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 Cadman, Mr Fry, Mr Gillard, Mr Haslem, Mr Jacobi, Mr Jarman, Mr Porter and Mr Shipton.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens and permanent residents of Australia respectfully showeth:
That recognition should be given to the permanent nature of the Adult Migrant Education programme by providing permanent funding for an adequate and permanent English Language teaching service.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass, Mr Cohen, Mr Holding, Mr Innes, Mr Les Johnson, Dr Klugman and Mr Uren.
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 upon 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 Hodges, Mr Jarman, Mr Jull and Mr Martyr.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament in Canberra assembled. The petition of certain citizens respectfully showeth-
That the right to work without discrimination on any ground including, inter alia, discrimination on grounds of race, ethnic origin, pregnancy, marital status, sex and/or sexual preference, is a fundamental human right; and
That it is both the duty and the responsibility of society to fully support those denied work and therefore those who are unemployed as a result of society’s inability to provide full paid employment should be guaranteed an adequate income without discrimination on any ground, including inter alia discrimination on grounds of race, ethnic origin, marital status, sex and /or sexual preference, or pregnancy.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that appropriate and adequate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in Commonwealth employment, in employment of persons by statutory bodies and quasi-governmental organisations, in employment of individuals under federal awards, and in employment of all persons in areas over which Commonwealth and Australian Capital Territory equal opportunity legislation should have jurisdiction; and
That appropriate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in the provision of unemployment benefits to all persons without regard to race, ethnic origin, marital status and/or sex.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Everingham, Mr Fry and Mr Haslem.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives assembled should take action as it deems appropriate to ensure the immediate provision of adequate public housing throughout Australia; and in particular that the region of Latrobe Valley, Victoria, be deemed to be an area of special housing need requiring funding over and above general State allocation for construction and purchase of appropriate public housing for rent; and that priority housing to low income people in urgent need be available in Latrobe Valley with the guidelines for priority housing made public.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Nixon, Mr Simon and Mr Uren.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That continued use of animal ingredients in cosmetic products, and the inhumane use of animals in scientific research for cosmetic products is abhorrent and barbaric.
That the Industries Assistance Commission, because of the Commission’s terms of reference, seems unable to impose any regulation or recommend any regulation which might restrict the activities of Cosmetic Companies which produce cosmetics in which animal ingredients have been used, or for which animals were subjected to research.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will:
Legislate to require comprehensive labelling of perfumes, cosmetics and toilet preparations to indicate:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Humphreys, Mr Jull and Mr Leo McLeay.
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$ 1 90,000,00 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 the 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.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr FitzPatrick and Mr Giles.
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 FitzPatrick and Mr Innes.
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 humble petitioners respectfully believe that the Federal Government has the power conferred on it by the 1967 Referendum to intervene on behalf of Aboriginal people in any conflict with any State or Territory Government.
Your petitioners therefore pray that the Federal Government will assume its full responsibility for Aboriginal Affairs, and use the powers conferred on it by the people of Australia in the 1967 Referendum to intervene on behalf of Aboriginal in any conflict with any State or Territory Government;
That the Government respond to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders on Queensland reserves which sets out precisely the Commonwealth Constitutional and legal position under Section5 1 :
That in addition the Government fulfil its stated policy of self-determination and self-management for Aboriginal people, by funding all housing, health, education, legal, employment strategy and welfare matters concerning Aboriginal people directly through Aboriginal Community based Community controlled organisations.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Falconer.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned Citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That there is a need for a public telephone to be installed at the Coombah Half Way House for emergency use on the 225 km stretch of lonely highway linking Wentworth with Broken Hill, New South Wales. That continued refusal by Telecom Australia to provide an emergency telephone threatens users of this highway with danger to life and property.
The cost of providing a service at the privately owned Coombah Road House is prohibitive to the operator and should be undertaken as a service to the outback travelling public by the Federal Transport Department.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr FitzPatrick.
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 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 in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That animal welfare organisations play a vital role in the community in caring for animals and lessening the burden on governments and government authorities charged with the task of dealing with neglected or unwanted animals.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that donations made to animal welfare charities be allowed as tax deductions to remove the unjust tax anomaly which discriminates against charitable animal welfare organisations.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Rt Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the current rate of Sales Tax at 27.5 per cent on Recorded Music is unjust. We request that this rate be abolished or at least substantially reduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrJull.
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 objection to the Metric System and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Millar.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth, do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
Note that legislation establishing plant breeders’ rights in other countries has had serious adverse effects, namely:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by MrSainsbury.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of South Australia and the Commonwealth submits:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jacobi.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House is of the opinion that Australia should cease to recognise the genocidal Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House condemns the Labor Opposition for-
) its non-participation in the House of Representatives Estimates committees which dealt with proposed expenditure of the Department of Industrial Relations, the Department of Science and the Environment and the Department of National Development and Energy, and
its blatant disregard of the operations of, and scrutiny of expenditure for, such areas as trade union trading, the Industrial Relations Bureau, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and energy development and research.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House-
1 ) Welcomes the work of the Australian Heritage Commission in registering historic sites and buildings in Canberra inner suburbs for inclusion in the National Estate, and
Calls on the Minister for the Capital Territory to consult actively and frequently the Australian Capital Territory Heritage Committee on all heritage matters arising in the Australian Capital Territory.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House-
1 ) expresses its grave concern over the persecution of the 200,000 adherents of the Baha’i faith in Iran by the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini,
calls upon the Government of Iran to release from custody those Baha’is who have been unjustly detained, and to restore the holy places, properties, community centres and companies that have been confiscated,
commends the Australian Government for its assistance to Australian Baha’is in expressing their protest to the Iranian Government, and
requests the Austraiian Government to lend its support to moves in international forums designed to restore to the Iranian Baha’is their freedom to live their lives in peace and practice their religion in harmony with their fellow citizens of other faiths.
The motion is seconded by the honourable member for Tangney.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House condemns the Government for the abject failure of its economic policies in general and its neglect of the small business sector in particular as revealed by the national bankruptcy figures of a record 4,979 bankruptcies last year and 1 3,000 since the Fraser Government took office.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That the House congratulates Australia on being the first Antarctic Treaty nation formally to sign the International Convention on Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources which provides, inter alia, that the world headquarters of the proposed International Antarctic Commission will be estabished in Hobart, Tasmania.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House -
1 ) expresses its concern at the imposition of State taxes, such as stamp duty, on items of personal property of servicemen who are transferred interstate and who seek to register their car in the State to which they have been transferred,
calls on the Federal Government to hold urgent talks with the Victorian State Government on the practice of adding stamp duty, on the basis of it being a new acquisition, before permitting Victorian registration, and
considers that this practice is an improper imposition on persons in the service of their country.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House calls on all members of the Australian Parliament to condemn unequivocally and categorically the illegal use in Afghanistan by Soviet military forces of the internationally banned dum-dum bullets against innocent people simply defending their country in the face of a brutal military invasion.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House, being of the opinion that -
1 ) the transfer of technology to Australia by foreign multinational corporations should not restrict the use of that technology with consequent penalties for the Australian manufacturing industry;
an open-door policy on foreign investment would further prevent the development of Australian-owned industry based on modern technology capable of improving Australia’s international competitiveness; and
measures should be adopted to ensure that technological transfer is regulated so that local capability is enhanced and local ownership of technology and intensive industry is encouraged; therefore calls on the Government to -
Review the activities of the Foreign Investment Review Board.
promote Australian ownership of local industry;
review the conditions under which technical knowledge is transferred to Australia; and
ensure that technology transfer to Australia, especially for natural resource development and processing, is not hedged with restrictions on the use of that technology.
1988 OLYMPIC GAMES
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House is of the opinion that all possible support and help should be given to the Victorian Government in its efforts to apply for and stage the 1 988 Olympic Games.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House-
notes that an independent review of Government rents in the Australian Capital Territory has revealed widespread overcharging by this Government,
deplores the hardship caused to many tenants by excessive Government rentals, and
condemns the Government for its callous disregard for the welfare of many of its tenants.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House-
notes the widespread concern throughout the Australian fanning community that the constitutional basis for the establishment of the Australian Wheat Board may soon be declared invalid by the High Court, and
directs the Minister for Primary Industry and the Attorney-General to draw up and announce contingency measures for immediate implementation in the event that such a judgment is made by the High Court.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House-
is of the opinion that the cut back in capital funding to schools in Australia under the Fraser Government has now caused a situation where remedial funding is becoming necessary in many schools, and
calls upon the Government to allocate capital funding to schools.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That, in view of the importance of the Great Barrier Reef to Australia and the world and the threat posed to its continual survival by oil drilling, this House condemns the Government for its failure to declare the entire Great Barrier Reef region as a marine park under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That, in the opinion of this House, the increases given in the Budget in all student assistance allowances, including TEAS, postgraduate awards and assistance to isolated school children, are inadequate because they do not compensate for increases in inflation since levels were last set, and that all these allowances should be increased.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House condemns the Government for its refusal to provide adequate time for essential and responsible scrutiny of the estimates of expenditure proposed for the Department of Transport, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Administrative Services.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer him to his statement entitled ‘Energy Policy and Related Resource Development’ tabled in the House on 26 August in which he stated:
Even on relatively optimistic scenarios for future production and consumption, the prospect is for further increases in oil prices.
I also refer him to reports that Saudi Arabia is expected to increase its oil price by $4 a barrel to SUS32 a barrel within the next few weeks. Given the Prime Minister’s frank admission that oil prices will rise in the near future, will he, in the interests of honest electioneering - a novel concept for him–
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw that reflection. Will he advise the public that in the unlikely event of his Government’s re-election, the $4 a barrel Saudi Arabian oil price increase will be passed on to the Australian oil prices, lifting the price of petrol by yet another 2c to 3c a litre and lifting Government revenue by an additional $230m, increasing the Commonwealth tax take from oil by 50 per cent since last financial year?
– Before I call the right honourable gentleman I indicate to the House that any implications by any member in relation to dishonesty by another I will frown on very severely today and for the rest of this session.
– I hope that the honourable gentleman will advise people during the forthcoming election campaign that, under the energy policies proposed by the Australian Labor Party, exploration and development would cease and that we would become increasingly dependent upon supplies from overseas. It needs to be understood that under the policies of this Government the reserves in Bass Strait have been extended because of increased exploration and increased development and that Esso-BHP has committed itself to $ 1,200m of extra exploration and development, thus extending the life of those Bass Strait supplies beyond what was originally expected. I hope that the honourable gentleman will also explain that, under the policies of the Labor Party when it was in office, oil search and development, energy search and development and, indeed, all development ceased absolutely and that that was a direct result of its policies.
I hope he will also explain to the people of Australia that the great project at Rundle, which has the capacity to maintain Australia’s independence in oil supplies once the Bass Strait reserves start to run down, would not go ahead under the Labor Party’s policies, that world parity pricing is totally essential to that objective and that $300m or $400m is required for a pilot plant–
– lt is a terrible thing to have a Prime Minister who cannot tell the truth.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I warn the honourable member for Corio and I call on him to withdraw.
– I withdraw. I think in the interests of the Parliament the Prime Minister, however, ought to–
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw unconditionally. For the last time I say: The honourable gentleman will withdraw unconditionally.
– I withdraw, Mr Speaker.
-The pilot plant for Rundle will cost $300m or S400m. The actual development will cost several billion dollars. Such projects would not proceed without world parity pricing. Of course, it would be very easy - I have said this on many occasions - for this Government, for this generation of Australians, to say: We have access to oil in Bass Strait. We can selfishly use it all up. We can leave Australia thereafter without supplies, totally dependent upon export from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and without any capacity for independence or for self-sufficiency’. That would be the result of Labor’s policies, and I have not the slightest doubt that this particular–
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order.
– It will not be a point of order. The honourable member just does not like the answer.
– It is on the question of relevance. No, I do not like the answer. I want an answer to the question. I do not want an answer about the Labor Party’s policy. I want an answer to the question. I want to know whether an increase in OPEC prices will be passed on to Australian oil prices under the Government’s policy.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– Tell the public what the answer to that is.
-Order! The honourable member for Blaxland well knows that that is not a point of order. It is an argument and I am not prepared to accept it.
– On the point of order, it is a point of order.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– There is a requirement of relevance- -
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– And you should enforce the Standing Orders.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The question was asked. The right honourable gentleman is answering. I ask honourable members on my left to listen to the answer in silence. The honourable member for Blaxland should not interrupt with a point of order which he knows is not a point of order.
-The honourable member for Blaxland knows full well that under the policies that he has espoused, if he ever had the opportunity to put them into effect, in 10 or 12 years’ time we would be dependent upon
OPEC exports and we would be beggars for fuel on world markets at whatever prices then prevailed. That might be an easy policy for this generation of Australians, but it would be a totally selfish policy for our children and for people who come after us. This Government has more concern for this nation than to have a policy that is fine for today and for next year. We want policies which will preserve the integrity and strength of this nation, not just for this year but also through the decade into the next decade and then into the year 2000 and beyond. Our policies are designed to that effect. In any case, in spite of the honourable gentleman’s plaintive pleas to the contrary, he has never satisfactorily explained the interview which he gave to the Sydney Morning Herald and in which he said that Labor’s policies would not mean much to the motorist but would mean that a Labor government would get more money from its kind of tax than we get from the levy.
– Mr Speaker, on a point of order, again I claim to have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister. I have explained this point.
-I will call the honourable gentleman–
– In an arrogant display of dishonesty he has misrepresented me again.
-I warn the honourable member for Blaxland.
– Mr Speaker, you will not warn me while you will not warn the Prime Minister.
-I have warned you.
– You keep him quiet.
-The honourable member for Blaxland quite clearly wants me to take action against him. I do not propose to take that action.
Honourable members interjecting-
-I do not propose to allow the proceedings of the House to go on until the House comes to order. The honourable member for Blaxland has clearly defied the Chair. I warn him that if he does it again I will name him without further ado.
– Mr Speaker, in the interests of the decorum of the House I apologise to you as the Speaker. But may I say with all respect that the Prime Minister also must play the game.
– The honourable member for Blaxland well knows that the Standing Orders apply rules in relation to questions and answers. The right honourable gentleman is entitled to give an answer provided it is relevant. The Standing Orders do not require any Minister to give an answer to the satisfaction of the questioner. The honourable member well knows that.
– The Prime Minister has a reputation to preserve. He will not mar it by telling the truth.
– Before the Leader of the Opposition came into the chamber this morning I indicated to the House that I would not tolerate any implications of dishonesty from any honourable member. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw.
– Mr Speaker, I withdraw.
– Before I call the honourable member for Maranoa I remind honourable members that the honourable member for Maranoa has indicated that he will not be returning to this Parliament after the next election. Before he asks his question, 1 am sure all honourable members would like me to say that we have enjoyed serving with him.
Honourable members - Hear, hear!
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. If I am allowed a little latitude I would like to compliment him on the success that he has had in his ministry.
-I suggest that the honourable gentleman ask his question. There has been enough latitude.
– Can the Minister give an assurance that the conditions under which satellite communications are operated will not prejudice the viability of provincial television stations which give generous coverage to important events of local interest not covered by national television, a matter that is concerning provincial television stations very greatly? They are concerned at the possible monopoly that could come from the introduction of satellite communications.
-If this were not the honourable gentleman’s last question I would have ruled it out of order, but I will permit it.
– I thank the honourable member for his kind remarks. It has been a great pleasure to work with him in the interests of his people and the people of Australia. All considerations which the Government is giving to the development of a wider range of choice in regional, rural and outback areas take into account the viability of regional television stations. Over many years we, as a government, developed the regional television services of this country because we believed in them. We will not be party to any action which will destroy them. As I have said on many occasions, we will also ensure that no single commercial interest will dominate communications in this country.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to the estimate contained in this year’s Budget Papers that revenue from excise on petroleum products will increase by 1.1 per cent during 1980-81. Given that the rates of excise on these products have not been changed does this mean that the Government is assuming that consumption of these products will increase by 1.1 per cent this financial year despite the massive shift in revenue of over $5,000m from Australian consumers to the Government and oil producers? How can the Prime Minister and his Ministers claim that the policy of import parity pricing will lead to a decrease in consumption when the Budget Papers forecast the exact opposite occurring?
– The Budget Papers do provide for the increase in excise that the honourable member for Parramatta mentioned. The calculations regarding excise and the proceeds of the crude oil levy are based on certain assumptions about petroleum prices. The Government has made no secret of that fact. I would have thought that the most appropriate way of testing the Government’s policy of encouraging, through the price mechanism, the conservation of a scarce resource, which is the only rational basis of an approach to crude oil pricing given the enormous shortage of crude oil in the world, was to look at what has happened. Most of us on this side of the House believe that the most appropriate way of answering the question of whether or not a policy has worked is to look at the evidence. The evidence is that since the oil pricing policy of this Government was moved to one of import parity in the 1 978 Budget, there has been a slowing down in the rate of consumption of petroleum products and, as I indicated in the Budget Speech, last year there was a slow down in the rate of consumption of petroleum products.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I do not think the Treasurer heard the question correctly. I am talking about the excise, not the levy, I think the Treasurer is not picking up the subtle difference.
– The whole burden of the honourable member’s question was whether or not our pricing policy was having an effect on the consumption of petroleum products. I know that he does not like to be reminded, as I reminded the Opposition in the Budget Speech, that last year consumption of petroleum products in Australia fell, which demonstrates that the conservation objective of our policy is working.
– I ask the Treasurer: Has the standard of living risen over the past five years and do the national accounts show that it has?
– We have heard a little over the last few weeks about the standard of living in Australia and no doubt we will hear a lot more. I am going to enjoy reminding members of the Opposition as the weeks immediately ahead of us go by of just what a mess they are in regarding their allegations about the standard of living. If the Opposition is interested in analysing this proposition, because it is a proposition which is important to the Australian community, it will see that it has already been demonstrated to be wrong on three counts on this subject. The level of disposable income demonstrates that the standard of living has risen over the last five years. Consumption expenditure also demonstrates that the standard of living has risen. If we look at the Labor Party’s own calculations, we find that it is guilty of double counting. What the Labor Party has done in its calculations is to double count health charges significantly. But perhaps the most salient feature of this centrepiece of its election campaign- it ought to be repeated that it is perhaps the most salient feature- is the Labor Party’s own internal confusion on the subject.
-Order! The Treasurer will remain relevant to the question. The question is whether or not the standard of living has risen and whether the national accounts show it.
– With respect, Mr Speaker, I would have thought that arguments which are addressed to figures which are included in national accounts data are relevant matters for comment in any answer on this subject. A few months ago, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the standard of living had fallen by $22 a week. A few weeks later the amount involved in that charge had fallen to SI 8 a week. The Leader of the Opposition, in his reply to the Budget Speech, said that average family living standards had fallen by $16 a week in real terms. About 10 days later the honourable member for Gellibrand said this:
A taxpayer with a dependent wife and two children earning average weekly earnings of $248 a week . . . suffered a fall in real disposable income of $10.40 a week after tax.
So not only are the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Gellibrand wrong in their charge in using the normal indicators but they are also totally confused among themselves as to what the claim is. If the Leader of the Opposition or the honourable member for Gellibrand or anybody on the front bench of the Opposition wants the public to take his charge seriously they will–
– I rise to order. Mr Speaker, did I hear you correctly when you tried to pull the Treasurer into line in terms of the relevance of his answer and his compliance with the Standing Orders? Was it a warning that was made seriously and one that is going to be obeyed by the Treasurer?
– At the time I called upon the Treasurer to be relevant he was talking about Labor Party policy. He is now talking about statements that have been made in debate. He is entitled to call on those statements made in debate but not to analyse a policy.
– I repeat: I invite those who make a claim about a fall in the standard of living of $16 - and that seems to be the most commonly used version of this centrepiece of their election campaign although not the exclusively used version- to provide the Australian public with a table that demonstrates how that figure of $16 is arrived at. The most fascinating thing about this is that at no stage has the Opposition produced a table which demonstrates how that figure is calculated.
– That is untrue. It is in Hansard.
– It is not. That table referred to $22. If the Opposition thinks it is making some headway on the subject it ought to refer to the Spectrum survey published in the Australian newspaper on 8 December. That survey demonstrated that about 28 per cent only of the Australian community as surveyed believed that their living standards were falling.
– The Treasurer has quite misrepresented the situation. On page 1035 of Hansard there are tables spelling out where the $ 1 6 figure comes from.
– I request that the Treasurer table the documents from which he was reading.
– Was the Minister reading from a document?
– Of course I am quite happy to table the document I am reading from.
– What about all the rest of it?
– The honourable member can have the lot.
– I know that the Treasurer is very excited this week. What about putting it all in?
– The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I am perfectly happy to have incorporated in Hansard the documents from which I was reading.
– Is leave granted to incorporate this material in Hansard”?
– All the documents.
– I will incorporate–
– All the documents.
– The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I am perfectly happy–
– The Treasurer will identify what he is asking to be incorporated in Hansard.
– I have quoted from two documents.
– Are they the two documents which you have in your hand?
– Yes. I am perfectly happy to have those two documents incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted?
– Not if it is only half the documents, no.
– Leave is not granted.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker–
Government members interjecting -
– The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is far too much noise from the Government benches on my right. I ask that that noise cease.
– The Treasurer was asked to table documents. He indicated he was prepared to table documents. He then removed a page from one of those documents. Therefore the document is not a complete document. No alterations can be made to a document once a request has been made for it to be tabled. The Treasurer said the document is not confidential.
– The Treasurer has not in fact answered the question which I directed to him. My question was overtaken by a request from the Treasurer that certain material be incorporated in Hansard. The Treasurer made a request for leave to incorporate. That request was refused. So I now return to the point at which I was. Was the Treasurer quoting from a document?
– I quoted from two documents.
– Are the documents confidential?
– No. I would be happy for the Australian public to have a look at them.
-I call upon the Treasurer to table the two documents.
– I seek leave of the House to move a motion to enable so much of the Standing Orders to be suspended as would prevent those documents from being incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? Having regard to the noise of assent from my left, I will not put the question as the right honourable gentleman posed it. I will ask whether leave is granted to incorporate in Hansard the two documents.
- Mr Speaker, I am perfectly happy to table or to have incorporated in Hansard the two documents from which I quoted.
– Is leave granted to incorporate the documents in Hansard”1. There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows-
Mr Hayden: “Average family living standards have fallen by $16.00 a week in real terms . . .” (Budget response)
Mr Willis: “A taxpayer with a dependent wife and two children earning average weekly earnings of $248 a week in 1979/80 has since 1973/76 suffered a fall in real disposable income of $ 1 0.40 a week after tax “. (5 September 1980)
Even on the Opposition’s own calculations - and I do not accept that they are appropriate - the fall in living standards is not $16 a week.
