on pushing.
That is the Treasury’s view of the so-called compromise the Government is offering. I am not necessarily endorsing the Treasury’s view of zone allowances. Quite clearly, it does not like them as they are now, let alone as they might be after changes for the benefit of workers in remote areas. The Treasury describes the allowances as follows:
The zone allowances are essentially subsidies which serve to shelter residents of the zone areas against the economic and financial consequences of their decisions. For employers, they enable a transfer to the public purse of some part of labour costs (including the cost of fringe benefits).
In other words, the Treasury regards the zone allowances as a mechanism that already transfers part of the cost of subsidised housing on to the community at large. Where does that leave the Government’s claim that it, rather than the miners, is defending an important principle?
The juggling of zone allowances is not going to end this disastrous strike. On the basis of this document, I think it is clear that the Government does not expect that it will end the strike. Since we still have not been informed what the terms of reference for the proposed inquiry will be, I find it hard to believe that the Government is taking its own proposal seriously. Its attitude in this issue is as rigid now as it was $400m ago, and it is time this
Parliament demanded effective steps to resolve the issue. I believe, and the Labor Party believes, that the men and women working in this remote area, in mines and on other development projects, on farms and in isolated towns are entitled to the benefit they have traditionally received by way of subsidised housing. This Government’s meanminded attempts to deny that traditional benefit will be condemned by most Australians. Even if the Government forces its will on the families affected, it will be many years before the revenue from extra tax catches up with that being lost in this disastrous strike. The Fraser Government is sponsoring an exercise in futility and it is time it was called upon to account.
– Mr Deputy Speaker–
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence to raise a matter?
– The honourable member has the Chair’s indulgence.
– Since I have been a member of this House I have endeavoured to set an example in keeping politics clean. Tonight in the Senate a disclosure was made by Senator Walsh but he was obstructed from mentioning a member’s name. The person whose name he was obstructed from mentioning is Peter Johnson, the honourable member for Brisbane. His name was mentioned in connection with something of which any member of parliament should be ashamed.
-Order! The honourable member may have abused the indulgence extended to him.
– I have not, sir.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
-The House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 9 September next, at 2.15 p.m., unless an alternative day or hour of meeting be notified by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House.
House adjourned at 12.7 a.m. (Friday)
The following notices were given:
Mr Morris to move ; That this House ;
Mr Groom to move ;
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969 and by reason of the urgent nature of the work, it is expedient that the following proposed work be carried out without having been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, namely, the upgrading for international services of Townsville airport, Queensland.
Mr Burns to move ;
That, in the opinion of this House, legislation should be introduced to provide as tax deductions donations to -
The following papers were deemed to have been presented on 28 August 1980, pursuant to statute:
Air Force Act - Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980, No. 246.
Air Navigation Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980, No. 247.
Australian Capital Territory Representation (House of Representatives) Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980, No. 243.
Commonwealth Banks Act - Appointment Certificate- W. H. Evans.
Commonwealth Electoral Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980, No. 241.
Defence Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980. Nos. 244, 245.
Defence Amendment Act- Interim DeterminationsStatutory Rules 1 980. Nos. 249, 250. 25 1 , 252.
Navigation Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980, No. 248
Northern Territory Representation Act and Commonwealth Electoral Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980, No. 240.
Remuneration Tribunals Act - Remuneration Tribunal - Determination - 1980/11 General Manager of the Australian
Tourist Commission and holders of public offices on other bodies.
Senate (Representation of Territories) Act- Regulation- Statutory Rules 1980, No. 242
Ship Construction Bounty Act - Return for year 1979-80.
The following answer to a question was circulated: 1980-81 Commonwealth Roads Grants
In connection with my answer to the honourable member for Hume, I tabled a schedule which compared the 1980-81 Commonwealth grants to each State and road category with the corresponding allocations for 1979-80. It was subsequently drawn to my attention that this schedule contained a clerical error. The increases shown in the grants for the urban arterial roads and local roads categories in Victoria are incorrect due to a miscalculated adjustment of the 1979-80 grants for these categories. The effect of the error is that the schedule exaggerates the actual increase in assistance for urban arterial roads and understates the increase for local roads in Victoria. The overall national totals for both these categories are also marginally affected.
I must emphasise, however, that the total level of Commonwealth road grants to Victoria shown for each of the years remains correct. I apologise to the House for any inconvenience that this error may have caused.
The corrected figures are contained in the following schedule:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 August 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1980/19800828_reps_31_hor119/>.