Mr Willis argues that the $16 is the rise in before-tax income that is required.
But such a change could take place in a number of ways (e.g. changes in tax rates, changes in family allowances, changes in price levels).
Mr Willis assumes it must occur through an increase in average weekly earnings.
The reason Mr Willis has not released a table showing how he calculates his $16 is that his own calculations of the so called fall do not come to $16.
OPTIMISM GROWS ON STANDARD OF LIVING
Optimism has grown in the past three months that living standards will not fall during the next year, according to a new poll.
The poll, which will boost the Federal Government in the run-up to the election, shows only 27.9 per cent think tougher times are ahead.
The optimism is in marked contrast to the gloomier future predicted by 34.5 per cent in a similar survey on June 7 and 8.
The new Spectrum Research poll, based on random phone interviews on August 30 and 31 with 1202 people aged between 18 and 63 in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, still contains a grim warning to the Government - only 23.5 per cent feel their living standards will improve.
Those who think things will stay the same remain the biggest single group - 45.3 per cent, up 1 .4 per cent on the previous survey of August 2 and 3.
The most optimistic are those aged 18-24, of whom 32.2 per cent believe living standards will improve. In the 55 and over group, only 1 3. 1 see their positions improving.
People listed as “non-working” are the least optimistic of all. Only 1 2.5 per cent are confident of a better future.
Sydney is the only city with more optimists than pessimists. Nearly 30 per cent believe their living standard will rise, against just 24.5 per cent who expect it to worsen.
Melbourne voters are the most pessimistic. A mere 16 per cent expect better times ahead, and 30.2 per cent are convinced they will be worse off in the next 1 2 months.
Brisbane has the most people - 7.5 per cent - who don’t know whether the future will get better or not. Nearly 25 per cent of them believe conditions will improve, while 30.4 think grimmer days are ahead.
In Adelaide, 20.7 per cent think things will improve, and 30. 1 per cent think they will get worse. In Perth the figures are 27.3 and 27.5 per cent respectively.
COPYRIGHT, NEWS GROUP
Mr Hayden proceeding to address a question to the Prime Minister -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The question relates to a matter for which the right honourable gentleman is not officially responsible to the House. The question is therefore out of order.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I dispute that ruling with you. The Prime Minister is responsible for the overall administration of Government policy. Part of that, of course, must be a legitimate concern about tax avoidance. What I am putting to the Prime Minister–
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. In making the point of order, the honourable gentleman is making an implication which is a reflection on a member of the House. That can be done only by substantive motion. The question is out of order.
– Mr Speaker, I would argue with you that the question is not out of order.
-I have ruled that the question is out of order.
– He is a tax dodger.
-Order! The honourable member for Chifley will withdraw.
– I withdraw, Mr Speaker.
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. Will you request that the Labor Party raise its standards from the gutter?
– Order! There is no point of order.
– I ask the Minister for Housing and Construction: Is it a fact that a computer is being purchased for use by his Department? What procedure is being followed in assessing the tenders received for supply of the equipment? When is a final decision likely to be made on the name of the successful tenderer?
– This issue was discussed at some length in one of the more successful Estimates committee debates earlier this week. It is a fact that at the present time the Goverment is in the process of purchasing a computer network for use by the Department of Housing and Construction, and officers of a number of departments have been involved in the evaluation process for many months. As honourable members will recall, some time ago the Government established special procedures for the purchase of data processing equipment. In this case, as in all others, those procedures are being strictly adhered to. Two interdepartmental committees have been involved in the evaluation process, one dealing with the policy questions involved and the other concerned with the more technical issues.
As an additional step, the Government has appointed an independent assessor, Professor C. H. Brookes of the University of New South Wales, to provide a further expert independent opinion on the tenders now under consideration. A very thorough, lengthy and careful process of evaluation in this case has been carried out by the Government to ensure that we have the best possible advice before us when a decision is made in due course. So, as is usual, the Government is showing great care in its handling of this matter. The honourable member asked about the timing of a decision. The situation is that a Cabinet submission is now being prepared. It will go before Cabinet in due course, together with the IDC report that I mentioned - the report of those committees- the assessor’s report and all other relevant information, and a decision will then be made.
Mr Howe having addressed a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs-
– Order! The question is out of order.
– I am sorry. The facts hurt, Mr Speaker.
– Order! The question is out of order.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
– It had better be good.
– Order! The honourable member for Hume will remain silent.
– I have to put up with him. I sit next to him.
– The honourable member for Batman will resume his seat. The honourable member for Hume will not interject again.
– The question related to the Minister’s area of responsibility, it related to statements that he has made at an important international conference, it referred to facts in terms of the trend of government expenditure–
– Order! I heard the question. I ruled it out of order.
– On the point of order, Mr Speaker, I would be most grateful if you would allow the honourable member to re-word his question. I am very anxious to answer it.
– If the honourable gentleman can get the call, he may do so.
Mr lan Robinson proceeding to address a question to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Resources -
– Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to put his question in that form. It is out of order.
- Mr Speaker–
– I call the honourable member for Griffith.
– I was just waiting for a little silence, Mr Speaker. I direct my question–
– The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. All members of the House would like to ask their questions in silence. Unfortunately I cannot always guarantee that. I hope the honourable member for Griffith will proceed forthwith.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I refer the Treasurer to his statement in May this year when he announced that only 39 per cent tax indexation would apply during 1980-81. Is it a fact- the Treasurer apparently overlooked mentioning this in his statement- that almost 80 per cent of taxpayers, those earning less than $17,000 a year who do not claim a dependants’ rebate, received a miserly tax cut of just 90c a week from 1 July due to this measure? Is it also a fact that only a few weeks later this supposed tax cut was swallowed up by the latest petrol price rise of 1 te a litre, which added over $ I to the price of a tank of petrol?
– There is no argument that the taxation changes which I announced on behalf of the Government on 6 March this year, and which came into effect on 1 July, mean total benefits to Australian taxpayers this financial year of $630m, which is a very significant taxation benefit. The changes mean that families with a sole breadwinner in the lower income group receive the greatest relative assistance. There can be no argument about that.
The Government has never sought, from the time the changes were introduced, to do other than to explain precisely what those changes meant to all Australian taxpayers. I welcome the opportunity that the honourable member for Griffith has given me to remind the House and those who might be listening that as a result of this Government’s policy a tax cut worth $630m has been in effect since 1 July.
– Can the Minister for Industrial Relations inform the House of the state of the current garbage collection dispute in Melbourne? Has the Minister seen suggestions of political interference in the strike? Is there any substance to these allegations?
– There is no question that the garbage collection strike in Melbourne has reached a very serious stage, but it is important that the House know that, as I am informed, the men concerned have been given an absolute guarantee of job security. Therefore, there is no justification whatever for the strike. I have been concerned at the reports referred to by the honourable member for Isaacs that the strike has been extended because of the intervention of members of the socialist left of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party. A member of the Victorian branch of the socialist left, the member for Waverley Province, Mr Kennedy, has encouraged the men to prolong the strike. The Federal Leader of the Opposition has said that he would not hesitate to condemn irresponsible strikes. In the interests of the people of Melbourne I call on him to condemn this strike and the extremist members of his party who clearly want to prolong it.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In September 1978 he stated:
The Government is not in the business of hitting the pockets of the working men and women of Australia.
The interdepartmental report on economic strategy, in reference to taxation, claims:
The burden has fallen increasingly on PAYE taxpayers.
How does he reconcile those statements?
– In tabling the interdepartmental report on economic strategy the Government has not in any way attempted to disguise, nor will this side of the House attempt in any way to disguise, the real taxation choice that will need to be made by the Australian community at the forthcoming election. Over the coming weeks the Australian community will be told in no uncertain terms that a party which is committed to the high expenditure programs of the Australian Labor Party can hope only to fund that additional expenditure in one of three ways: It can increase taxation, it can sell more Government securities and therefore force up interest rates, or it can irresponsibly print more money. The Leader of the Opposition has no fourth alternative. There is no fourth alternative. If the Opposition wants a debate on taxation and a debate on the inflationary consequences of its alternative policies, I will willingly oblige at any time and at any place over the next few weeks.
– I refer to the allegations made by the honourable member for Hughes and the Leader of the Opposition about the payment of export incentives to the Chrysotile Corporation of Australia Pty Ltd. Can the Minister for Trade and Resources assure the House that there has been full observance of the law in this matter?
– One understands that it is the job of the Opposition to be a watchdog, but when it makes scurrilous allegations which reflect upon a government authority and also a company I think the situation should be made clear. Yesterday allegations were made that improper export incentives were paid to the Chrysotile Corporation of Australia Pty Ltd, which is a subsidiary of Woodsreef Mines Ltd. I indicated that the grants were paid properly. In this particular case when a mineral has to be upgraded, where there is beneficiation, the Export Development Grants Board refers the matter to the Bureau of Mineral Resources, for consideration as to whether there is an entitlement to an export incentive grant. The Export Development Grants Board did this and received the appropriate advice from the Bureau of Mineral Resources. The Chairman of the Board has provided me, as he is entitled to, with the papers relating to this matter. Under the Export Expansion Grants Act, neither the Board nor I am entitled to divulge the information relating to third parties where claims for export incentives are concerned. I have looked at the papers, including the advice that has been given to the Board by the Bureau of Mineral Resources, and I am satisfied that the Board’s decision was a proper one.
– How much did Sinclair get?
-The Deputy Prime Minister will resume his seat and the House will come to order. The honourable member for Fremantle will withdraw.
– I withdraw.
-I warn the honourable member for Fremantle.
– Thank you.
– Furthermore, whilst I cannot make the papers available, the company has notified me that it is prepared to make them available to the Leader of the Opposition if he wishes to see them.
– And the Bureau of Mineral Resources too; all the records.
– The company is prepared to make its submission available. Under the Act it is not possible for me to make the departmental papers available but the company will make its papers available to the Leader of the Opposition. I think it is very interesting to note that this company has experienced great difficulties. It has sought the help of the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Government. The allegations concerning export incentives have been answered. The Opposition now seems concerned about trying to embarrass the Government and embarrass this company which has had great difficulty in keeping 500 people employed and another 500 people indirectly employed. If the Opposition wants to jeopardise this company’s operations by any means whatsoever or by trying to denigrate the company’s reputation, let it do so, but it should tell the workers at that mine and the unions concerned which have been making representations to this Government to try to give some help to the company.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Resources a question which follows on that asked by the honourable member for Cowper. I refer the Minister to the list of commodities which are not eligible to receive an export expansion grant. Does this list include as ineligible items such commodities as unwrought aluminium, unrefined copper, unrefined lead, gold and silver? Do these commodities require a considerable amount of processing to extract them from the parent ore body? How does the Minister justify the exclusion of these commodities while asbestos produced in the New England electorate which requires a minimal amount of processing is eligible for the grant- I restate - quite contrary to the specification of items ineligible in the documentary references provided by the Export Development Grants Board?
– Since the introduction of the Export Expansion Grants Act which gives incentives to industry to sell overseas- it was an initiative of this Government to try to expand our exports- our export program has been working extremely successfully. This year exports will reach a record figure of $19 billion, an increase of 34 per cent in the last year, which is a remarkable performance. No doubt this is what is giving increased strength to the Australian economy. I return to the honourable member’s question. Those industries and commodities which attract export incentives are reviewed and revised continually by the Government. In some cases the Government makes arbitrary decisions excluding certain commodities from export incentives. Certain of the commodities mentioned have been excluded from the original program. But a host of industries in which additional labour and effort are going towards upgrading are still entitled to export incentives. The asbestos industry, producing one of the many commodities where there is upgrading, is able to get these benefits provided it meets the qualifications under the Act.
Mr Shack having addressed a question to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs -
-Order! The question is out of order.
-I present, pursuant to statute, the report of the Auditor-General, accompanied by the financial statements prepared by the Minister for Finance for the year 1979-80 and upon other accounts.
Motion (by Mr Eric Robinson)- by leave - agreed to:
– For the information of honourable members I present the interim annual report 1 979-80 of the Australian Wool Corporation.
- Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Does the honourable gentleman wish to make a personal explanation?
– I do.
– He may proceed.
– During Question Time there was a slight exchange between the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) and myself as to whether a document had been made available by the Opposition. I have no desire to misrepresent what may or may not have been made available by the Opposition. I take this opportunity to clarify the point I made in answer to the question. I do not believe that I was misrepresenting the position, as alleged by the honourable member. It is a question of whether a table has been provided by the Opposition to substantiate the claim of a drop of $16 a week in living standards. The table to which the honourable member referred is incorporated on page 1034 of Hansard. I did take the liberty of confirming with him behind the Speaker’s Chair that that was the table to which he referred during his intervention. I accept that.
The figure of $15.55, which I accept is the $16 that the honourable member is referring to, is described in that table not as a change in living standards or a real reduction in income but rather under the fairly lengthy title of ‘Before tax wage increase needed to restore income to 1975-76 value’. In fact the table records a figure of $10.40 under the heading ‘Change in real disposable income . . . ‘. I do not pursue the argument any further because it would be taking advantage of your giving me that leave, Mr Speaker. I reject the claim that I was misrepresenting the position. I was not. The table referred to by the honourable member for Gellibrand contained that figure $16 under a significantly different description.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement.
-I think the honourable gentleman should ask for my indulgence rather than seek leave of the House. I will give him my indulgence to make a personal explanation.
– The objection I took was that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) said that no table had been presented by the Opposition to justify the figures that were being used by us in respect of reductions in living standards. Such a table had been produced by me and incorporated in Hansard. That is the point I was making. The Treasurer has now referred to that table and has agreed that he was wrong when he made that statement. If he looked at the line below that he would see that it needed a $23 rise before tax to protect the living standards of a person on the average award rate and that that person’s actual after tax reduction in living standards is some $1 6.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– He may proceed.
– On 10 September, as reported at page 1131 of Hansard, the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) stated:
What about the relations of the Labor Party with the pharmacists of Australia . . . When the Labor Government lost office in 197S the Pharmacy Guild of Australia was about to take the Labor Minister for Health and the Labor Government to court. That was the belief in the Labor Government that the Pharmacy Guild of Australia had at that time.
I was the Minister referred to. It is true that the Department and the Government at that time were in dispute with the Pharmacy Guild over the formula for remuneration for pharmaceutical benefits, but I point out that that had nothing to do with the Labor Party or with my administration as such. Not only was the Pharmacy Guild about to take the then Government and me personally to court on this matter but also in April 1976, under my successor from the LiberalNational Country Party Government, a writ was isued by the High Court. Far from representing a failure of rapport between the Labor Administration and the Pharmacy Guild, this matter indicates that my successor was in deeper trouble with the Pharmacy Guild in that the matter was actually brought before the court.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Excise Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 4) 1980. Railway Agreement (Adelaide to Crystal Brook Railway) Bill 1980.
Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 4) 1980.
Income Tax (International Agreements) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1980.
Income Tax (Individuals) Bill 1980.
Income Tax (Companies and Superannuation Funds) Bill 1980.
Trade Training - Communications in Australia - Nurse Education - The Role of Parliament - Department of Housing and Construction: Computer Contract - Taxation - Pricing of Domestic Air Travel - Activities of Womens Groups in Hobart
That grievances be noted.
– Today I wish to raise, in the few minutes available in this debate, the almost pathetic plight of trade training in Australia on which the Government has been saying so much but obviously in respect of which it has been misrepresenting the position. I wish to make reference, first of all, to some comments which have been made by professional groups and by some statutory authorities in relation to their future trade training operations. I quote, first of all, from an article in a magazine called Engineers Australia. The article stated:
And studies being made by Brisbane-based management consultants, although begun only recently, show an alarming shortage of nearly every skilled worker to meet Gladstone’s potential needs right through the 1980s . . . There is little evidence available in Canberra to suggest that the Government has come to grips with the labour problems.
This is despite warnings from several employer and professional groups going back over the past five years.
There is ample evidence that the Government not only is failing to recognise the great need there will be in Australia for tradesmen but also, in defiance and in ignorance of the vast armies of unemployed young people who would like to do skilled work, is placing more and more reliance on bringing in skilled people from overseas. It is doing this at the expense of training young Australian people. The Government is giving no lead at all to the statutory authorities or, indeed, to its own departments about the need for skilled labour in this country. For instance, in the newsletter of the Department of Defence Aeronautical Research Laboratories for July 1 980 it was stated:
APPRENTICE INTAKE 1980
There have been 830 applicants for the 7 apprenticeship vacancies for 1980. Spare a thought for our apprentice master, Gordon Monks who has to weed out some 600 for outright rejection, arrange a RAAF psychology test for the almost 230 remaining and then select SO out of those for selection interviewing.
That gives some idea of the plight of and competition among young people for apprenticeships. I refer to the case of Qantas Airways Ltd and its announcement of 5 September. I quote from the Sydney Morning Herald:
Qantas, traditionally one of the largest employers of apprentices in Sydney, has slashed its intake for this year to a record low of 24.
It hired 85 apprentices in 1978 and 60 in 1979.
Again that illustrates that the Government is giving no lead to its authorities about the great need there will be in this country for skilled labour. Let us look at the intake of apprentice technicians by Telecom Australia over the years. In 1972-73, 933 were taken in and in 1979-80, 341 will be taken in - a drop of almost 600 in the years between 1972-73 and 1979-80. The drop in the intake of apprentice artisans has gone from 163 in 1972-73 to 106 today. The avenues for apprenticeship training are being cut off throughout Australia, and the lead in this is being given by the Government. It is little wonder that employers are not taking on all the labour they will need in the years ahead. If we take out New South Wales, the State that has taken the greatest initiative in its decisions on payroll tax, on workers compensation and on the rebates that are being given to employers to put on additional apprentices, we can see that there is virtually no lift in the apprenticeship intake throughout the remainder of Australia. So, the situation with regard to the training of Australians is desperate.
Let me make some reference to what is likely to occur in Australia in the next few years. The Government makes great play of the resources boom that it sees occurring in Australia. There is no doubt on this side of the House that much of the development will take place, but much of it will not take place because we just will not have the required skilled labour to do the jobs. If we look at the statements which have been made by various Ministers in New South Wales, including the Premier, we can see that in the Hunter region alone by 1983 - that is not far away; certainly not long enough in which to train the number of tradesman who will be required - an additional 4,360 tradesmen will be required for the projected resource development which is to take place in that region. By 1983 the mining sector will require an additional 1,200 tradesmen. In power generation an additional 950 will be required and in metals processing an additional 2,200 will be required. Let us look at the classifications of tradesmen who will be required: Almost 700 electrical fitters; 620 mechanical fitters; 460 plant motor mechanics; 200 welders; and 150 boilermakers.
One would have thought, with those sorts of projections, that the Government would be doing everything possible to ensure that there was an increase in the number of people being trained not only to ensure that we will meet the demand which will take place in Australia in the years ahead but also to give many young people in Australia some of the opportunities which will be presented. There is no doubt that, with the sort of demand which is growing so rapidly in the early 1980s, an explosion in the intake of skilled migrants will occur, whether or not this Government likes it. In fact, from the way the Government’s policies are working out it seems to me that the Government would rather do a favour to skilled tradesmen in Europe or in North America, by bringing them to Australia to do those jobs, than train some of the young people in Australia. In some cases the Government cannot even forecast the type of trade training that we require in this country. The Government recognises, in official government documents, that forecasts indicate that the shotage of tradesmen will become even greater during the next few years when major development projects get under way. These are the sorts of statements which the Government is making in relation to trade training in Australia. The official document on trade training entitled Training Talkback said in its editorial:
The plain facts are that not enough tradesmen are being trained in Australia.
Further, a report on overseas strategy from a training group that went overseas stated:
In each country visited, training in industry and commerce was recognised and accepted as a vital element in achieving the Government’s economic and social objectives . . .
In each country, the body which advised the Government on manpower training had been established by statute and comprised employer and trade union representatives.
There is no doubt that the present system in Australia is totally inadequate to meet the demand for skilled labour in this country. We should be taking up the challenge of the demand for skilled labour- I reiterate- especially at a time when we have tens of thousands of young people unemployed. An additional point ought to be made. Most of the training for young people is applied only to the male section of our work force. Less than 2 per cent of all the people in training for skills in Australia are females when we take away hairdressing from the number of trades which are taken into account. Let me state the position so that people can get some idea of what is occurring. The Australian Bureau of Statistics unemployment figures have just come to hand today. They reinforce the argument I am making about the importance of giving more people in
Australia the opportunity of acquiring skills. For the period between August 1979 and August of this year the figures show an increase of 16,000 people unemployed. So the Government cannot say that things are getting better or that the economy is improving and people will all find work.
In trade training and in making skills available to meet the demand that will take place in Australia this Government is making an awful bungle. It does not recognise the requirements of Australian industry. It does not recognise the aspirations of the young people in Australia who want to acquire skills. This Government does not realise the relationship between those two things and is sitting on its haunches waiting and hoping that things will just work out. The Government thinks that the only way these things will work out in Australia, the only way in which investments that are being made in Australia will be furnaced by skilled labour, is by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Macphee) being given instructions by the Government to spend more time overseas with his officers bringing to Australia people with the skills that will be required by these new industries. We on this side of the House say that the position should be reversed. The young people in Australia should be given the opportunity firstly to acquire the skills that will be required by those industries to be established in Australia in the 1980s. It is a very negative attitude for the Government to say: ‘We will solve our problems by getting skilled migrants’. There are too many people unemployed in Australia who would love to be tradesmen in whom we should be investing our money. The Government ought to be telling a lot of its statutory authorities not to cut the number of people who are being trained in skills because even if the authorities do not need them other industries will.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Before calling the honourable member for Maranoa and further to the remarks of Mr Speaker earlier in the day I again remind the House that the honourable member for Maranoa is about to retire from a long parliamentary career. I suggest to the House that paying respectful attention to his remarks, in what may well be his last address to this House, will serve as some tribute to the very worthwhile contribution he has made to this place over a long period.
– Hear, hear!
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I appreciate your comments and those of Mr Speaker earlier today with regard to my service in this House. I believe it is in line with that of the great majority of honourable members who have served this country well. I expect no special appreciation for the work I have done, which it has been my duty to do. However, in this grievance debate I would like to speak on the matter of communications. There is no question at all that the importance of communications everywhere can hardly be overstressed. I see its importance particularly in those sparsely populated areas which are so vitally dependent on communications. I again pay tribute to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) for the interest that he has shown in those areas and for the achievements of the Postal and Telecommunications Department in those areas. Probably the most important advance in recent times has been Community Access 80. That has been of tremendous advantage. The further out in the country one goes the more important it becomes. Whilst there are not many people in these areas they are very deserving people. Australia as a nation has a responsibility to utilise all the productive capacity of this nation. Those people who are prepared to work in those areas deserve the gratitude of the community. It is pleasing to see that they get some benefit from Access 80. As an example, in my own area - I know there are many other areas - people in Birdsville and Bedourie right out on the Northern Territory border get local access calls to Quilpie and Charleville. Despite the very sincere appreciation I have expressed at what has been done there always will be something that can be improved.
I refer now to the costs of telephone communications and the hardships experienced by those people living in areas where the distance from exchanges is quite considerable. People living some 16 kilometres from an exchange get the construction and maintenance of their lines completely free of charge. We welcome that. As a result of the activities of honourable members who were concerned about that area the amount of free line construction and maintenance was lifted by the previous coalition Government to 24 kilometres, to the great advantage of many people, but certainly at a very heavy cost to the Postmaster-General’s Department as it was then. Nevertheless, I still believe those costs should have been borne by the community to allow those people in need to have basic telephone communications. When the Australian Labor Party came into office it reduced the amount of free line to eight kilometres which was the figure from which it was lifted by the previous Government. It has been a matter of great concern to many people who are interested in it. I am pleased to note that the figure has been lifted again to 16 kilometres of free line construction and maintenance. That does not cover people to the extent that it ought to cover them. Some allowances should be made for those people who have the basic communication need to which I have referred.
The weight of that burden perhaps can be emphasised by my saying that while a person living 16 kilometres from an exchange has that free line construction and maintenance, a person who lives a further 8 kilometres away, say 24 kilometres from an exchange, will pay for the cost of construction of the line $2,560. If a person lives 32 kilometres from an exchange that figure is doubled to $5,120. That is a very heavy burden. While this matter is being looked at, and while there is an option of a $500 rental charge in my opinion that is still not good enough. When the Government is looking at the benefits which can be provided I hope this matter will be looked at very closely. It may even delay the introduction of automatic exchanges in some areas. From the point of view of justice this would be well worth while. I hope the matter will be given the consideration it deserves.
– So do I.
– I thank the Minister.
– It is good to hear someone who can pronounce ‘kilometres’ too.
– I appreciate the comments of the honourable member for Hindmarsh. He is a very articulate member of the House and has a great command of English and its pronunciation. I would like to be nice in my last speech. On a serious note, the need for an improvement in communications is very real. When a communications network is installed it is permanent and, therefore, is in the national interest.
I appreciate also the advance that has been made in the provision of television into outlying areas. My colleague the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) and I have discussed this matter many times. I pay tribute again to the Minister for his interest in this matter. The Government has a continuing program for the expansion of television into those western areas. It is very much appreciated even though it does not cover all the areas we would like it to cover. But at least the broadcasts have given towns and surrounding areas a service they did not have. But since those people have only that one avenue of communication, I would like to stress the importance of ensuring, by whatever means may have to be used, that our national sporting programs are transmitted across our national television network. I believe that provision should be made to ensure that where any commercial television station is privileged to broadcast those sorts of programs, it should be obliged to allow the national network to broadcast them in areas where the commercial station is unable to provide that service. I believe it can be done and I am sure it will be done in the course of time, given the attitude that this Government has towards that matter.
I mentioned earlier the advantage of the community access program. I want to emphasise that not only does the program help the primary producers whom we are so often accused of being too interested in helping, but also it helps the businessmen in the towns. It enables businessmen to communicate with their clients and customers. So it has a double advantage. That, in turn, helps our towns. It enables them to give and to get better services. That, in turn, helps decentralisation. And if there is one aspect of government that we should be looking at even more closely, it is the need for decentralisation. We do not want a nation of people living just around the coast however pleasant it might be to live there. We want to have people living out in those remote areas and getting from the towns the services that they so justly deserve, services such as education and medical facilities which are provided in some of our larger towns but which are needed in the outlying areas and the smaller towns.
I would also like to refer to the great sacrifices made by the Isolated Children’s Parents Association. Those parents travel almost unbelievable distances to meet in an effort to obtain benefits for people living in those isolated areas and to obtain a better education for their children. I pay a very warm tribute to them. The Government has provided assistance and this Budget further improves their conditions. But here again, I still believe that we can look for greater justice to improve the benefits the Government has already been pleased to provide. These people serve the nation in areas where many people are not prepared to serve it. I believe that ought to be taken into consideration when we are looking at the benefits that a government can provide. I think that sometimes when a large number of people are involved, they get greater consideration because of their weight of numbers. Because politics is a numbers game they sometimes get a greater benefit from the proposals put up compared with people who do not have the same amount of political weight. But we still must have justice in such matters. This Government does deserve credit for looking at all these angles which can give such people the consideration they certainly deserve. I will be looking forward to seeing those improvements continue.
In the few moments left to me, I would just like to say how much I have appreciated the cooperation and assistance of my parliamentary colleagues during the time I have been a member of this place. It has been a great benefit to me, particularly in my position as party Whip. I have had a great deal of co-operation from them. At times, it has been little, but mostly it has been very good. I would also like to pay a tribute to all those who work in the Parliament. I thank them for the courtesy and consideration they have consistently extended to me and my wife during the time in which it has been my privilege to represent Maranoa in this Parliament.
– Hear, hear!
– Let me say that although we are on opposite sides of the House, since I have been a member of this House I have been very impressed with the way in which the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) has always placed a very high emphasis on the needs of his very far flung constituents. I wish him well in his retirement. This morning I want to take up the vexed issue of nurse education in this country. There has been a plethora of committee reports on the question of nurse education in Australia. Although in those reports there is no universal agreement, the dominant conclusion of these inquiries has been to recommend a shift of responsibility for basic nurse training away from hospital located courses towards other educational institutions, particularly in this country, towards the colleges of advanced education. I will quote from a couple of those reports. Firstly, I quote from the 1974 report of the Nurses Education Board on the future development of nurse education in New South Wales. That report commented: a multiplicity of training schools does not allow for economic or rational use of training facilities or staff. The lack of nursing programs in educational institutions contributes to the isolation of nursing education from the mainstream of educational thought and expertise.
I now quote from the 1975 report of the Committee of Inquiry into Hospital and Health Services in Victoria, usually known as the Ramsay Committee report. It stated:
So long as the responsibility for education and service continues to be located entirely under hospital nursing administration there will remain a tendency for the more immediate service needs to override the educational needs.
That is the kind of conclusion that has emerged from most of those reports.
The nurses organisations themselves are quite clear about the desirability of shifting basic nurse education courses from hospitals to multidisciplinary tertiary institutions. In the 1976 document, ‘Goals in Nursing Education’, the following statement was made:
The nurses of Australia believe that . . . education programs for professional nurses should be conducted by multi-disciplinary education institutions at a level not less than a tertiary level diploma (UG2)
That statement was supported by the Royal Australian Nursing Federation, the College of Nursing in Australia, the National Florence Nightingale Committee of Australia and the New South Wales College of Nursing; that is, it was endorsed by most of the major nursing organisations in this country, and they have been arguing for that for the past four years.
It seems to me that the arguments for such a shift are overwhelmingly powerful and I briefly want to summarise them. While the basic training of nurses is hospital based, the service needs of the hospital will be given primacy over the education needs of the nurse trainees. That is understandable and inevitable. This leads frequently to a divorce of classroom teaching and clinical practice. The hospital is designed as a service institution, not as an educational institution and it will tend to have a service timetable that will have primacy over the educational timetable. Secondly, the hospital is designed as a service institution and it does not possess the educational backup service characteristic of educational institutions. Thirdly, hospital based nursing education frequently imposes on young nurses traumatic service situations that they have neither been trained for nor are emotionally equipped to cope with. Fourthly, there are the significant changes in the educational needs of nurses and the new roles that this society expects of nurses. There is an increased emphasis on health education and preventive medicine. There are much more community based nursing services demanded today and, of course, there is this growing attention in this society to the particular health needs of the ethnic communities. All of those demands lead to a de-institutionalisation of nursing services, and that will go on in this country in the next 20 years - to more community nursing, to more domiciliary care provided through nursing to community health care centres. The hospital setting is arguably not the best setting for preparation for such nursing roles.
Fifthly, technological change in medicine and changes in medical therapies demand that nurses must have greater understanding of the principles in which their practice is based, and they need this understanding much more than ever before. Again, the development in hospitals and community health centres of a team approach in medicine raises the question of why nurses should be trained in a locale distinct from all other health care professionals. All other health care professionals are trained in multi-disciplinary educational institutions. Why should nurses be trained in a different setting? Again, it is fashionable today to denigrate tertiary education. I think it is an enormous advantage to late adolescents to be able to study together widely different subjects in a single institution devoted to education. Nurses should not be denied this opportunity.
Finally, we in the Labor Party believe in the democratisation of the health care system. We want to see a bigger say for nurses and other health care professionals in the organisation of their own work both inside and outside hospitals. I do not believe that the right preparation for that much more democratic role for nurses is provided if we socialise nurses from the very outset, from the beginning of their education, in a hierarchical hospital setting. This is not to say that we do not believe there should be a close liaison between educational institutions and hospitals and that there should be throughout the training of nurses continual clinical experience but that clinical experience will be defined and determined by their educational needs not by the service needs of the hospitals.
In 1977 the Government, recognising some of these problems, set up the Committee of Inquiry into Nurse Education and Training to the Tertiary Education Commission, known as the Sax Committee, to inquire into nurse education and training. That Committee reported in August 1978. It was a cautious and conservative report but, like its predecessors, it recommended a gradual and cautious shift to basic nurse education in colleges of advanced education. The Committee said:
The evidence is sufficient to justify an expansion of nurse education in selected colleges of advanced education to an extent that would enable each program to be thoroughly assessed.
The specific recommendations of the Committee were again cautious, conservative and evolutionary. The Committee recommended:
Basic nurse education should also continue to be offered in three-year Diploma (UG 2 Courses) in a small number of specified and approved colleges of advanced education; each of these approved programs should have sufficient students to enable proper comparisons with good hospital schools of nursing to be made.
It also recommended:
An appropriate target figure would be some 2,200 student places for basic general nursing in colleges of advanced education by 1983. Courses should be offered only in those colleges that can respond appropriately to identified needs for nurse education.
That is, the report suggested a rise in the next five years from the present 750 to 2,200 in these institutions. Of course, that conservative, cautious and evolutionary proposal was much too much for the imaginative and innovatory Ministers who govern this country at the moment. They rejected the Sax Committee’s recommendations on the expansion of nurse education to colleges of advanced education, which was the key thrust of that document.
I want to say three things about that decision by the Government. Firstly, once again, the Government rejects a key recommendation of a committee it has set up, a recommendation which is in accord with most of the committees that have reported on this subject. Secondly, that decision by the Government contrasts sharply with its own rhetorical commitment- we always have to talk about rhetorical commitment of this Government because in practice it never manages to live up to its rhetoric - to the need for more emphasis on pre-employment and education training. Senator Carrick, when talking about the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training - the Williams Committee report - said:
The Government accepts in principle the proposal for greater emphasis on pre-employment education and training.
Yet when the argument is developed for preemployment education for nurses in colleges of advanced education, the Government rejects this modest, moderate, conservative proposal despite its rhetoric about commitment to preemployment education and training through tertiary institutions.
Thirdly, let me say that if the Australian Medical Association, or a prestigious organisation such as that, had spent as long as the nurses preparing a case in this way and had received so much support from government reports there would be no doubt that it would have been granted the educational demands it made. This suggests to me that this elitist Government regards nurses as somewhat lower in the health care pecking order and that is why nurses beliefs and their demands are not met with the same response. The Labor Party commits itself to the gradual and evolutionary shift of nursing training from hospital-based locales to colleges of advanced education and it will implement in the first instance the proposals of the Sax Committee.
– My grievance today is related to the role of this Parliament and the position that it, as a major institution in this democracy in which we live, holds at present in the minds of many people. Before we returned here for the Budget session, I had the opportunity to attend a conference at the La Trobe University organised by Australia Frontier. The conference, which discussed the future directions which this country ought to take, was attended by people from all political persuasions, from churches, from unions, from the corporate sector, from the media and from the feminist movement - a wideranging representative group of people. The conference was supported by this Government to the extent of $20,000. 1 understand and I know that Australia Frontier is indebted to the Government for that contribution.
One of the underlying common points which came through four days of discussion was the concern of 120 young people that the individual in our society today is totally lost. Those present wondered about the relationship between the individual and the institutions in our society, whether those institutions be the unions, the bureaucracy, government, the corporate sector or the so-called trans-nationals. There was a strong feeling that the individual felt insignificant and a sense of subservience to those institutions. There was a feeling of frustration and futility in the individual’s lack of ability to change the power which these institutions undoubtedly exercise. The individuals apparently felt - and this was a shared view - that they had little chance of making any impact on those forces which I describe as the institutional forces in this country.
I thought that as the Thirty-first Parliament is drawing to its inevitable close, as the noise in this place indicates, this may be an opportune time to consider what, if anything, we, the potential practitioners and the present political practitioners in this place, should do to change the parliamentary process as it is practised at present. Many of us will come back after the 1980 election committed to continue to improve the Parliament and its place in our society.
I thought it might be worth while to summarise some of the positions which an individual may have vis-a-vis the Parliament. Let me first of all mention the people who sit in the galleries of this chamber. Most of them are tourists. I wonder what goes through their minds when they see the three-ring circus in this place at Question Time, particularly as it is performing at the moment. Is the gallery always packed during Question Time because that is when the circus is performing? Where are the people who want to come in here and hear first class debate at times other than Question Time? Are in fact the observers and the listeners to the broadcast of proceedings over radio bored to death by the processes they hear debated in this chamber?
Undoubtedly, if a member of parliament is a good member he. will have made many contacts with constituents. He will have served as a contact point and a funnel to receive ideas, to hear criticisms of Government programs and to transmit the thoughts and ideas and the desired actions of the constituency. I believe that that system works well and the electorate will be served in that fashion if the member of parliament is a good member of parliament. A member of parliament is able to make contact with individuals in his constituency if he does his job properly. I also believe a member of parliament can make an impact within his party structure at joint party meetings of the Liberal and National Country parties or through the caucus system of the Australian Labor Party. If a member of parliament is able to transmit ideas into that party system which are representative of his electorate, again the individual may feel well served by the institution of parliament. However I believe we are starting to bog down because the power of the Executive in the parliamentary process is just far too great and the individual, and indeed the back bench member of parliament, has little or no ability to influence that Executive control of the processes which currently exist in this Parliament.
Over the last two years there have been a number of attempts to introduce committee systems - the Estimates committee system and the legislative committee system - in an attempt to make debate more relevant and to have a greater degree of debate on the Estimates, which is an important aspect of the deliberations of this Parliament. Yet yesterday we again saw part of a very poor act in that three-ring circus I described earlier. We debated the matter of who was present or not present at Estimate committee meetings instead of debating whether the Estimates committees are working, whether they should be improved, and how the sessional Orders and Standing Orders should be amended to make sure those committees function properly.
I will refer very briefly to some of the processes of the Parliament. It became obvious in the discussions of the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House that there was a need to re-examine the ringing of the bells for two minutes to summon members for a division when we talk about erecting by 1988 a building substantially greater than the present Parliament House. As a result, the old traditional two-minute bellringing procedure was looked at with new eyes. In fact, the brief adopted by the Joint Parliamentary Committee stated that the architect should consider twice that time for the ringing of the bells to allow him greater flexibility in the design. That is the sort of absurdity that must be looked at and examined in relation to whether the procedures of the past have any relevance in 1 980 and beyond.
We must also look at the establishment of a given time for divisions, whereby everybody understands, for example, that divisions will be held for two hours on Thursday afternoons. We must examine, as we have in the Government’s parliamentary reform committee, the process of electronic voting to prevent the absurd timewasting procedures currently undertaken in this place to count votes. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and many backbenchers have said, we must look at a four-year parliamentary term. We must debate in this House the independence of the speakership. We must look at the situation of supplementary questions to ensure that Question Time is not a Dorothy Dix answering service where government members have a chance to hit the Opposition around the head in answering questions. The second reading speech procedures must also be examined. At the present there is no reason why second reading speeches could not be tabled and then moved to the legislation committees for greater discussion.
One of the absurdities that is becoming apparent is that there are Jekyll and Hyde characters in the Parliament who, as they walk through the doors of the chamber of the House of Representatives, think that they can act like animals; yet at committee meetings they act like intelligent human beings who have been put here to improve the procedures of government, to discuss legislation, and to undertake committee work in an intelligent way. Finally, I refer to party discipline and how it is becoming a tight, constraining collar on the adequacy of intelligent debate in this House. There is a chance for improvement, but this can come about only if we are able on occasions to exercise proper, intelligent, open debate without the tight party discipline collar being applied to all debates.
I hope that when the Thirty-second Parliament convenes there will be an intelligent all-party discussion on a number of the matters I have mentioned. I hope that that discussion will take place without rancour, without point-scoring, and without elections and political survival being in the minds of those taking part. I hope that that debate will be undertaken with generosity, common sense and intelligence. If I may say so, we must raise the standard of debate in this place. We must improve the decision-making process and build the mechanisms which will allow the individual to feel relevant in the democratic system which operates in Australia today.
– I have evidence from departmental and other sources that the Department of Housing and Construction has given preferential treatment to IBM Australia Ltd in relation to the tender for the supply of a $35. 3m computer. I believe that the favouring of the IBM tender is a sop to that company following its failure to secure the $20m contract for the Australian Bureau of Statistics computer system in November 1979 and its lack of success with other Government tenders. The evidence I have before me in a number of leaked documents is sufficiently compelling to warrant a full investigation by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom) into the decision-making process within the Department for which he is responsible. In the Estimates committee hearing this week I raised a number of substantial questions about the recommendation by his Department to the interdepartmental committee on automatic data processing that the IBM solution be endorsed for procurement. Both the Minister and the deputy head of his Department may have attempted to answer my questions to the best of their knowledge, but I believe that no cover-up can be tolerated. The Minister has a responsibility to ensure proper standards of public administration within his Department.
Requestsfor tender 78/356 were issued on 22 January 1979 and closed on 24 April 1979. After four months of full time evaluation by a technical team of eight members of the Department, a short list of three tenders was unanimously determined in late August 1979. That short list consisted of Facom Australia Ltd, Prime-Honeywell, and Prime-Univac. The day after the short list was drawn up, a senior officer of the Department of Housing and Construction informed an officer of the Public Service Board of the Departmental evaluation team’s short list. After several phone calls the Public Service Board succeeded in having IBM added to the short list, although the Department’s technical officers had excluded it on the ground of high costs. At a subsequent meeting in early September 1979 a computer systems officer in the management systems evaluation division of the Public Service Board justified the addition of IBM to the short list, stating that it would ‘give the interdepartmental committee a race it could understand’ - that is, a race between IBM and Facom. In the report of the Department of Housing and Construction to the interdepartmental committee, which was considered on 23 October, it was stated:
By including the IBM solution the Department can retain a competitive bid against the Facom tender in the event that the Prime associated solutions are shown to be not viable.
From 26 October to 8 December 1979 three members from the Department of Housing and Construction and one from the Public Service Board travelled overseas to investigate the claims of the tenderers. At a meeting of the Department’s evaluation team in early January 1980 an Assistant Secretary of the Public Service Board who was in attendance stated:
In no way would the Board support a multi-vendor solution.
In effect, the Public Service Board was telling the Department that it had no choice but to recommend IBM for the contract as Facom and Prime-Honeywell had been ruled out on technical grounds, and that only two tenders, IBM and Prime-Univac, both of which were considered technically feasible, were still under consideration. The Department’s computer policy committee intimated that the evaluation team had to come up with a justification for awarding the contract to IBM. It was at this stage, early in February 1980, that the leaks began to emerge concerning the procedures for procurement that were being adopted. Yet, even in mid-February, with an increase to nine in the size of the evaluation team, the vote was seven to two in favour of the Prime-Univac tender. In March 1980 the Department reported to the interdepartmental committee, seeking endorsement of its recommended solution prior to the continuation of the procurement. The Department’s recommendation stated:
IBM Australia Ltd for central, regional and networking hardware and software;
AWA for data entry equipment;
Cullinane Australia Pty Ltd for data base management software; and
Rand McDonald Systems Pty Ltd for conversion services.
The report also stated that:
The solutions remaining, identified as IBM and UnivacPrime, were subjected to additional scrutiny. The findings of the Department indicate that both are technically feasible.
The report concluded:
While neither of the two solutions that have emerged from the evaluation as technically feasible solutions meet all the hardware and software requirements, they both meet the functional requirements laid down.
I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard section 3 of the report dealing with a comparative analysis of the two tenders.
Leave not granted.
– I was given permission by the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) and by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland), and I was also told to see the Speaker. They all agreed to the incorporation. Now the Minister for Housing and Construction refuses to allow the incorporation. In April 1980 the Department requested a demonstration of capability from Univac-Prime, which was successfully conducted on 28 April. Prior to that demonstration the Department submitted a supplementary report to the IDC. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard section 5 of that supplementary report outlining the reasons for preferring the IBM solution.
Leave not granted.
– Again, although I have been given permission by two Ministers and the Speaker to incorporate this in Hansard, now the Minister responsible refuses me leave. The report has been handed to the Press; the Press has access to it but the people of Australia cannot read it in Hansard. The report stated that ‘the 10-year differential costs of the IBM solution as shown in the cost effectiveness analysis are approximately $1.4m higher than those of the Univac-Prime solution’. It is no wonder the Government wants to hide everything. I questioned the Minister in the Estimates Committee whether the recommendation for IBM was in breach of the basic policy of purchasing on the Commonwealth account, as stated by the Department of Administrative Services in its brief to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on 20 October 1978 in which it was stated:
The procurement process shall aim at obtaining the best value for the money spent - accordingly the lowest suitable tender should be accepted.
This is not the case in this instance. I am still awaiting the Minister’s answer. The supplementary report also made a number of unsubstantiated and, I believe, biased assertions to justify the recommendation of the IBM solution. Something smells about the shallowness of those arguments. There are a number of significant omissions in relation to the problems associated with the IBM solution. I want to incorporate them in Hansard so that people can examine them. But no, the Minister will not allow it.
Firstly, the Australian content for the IBM proposal is zero and IBM has minimal offset credits. Secondly, the IBM communication system SNA is incompatible with the system X25 which Telecom Australia has stated will be used for the public data network. If the IBM system is used the public data network will have to be bypassed. High subscriber trunk dialling charges will result when a regional station such as Dampier communicates with Perth. IBM has been unable to demonstrate that SNA can provide remote job entry which is considered in the computer industry to be the simplest form of communication between computers. Thirdly, the IBM solution is a multivendor solution. Whereas Univac has accepted overall responsibility for Prime operations, IBM will not accept the responsibility for other vendors. Finally, the evidence provided by the joint submission of Prime and Univac to the Department of Housing and Construction of April 1980 and subsequent information have cast doubt on the validity of the Department’s recommendation.
The Minister has a responsibility to set up an inquiry into the whole matter to report on the findings urgently and finally before he puts it before Cabinet. As he said at Question Time this morning, he is already preparing to put that report before Cabinet. He knows it is a smelly report, a smelly recommendation, and that it is highly biased towards IBM. He knows what is really going on and he knows that there is a stench in his Department.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-I suggest that the Minister seek to make a statement by indulgence or by leave of the House a little later.
– I agree with that course.
– Our party, the National Country Party, has for many years at a Commonwealth and a State level had a continuing policy on taxation reform and reviews. For instance, in the life of the present coalition Government death and gift duties have been removed. The averaging provisions have been amended to give maximum benefits to primary producers, when the Labor Government, under the Hayden Budget, practically removed those benefits. Income equalisation deposits, selfemployed superannuation, a three tier tax scheme, have all had the full support of the National Country Party in their introduction by this coalition Government.
The National Party in Queensland, again in coalition, initiated the removal of State succession and probate duties and road maintenance tax. Australians naturally consider themselves overtaxed, and J join in this sentiment. The Australian newspaper, about two years ago, launched its own tax revolt and gained universal support and sympathy, thus successfully capturing the mood of most of us who are taxpayers in one form or another. In fact the recent miners’ strike in Central Queensland against subsidised housing taxation was seen by many as a natural extension of that tax revolt. While open cut miners may enjoy large incomes, they are also large taxpayers because of their inability to fragment income. While the tax revolt is seen by most as a matter of over taxation, it is simply, I believe, an expression of concern about our whole taxation structure which Australians originally adopted and allowed to grow and extend in a most undisciplined manner.
As amended up to 31 December 1979, the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 is a publication of 880 pages. For each page one could also count a similar number of anomalies, inequities, inconsistencies and irregularities that no income tax Act should contain. There are inequities while one family can fragment income and benefit from lower taxes and another family on a salary cannot. It is anomolous that single income families are denied the same zero tax ceilings as are available to a double income family. It is inconsistent when a full allowance can be given for capital and domestic expenditure, but a business deduction for provisions such as holiday and long service leave is denied another. It is irregular and subject to abuse when an amount of $71 lm is in dispute because of tax avoidance measures as of this time.
It is no longer an income tax Act, because through this same Act the Government delivers many of its other services. For instance, in 1978- 79 taxpayers’ dependants were rebated to the extent of $676m. Donors to registered charities and interest payers on private dwellings benefited by $32m from reduced taxation. In 1979- 80 it was estimated that grants of $4 14m were made, through taxation reductions, to those industries that invested in new plant. A grant of $74m was similarly made to certain mining enterprises for expenditure on capital equipment. There are many more examples of services and programs which are delivered through our present archaic taxing system but which are not identified or quantified; for instance, the non-taxability of certain pensions and benefits, the cost of superannuation and retirement payments, medical and hospital care and domestic rates on housing. The list is endless.
It concerns me and the National Country Party that the tax avoidance and tax evasion industry is flourishing, and in the former it is occurring with the encouragement of our interpreters of the law. Credit must be given to this Government and to the Treasurer (Mr Howard) for his determination to close the avoidance loopholes. But for every hole closed there are many others out there in the big wide world of commerce flourishing and unidentified. For those who today complain- and as I said previously, rightly so- about the high taxation should appreciate that the domestic surplus for 1980-81 will be achieved, not through the amount of income tax payments but through the crude oil levy estimated to collect $3, 157m in the current year.
While that revenue is with us, we may not recognise the extent to which tax avoidance will grow and dissatisfaction with present taxation methods will spread. Only when this oil levy revenue is no longer available to the Government will we recognise the irrepairable damage done through the Income Tax Act that inadertently encourages tax avoidance and tax corruption at the expense of the taxpayer, the middle income taxpayer, who cannot fragment his or her income. I submit that if we recognise our present income taxing structure for what it is today, the position will only get worse. While it exempts some and taxes others, while it delivers government services and programs, which was not its purpose, while it acts as a positive disincentive to business and personal productivity and profitability, and while we have an extraordinary item of oil levy revenue available to the Government, we should completely restructure and reorganise our income taxing system.
For many years there has been talk about a flat rate of tax for Australians. In fact, it was our party’s leader, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), who supported the concept many years ago. On 8 November 1979 my colleague the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) spoke in this House of the flat rate concept. To stop tax avoidance and evasion, or to make such practices too expensive to implement, and to redirect our taxing system away from the further turmoil that awaits it, we need a change. The flat rate tax concept allows us that opportunity to change. It is not possible effectively to change a bad Act; we need a fresh start.
In supporting this proposition I wish to make some pertinent points. The first is that I can give no reasonable rate of tax as the flat rate to be initially introduced. Certainly I see 20c in the dollar as perhaps too low. The 1978-79 income tax statistics show that of the income assessed for the year, $59 billion, $12* billion was the tax result, which amounts to 20.89c in every dollar. Secondly- this is why the 20 per cent rate is not realistic - we must ensure that the same benefit of a zero tax ceiling is still available to smaller income earners; that is, persons and families in the lower income category should retain their privileged position. The third point is: Who is to benefit? There will be those who point out that it will be the rich and the wealthy. To this point I suggest that, in the main, these are the very people who have in the past and who are at present escaping the high rates of tax through legal avoidance, tax minimisation or the fragmentation of income. For instance, I bring to the attention of honourable members table 4 of Budget Paper No. 1 1 . That table relates to income tax statistics and indicates that 0.9 per cent of taxpayers, or those with an income in excess of $32,000, pay tax on that excess portion at the highest rate of 60c in the dollar. That was for the year 1978-79. It shows also that that 0.9 per cent paid 8.23 per cent of the total taxation, but not all at 60c in the dollar. In the year 1975-76, 2.1 per cent of taxpayers were paying tax at 60c or more in the dollar and accounted for 1 5.6 per cent of the tax collected. This amounts to more than halving that number of taxpayers and almost halving the tax that they paid in just on three years.
This highlights the fact that fewer taxpayers are paying the higher rates of tax, not because of decreasing incomes but because these are the people who have access to avoidance schemes. The implementation costs involved can be afforded by the wealthy. Give the country another three years on this base and the percentage of taxpayers in the higher bracket will be practically nil. The same table shows 70.54 per cent of taxpayers, or those with income less than $12,000 or those on the average wage or less, pay an average of 20.6c or less in the dollar. Those with incomes of less than $22,000-95.25 per cent of taxpayers - pay an average of 28.2c in the dollar.
The last point that must be made is that a flat rate of tax, while benefiting those now on higher declared incomes, will benefit and encourage those in the middle income brackets to move more rapidly into the high income bracket because they will know there will be no penalty attaching to that extra incentive, productivity and profit. The gross domestic product can only grow as a result. A flat rate of tax will be self-indexing and automatically averaged to every taxpayer. The introduction of such a change in our taxation rate must be at a time when extraordinary revenue is available to the Government to act as a buffer for any initial loss to revenue that such a change might involve. No one should be penalised by the incentive aspects of a flat rate but such a tax will take time to germinate. Such a buffer, and the necessary extraordinary income, exists in our present crude oil levy of $3,1 59m, which represents about 9 per cent of Commonwealth revenue for the current year. I believe firmly that this would be the most practical use of that income and would reestablish the incentive needed for the future. If, as we are told, this revenue is limited to a few short years, we should apply it now to a practical long term solution to our taxation problems and not, at the end of those short years, find ourselves without that revenue and try to collect from some other source that by then will be even more reluctant than it is now to provide the necessary funds. I understand that whilst the West German Government has not moved to an actual flat rate, it has decreased the rate and reduced the steps of its progressive taxation. The result is a greater incentive and a greater revenue collection. The Government should examine closely the results of this change in West Germany.
A matter that particularly concerns me is the growing commitment to welfare of all governments, and the inescapable fact that Australia has an aging population, as evidenced by our zero population growth. Our commitment to welfare for 1980-81 is expected to absorb 30.3c in every dollar the Commonwealth collects in revenue. This can only increase. I state definitely that no government can meet this commitment from the present taxation base and system. It is utterly impossible. The strengthening and securing of the taxation base is the only insurance to future pensioners that this commitment will be met.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– My grievance is the pricing of domestic air travel beyond the reach of an increasing number of Australian families, which is the direct result of the actions and economic policies of this Government. Since 1976 eleven air fare increases, totalling almost 70 per cent, have been rubber-stamped by the respective Ministers for Transport. Each was agreed to in secret by the Ministers concerned - safe from the glare of public examination - and each was personally approved by the Minister for Transport. Since February last the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) has given his personal stamp of approval to three fare increases totalling in cumulative terms almost 20 per cent, which is well above the inflation rate and well above the rate of cost increases in fuel and labour in those 7 months. Those increases were aimed at increasing the profits of the airlines at the expense of people who need to travel by air, particularly those who have to travel on short notice and who have to pay standard air fares.
In stark contrast to the Fraser Government’s aviation policy of putting the airlines’ interest first, the policy of the Australian Labor Party places the interests of the travelling public first.
Labor recognises the vital importance of accessible, safe air travel to the millions of Australians who rely on air services - the people of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, north Queensland and Tasmania and people in provincial and remote areas who must use air services for access to basic health, education, recreation and commercial facilities. The ALP is committed to the objectives of bringing air travel within the reach of as wide a range of our community as possible; of making the major airlines fully accountable to the public for their operations; of requiring all applications for air fare increases to be subject to full public scrutiny to ensure that only justified increases in fares are permitted; and, an overall objective of ensuring maximum accessibility to safe, reliable, convenient air services at minimum cost to users.
Conservative governments have a long, established record of protecting the airlines at the expense of travellers; of operating a cozy and private little club in which its bureaucrats and industry operators secretly determine the price, quality and availability of airline services to the exclusion of any participation by the public. With the protection of this Government, Ansett Airlines of Australia and Trans-Australia Airlines, with exclusive occupancy on major routes and automatic fare increases, have a virtual licence to print money and a direct pipeline into the pockets of passengers. TAA and Ansett operate in one of the few profitable areas of our public passenger transport system. They occupy a privileged and protected position, which should, and would under a Labor government, carry with it the responsibility for full public accountability for their actions and financial performance.
The arrogant disregard of the Fraser Government for air travellers has been highlighted by the startling refusal of the Minister for Transport to accept ministerial responsibility for the air fare increases he has personally approved, and by his recent amateurish, ill-considered and bumbling cancellation of long-established concessional fares for sporting, charitable and welfare groups- a cancellation which he has subsequently had partially to withdraw and the circumstances of which he failed to report frankly and accurately in his public statements. The reasons for the Government’s arrogance and the Minister’s arrogance towards air travellers can be explained quite easily. Firstly, there is their policy to put the interests of the airlines first. Secondly, they have three fleets of VIP aircraft in which they can indulge their every whim, whether its a trip to the opera, the television studio, the tailor, private trips from north Queensland to Sydney or the occasional long weekend in New York to watch the yacht races - all at taxpayers expense. They have the two luxurious Boeing 707 flying hotels, which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) love to use so often and No. 34 Squadron of BACH ls, Mystere jets and HS748s. The Minister for Transport has his own private fleet of Department of Transport aircraft. Even the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) has been prompted to describe the use of VIP aircraft by Ministers as excessive. Well may they be known as the happy band of squanderers. In contrast, in the United States, President Carter has had to curtail the use of his Presidential Boeing 707 because, with a cost of $4,600 an hour to United States taxpayers, the Americans simply cannot afford it.
Following public outcry at the rapid escalation in the cost of domestic air travel and in response to Opposition demands, the Minister for Transport announced on 20 March last a limited public inquiry into air fares. Seven months later the inquiry is yet to hold its first public hearing. In the meantime the Minister for Transport has mutely granted both Ansett and TAA fare increases, as I have said, of almost 20 per cent before the limited inquiry gets under way. The real purpose of the announcement of the inquiry was to try to neutralise public criticism of the Government’s aviation policies and the rapid escalation of our fare levels under its administration. Predictably the inquiry, sham that it is, is not expected to report before February 1981 at the earliest - well after the coming election.
I referred earlier to the astonishing lack of frankness of the Minister for Transport in relation to his cancellation of concessional fares for charity, sporting and welfare groups. In his Press release of 6 July 1980 the Minister referred to certain disquieting aspects - they are serious words - of domestic air fares. He referred to an increase in types of concessional air fares introduced by Ansett and TAA since the release of a domestic air transport policy review in 1978. The Minister for Transport said that he had asked the airlines to ensure that such practices did not occur in the future. On 27 August 1980 following widespread objections by national sporting groups, charities and welfare groups to the cancellation of the concessional fares the Minister backtracked by approving partial restoration of their concessional fares. Curiously, he made no reference to those important words ‘disquieting aspects’ or to the commercial arrangements about which he was so concerned in his statement of 6 July.
Let us examine the facts. Concessional fares for special groups were a long-established practice which existed before the domestic aviation policy review report of 1978. Obviously his remarks of 6 July did not apply then. He was pointing without specific mention at the practice of both Ansett and TAA of poaching major commercial clients from each other by giving secret discounts - a practice which I understand is continuing. Those kinds of discounts are at the expense of the ordinary every day traveller who has to travel at short notice and who does not travel sufficiently to enable him to get in on the goodies - the secret discounts that the big firms receive. Hamfisted and ill-informed the Minister rushed in and fired his cancellation of concessional fares broadside on 6 July 1980. Instead of hitting the secret discounts for commercial clients he knocked out concessional fares for charity, sporting and welfare groups. The secret discounts, as I have said, continue.
The special groups that have been hurt have been hurt because of the M inister’s lack of understanding, because of the lack of frankness on the part of the Government and because of its failure to act honourably and responsibly in putting a stop to the secret discounts that are given to major commercial firms. The concessional fares long in existence for special groups are in the main an offset for the savings in administrative costs to the airlines as the groups do much paper work, administrative work and preparation of tickets, schedules and so on. Goodwill also is gained by the airline from its exclusive use by the groups concerned. Their long-standing concessional fare arrangements in the view of the Opposition should be restored. Secret discounts to commercial clients should be stopped pending a proper examination of all the issues involved by a full scale public examination of aviation services.
The Minister for Transport must come into the Parliament and must publicly accept responsibility for his actions - for his approvals of air fare increases. It is not difficult to get air fare increases in this country. As I said, they are like a pipeline into the passenger’s pocket. If an airline puts in an application for a fare increase it receives almost automatic approval. I cannot think of one increase that this Minister for Transport has delayed or in any way altered. His responsibility to the Parliament and to the people of Australia is to explain why he approved the increase, what is justified and what he is doing in the background in relation to the decisions being made. The charity and welfare groups are being discriminated against by the actions of the Government and by the actions of the Minister for Transport. The ordinary people are being discriminated against by the Minister for Transport and by this Government in allowing the continuation of secret discounts. Civil aviation and all airline services were commenced to meet the needs of the travelling public not the needs of governments, bureaucrats or the interests of the Government’s friends in big business.
– I have a grievance against a group of women throughout Australia - a minority group of vocal women who seem to want to pull down the family and seem hell-bent on not having children. I would call their latest attempt in Hobart most outrageous. Prior to Father’s Day this group circulated a notice which stated: ‘Don’t give dad a Father’s Day present’. I would like to reject that and tell the group exactly what I think of it. I was reared by a lone father. I call it a disgrace for those outrageous women to direct that sort of attention to Father’s Day in Hobart. That is my grievance.
– It is now 12.45 p.m. In accordance with Standing Order 106 the debate is interrupted. I put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-! wish to make a brief personal explanation.
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-The Minister may proceed.
– The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) commented earlier about the purchase of a computer by my Department. In his comments he suggested that there had been some delay in providing answers to questions he had put. I simply want to indicate that that is not so. It is a false claim. This matter was dealt with in some detail at the Estimates committee on Monday of this week. During that committee hearing certain questions were put to me as Minister and to my officers. Answers were provided to a number of questions. There were some other detailed questions, the answers to which could not be provided on that day. I undertook to provide answers to the questions asked by the honourable member for Reid in the course of this week. It is now Thursday. We have another day to go before the end of the week. I expect to be able to provide answers to those questions this week - either today or tomorrow. The claim made by the honourable member for Reid was false. I fully explained to the House at Question Time this morning the strict procedures that are being followed by the Government in ensuring that–
– Order! The Minister is entitled to address himself only to the point on which he has been personally misrepresented. He may not extend the matter into a general debate.
– I simply want to make the point that the strict procedures have been followed. The Government is assessing tenders for the purchase of the computer with great care and according to the procedures adopted by the Government some time ago.
– The Minister will bring his explanation to a close.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member for Reid claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I do not think the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom) listened to what I said earlier. I will quote exactly what I said.
– The honourable member may proceed on that basis.
– The Minister said that I criticised him for the delay in receiving answers to my questions. I said:
I questioned the Minister in the Estimates Committee whether the recommendation for IBM was in breach of the basic policy of purchasing on the Commonwealth account, as stated by the Department of Administrative Services in its brief to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on 20 October 1 978 in which it was stated:
The procurement process shall aim at obtaining the best value for the money spent- accordingly the lowest suitable tender should be accepted.
. I am still awaiting the Minister’s answer.
That is all I said. If I said that, why did the Minister need to make a speech? I claim–
– Order! The honourable member for Reid is posing a rhetorical question. He has made his point, as did the Minister.
– Good, but I want to make a further personal explanation which relates to a breach of courtesy in this House. I seek your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker, in this matter. A certain procedure has to be followed before an honourable member can incorporate documents in Hansard. Documents have to be shown to the Minister at the table. I showed a document to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland) who was at the table this morning. He said that he would agree to let me incorporate the document in Hansard if I could get the agreement of Mr Speaker, because it was a long document. I took it to Mr Speaker who examined it and said: ‘I think it will be all right, Tom. The Printer is the only person who would object to it’. I then resumed my seat. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) agreed that it could be incorporated in Hansard. When the Minister for Housing and Construction came to the table he refused me the right to incorporate it in Hansard because he is fearful of what is contained in that report. Although I can give a copy of it to the Press, I cannot get it incorporated in the Hansard record.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member is debating the point. He will resume his seat.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. In relation to the remarks made by the honourable member for Reid, I would like to make it quite clear that I delivered the note to the honourable member for Reid advising that the Government had withdrawn its permission for the report to be incorporated in Hansard before he sought leave to do so. I told him that leave would not be granted.
– Order! There is no point of order.
– Yes there is. It clarifies the matter.
– The Chair is not inviting clarification. The simple fact of the matter is that a document can be incorporated only by leave of the House. If there is one dissenting voice leave is withheld.
– I present the report from the Committee of Privileges relating to the alleged discrimination and intimidation of Mr David E. Berthelsen in his Public Service employment because of evidence given by him to a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, referred to the Committee by the House on 23 April 1 980.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- The report which I have just tabled is the result of an inquiry by the Committee of Privileges into a matter referred to it by the House on 23 April 1980.
Not everyone will have access to a copy of the report so of necessity I will make some reference to the history of the case as well as to the findings. I bear in mind that the Leader of the House, the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), has other business to get through today and therefore I will have to speak as quickly as I can. The reference arose from a complaint made in the House by the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry). The actual terms of reference of the inquiry are as follows:
That the matter of the alleged discrimination and intimidation of Mr David Berthelsen in his Public Service employment because of evidence given by him to a Sub-Committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence be referred to the Committee of Privileges.
At the outset I would like to say that the Committee viewed the allegations most seriously. It met on 12 occasions extending over a total of 634 hours of sitting. In excess of 600 man hours of effort were involved in the sittings alone, and approximately 820 pages of oral evidence in transcript was taken. I should also say that a full attendance of members of the Committee was recorded on five occasions and the lowest attendance at any meeting was seven out of the possible nine members. The Committee is satisfied that it has investigated the allegations as thoroughly as possible. Having heard Mr Berthelsen and the nature and extent of his allegations the Committee concentrated its inquiries on the two claims of significance, namely, the alleged intimidation of Mr Berthelsen by the Department of Defence after his initial appearance before the Sub-committee and the alleged discrimination and intimidation of him in his Public Service employment after the improper disclosure of a letter and attachment of 2 October 1979 addressed by Mr Berthelsen to members on the Sub-committee on Defence Matters. I seek your advice, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have agreed to a request not to rea’d a large part of my prepared statement on this report. For the benefit of John Citizen I seek leave to incorporate a section of it in Hansard.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. There is no more important matter which can come before the Parliament than a matter of privilege, especially one which involves an allegation of discrimination against or intimidation of a witness. If time is the problem it would be more appropriate for the House to remain in session until the honourable member for Fadden has completed his report as Chairman of the Privileges Committee.
– Is the honourable member refusing permission?
– I think that we ought to go beyond one o’clock.
– There will not be a debate on the matter today.
Order! The Chair is of the view that the argument put forward by the honourable member for Corio has some substance. However that does not preclude the honourable member for Fadden from seeking leave of the House to incorporate a passage of his statement. The Chair is invited to express a view. That view is embodied in the remarks made in response to the honourable member for Corio.
– Is the Chair prepared to keep the sitting going so that the honourable member can complete his speech? We do not know how long it is.
-It is not very long. Is the House happy to go beyond one o’clock?
– I am.
-The honourable member for Fadden will proceed.
– For the benefit of honourable members I feel I should give a brief historical account of this case. Mr Berthelsen was appointed to the Department of Defence on 4 April 1977 and transferred to the Audit Office on 1 1 September 1978. Shortly before he left the Department of Defence he lodged a written submission, as a private citizen, with the Subcommittee on Defence Matters of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in its inquiry into defence procurement policy. When he was informed after joining the Audit Office that he would be called as a witness before the Sub-committee, he advised senior officers of the Audit Office and handed them a copy of his submission. No objection was raised by the Audit Office to Mr Berthelsen giving his evidence to the Sub-committee. Mr Berthelsen ‘s evidence to the Sub-committee was critical of aspects of Department of Defence administration. Media reports of his evidence produced an immediate reaction in the Department of Defence.
On the day immediately after his appearance before the Sub-committee he was visited at the Audit Office by a senior security officer from the Department of Defence who had been sent to recover his security pass to the Russell Offices which Mr Berthelsen had not surrendered when he left the Department of Defence about six weeks earlier. He was also asked to complete a declaration acknowledging his continuing security obligations in respect of material which had come into his possession while employed in that department.
Mr Berthelsen claimed to have felt intimidated by these actions and on 10 November 1978 wrote to the Chairman of the Sub-committee on Defence Matters alleging intimidation. His complaint was heard by the Sub-committee on 30 November 1978, and on 19 March 1980 the Subcommittee reported to the Parliament that on the evidence available it could not establish that such intimidation had taken place. The Laurie Oakes Report of 29 November 1978, contained a front page lead article headed ‘How Defence deals with its critics’. The article disclosed quite accurately that the Secretary to the Department of Defence–
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I do not want to interrupt the honourable member for Fadden. Because of certain circumstances, Mr Deputy Speaker, you took my position on the Privileges Committee, and I was not present when this matter was being discussed. It causes me concern that the subject being raised by the honourable member is a subject that should be debated when the report of the Committee of Privileges is being debated in this House and not a subject to be raised at this time by the honourable member as Chairman of the Privileges Committee. I feel that a wrong impression of this matter may be given if the Chairman of the Committee discusses the matter when no one else in this House knows anything about it.
-The point of order made appears to me to be somewhat abstruse. It reconciles with the view of the Chair. The matter has been initiated. I am not immediately aware that the honourable member for Fadden is prevented from adopting the course that he is pursuing, but I endorse the remarks of the honourable member for Lyne that it would be more desirable if the report were presented and at an opportune time, after the contents of the report have been digested, the debate ensued; but that is not a matter within the prerogative of the Chair. The honourable member for Fadden had the call to pursue the matter.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Opposition would not be able to say very much on this matter, if anything at all, because of the shortage of time. I understand the problems of the Leader of the House. It appears that the Government would want to see the report. Perhaps if we could all agree that it should be tabled and get an undertaking that it will be debated next Tuesday we would be so much better advantaged. This outrageous position now, when nobody knows what is happening, does not do justice to the work of the Committee.
– It had been my intention to move a motion which appears on the daily program in my name. I think that most honourable members are disadvantaged by not having seen the report. I understand that it is a matter of considerable substance. The Government does not want to preclude debate on it but equally it would like to know what is in the report before debate can be undertaken. My concern is that we should not proceed to debate the matter this morning. I would be concerned if the Chairman took up too much time. It was for that reason that I suggested to him that if he felt it necessary for the substance of his remarks to be considered by the Parliament, he could seek to have them included in Hansard and they could then be perused. I will undertake to provide an opportunity for debate on this matter, as there needs to be on the other matter of privilege before the Parliament. I will not give an undertaking that it will be on Tuesday, but I will certainly give an undertaking that before the House rises, whenever that might be, there will be an opportunity for this matter to be debated.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I draw to your attention the authority in May’s Parliamentary Practice which indicates that matters of privilege take precedence over every other matter. That being so, it seems to me that the Chair had to maintain that precedence. Whilst I do not doubt the sincerity of the Leader of the House in what he is proposing, it seems to me that it is a weakening of that precedence if what the House is being told by the Leader of the House is that the Government will bring this matter back on for debate at a time that is convenient to it. With great respect, the authority is overwhelming that a matter of privilege takes precedence over every other matter, including Government Business. So it seems to me that the undertaking that–
-Order! I think the honourable member has established his point. The Chair concurs with the principle. The matter is now one of procedure.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, on the point of order, I point out that the House has its own capacity to pass a resolution as to when the matter will be deliberated on, which does not in any way contradict that principle. The proposal is that I move a motion to that effect.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order.
– The honourable member cannot interrupt a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am making a point of order. It is my proposal to move in the House that the debate be resumed on 17 September 1980. It is on that occasion, when all honourable members would have had an opportunity to consider the report, that the debate should take place.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, can I make a request to try to assist in this matter? I am quite happy to seek leave for the incorporation of the rest of the prepared speech up to the bottom of page 7. If the House agrees to that, I will simply relate the findings of the Committee to the House. That should appease the different opinions which seem to exist in the chamber today.
-The matter will be considered during the suspension of the sitting for lunch.
Sitting suspended from 1.2 to 2.15 p.m.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, am I allowed to continue without interruption?
– The honourable member has the call. He should proceed.
– The article disclosed quite accurately that the Secretary to the Department of Defence, Sir Arthur Tange, had written to the Auditor-General, Mr D. Steele-Craik, raising matters of principle and propriety in respect of Mr Berthelsen ‘s appearance before the Sub-committee. It should be noted that the Auditor-General responded to Sir Arthur’s letter staunchly defending Mr Berthelsen’s right to appear before the Sub-committee as a private citizen. The article also revealed the contents of two confidential minutes written by a deputy secretary of the Department of Defence to Sir Arthur, at Sir Arthur’s request, giving an analysis of the Auditor-General’s reply and providing advice on what further action should be taken in respect of Mr Berthelsen’s evidence to the Sub-committee.
The Committee also established that by 21 November 1978 three divisions of the Department of Defence had prepared detailed analyses in response to Mr Berthelsen’s evidence. It should be noted that Mr Berthelsen’s evidence was mainly based on material freely available to the public which had been extracted from reports of the Auditor-General and that Mr Berthelsen had ventured personal observations in the course of his evidence. The Committee also noted that by 14 December 1978 the question as to whether a breach of parliamentary privilege had occurred was being formally considered within the Department of Defence and a detailed memorandum on this question had been commissioned from and prepared by a senior officer within the Department.
As previously observed the Auditor-General had defended Mr Berthelsen’s right to appear before the Sub-committee when written to by Sir Arthur Tange. In addition, the Office had taken no action when a Bulletin article of 24 April 1979 revealed that Mr Berthelsen had furnished revised written answers to questions which had been directed to him by the Sub-committee at its public hearing of 24 October 1978.
Sir Arthur Tange and the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Anthony Synnot, presented evidence to a public hearing of the Sub-committee on 25 July 1979 in which they commented on Mr Berthelsen’s evidence and his revised written answers of 4 April 1979. After Mr Berthelsen had examined their responses he wrote again to the Sub-committee on 2 October 1 979 responding to their evidence. In his letter Mr Berthelsen included a specific reference to a secret ChiefsofStaff Committee Minute concerning the transmission of data. It should be noted that Mr Berthelsen’s letter and its attachment containing this reference was not received as evidence by the Sub-committee nor published by it. By some means, parts of the contents of Mr Berthelsen’s paper were referred to in the Australian Broadcasting Commission PM program of 19 November and in the Bulletin of 4 December 1979. These events triggered off a response within both the Department of Defence and the Audit Office. It is not possible for me to detail in this short statement all the events which then occurred but as a result of this new development the Auditor-General decided that it would be in the best interests of the Office if Mr Berthelsen could be placed in a less sensitive area of the Public Service. The Auditor-General was gravely concerned that the continuing media publicity surrounding Mr Berthelsen and his communications with the Sub-committee were damaging the AuditorGeneral’s client relationships with other departments, notably the Department of Defence.
Mr Berthelsen was told of the AuditorGeneral’s decision on 4 December 1979 by the Controller of the Policy Planning and Management Branch of the Audit Office. Mr Berthelsen claimed that the Controller informed him that if he had not found a suitable position within an allotted time the Auditor-General’s Office would request the Public Service Board to have him transferred out on the ‘unattached list’. The evidence the Committee received is quite contradictory and ambiguous as to what was said to Mr Berthelsen about the ‘unattached list’ and the context in which the statement may have been made. However, it is quite clear that Mr Berthelsen believed that he was being threatened with being placed on the unattached list and that he believed this course was a prelude to his dismissal.
The Committee, from its investigations of all of these events, is satisfied that a number of persons within the Department of Defence, individually and collectively, determined not only to rebut the evidence of Mr Berthelsen but also to go further and, if possible, to silence him, to discredit him personally and to deter him and others similarly minded from offering further evidence which was critical of the Department of Defence before the Sub-committee on Defence Matters or indeed, any other parliamentary committee. This collective response within the Department was clearly an excessive reaction and to that extent improper.
In fairness, it should also be noted that in the judgment of the Committee, Mr Berthelsen, by certain later actions in 1979, particularly his gratuitous and provocative reference to the secret Chiefs-of-Staff Committee Minute, was to some extent the author of his own continuing misfortune. On the evidence, the Committee is unable to make a positive finding of breach of privilege against any individual member of the Department of Defence, past or present.
In respect of the Auditor-General’s Office, the Committee is not satisfied that a veiled reference to placement on the unattached list or comments that may have been interpreted as such was not made to Mr Berthelsen. That Mr Berthelsen could not be placed on the unattached list without his approval and the consent of the Public Service Board is for all intents and purposes irrelevant to the fact that an implication may have been established. The Committee is satisfied that in the totality of the situation in the Auditor-General’s Office Mr Berthelsen suffered disadvantage in respect of his career prospects in the Public Service. The Committee is of the opinion that this is not so much the direct result of his having given evidence to the Sub-committee but rather because of a certain notoriety which has attached to him due principally to accumulating media publicity about his involvement with the Sub-committee and the effect that this might have on the relationships of the Auditor-General’s Office and its clients. Whilst the Committee is unable to conclude that there has been a breach of parliamentary privilege committed by any person, it is concerned at the position in which Mr Berthelsen finds himself.
In summary, the Committee’s findings are as follows:
The Committee recommends that the attention of the Public Service Board be drawn to the circumstances of this case and that the Public Service Board should be asked to do all within its power to restore Mr Berthelsen ‘s career prospects in the Public Service and to ensure that he suffers no further disadvantage as a result of this case. The Committee declares that it will deal most seriously with any matters which are referred to it in the future involving tampering, intimidation, discrimination or threats thereof involving witnesses or prospective witnesses before committees of the Parliament.
The Committee is concerned at the possibility that future witnesses might be deterred from appearing before committees of the Parliament for fear that action may be taken against them for so doing. The Parliament has a clear responsibility to monitor Executive administration closely. It does so to a large extent through its committees whose activities depend largely on the availability and willingness of competent witnesses to appear before them. If the Parliament fails to provide the protection to which these witnesses are entitled the effectiveness of the committees and through them the Parliament and the nation will suffer. The Committee of Privileges is determined that this should not happen.
The Committee has also made recommendations concerning the need for the enactment of a parliamentary witnesses protection Act which would both provide for the prosecution of persons who tamper with witnesses who give or have given evidence before a parliamentary committee or the House and provide a statutory cause of action in which witnesses who have suffered intimidation or discrimination would have the right to sue for damages those responsible for the intimidation or discrimination. The Committee has also recommended that consideration be given to the means by which matters of privilege may be dealt with during periods of adjournment of the House.
The Committee makes a passing reference in the report to the difficulties the Auditor-General can encounter in carrying out his work with client departments (honourable members should refer to paragraph 57, page 18 of the report). Though this was not a matter of reference, I believe I accurately relay the reaction of the Committee when I state that that was a matter which caused us concern. It is the wish of the people, expressed through this Parliament, that the AuditorGeneral be allowed to carry out his vitally important duties without hindrance. Granted a working relationship with client departments is most desirable; however, that Office should not have to work in the fear of its effective efforts being thwarted and frustrated by any unco-operative departments.
Nobody ever expected this report to be written - least of all its authors and the characters involved. As I have already stated, more than 600 man hours have been spent in committee alone. In addition were the hours consumed while Committee members travelled to the capital for the many out of session hearings. The Committee appreciates the praiseworthy effort of the Hansard officers who on occasions worked with us from early morning to near midnight. They always managed to present us with a complete transcript of the previous day’s proceedings early the following morning. Special thanks are due to Mr Lyn Barlin and his staff for the manner in which they served the Committee in a secretarial sense. Mr Barlin’s advice and assistance was invaluable and his efforts over several weekends did not pass unnoticed. The secretarial support of Mrs Marion Lambert by means of her stenographic skills can be described as an extraordinary effort. The Committee thanks her. As Chairman, I also wish to thank members of the Committee including the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen), the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones), the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) and, on this side of the House, the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates), the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman), the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) and the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar).
Should the contents of this document cause discomfort it should be remembered that it was not the authors who set the stage. We have now completed a unique and historical examination of how some of those who serve the government of the day and the nation have acted under one circumstance of pressure. What we have found will give few cause for pride. Nevertheless, the time and cost associated with this inquiry will have been well spent if lessons are learnt by those charged with the responsibility of serving the government of the day and the nation at all times.
The report is laden with direct and indirect advice to departments on what not to do. I hope it will be prescribed as necessary reading for future generations of public servants. We must be aware of the existence of history to learn from it.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KingsfordSmith) by leave- I understand from the Government that this matter will be the subject of debate next Wednesday and I invite all honourable members to do what the Chairman of the Committee of Privileges, the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) has just recommended - look at this report as it is a most important one. At the outset, I want to express my thanks to all my colleagues, including members of the Government, who participated in the Committee’s hearings, not the least yourself, Mr Deputy Speaker, and also Mr Barlin and his staff.
I would say that what might be called the Berthelsen case brings Mr Berthelsen into the million dollar class. We are dealing with a million dollar problem. The cost to the nation has been enormous. But I think the report of the Committee will be of ever-lasting importance in regard to what should happen and what should not happen when a witness appears before a parliamentary committee. It appears that many of the witnesses who appeared before the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence Sub-Committee on Defence Matters have suffered permanent damage to their careers. Luckily for Mr Berthelsen he had a member of parliament, namely, the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry), raise the matter in this Parliament. Had that not been done, I think Mr Berthelsen’s career might have been destroyed. I also pay tribute to the media and the Press because they accurately reported the situation. One could say that there were leaks. There were leaks from the Department of Defence, but they were accurate leaks and they clearly showed to the people who take an interest in the media that there was something basically wrong about the way in which this man was being treated.
So 1 say this: It is important now that Mr Berthelsen’s career be resurrected, maintained and assisted, if that can be done. His career has suffered damage. The question of the liability for that damage, of course, comes into the strict interpretation of what is evidence and how we are bound by what is called the law. That also places obligations on committees of the future as to how they conduct examinations and what rights and assistance should be given to witnesses. It also brings to light the fact that in this Parliament we appear to have a system whereby perhaps nobody who appears before what is called a joint committee is protected, because there is no protection for joint committees. That is an extraordinary gap in the law. Mr Deputy Speaker, as you can imagine, should any one of us as a lay person appear before what is deemed to be a committee of this Parliament, in particular a joint committee, we would have no protection at all. 1 just want to place on record this fact: In fairness to Mr Berthelsen, it was known I think, from the word go - certainly in the Department of Defence- that his reference to a Chiefs of Staff minute was not a major problem. It is acknowledged that the minute was well known in the Department and was frequently referred both in writing and in discussion and was known by its number, not by its contents. Again, it was known in the Department of Defence that the Department had suffered no damage by Mr Berthelsen. It was further known in the Department that there had not been any unauthorised disclosure of classified information. So we come to the extraordinary situation of how a man can be pilloried for so long when they were the known facts. His great mistake, apparently, was to try to tell members of parliament what he thought ought to be happening in defence. I do not think any Australian would tolerate the conduct that followed that situation.
Let us make it very clear that, when the Department of Defence dealt with the matter itself on 8 and 10 November 1978, in minutes it clearly set out a course of conduct which was designed to destroy the credibility of this man. The nation must be astounded to learn that those minutes were accurately reported in detail by Mr Laurie Oakes on 29 November 1978. That set the seal for the destruction of Mr Berthelsen. It has taken until now to clear his name. It was left to his local member to raise the matter in the Parliament. We now have a report which not only honestly urges the Public Service Board to assist the man but also makes very important recommendations as to what this Parliament has to do about assisting witnesses who appear before committees. I made the point that the casualty rate of those who appeared before the Committee is enormous. Obviously, the careers of some of these people have suffered damage and have gone into oblivion. Luckily, poor Mr Berthelson had a chance to get his case raised before this Committee.
I think, though, that this case shows an extraordinary situation. We have what one could call the ‘Canberra syndrome’. People who are not elected to this Parliament are able to wield all sorts of power which can affect the rights of individuals. If that is going to continue it will also affect the ability of this Parliament to function adequately. If we are going to pass laws, if we are to have effective administration, we must have the best advice given to parliamentary committees so that they can make accurate reports. We do not want to see in the future a situation whereby any public servant is intimidated in any way on the basis that if he dares to appear before a parliamentary committee his career will be in jeopardy. Such things have obviously been happening for some time but the Berthelsen case clearly shows the situation in detail. Mr Berthelsen is a highly qualified engineer, the only one of his class in the position he occupies. But he has been pilloried as a class 9 clerk and, according to one report, about a short half head in front of the tea lady. These are the sorts of things that have happened in this Parliament because of wrong information being given to Ministers.
There was, in my view, a deliberate and malicious attempt to get rid of this man. We cannot sheet home the responsibility to anybody and it appears clear that what was deemed to be evidence in law is in fact not evidence at all. That gets us into a real dilemma as to whether there has been any real breach of privilege. I conclude my remarks on the basis that one would wish to participate in the debate next Wednesday because it has extensive ramifications.
Motion (by Mr Fife) agreed to:
That consideration of the report be made an Order of the Day for Wednesday, 1 7 September 1 980.
– I present the 179th and 180th reports from the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– by leave- In 1976 I commenced the practice of informing the Parliament of the activities during the past year of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts. The 1 79th report covers the annual report of the Committee for the calendar year 1979. It contains the salient points made in reports tabled during the year, issues arising out of inquiries, and other matters which the Committee considers as significant. These include: The relationship between the Parliament and the Executive; the accountability of statutory and other authorities to the parliament; the limitations of parliamentary control over expenditure; the effects of financial restraints and staff ceilings; the collection of revenue; preference for Australian-made goods purchased by Commonwealth authorities; the form of the public accounts; Federal-State financial relations; and efficiency and internal auditing.
I would like to dwell for a moment on parliamentary scrutiny. Over the last few years cornpaints have grown about the erosion of Parliament’s control over expenditure and in particular about a weakening in the position of private members. The striking feature of the Budget process is the late stage at which the legislature becomes involved. The major limitation in legislative scrutiny, let alone control, has been the growth in the size of public spending. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 1978 estimated that the share of public spending of gross domestic product at current prices was 41.4 per cent, on average, in its 24 member countries between 1974 and 1976, compared with 28.5 per cent between 1955 and 1957. For Australia these percentages were 32.8 and 21.7 respectively.
I wish also to refer to the growth of statutory bodies. There are now over 250 Commonwealth statutory bodies. These are generally independent, to a considerable extent, of ministerial and parliamentary control, although most are partially or wholly dependent on Federal Parliament for funding. Parliament reviews expenditure proposals of only about one-third of total Government outlays in the annual appropriation Bills. The other two-thirds are permanent appropriations. A particular permanent appropriation can be examined only when a Bill is introduced amending its enabling Act.
In the financial year 1979-80 the total Commonwealth public sector outlays were $31.7 billion, or about 29 per cent of gross national product. In this period, Parliament’ reviewed expenditure proposals in the budgetary context of only about 31 per cent of total Government outlays. Significant amounts in permanent appropriations during 1979-80 include social service and welfare payments of $8.9 billion, and transfer payments and advances to the States of $11.6 billion. Neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate examines these permanent appropriations on a regular basis. The Public Accounts Committee intends to examine this matter and report its findings to the Parliament.
I would like to refer to the Committee’s operations. During 1979, there were a total of 51 meetings of the Committee and sub-committees and four reports were tabled in the Parliament. In June 1979 the Committee conducted the first parliamentary seminar on the subject of financial administration - parliamentary scrutiny. A second seminar was held in May this year. The seminars conducted by the Committee provide a forum for exchange of views and aid the development of closer relationships between members of parliament, public servants and students of political science and public administration.
The 180th report comprises three Department of Finance minutes which report the follow-up action taken on the Committee’s recommendations and conclusions. In its 167th report the Committee took up the Auditor-General’s criticism of the Department of Foreign Affairs for permitting the expenditure of $13,687 without authority on allowances for an officer posted to Ireland. Owing to the complexities of the surcharge provisions of the Audit Act, there was a marked reluctance to recover the unauthorised payments from individual officers and with some regret, the Committee has had to accept that this matter is closed. Amendments to the Audit Act 1979, assented to on 7 March 1979, but still not proclaimed, will remove the surcharge provision.
In the 180th report the Committee again emphasises the importance which it attaches to the presentation of timely financial statements of statutory organisations for audit in accordance with statutory requirements. These requirements are intended to provide the Parliament and the public with independent, expert advice on both the adequacy of those statements, as a report on financial standing, and as an indicator of the efficiency of public sector management. The preparation of financial statements should therefore be given a level of priority for purposes of resource allocation commensurate with their role in public administration.
The Committee made some specific comments on this matter in relation to inquiries conducted, arising from the Auditor-General’s report from 1976-77, into the Australian Wheat Board, the Darwin Community College and the Australian Government Retirement Benefits Office. During its inquiry into housing rental in the Northern Territory, the Committee discovered that because of lack of communications between the then Minister’s offices and the department a Cabinet decision was not implemented. In suggesting a stronger co-ordination role for the Cabinet office the Committee was looking for a fail-safe method of ensuring decisions were acted upon promptly.
The minute referring to the Committee’s 1 78th report details the action taken to rectify faults in procedures and controls discovered during the Committee’s examination of the use of the Advance to the Minister for Finance by departments in the financial year 1978-79. The Committee welcomes the support given by the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) to the Committee’s view that departments and authorities should accept their obligations to their creditors, and settle accounts promptly.
The Committee is concerned with the time taken to rectify some of the faults in procedures and control discovered during the Committee’s deliberations of departments and authorities. There is a distinct need for a closer monitoring of the implementation of the Committee’s conclusions and recommendations. We will be seeking approval to have an additional officer appointed to its secretariat principally for this purpose. I commend the report to honourable members.
– On behalf of the Standing Committee on Road Safety I present the report of the Committee on tyre safety together with the transcript of evidence and extracts from the minutes of proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave - Before presenting my formal statement, which is quite brief, I draw attention to a very serious matter that is occupying the mind of the Committee. A great deal of the Committee’s time has been spent on random breathalyser tests. This matter comes very substantially into the orbit of road safety. Word was received only today - informally, I might mention - that the Victorian Government has been able to save 100 lives since random breath testing was implemented. This year there have been 100 fewer fatalities on Victorian roads than there had been by the same time last year. This evidence is a terrible and continuing indictment of the State governments which have not introduced random breath testing.
I would like to bring before the House two dissenting comments on the report. The honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter), a member of the Committee, was unable to be present at the Committee meetings when this report was amended. He has informed me that whilst agreeing with the report in general he has reservations about two recommendations. Firstly, paragraph 196 of the report requires Australian manufacturers of tyre pressure guages to have a publicly available facility for testing such guages, but the honourable member points out that no such requirement is made of importers of these guages. The honourable member is concerned that our recommendation should not discriminate against the domestic manufacturer. Secondly, paragraph 199 recommends the introduction of an Australian design rule for all new passenger vehicles to be fitted with monitoring and warning devices to alert the driver to a hazardous loss of tyre inflation pressure. The honourable member believes that such a design rule should be initiated only when such a device is more readily available.
I would now like to present my tabling statement. This inquiry grew out of the Committee’s concern at controversy regarding the safety of steel-belted radial car tyres which, it was alleged in some quarters, were failing at an unacceptably high rate. Although the inquiry focused largely on this issue, other issues relating to the safety of car, motor-cycle, truck and bus tyres were explored.
It is important to state at the outset that the overwhelming weight of evidence led the Committee, to conclude that steel-belted radial tyres almost certainly achieve higher standards of performance than the other types of tyre construction - that is textile radial and bias ply, or cross ply tyres. It is clear however that shortcomings in tyre design and manufacture contributed to a significant rate of failure in steel-belted radial car tyres in the early years of their production in Australia. Australian tyre manufacturers responded to the design and manufacturing problems when they became evident and major reductions in tyre failures have resulted.
Having acknowledged the undoubted success of local manufacturers in improving the design and manufacturing processes for steel-belted radials, I must express the Committee’s grave concern at the irresponsibility of one of those manufacturers. Statistics submitted by this manufacturer showed such a high claim rate in its initial period of steelbelted radial production that the Committee believes the manufacturer should have taken some action to protect purchasers of the tyres produced in that period. The most appropriate and responsible course would have been for the manufacturer to recall those tyres. It did not do so. It was not sufficient for the manufacturer to pursue a liberal policy of replacing tyres after they had failed. Given the relatively high risk of failure of its tyres, the manufacturer should have recalled them as soon as the magnitude of the problem was evident so that its customers were no longer at risk. I mention this not only to pinpoint that particular example but also in the hope that in the whole matter of the manufacture of tyres these considerations will be pondered very seriously by our local manufacturers. If we import tyres we want to know the status and the reputation of the firms producing them. The Committee is convinced that under any system of mandatory recall of unsafe or defective products this manufacturer would have been required to recall the steelbelted radial tyres produced in that initial production stage.
The manufacturer’s inaction at that time was irresponsible. This has led the Committee to recommend the introduction of legislation to empower the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland) to require the recall of unsafe or defective products, such as tyres. The legislation should place the onus on manufacturers to inform the Minister of any production batches in which an unacceptable proportion of products is found to be unsafe or defective.
The available evidence, including statistics on current and projected claim rates, leaves the Committee confident that the problems associated with steel-belted radial tyres have in effect been overcome. It was of great satisfaction to the Committee to know that that situation had been achieved. That confidence must be stressed. However, it is desirable that the confidence should become certainty. As experience has shown already, tyre problems take some time to become evident. The Committee is therefore recommending that within two years the Office of Road Safety should again investigate the incidence of premature tyre failure. If the Standing Committee on Road Safety is reappointed in the next Parliament, the Committee believes it should, within 12 months, obtain from local manufacturers up-dated statistics on their actual and projected claim rates.
There is nothing to suggest that imported steelbelted radial tyres have been free of the problems which were initially associated with those locally produced. Indeed, several witnesses asserted that some imported tyres have represented a more significant problem. It is possible that some brands of imported tyres may not possess design compromises suitable to the Australian climate and road conditions. Unfortunately, evidence was inadequate to enable the Committee to draw firm conclusions about the adequacy of design and manufacture of each of the many brands of imported tyres. The Committee has nevertheless made recommendations to require all imported tyres to meet the performance and endurance standards required by the Australian Design Rules.
Evidence produced in the inquiry established clearly that consumer abuse of car tyres is widespread and is a cause for concern. This abuse has adverse effects on road safety. Failure to ensure that tyres have adequate tread depth, especially if the depth is below 1.5 millimetres, substantially increases relative risk of accident involvement. Also, incorrect inflation of tyres, particularly under-inflation can produce premature tyre failure and reduced tyre and, therefore, vehicle performance. The Committee is recommending a broad-based campaign, financed by tyre manufacturers and importers, to educate motorists on the importance of tyre maintenance, especially of correct inflation pressures. On this important issue the Committee is also recommending that, firstly, it should be made unlawful for a vehicle to be operated with tyre pressures below those recommended by the vehicle manufacturer for normal operating conditions; secondly, Australian Design Rules should require that all new passenger cars and similar vehicles be fitted with monitoring and warning devices which acquaint the driver of a hazardous loss of inflation pressure in any tyre; and thirdly, service stations and tyre dealers should be required to keep accurate tyre pressure gauges and gauges should be checked regularly by authorities responsible for weights and measures. That is very important. The Committee has also recommended that retreaded tyres be required to meet appropriate standards, training- be provided in the tyre retreading and retailing industries, and an investigation of the costs and benefits of an independent tyre testing facility or, alternatively, of using existing overseas facilities, be undertaken.
To sum up, it seems that the early problems associated with the design and manufacture of steel-belted radial car tyres in Australia have in effect been overcome and the major remaining problem to be brought under control is the widespread and unsafe abuse of tyres by consumers. I should like to express the Committee’s gratitude to its three specialist advisers in this inquiry: Mr Lloyd Austin, Mr Michael Rice, and Dr Peter Sweatman. I would especially like to commend the Committee’s secretary, Mr Bill Mutton, and his assistant, Mrs Kristin Ballard, for carrying out their responsibilities in a manner that was quite beyond what one might expect from them in their capacities. I commend the report to the House.
– by leave- I wish to make a brief statement on the report of the Standing Committee on Road Safety and to support the remarks of the Chairman of the Committee the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). When one considers that, on average, 10 people die on Australian roads every day any attempt to reduce that toll is most important. I found the inquiry particularly interesting. I have always believed that the tyre is an integral part of the motor vehicle and that a motor vehicle can behave in a certain way as a result of the condition of that tyre. The most alarming part of the report - and I voiced this opinion on several occasions - relates to a result of the revolution in the service station industry with the introduction of self-serve service stations right around Australia. Most people depend on service stations to pump up their tyres. It is useless to say that people should be responsible for pumping up those tyres, especially when one considers that most ladies in this country could not pump up a car tyre.
– What about Mrs Boggles? Could she pump up a tyre?
– We are dealing with a very serious matter, the honourable member must realise that, but he is making flippant remarks. It is a very serious situation when one considers that people who cannot pump up the tyres will drive cars with either under-inflated or over-inflated tyres. Because I see a real problem in the future, I urge that tyre manufacturers, together with Federal and State government authorities, make absolutely certain through an advertising campaign that the people of Australia are aware of the problems of driving vehicles with incorrectly inflated tyres. I support the report, and I commend everybody involved with it. The inquiry was conducted in a bipartisan way, which is essential when we consider that, on average, 3,650 Australians die on the roads every year. If those deaths were caused by war there would be a hue and cry, and any attempt to minimise that toll must be a move in the right direction.
– by leave- It has been my pleasure to be associated with the Standing Committee on Road Safety, and I wish to support the report brought down by the Chairman, the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). The Committee has been an interesting one for me and for the other members to participate in. It was particularly interesting from my point of view because I have spent 25 years of my life in the tyre industry. I was concerned when reports first made it evident that perhaps there was a problem with steel-belted radial tyres. My concern was not with the commercial aspect of those tyres but with the publicity about them which may deter people from using what is a very safe tyre- a tyre that is a great improvement to road safety in the use of motor vehicles.
I draw the attention of people listening to the debate today particularly to the fact that the defects mentioned by our chairman are defects that occurred many years ago. I reiterate what he said, namely, that these manufacturing defects have, in effect, been overcome. I add my weight to that statement so that no doubt is left in people’s minds about the use of radial tyres: They should be using steel-belted radial tyres. I admit that the report recognises that some failures and shortcomings existed in early years of production of steel-belted radial tyres in Australia. In most countries the steel-belted radial tyre has been a difficult product to perfect. Failures have occurred and it has gone through a difficult period.
We have a number of imported tyres in Australia. Over the years, since the introduction of radial ply tyres, imported tyres have assisted the Australian manufacturers in updating their technology to give the Australian public a tyre that is equal to world standards. I know also that throughout this report it is made evident that the majority of tyre failures were not due to defects but to consumer neglect. The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) has mentioned one of those main areas of neglect on the part of consumers: People neglect to pump up their tyres. They neglect to run them on the correct pressure, and this can have an extremely damaging effect.
I publicly acknowledge the report. I hope that those people concerned with tyres will take note of it and confirm the fact that the steel-belted radial tyre and radial tyres generally are indeed a plus in road safety. I would hate to see anything that denies people the use of or deters people from using these tyres as a safety measure on their motor vehicles.
– by leave- I thank the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) for mentioning the two reservations I have about the report from the Standing Committee on Road Safety. Unfortunately, I was not able to be at the last meeting when the final recommendations were concluded on this report. The reservations I have are not sufficient to make me wish to submit a dissenting report, but I will quickly explain those reservations. Recommendation 196 states:
Facilities for checking the accuracy of personal tyre pressure gauges be made available in Departments of Weights and Measures, or their equivalents, and on the premises of the Australian pressure gauge manufacturers and that the availability of the service at those points should be made known to consumers at the point of sale.
The importance of that recommendation is that we found that many people have private pressure gauges which may not be accurate and that it appeared that there were insufficient facilities for them to test the accuracy of those gauges. My concern is that we ought not to put on the domestic manufacturer of tyre pressure gauges any burden that is not on importers and so place the domestic manufacturer at a disadvantage. This may well be able to be overcome by the domestic manufacturer charging for the service provided. I think it is a good idea that the domestic manufacturer provide this service. Some sort of cognisance ought to be made of the situation to ensure that he is not put at a disadvantage as against import competition.
The second point I mention is in relation to paragraph 199 of the report. That recommendation is in relation to the Australian Transport Advisory Council’s introducing into the Australian design rules a requirement that all new passenger cars and similar vehicles be fitted with monitoring and warning devices which acquaints the drivers of those vehicles of a hazardous loss of pressure from any tyre including the spare tyre. Evidence has been presented to the Committee that there is such a device. It has not yet been widely used. I understand it has been used in one brand of motor vehicle, not being an Australian brand. The point I wish to make in relation to that is that we ought to be certain that it is an efficient and a relatively easily implemented recommendation before we go ahead and ask ATAC to proceed with the design rule. It may be very difficult for motor manufacturers to implement it at this stage. There is no doubt that it will be capable of being implemented in time.
Finally, I agree with the remarks of the Chairman and those who have spoken on this report. I especially thank all our assistants.
– by leaveFirstly, I congratulate our chairman, the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), for instigating the inquiry into tyre safety in Australia. As all honourable members will be aware, there were many complaints throughout Australia about steel-belted radial tyres. The chairman of the Committee brought our attention to the fact that these allegations should be investigated to ensure that the people of Australia travel on safe tyres. Hence, I congratulate the chairman on that aspect. I was a service station proprietor before I became a member of parliament. I point out to honourable members and to the people of Australia that it is very important that tyres be inflated correctly. The most important piece of information given to the Committee was that tyres should be inflated to the correct pressure.
– More inflation!
– More inflation, like that of the Liberal Government, as the honourable member has interjected. The correct inflation in tyres is very important. It has been pointed out by the chairman that people neglect to check their tyres. The reason they neglect to check their tyres is that the oil companies have brought in these self-service service stations and people do not have available the service of the honest service station proprietor to check their tyres for them. Hence, we have people coming into self-service stations, putting money into slots, filling their cars up with petrol and forgetting all about their tyres and thus endangering not only their lives but also the lives of all Australians. I agree with all that the other members of the Committee have said and thank all the people who have helped in the investigation. I congratulate the chairman.
Speaker has received letters from the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) and the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) 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 Blaxland, namely:
The Prime Minister’s forecast of further increases in the world price of oil and the continuing adverse effects upon Australian living standards occasioned by the Government’s import parity oil pricing policy.
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 -
– In an uncharacteristic burst of candour in the House of Representatives last week of sitting, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had this to say in a document which he sought leave to incorporate in Hansard:
Even on relatively optimistic scenarios for future production and consumption, the prospect is for further increases in oil prices.
That admission follows closely upon an argument which the Government has been putting, namely, that because there is a glut of oil emerging in the world the likelihood is that there will be pressure to reduce oil prices and that there will be no further oil price increases between now and the end of the financial year. Indeed, the Budget contained a clear indication that the Budget forecast for collections from the crude oil levy was based upon there being no future increases in oil prices during the current financial year. But, within a couple of weeks of the Budget’s presentation we have this admission by the Prime Minister. He talked further about regular indexing of the prices overseas. He said:
In the preparations for the Summit meeting in Baghdad in November, member governments of OPEC are currently considering proposals which would provide for regular indexed price increases.
In other words, there will not be any let-up in the movement of oil prices abroad and because the Fraser Government has this policy called import parity pricing- that is, slavishly tying the Australian oil price to the world price without any rhyme or reason, except for the purpose of raising revenue- Australians will pay at the petrol pump, or wherever they purchase petroleum products simply because the Australian oil price will continue to rise. Within a few days of the Prime Minister’s admission there was an article in the Press which included a quotation from the Deputy Secretary-General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Fadhil AlChalabi, who is the senior pricing expert of OPEC. He talked about a doubling of oil prices to SUS60 a barrel, which is within the parameters of the price of synthetic oil. So, wherever one looks one can see the portent of rising, not static, prices.
The most important news to emerge in the last week or two is the OPEC meeting next week, where Saudi Arabia will make it clear that, in the interests of re-establishing price uniformity throughout OPEC, it will cut its production by 1 ,500,000 barrels a day and will lift its price from SUS28 to SUS32 a barrel. Under the Fraser Government’s policy, that would mean an automatic increase in the price of Australian oil. The likelihood is that this increase will occur. Throughout the last couple of years Saudi Arabia has argued in the OPEC councils for some maintenance of a uniform price, but as demand outstripped supply the other OPEC States charged what the market would bear. The result was that many countries were getting less than Saudi Arabia. As a brake on the system, Saudi Arabia, as the biggest producer, indicated that it would decline to cut production or lift prices in line with the top OPEC prices. Now the market has changed; there is a glut in the market and oil demand has been reduced by about three million barrels a day since early 1980. Almost all the OPEC nations have trimmed their production to try to hold prices. Now the market pressure is for some kind of agreement on the unformity of price which existed until March 1979. Because Saudi Arabia is the biggest producer, unless it cuts its production a glut will remain; so the rest of the OPEC States are hanging upon the decision of Saudi Arabia in regard to its production levels. Saudi Arabia will cut its production by 1,500,000 barrels a day and raise its price to SUS32 a barrel if the other OPEC States will agree that in more buoyant market conditions they will not move away from the uniform price and charge what the market will bear, which once again would fragment OPEC.
So, Saudi Arabia is now playing a market card in a depressed market for oil against the other OPEC States. The Australian Government argues that this will depress oil prices. It will not; certainly not in Australia because they are tied to the Saudi Arabian price. If the Saudi Arabian price rises from SUS28 to SUS32 a barrel, quite simply under the Fraser Government’s automatic link, called import parity pricing, that increase will flow into Australian prices. It will add about 2c to 3c a litre to the price of petrol for Australians when the price is adjusted at the end of the year. The Opposition thinks it is extremely unlikely that the Government will be returned to power, but if Australia finds itself in that predicament and the Government has been returned, on 1 January under its policy the price of oil will rise once again. That price rise would lift the price of petrol by about 2c or 3c a litre.
Between now and 1 January OPEC will have another meeting, I think in Baghdad, where it will consider general price increases for the year. Does anybody believe that those countries will take a real reduction in price? Of course they will not. They are still selling the most valuable commodity on earth. They will get at least the northern hemisphere inflation rate as well as some real growth in price, no matter how modest that real growth may be. That will lift the price again. Instead of looking at SUS32 a barrel by the end of the year probably we will be looking at something like SUS35 a barrel. At the moment the price of Australian oil is $27.50 a barrel. Significant price increases would be occasioned by the lifting of the Saudi Arabian price and uniformity being brought back to the OPEC arrangements, as well as the normal increase which would be considered at the Baghdad meeting of OPEC later in the year. Prices will continue to rise, and they will continue to rise throughout 1981. If one believes the forecasts of the futurologists who look at the likely demand for oil, one could say that prices will continue to rise throughout the life of the next parliament.
The Australian people should be quite clear about the choice before them during the election campaign. The Government’s rapacious import parity tax policy this year will raise $3,054m from the crude oil levy alone, compared to $450m three years ago. The Government has developed that rapacious mechanism simply to finance the Budget deficit and not to do anything for the people of Australia. That tax will percolate through the whole of the Australian economy. It will hit the motorist, the transport operator and the farmer and it will continue right through the next parliament. In contrast, the Opposition believes that Australians should not be paying the world price for Australian oil, and certainly not for oil discovered before 1970 and produced in the 1970s from the existing production facilities in Bass Strait. That oil off the Gippsland coast of Victoria is produced at a cost of SI a barrel. Why should we be paying $27.50 a barrel for the privilege of using it? The Opposition believes this tax has gone far enough and has promised to freeze oil prices for its first year of government and then to adjust them modestly, using the local consumer price index. It will not have increases in line with the hawks of OPEC or the militant states like Libya, Kuwait and others, but will use the local consumer price index. That would mean that in the life of the next parliament, for instance, petrol prices under Labor would be significantly cheaper than they would be under a Fraser coalition government.
So, the talk of Liberal and National Country Party Ministers about depressions in oil prices is bunkum. The cat has been let out of the bag by the Prime Minister in this address to the House, slipped into Hansard under an agreement to incorporate it without it having been read. I have read it and others have read it. We found in it this forecast by the Prime Minister himself of further increases in oil prices. I hope the Government does not rely upon the rhetoric of the last couple of weeks in trying to suggest that the glut of oil on world market will depress prices and that there will be no difference between Labor policy and Liberal policy. The glut will not depress prices; oil prices will continue to rise. A clear choice has to be made between the Labor Party’s policy in respect of domestic energy and the policy of the coalition parties.
– You change yours every week.
– Our policy has been consistent over time. This Government has consistently wanted more tax money and it has got it. The Opposition’s policy does not change. I have made it clear - other spokesmen for the Labor Party have made it clear also - what that choice is. We will put that choice to the public over and over again as we move through the election period. Another fact which needs to be remembered is that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries themselves is demanding a higher and higher proportion of its own oil production. It is forecast that by the late 1980s those countries will be taking about another six million barrels a day out of the general OPEC pool of oil supplies which will probably have the effect, unless there is a dramatic increase in production, of reducing in absolute terms the oil available to the Western world at a time when aggregate Western world growth will be much larger than it is today. There will be an upward pressure on oil prices, not a downward pressure.
If the Australian people give a further mandate to the Fraser Government, it will collect more tax money. At the time of the last election campaign in 1977 the clear promise of the Fraser Government was to reduce taxation. It said to the electors: ‘Ring up and find out how much your tax cut will be’. The lowest, most basic appeal to the electorate was made. Television advertisements showed people with fists full of dollars and so on. The tax cut was given in February and taken away the following July. It lasted just a few months. Not only did the Government break that promise to reduce taxes but also it lifted taxes. Taxes were increased without this ever being mentioned in an election campaign and without the Government ever having secured a mandate for it. I am referring to the petrol tax - the crude oil levy. That is a tax by stealth which is levied at every petrol pump in the country.
The Fraser Government, in breach of electoral commitments given at the election campaign, imposed that tax. It will continue while import parity reigns as the basic rationale of policy in terms of oil pricing, while ever there is this automatic link between Australian oil prices and world oil prices and while the continuing movement in world oil prices flows into Australia. The petrol tax is now $3,054m. The Government also receives $950m from the refined product excise - something the Treasurer was asked about this morning but about which he did not seem to know anything. When those two figures are added together, one finds that the total collection of petrol taxes is equivalent to a 30 per cent increase in personal pay-as-you-earn income tax receipts- an increase of 29.5 per cent. What Government could hope to be elected if it went to the electorate and said: ‘We will lift the level of personal income tax by 30 per cent.’? That Government would be thrown out of power. It would barely get back its deposit from the Commonwealth Electoral Office. It would come back with only a handful of members in the House of Representatives. That is what honourable members on the other side of the House have done. They have done it without a mandate from the public. The Government is tied to energy taxes. There are no benefits for the public. The money received is spread across general appropriations. Not one dollar goes back into energy research or exploration. The Labor Party will give the people of Australia a choice at the election. They will have a choice to break that import parity, to put a stop to this tax, to put a freeze on oil prices and to give Australians the benefit of having oil fields in our own country.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is just not good enough for the alternative government of this country to treat such vital matters as the fuel supply and fuel security as no more than subjects for political point scoring. The Labor Opposition does not care about security of fuel supplies, which is the whole purpose of bur oil pricing policy. It is not good enough for the Labor Party simply to talk about higher fuel prices or to talk about the extra cost of running a family car. The Labor Party talks about extra revenue gained from the oil levy. It is not good enough for the Labor Party simply to mislead and decieve the public about the effects of our oil pricing policy. This is an extremely serious matter - a matter of the utmost importance to this nation and to its future.
No government likes having to introduce policies that impose extra financial burdens on the people but governments have to be more realistic than to look for political popularity. Some decisions are not popular but they are necessary. This Government has taken tough decisions when it has been necessary. The Government has to look further ahead than just the next election, as the Labor Party obviously is doing. We have to follow policies that accord with and protect the interests of the Australian people now and in the future. This is exactly what the Government is doing with its fuel pricing policy. I ask: Why is this policy so important? If we do not sell the product at its real value, we will have a distortion of the true market forces. The Government’s policy encourages exploration, conservation and development of alternatives. I refer to what the honourable member for Blaxland said in the past when asked about what would happen to the development of the Rundle shale oil deposit. He was asked:
What is the ALP policy on the development of shale oil on the central Queensland coast? Who would you like to see do it?
The honourable member for Blaxland answered:
If it happens it will happen because of two things: an average grade of ore body; and a very easily back-filled mined ore body which can be bucket-wheeled. Without those factors, Rundle would just be a pipe dream. Parity pricing comes into it . . .
That is what the honourable member for Blaxland had to say. Let me dwell for a moment on the Rundle shale oil deposit. It happens to be one of the biggest single developmental projects that this country has seen. It is only possible to develop the Rundle shale oil deposit because of the oil import parity pricing policy. Oil from the Rundle project will come on stream somewhere in the late 1980s and will make a major contribution to the economy and the oil supplies of this country. Because of the import parity pricing policy we also have the prospect of developing oil from coal. We also have the prospect of developing ethanol from crops at economic prices. Therefore, the import parity pricing policy is absolutely vital for the continued supplies of fuel in this country.
How expensive is fuel in Australia? Is it the enormous burden that the Labor Party says it is? I should like to quote some of the latest available costs of petrol in Australian prices. In France super grade petrol costs 73c a litre. In Italy it is 78c a litre and in Japan it is 66c a litre. I could refer to a lot of countries. For example, the United Kingdom which has its own supplies, is about 77 per cent self-sufficient and has a hydrocarbons corporation, petrol sells at about 62c a litre. In Australia the capital city price is about 34c a litre. Of course, there are variations in prices paid in the country but those variations are not brought about because of the import parity pricing policy. In fact, the price is kept lower in Australia. There are only a couple of countries which sell fuel cheaper than does Australia. The price of petrol in the United States of America is marginally cheaper than in Australia. It is only marginally cheaper than in Australia in some selected areas. America has vast supplies of its own oil. I ask honourable members to look at those prices and then look at Australian prices. They should look at the need for a policy that will ensure Australia’s fuel supply security. They should ask themselves whether the Australian people are paying too high a price for their fuel. Are we paying too much for fuel security? That is the important question.
The honourable member for Blaxland and Senator Walsh do not seem to be able to get together to agree on how much import parity pricing is costing the Australian motorist. In any case, they are both wrong. The honourable member for Blaxland has said that it costs the average family $950 a year extra, which is not true. At the same time, Senator Walsh said that it costs the Australian family $738.40 a year, which is also wrong. For the average family to pay an extra $950 a year it would have to use almost 160 litres of petrol a week. Does anybody seriously believe that the average family car uses so much petrol. For the average family to pay the amount that Senator Walsh claims, $738.40, it would have to use about 123 litres a week. Does anybody take these men seriously? Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the average family uses about 1 ,925 litres of petrol a year in their cars and station wagons. That is 37 litres a week, not 123 as the honourable member for Blaxland claims. He is living in a dreamland. The oil levy represents between 10c and 15c a litre. So the levy, therefore, costs between $192 and $250 a year for the average consumption, not $950 a year as claimed by the honourable member for Blaxland.
What is the Government’s policy all about? It is all about fuel security. But the Labor Party cares nothing for security, nothing for the continuity of fuel supplies and nothing for the future generations of Australians. The Labor Party cares nothing about the disruption and chaos that would occur if this country ran out of fuel or had fuel shortages. If we had a Labor Party policy we would just have to have fuel shortages. We would have vastly higher fuel prices, fuel shortages and queues for fuel if we failed to stick to realistic prices. All the Labor Party cares about is votes in the coming election. It does’ not care at all about the future security of fuel supplies for this country. The Labor Party would sabotage Australia’s fuel supply and security just to win votes. It would use a cheap political ploy in an election year. To prove some more of the inconsistencies of the honourable member for Blaxland I would like to quote from a well known interview he had with Mr Ross Gittins of the Sydney Morning Herald. Mr Gittins asked him:
Would the resources tax raise more or less than the oil production levy.
The honourable member replied:
I think it would probably raise more.
That is the sort of thing that the honourable member has been saying consistently.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented. I will not be continually misquoted or selectively quoted by the cheats in the Government. I hope that the people of the electorate of Kalgoorlie understand the honourable member’s argument on petrol prices.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. That is not a point of order.
– Obviously the honourable member for Blaxland is trying to take up my speaking time because he does not like to hear the facts of the matter. The inconsistencies that have come from the honourable member for Blaxland over a period are indeed worth recording. When our supplies run down what will the Labor Party do then for Australia? The honourable member talks about a hydrocarbons corporation and a resource tax. Those two things would kill any oil industry in Australia. They would end for Australia any chance for exploration and development of decent supples of oil. The United Kingdom has its own hydrocarbons corporation. That country is about 70 per cent self-sufficient in oil, but what does it pay for its oil? It pays approximately 62c a litre for petrol at the moment, although it has its own hydrocarbons corporation and 70 per cent self-sufficiency. That is what the Australian Labor Party is trying to burden the Australian public with. My goodness, the public will not be taken in by that sort of policy. What would we do when our oil ran out if we did not have a parity pricing policy? What would we do for money to buy oil then? We would be buying our oil at the world’s ruling price if we could get it from anywhere. That is the kind of future that a Labor Government would condemn this country to. We would be beggars for fuel on the world’s market and beggars on the doorstep for enough energy to keep our transport system working.
The Labor Party is deceiving the Australian public with its policies. Day after day it is telling the Australian people that it will reduce the price of fuel, but that is not true. The Hydrocarbons Corporation of Great Britain does not reduce that country’s price of fuel. A hydrocarbons corporation in Australia will not reduce the price of fuel. We have seen what a hydrocarbons corporation in the United Kingdom has done. It has increased the price of fuel to 62c a litre this year. That is the sort of thing that the Labor Party would do.
I would advise the community to look at the Labor Party’s official policies and not just listen to a few party spokesmen changing their minds from day to day about what their policy ought to be. The Labor Party’s official printed policy says that a Labor Government would freeze oil prices for 12 months. Remember that is only six months longer than the present Government freezes oil prices. We adjust oil prices in Australia every six months after having taken into consideration the movements in oil prices around the world. After a period of freeze, which is only six months in real terms, then a Labor Government would increase the price of fuel twice a year, in accordance with either the consumer price index increase or the movement in import parity price, whichever is the lesser. We all know what the CPI increase under a Labor Government has done in the past. It increased at a far greater rate than the oil parity prices were increasing. If a Labor Government increase it in accordance with the increase in the CPI the Australian public will be paying more and more for their oil. In other words, fuel prices will continue to rise no matter which party or parties are in power. Yet the Labor Party continually seeks to have the Australian people believe that it would reduce the price of petrol, that it would abandon import parity pricing and that there would be no more oil levy. That is just a hoax.
The Australian Labor Party can keep relatively quiet about its resource tax and its hydrocarbons corporation. It knows that it is caught in a cleft stick when it starts talking about socialistic moves in the oil industry and the massive investment of public funds in a private enterprise field. The Labor Party knows darn well that that will increase the price of fuel around Australia. The Labor Party will spend every moment between now and the election telling the people that their living standards are being affected by fuel prices. The members of the Labor Party are desperate men in a desperate atmosphere in the run-up to an election at which the Labor Party will be soundly and roundly defeated. There is no doubt that the Labor Party is scraping the bottom of the barrel. lt has very little going for it. Where are its positive policies? Where are the positive thoughts that will go into an alternative government for this country? The Labor Party has no thoughts for the people of this country. It is just trying to buy a few votes in an election period with a cheap election ploy.
What would the Labor Party do if there were shortages of fuel? Honourable members’ memories are short if they do not remember the avgas shortages that we experienced last year and the chaos that was caused. Do honourable members remember the chaos that was caused last year when there was a shortage of fuel in America?
The Labor Party has scant regard for the shortages which would result from its policies of freezing prices and offering no incentive for exploration or development. It simply has not got the political courage to face up to the facts and come out with a positive policy, one that can stand for all time and one that will ensure fuel supplies for us and for generations.
The Government of Australia is not at risk over fuel. The people recognise the necessity for a parity pricing policy. They may not all enjoy it, but they recognise the need for it. The present Government will stand before the people and tell them that we are securing their future. We will tell them that the Labor Party is conning them. We will tell them that the future of their children and the future of the fuel supplies of this country is more important than trying to buy a few votes in the last weeks before an election. That is all that the Labor Party is doing at the moment. It has very little running for it. Where are its positive policies? The Labor Party is scraping the barrel with scaremongering and it is looking at all the angles from which it can frighten people in an election year. But the Australian people will not be hoodwinked. They are not so gullible. They will return a government which has the guts to stand up and tell the truth, which has the guts to carry out positive policies and which will ensure the future of this country and ensure the fuel supplies not only now but also in the future for all Australians including our children for many years to come. We are not vote catching. We are not trying to con a few people to gain a cheap vote or two in the last few days before an election.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the honourable member for Kalgoorlie has been misleading the House by constantly referring to the British Hydrocarbons Corporation. There is no such organisation. He must be referring to British Petroleum, which is 59 per cent owned by the British Government.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I thought that the honourable member wanted to join in the debate. Instead, he is making a point of order which is not a proper point of order. In fact it is a point of view more than a point of order.
– On that point–
-Is the honourable member taking a point of order?
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. Surely it is pertinent to point out that the honourable member has been misleading the House.
– That is not a point of order. That would have to be done in the terms of the debate. The discussion is now concluded.
Mr KEATING (Blaxland)- I rise on a point of personal misrepresentation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. This morning the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and this afternoon the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) quoted selectively from an interview I did with the financial editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. On two other occasions in the Parliament I required members of the Government to quote in full the sections to which they referred. I just hope that the electors of Kalgoorlie understand that their member is arguing for higher fuel prices today–
– That is not a misrepresentation. I raise a point of order.
– The honourable member is arguing for higher fuel prices and his electorate should understand that well.
– Would you like me to incorporate it in Hansard - the whole thing?
-Order! The honourable member for Kalgoorlie will resume his seat. The discussion is concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the replacement of the Australian Wine Board by the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation. This action is part of the process of review and modernisation of statutory marketing authorities with responsibilities in primary industry which has been proceeding for some years. Associated with this Bill are the Wine Grapes Levy Amendment Bill 1980 and the Wine Research Amendment Bill 1980, which in essence provide for certain minor changes in existing legislation consequential upon enactment of this Bill. The proposals embodied in this Bill are the fruits of a series of consultations and negotiations with the main elements of the wine industry - wine grape growers, co-operative winemakers, and private and proprietary winemakers.
In recent times several factors have been making for change in the wine industry, particularly increasing investment in the industry by large public companies. Also, grape growers and cooperatives have been disturbed by the emergence in some seasons of problems in take-up of all grapes available. In this climate there has been considerable questioning of the adequacy of the Board’s structure to cope with the present day needs of the industry. The Government therefore arranged early in 1979 for an industry working party, chaired and supplemented by officers of my Department, to give consideration to the matter of Board reorganisation. The working party’s conclusions were distributed widely within the industry, and industry comments were subsequently received by the Government and considered. As a consequence of that full consultation, the proposals embodied in this Bill have the general support of the industry.
The Corporation, like its predecessor, will have the power to regulate exports and have promotion and publicity functions in export markets and in Australia. It will also have, as did the Australian Wine Board, power to arrange research into grapes and grape juice as well as grape products. In addition, it will be given the power to engage in trade in the export field, subject to ministerial approval, and will be able, subject to the approval of the Treasurer, to borrow for that purpose, under government guarantee. The Government will be looking to the Corporation to play a significant role, in co-operation with the industry, in developing and promoting overseas sales.
The Corporation will be composed of six representatives of private and proprietary wine makers, two of co-operative wine makers, four of wine grape growers, a Commonwealth Government representative and a chairman appointed by the Government. The membership of 14 will be larger by three than that of the Board; one representative each of private and proprietary wine makers, as a group, and of wine grape growers, and the Government-appointed chairman. Although this membership will be somewhat larger than that of the usual primary industry marketing authority, it will constitute a fair balance between the differing interests in the industry.
To avoid any potential unwieldiness, the Corporation will have the power to delegate any of its powers to an executive committee of five members. A similar provision for delegation to an executive committee was effective in the case of the Corporation’s predecessor.
Representation of private and proprietary winemakers will no longer be on a State basis, but according to the size of such producers’ operations. Greater representation of medium and large scale producers than of small has been provided. The traditional right of private and proprietary producers of wine and brandy to nominate their representatives has been maintained. Their six representatives will be chosen by Australia-wide elections in three categories: Winemakers processing 10,000 tonnes or more of grapes - three; those processing between 500 and 10,000 tonnes - two; smaller producers - one. Voting in respect of each category’s representation will be confined to producers within that category.
The inclusion of an independent chairman, commonly from outside the industry concerned, has been beneficial for other reorganised statutory marketing authorities, and the Government is confident that it will prove beneficial for the operation of the Corporation also.
Honourable members will note that clause 20 requires a Corporation member, or a deputy of a member, to disclose any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a matter being considered or to be considered by the Corporation or the executive committee. This accords with the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry on Public Duty and Private Interest. I point out also that clause 19 of the Bill provides that the Minister shall terminate the appointment of a member should he fail, without reasonable excuse, to comply with the requirements of clause 20.
The jurisdiction of the Corporation will cover wine, brandy and rectified grape spirit. Although grape juice as such has not been included, the Government considers that the Corporation should not be prevented from playing a part in grape juice disposal if juice surpluses arise. Accordingly, provision has been included in the Bill for the making of regulations to confer on the Corporation appropriate functions in relation to grape juice manufactured in Australia from grapes grown in Australia. The Corporation will be funded - as was its predecessor - by a levy paid by winemakers and distillers on grapes crushed for wine or brandy making, or for the manufacture of grape spirit.
I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute, on behalf of the Government, to the numerous gentlemen who have served the industry with distinction as members of the Australian Wine Board since its formation in 1929. The
Government is confident that in this Bill the new Corporation has been given the structure to enable its members to build well for the future upon the solid foundations of the very considerable achievements of their predecessors. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Wine Grapes Levy Act 1979 to take account of the establishment of the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation in place of the Australian Wine Board. The opportunity is being taken of amending the factor, specified in clause 4 of the Act, to be used to convert quantities of grape juice to their fresh grape equivalent for levy purposes. This amendment reflects technological developments. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Wine Research Act 1955 to take account of the establishment of the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation in place of the Australian Wine Board. The opportunity is being taken of making some other non-substantive minor amendments to the Act. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment to Queensland of $6.7m in 1980-81 as a special grant. The payment of this amount is in accordance with the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission contained in its Forty-Seventh Report on Special Assistance for States which was tabled recently. It has been the practice of successive Commonwealth governments from time to time, on the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission following applications by States, to provide special financial assistance to the less populous States to compensate them for such factors as lower capacity to raise revenue and higher costs of providing government services of a standard comparable to that provided by the financially stronger States.
Since self-government, the Northern Territory has also had access to the Commonwealth Grants Commission on the same basis as a claimant State. When special grants were first paid they constituted the only regular form of general revenue assistance to the less populous States for this purpose. However, for many years now, the main way in which special compensatory assistance has been provided to these States has been through the payment of higher per capita amounts of other general revenue funds. This situation is reflected today in the fact that personal income tax sharing entitlements paid to Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania are higher, in per capita terms, than the entitlements paid to New South Wales and Victoria.
Under the personal income tax sharing arrangements, the less populous States continue to be free to apply for special financial assistance on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. This is one of the explicit understandings between the Commonwealth and State governments in relation to the tax sharing arrangements. Such special grants supplement a State’s entitlement under the tax sharing arrangements in the same way as they formerly supplemented the financial assistance grants.
Queensland has been the only claimant State in recent years. It has applied for and received special assistance in each year since 1971-72. Queensland’s estimated entitlement in respect of 1 980-8 1 under the personal income tax sharing arrangements is $1,079. 5m, representing approximately $481 per head of population, compared with an estimated average of approximately $352 per head for New South Wales and Victoria. Accordingly, the assistance provided to Queensland by way of the special grant should be seen as supplementing the special compensatory assistance of $129 per head, or some $290m, provided to Queensland by way of its tax sharing entitlement.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission, in arriving at its recommendations in relation to State claims for special assistance, makes an assessment of the financial needs of a claimant State. In making such assessments, the Commission compares in detail the finances of the claimant State with those of the standard States. The Commission has regarded New South Wales and Victoria as standard States since 1959-60. Normally, special grants recommended by the Commission consist of two parts. One part is based on a preliminary assessment of the financial need of the claimant State in the current financial year, and is an advance payment subject to adjustment two years later when the Commission has compared in detail the finances of the claimant State and standard States for that year. The other part of the special grant represents the final adjustment to the advance payment made two years earlier and is known as the completion payment. This adjustment might be positive or negative and therefore might result in the final grant in respect of the year being higher or lower than the advance payment for that year.
The payment to Queensland in 1980-81 of $6.7m provided for by this Bill consists solely of a completion payment in respect of 1978-79. The completion payment in respect of 1978-79, when added to the $16m advance grant paid to Queensland in that year, brings the final grant in respect of 1978-79 to $22.7m, which is $7. 3m above the corresponding figure for 1977-78.
The Commission has made no recommendation with respect to an advance grant for 1 980-8 1 . This is because, although Queensland has applied for a special grant in respect of 1980-81, it has indicated to the Commission it is not seeking an advance grant. Queensland’s decision not to seek an advance grant is based on possible implications for methodology adopted for assessing special grants of the review by a special division of the Grants Commission of the tax sharing relativities of all the States. This review is due for completion before the Commission makes its final detailed assessment regarding Queensland’s application for a special grant with respect to 1 980-8 1 .
The Commission’s recommendations in relation to the special grants arrangements have been adopted by the Parliament since the Commission’s inception and the Government considers that they should be accepted on this occasion. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the recommendations of the Remuneration Tribunal in respect of the salaries and allowances of justices of the High Court and other Federal judges contained in the 1980 review by the Tribunal. The new salaries and annual allowances proposed to be payable to the judges are to be found in the new Schedule to be substituted by clause 5 of the Bill. It might be noted that the Remuneration Tribunal commented that the salaries which they recommended ‘have been framed so as to ensure that judicial remuneration is set apart from the effects of national wage case decisions and to resolve the inequities now existing’.
The other provisions of the Bill are concerned with the travelling allowances payable to justices of the High Court and to other judges. These provisions give effect to the recommendations of the Remuneration Tribunal with respect to travelling allowances. For the first time, the Remuneration Tribunal made recommendations as to the overseas travel allowance payable to judges. The Tribunal did not, however, recommend a rate of overseas travel allowance for justices of the High Court. The Bill provides, in sub-section (7) of new section 13A, that a justice of the High Court is entitled to an allowance by way of reimbursement of the reasonable expenses of travel outside Australia and the external Territories in connection with the performance of his duties.
Apart from one circumstance, a justice of the High Court is not to be entitled to travelling allowance in respect of duty performed in Canbera. A justice of the High Court who now holds office and who does not have his sole or principal place of residence in Canberra is, however, to be entitled to an allowance at the rate of $7,500 per annum in accordance with the recommendation of the Remuneration Tribunal. The Government regards this amount as fair and reasonable in all the cirumstances. Provision for this is made in proposed new section 13B. High Court justices appointed in the future will not receive this special allowance. The one circumstance in which travelling allowance is payable in respect of duty in Canberra is that a future justice will be entitled to travelling allowance in respect of duty performed in Canberra at the ordinary daily rate until he establishes his home in Canberra or for three months after the date of his appointment, whichever is the lesser period. This provision is made in sub-section (5) of proposed new section 13 A. It will be noted that- residence in New South Wales adjacent to the Australian Capital Territory is treated as being equivalent to residence in Canberra.
In accordance with the recommendations of the Remuneration Tribunal, the salaries and allowances established by this Bill are retrospective to 1 July 1980. 1 commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
– by leave - The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and I have just returned from visits to the United States and to India. I want to say something about these visits and also to relate them to the pattern of Australia’s foreign policy as it has developed over the last five years. I believe that in the perspective of history it will be seen that these years constitute a key period in the evolution of Australian foreign policy - an innovative and constructive period during which Australia established a distinctive role for itself in international affairs.
The two stages of the visit serve to bring out and symbolise the key elements in this evolving pattern. Washington, of course, is the nerve centre of the Western Alliance of which we are a member. The visit to New Delhi to attend the second Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting represented three other essential elements of our policy: First, our concern to create a system of regional consultation and cooperation which will forge a strong sense of shared identity and generate habits of working together to solve regional problems; second, our commitment to developing the full potential of the Commonwealth as a vital, innovative, problem-solving instrument, one capable, on a range of issues, of acting as a catalyst when deadlock or stalemate threaten; and third, our belief that Australia should seek to strengthen its links with other middle-sized powers and that there is an important role for such powers in world affairs.
The Western Alliance, regionalism, the Commonwealth and the strengthening of relations with middle-sized powers- these are four essential components of our foreign policy. Moreover, they are interlocking and interdependent components. It is important, therefore, both to bring out the character of each component part, and of the relationship between them.
We have been members of the Western Alliance since the signing of the ANZUS Pact in 1951; that is, virtually since its inception. The commitment of this Government to that Alliance is and will remain unequivocal. That commitment is not a matter of lip-service reluctantly paid. Nor is it a matter of passively following the lead of others. It is an active, substantive effort to contribute to the resolve of the effectiveness of the alliance.
The Alliance is vital to us in two important respects: First, it offers the ultimate guarantee of our security should a direct threat to Australia ever eventuate; and second, as the necessary instrument for maintaining a global strategic balance it is the one thing that can ensure a measure of stability in international affairs in our region as in others. Should that Alliance falter, should the Soviet Union gain ascendency in Europe, the consequences would very soon be felt in our part of the world as Soviet military resources become available to be used freely outside the European theatre.
Let this be clearly understood: Australia’s commitment to the Western Alliance is ultimately not based on historical ties or ideology or cultural compatibility, important as those things are. It is based four-square on an appreciation of Australia’s interests and what Australia’s interests require. That is why we provide facilities for the United States. And that is why Australia concerns itself with the condition of the Alliance and with the nature of the strategic and political threats the Alliance faces.
In my address to B’nai B’rith International in Washington, I took advantage of a platform in the capital city of the principal member of the Western Alliance to discuss the nature of the challenge facing the West, the problems posed by mistaken and complacent perceptions in the West which hindered a proper response to that challenge, and the need to adjust the Alliance to present realities.
I know that there are those in Australia who would say that it is inappropriate for an Australian Prime Minister to speak in these terms, that we should leave such matters to the United States and the major European powers, that we will not be listened to. I reject all that. It is one thing to recognise one’s limitations; it is another to exaggerate them and make them the excuse for passivity.
Australia is not a great power, but neither is it a negligible factor in international politics. It is a significant middle power which will be listened to- is listened to - when it advances informed and reasonable views. As to the substance of the analysis I presented in my Washington speech, let me add this. If there is disagreement about that analysis, let us hear the arguments and let us discuss the issues. That would be the healthy response.
But all too often what we get are not arguments but a tired, mindless, unenlightened resort to accusations of ‘kicking the communist can’ or ‘reds under the bed’ which rule out rational discussion of vitally important matters. These slogans also ignore the fact that what is at issue is not communism as an ideology or conspiracy, but the massive military might of a super-power. It is not a case of reds under the bed but of Soviet troops in Afghanistan and Soviet arms and equipment in Kampuchea.
I turn now to the second Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting at New Delhi. As honourable members will be aware, these meetings came about as the result of an Australian initiative. After the success of the New Delhi meeting I think it is clear that this has been one of the most useful foreign policy initiatives ever undertaken by Australia. It links together and integrates two of our most important concerns: The region and the Commonwealth.
As a vast country, Australia has to think of its region on a large scale, extending from the subcontinent to our north-west to the islands of the South Pacific. But the degree of contact among the sub-regions within this wider area has been quite limited and no forum existed which would bring them together on a regular basis. One of the important functions of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meetings is to remedy this deficiency.
Another function performed by the meetingsand one which we had very much in mind when we proposed them- is that they provide a forum which allows the small island states of the South Pacific to make their views heard. During the last five years the community of independent island states in the South Pacific has enlarged very significantly indeed. Australia has been sensitive to the needs of that community and has increased its aid and assistance very rapidly and very substantially. But we have also been aware that their needs are not only material, but that as small and geographically remote countries with limited human resources they face difficulties in registering their presence in the international community and finding the opportunity to have their problems discussed. Australia once faced similar difficulties and required and received help from others; so we are aware of the problem. We had it in mind when we moved to inaugurate the Regional Meetings. In New Delhi, the fact that Father Lini, within weeks of his country’s achieving independence, was able to get up in the opening session to address the Heads of Government of the other 1 5 countries and to explain the problems Vanuatu faces testifies to the success of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meetings in this respect.
In my opening remarks at New Delhi I stressed that the spirit of the initiative was practical and pragmatic; its orientation was towards the tackling of specific functional problems and projects; its aim was to enhance regional co-operation. The deliberations which followed bore this out. They were informal and private, characterised by frank discussion of the real issues rather than by ritualistic posturing.
I do not propose to describe in detail all of the various areas for action that were agreed upon at New Delhi. These are set out in the communique which I hope, at the conclusion of this statement, to table. But I draw attention briefly to certain decisions involving forward-looking positive action which, I believe, are particularly important.
Heads of Government agreed, for example, that all four working groups- on terrorism, illicit drugs, trade and energy - that were set up at the first regional meeting should continue, in some cases with expanded terms of reference. The Consultative Group on Trade is to pay special attention to the protectionist policies of the major industrialised countries against competitive development country exports from the region. And in the vitally important field of energy the consultative group is not only to continue its work on nonrenewable energy sources but is also to devote attention to certain aspects of the conventional energy situation. There is a lack of information about the precise energy characteristics, the energy needs, of some of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting countries, and resource and need surveys are therefore to be given priority where those countries so wish it.
A working group is to be set up on industry, and it is the Government’s hope that this will produce particular benefits for the small island developing countries of the region, especially to help them take advantage of SPARTECA - a special trade agreement designed to give developing countries in the Pacific region access to this market without expecting reciprocal benefits for us from them. In addition an expert study group is to recommend a program of action for co-operation in the field of agricultural research and development.
Our decisions at New Delhi reflect the needs of the region and represent a substantial program of joint action. As in the past, Australia will contribute wherever it can.
While the main emphasis was, quite properly, on practical matters, the meeting also gave Heads of Government the opportunity to exchange views on the security questions relevant to the region. We approached these recognising frankly the differences which existed among us concerning the interpretation of the causes and nature of some recent developments. What I believe emerged, and what is reflected in the communique, is that despite the differences there is a very substantial level of agreement among us as to what is desirable for the region as a whole, and what we should work towards.
We agreed in opposing intervention and interference in the internal affairs of states, including Afghanistan and Kampuchea. We agreed in calling for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Kampuchea. We agreed that the peoples of Afghanistan and Kampuchea should be free to determine their own destiny. All the Heads of Government were concerned to prevent the escalation of great power confrontation in the region. All differences, of course, were not resolved. That was not the purpose of the meeting. But we all left with a much clearer understanding of our respective positions and a much more accurate appreciation of the thinking behind these positions.
I have stressed the regional aspect of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting. But I would like to stress equally the Commonwealth aspect. During the last five years Australia has played an extremely active part in the affairs of the Commonwealth. We have rejected absolutely the views that it could only be a talking shop or that it was merely an interesting anachronism on the world scene. As I said at the beginning, we have proceeded on the assumption that it is an instrument which can be used to solve problems, and that it can be particularly useful in situations where great powers are reluctant or unable to act. Events have already justified that assumption.
Within the framework of the Commonwealth, and using the resources it provides- not least the atmosphere of trust and confidence between leaders who have grown to know each other well - Australia made a significant contribution towards resolving the conflict in Zimbabwe. We also took a lead, along with our Commonwealth partners, in working towards the establishment of a common fund. These are achievements of substance which have given the Commonwealth a new relevance in international affairs. The view that the Commonwealth is outdated is itself outdated.
The last aspect of New Delhi meeting I want to touch upon - because it illustrates another facet of our foreign policy - is its significance as a further step in developing our relationship with India. That relationship was too long neglected by both sides. In the last two years, as a result of the two regional meetings and my visit to India in 1979 as the special guest of the Indian Government for their Independence Day celebrations, we have rapidly made up ground. The relationship with India is important in its own right. She is a large and substantial country with a considerable capacity for influencing events in the world. But the development of the relationship is important in another respect in that it signifies the importance we attach to the role of middle-sized countries in world affairs, particularly when they are able to act together.
The super-powers are, of course, militarily predominant. But events increasingly make it clear that there are limits to their political power, that in fact their very size and power make it difficult for them to deal effectively with some issues. They can arouse suspicion; they can bring too much power and weight to bear on situations; they attract the attention and participation of the other super-power and convert the issue in question into a super-power matter. On these issues, middlesized powers are often better placed to play a constructive role. Again, Zimbabwe provides a striking example of the truth of this proposition.
I think I have said enough to show that my visits to Washington and New Delhi fitted into a pattern of activity which is purposeful, which is congruent with Australia’s interests, and which contributes in a positive way to the goals of security and development. On occasions in the past Australian foreign policy has been too modest and too passive. On other occasions it has suffered from delusions of grandeur and the absence of a sense of limitations. Our present policy avoids both these errors. It is realistic without being cynical; and it is principled without being Utopian. When we came to office in 1975 we promised a foreign policy of enlightened realism. We have kept that promise.
I would like to table the final communique of the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government of the Asian and Pacific Region; but for the benefit of honourable members I think it would be preferable if this document were incorporated in Hansard. I seek leave to incorporate the document in Hansard.
The document read as follows -
The second meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government of the Asia-Pacific Region was held in New Delhi from 4-8 September 1980. Heads of Government who attended the Meeting were the Prime Minister of Australia, the President of Bangladesh, the Prime Minister of Fiji, the Prime Minister of India, the President of Kiribati, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the President of Nauru, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the Prime Minister of Singapore, the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, the President of Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister of Tonga, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, the Prime Minister of Vanuatu and the Prime Minister of Western Samoa. The Prime Minister of India, Shrimati Indira Gandhi, was in the chair.
Commodities and the Common Fund
Economic and Technical Co-operation Among Developing Countries
Study mutually beneficial ways and means to facilitate a better use of resources, diversify production and obtain more fruitful specialisation to promote international trade within the region specially with a view to accelerating the economic development of the developing countries.
Explore avenues where two or more countries may be able to co-operate on joint ventures and on projects which would maximise the economic and trading opportunities of the countries concerned.
Examine possibilities for mutually beneficial exchanges in such areas as project management, design engineering for infrastructural development and marketing among member countries.
Examine ways of improving the export trade of developing countries in commodities, semi-manufactures and manufactures and of encouraging the adoption of positive adjustment policies, especially by developed countries, which will facilitate the redeployment of industries on the basis of comparative advantage.
Promote market promotion activities which aim at facilitating the expansion of intraregional trade.
With a view to providing a means of continuing mutual co-operation in industrial development of the region, and a continuing forum for the exchange of ideas among member countries, Heads of Government decided to set up a Working Group on Industry with the following Terms of Reference:
identification and implementation of specific projects of industrial co-operation such as resource surveys, pre-investment studies, development of energy sources, and the establishment of small-scale and large industrial ventures,
Heads of Government agreed that in implementing their mandate, the Expert Study Group should study and make recommendations relating to:
Heads of Government commended the degree of co-operation which was evident from the interchange among officials. They agreed that regional member countries should take appropriate action in the light of recommendations of the Group and keep in close touch during forthcoming deliberations on this subject in relevant international bodies.
Role of the Commonwealth Secretariat
Co-operation with Other Countries and Organisations
– I present the following paper:
Prime Minister’s visits to the United States and IndiaMinisterial Statement, 1 1 September 1980.
– by leave- In the life of this Government it has always been difficult to determine the thrust and the central objectives of foreign policy. In the past two years, the difficulties have compounded as the Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) and his professional advisers sought to accommodate the obsessions of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), first demonstrated by conflict in Indo-China, then by the Soviet Union takeover of Afghanistan.
Today’s report from the Prime Minister does nothing to clarify the situation. Indeed, what it does is illustrate the Prime Minister’s enormous capacity for tailoring his views to his audience and deluding himself. For instance, at home he is an unreconstructed protectionist; overseas he is an open free-trader. He is believed no more overseas than he is at home on this or a range of other matters. His view of the world from Australia invariably seems to have a sharper - if not apocalyptic- nature than the one that emerges in an international forum, such as the one the Prime Minister has recently attended. That forum was, of course, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting in New Delhi- a city within hours of our own shores by modern air travel.
However, the Prime Minister has now returned to us from a brisk working visit to New Delhi via the rest of the world. Like his rhetoric, his journey took the long way round. This was, in fact, his twenty-third international safari as touring Prime Minister of Australia and it was highlighted by an extraordinary display of self-indulgence and double standards in the United States of America. Perhaps the Prime Minister was not aware of the repeated confessions of double standards which emerged throughout his address to B’nai B’rith International in Washington; at least his confession of self-indulgence was explicit and immediate when he began that speech. I quote him:
I have been moved 10,000 miles to be here tonight.
Which is another way of saying that to get to nearby Delhi he chose to circumnavigate the globe at spectacular expense- in excess of $4,600 an hour operating costs for the Boeing 707 aircraft he occupied. This is a spectacular expense that has to be borne by the Australian taxpayers. This expense was imposed on the taxpayers so that the Prime Minister could stop over in Washington to pick up a gold badge. Perhaps we can sympathise with the Prime Minister having to travel so far to find an award for humanitarian services. On the other hand, he would have to go that far to get that sort of reward. He is too well known anywhere nearer home to get that sort of award.
Even B’nai B’rith representatives in Australia have been equivocal about the timing and the appropriateness of the award, coinciding as it did with such a disgraceful display of racialism at Noonkanbah. Noonkanbah, where we saw Australia’s name defiled by the servile attitudes of the Government of Western Australia in responding to the demands of a foreign, multinational corporation, and where we saw that State Government aided, abetted and, indeed, incited for a good part of the way in what it did by the national Government, led by this humanitarian Prime Minister. I do not wonder at the reservations of the local B’nai B’rith. It was a thoroughly bizarre juxtaposition that the world should witness the representatives of Australia’s Aboriginal people travelling to Geneva to prosecute their own Government before the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, while the head of that Government was flying to Washington to be rewarded for humanitarian services.
It is instructive in terms of the values and policies of this Government to look more closely at the remarks of the Prime Minister at this ceremony in Washington. The Prime Minister commented to that audience that he represented a country which, over the years, had demonstrated the seriousness of its concern for human dignity and justice. In general terms that statement is correct, but the general standing of Australia in these matters is no thanks to this Prime Minister and his Government. The Prime Minister could have been more explicit. He could have made it clear that the main beneficiaries of his period in office have been the privileged, the wealthy and the influential. He could have pointed out the enormous redistribution of wealth he has made in favour of the corporate sector- nearly $6 billion in five Budgets in tax concessions to the corporate sector. Of course, the redistributional effect of the income tax policy is that four out of five taxpayers are worse off over the five years of this Government, and the top 20 per cent- the rich onefifthare much better off.
The balancing factors might not have been so palatable- the blighting of thousands of young lives by a policy of maintaining chronic unemployment, the persistent erosion of living standards of families throughout Australia, the abandonment of so many whose needs are greatest in this community, and the denial of social justice to so many disadvantaged groups, including the Aboriginal people. In Washington the Prime Minister declared that discrimination against the Aboriginal people was no longer a fact of Australian life. If only that were true. As the violation of the Noonkanbah lands continues can we really believe such a statement? Can we doubt who loses if the principles pf Aboriginal land rights or the spiritual beliefs of the Aboriginal people thwart the pressures for mineral exploration and mining at the hands of wealthy multinational corporations?
On the other side of the world the Prime Minister was prepared to proclaim Australia a truly multicultural and multiracial society. Sadly, the facts are otherwise, despite some commendable efforts in that direction by people other than the Prime Minister. What sort of multiracial and multicultural society is it that forces the worst effects of its social dislocations on to the most disadvantaged? For example, in Australia, which is one of the richest countries in the world, the worst health record is amongst Aboriginals, the worst unemployment record is amongst Aboriginals, followed closely by ethnic groups such as the Turks and Lebanese. Why is it that our society can take in relatively large numbers of refugees, yet induce in them such strains that they suffer abnormal rates of mental breakdown and suicide? Certainly, we have made progress, but we are a long way from the point that would warrant the Prime Minister’s self bestowed accolades. But then, if he did not bestow the honours upon himself, who else would? How could he, in honesty and realism, tell a foreign audience that his government was implementing a comprehensive set of policies recognising, as he put it, the fundamental right of Aboriginal Australians to participate fully in the determination of their own future.
When he is overseas a different set of standards takes over the Prime Minister. It is true that he has been strong and consistent in denouncing racialism in southern Africa. Australia, and he particularly, had a commendable role in the resolution of events in Zimbabwe. We acknowledge that. The pity is that the Prime Minister does not bring home with him those same attitudes and that same determination. The unfortunate truth is that it is much easier to lecture others on their faults than to set one’s own house in order. Mr Lee Kuan Yew recently made that point tellingly to the Prime Minister. It is this fact that explains how the Prime Minister could tell his Washington audience with pride of the Australian Parliament’s report on human rights in the Soviet Union, but he neglected to mention that not a thing has been done in response to the report. He neglected to outline that he gave a firm undertaking that within a maximum of six months there would be a statement as to the Government’s response to the report. One year later not one of the recommendations has been adopted by the Government; not one word has been said in relation to the Government’s intention. Of course, there is little wonder. The recommendation in paragraph 65 on page 1 60 of the report states:
It is recommended that the Australian Parliament establish a Standing Committee on Human Rights to report on serious violations of human rights in any country, including Australia.
That would be the last thing the Prime Minister would want to tolerate. It is one thing to adopt fragile postures overseas, moralising in a hypocritical way, or to denounce abuses of human rights, quite properly, but thousands of miles away, and to ignore the same thing happening on our own doorstep or in our own household because of the irresponsible neglect of the Fraser Government. There was not one reference to his own puny efforts on human rights legislation in Australia. He did not mention how the concept of the Australian Human Rights Commission was watered down more and more until only an advisory body was envisaged, and then how even that was abandoned in favour of a tiny Public Service bureau within the Attorney-General’s Department.
How far can such double standards be extended? As if anticipating just that question, the Prime Minister’s Washington address moved on to what were described as the great political and strategic issues of our time. In the words of the Prime Minister, it was acknowledged immediately that Australia faced no imminent threat to its security. How extraordinary! What a contrast that is to the atmosphere he seeks to generate in this country. Overseas, the Prime Minister accepts the rational and the obvious without demur. In Australia, and in this House for the past nine months and more, he has taken every opportunity to generate fear, hysteria and discord with his exaggerated claims about the threats facing this nation. Like a caricature of the knights of old, the Prime Minister sits astride his hobby horse and pines for the full-blooded wars of yesteryear.
In Washington, in New Delhi, and again today, the Prime Minister raised a range of issues from his standpoint that the West is suffering some sort of crisis of will and has simultaneously become the underdog in terms of military strength compared with the Soviet Union. These are not views that command universal respect. I do not share the view that the West is seized by a crisis of resolve. All too often that claim is the respectable face of an attitude that is nothing less than sabre rattling. We have heard it incessantly from the Prime Minister since the invasion of Afghanistan, an event he still chooses to see, at least in Australia, only in the perspective of acute myopia. Super-power rivalries as they have existed and developed for more than three decades are clearly dangerous. They are dangerous to both the super-powers and to the rest of the world as well. Recognition of that fact is the main motivation for detente and the constant search for political solutions. It is not a sign of weakness and lack of will, as the Prime Minister keeps insisting. It is the only rational way to preserve the future of humanity. So far as the underdog theory is concerned, let us look at some facts rather than just the Cold War rhetoric of the Prime Minister. The 1979-80 report of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, entitled The Military Balance’, pertinently had this to say: . . we see no reason to alter our conclusion of earlier years that the overall balance is still such as to make military aggression appear unattractive. NATO defences are of such a size and quality that any attempt to breach them would require a major attack. The consequences for an attacker would be incalculable, and the risks, including that of nuclear escalation, must impose caution . . .
That is the view of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which is one of the most respected expert bodies in this field. The Prime Minister may be more convinced by a distinctively American view. I offer him the view of Dr Keith A. Dunn, of the Strategic Studies Institute in the United States Army War College. Dr Dunn has pointed out that there is an abundance of information about Soviet conventional military strength and capabilities but very little usable data about Soviet military weaknesses and vulnerabilities. He said:
There are few studies that attempt to address Soviet deficiencies in a comprehensive manner that a military commander could use, or to demonstrate how Soviet-Warsaw Pact shortcomings could limit the ability of the Warsaw Pact to bring its forces to bear at a specific point and a designated time.
If we are to elevate the comparison into the realm of strategic nuclear weaponry, we are looking at more complex judgments. I think it is fair to summarise them simply by saying that the Soviet Union has more weapons overall, but those of the United States are more dangerous. America’s arsenal is weighted more towards accuracy, range and technological sophistication. The essential fact is that either country could destroy the world several times over.
No method of comparison produces a result that could justify the Prime Minister’s apparent preoccupation with the new era of Soviet imperialism or the apocalypse. These are not the most likely prospects, nor the basis from which we should attempt to see the future. I am glad that this point was apparently impressed on the Prime Minister in New Delhi. There he subscribed to initiatives for peace and disarmament which he has treated in this House with scorn and derision. Let me quote part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting communique dealing with the Indian Ocean. The communique, referring, of course, to the agreed view of the heads of government, states:
While regretting the suspension of the bilateral talks on arms limitation in the Indian Ocean between the Soviet Union and the United States, and reaffirming their commitment to the ultimate establishment of a zone of peace in the Indian Ocean in accordance with the 1971 UN declaration, they called upon the great powers to take active and effective steps to remove existing sources of tension in the area. In the absence of such steps progress towards such a zone would be difficult.
The Australian Labor Party heartily supports that view. We are gratified to find this Government, even momentarily, endorsing such a position. But the facts are that every initiative that the Prime Minister has taken in this country in relation to that geopolitical area has been designed to incite a heightening of super-power tensions within the Indian Ocean. The heads of government meeting also seems to have wrought a significant moderation in the Prime Minister’s views on Afghanistan. He subscribed to this statement:
While noting that there were differing perceptions as to the circumstances leading up to the present situation, they
That is the heads of government - emphasised that if a political settlement acceptable to all involved and affected parties was not found, a further deterioration, including a possibility of great power confrontation, was unavoidable. Pending such a settlement, they stressed the need to de-escalate tensions.
A political settlement is the last possible proposition to be considered by the Prime Minister in earlier debate in this Parliament and within this nation. It should need no special effort on my part to point out the vast difference between that statement and the ones the Prime Minister has made on the same subject in this country and in this House. When I suggested last February in this House that there were perceptions of events in Afghanistan different from those of the Prime Minister, he launched the most scurrilous attack on the loyalty and motives of the Opposition. When we stressed the need for a political settlement acceptable to all concerned, we were characterised by the Prime Minister as weakkneed appeasers of the threatening Russians.
Now, under the influence of such leaders as Indira Gandhi - to mention only one - the Prime Minister has seen the light. I suppose no conversion is ever too late. But all I can say is thank God it was not Malcolm Fraser who had to decide between war and peace back in January and February this year. All that has happened since then has made the foreign policy of this Government - which means the foreign policy of the Prime Minister - look ridiculous. Just as we predicted, the fire of the Government’s antiMoscow sentiment faded away with the Olympic flame. As soon as the Australian team arrived at the Olympic village in Moscow, the Fraser policy of reprisals against the Soviet Union was dead. As soon as it was no longer possible to bully and browbeat our athletes and the Olympic movement, it became patently clear that the Government had no further policy. It has no policy today.
The policies of economic sanctions against the Soviet Union never worked. The ending of technical and other exchanges had more effect in Australia than Moscow. Now, under National Country Party pressure, the Government is breaking its neck to formalise the ‘business as usual’ approach. Today the Prime Minister tells us of the success of a foreign policy of enlightened realism. I hope that a new period of enlightenment has, in fact, dawned on the present Government and that it might be identified, even in the brief time left to this tatty administration. But frankly it is hard to believe. The record is weighted too heavily in the other direction. Today’s statement from the Prime Minister was uncharacteristically mild. Perhaps he exhausted his more extreme rhetoric in Washington. Perhaps it has been tucked away temporarily as a reaction to the rubbishing that that exercise so rightly suffered at the hands of the media.
However, one patch of calm does little to alter the overall appearance of the Prime Minister’s turbulent and disruptive record of intervention in Australian foreign policy and international relations in the past five years. It has done nothing to clarify the double image of Australia so often projected to the world - especially our immediate region - through this Prime Minister. We see no advance in today’s statement on the Government’s immoral stance on Indo-China, where the Minister for Foreign Affairs has sadly failed to move the Cabinet from recognition of the most monstrous regime in modern history. Australia is demeaned by this attitude which, in the end, will benefit nobody.
A Labor government, the one to be elected after the coming elections, will withdraw recognition of the discredited Pol Pot group in Kampuchea and will recognise no successor until it has shown at least the minimum requirements for recognition. There must be an act of free determination within Kampuchea; there must be a withdrawal of foreign troops. Thailand has to agree that no more sanctuary will be extended to Pol Pot forces. China must recognise that promoting and offering succour to the Pol Pot forces is generating enormous instability in the region and guaranteeing an escalation of great power tensions and possibly, ultimately, conflict. The West must recognise that to isolate Vietnam in the way in which it has done, to cut off aid and post-war reconstruction support, guarantees one thing and one thing for certain, that is, that there will be increasing dependency moving to total dependency upon the Soviet Union for Vietnam. We will be far better served to support with aid the post-war reconstruction, the refurbishing of the nation of Vietnam and encourage it to adopt, albeit as a communist country, an independent set of policies, very much as has been adopted by a number of other communist countries, the most outstanding case being Yugoslavia.
We heard nothing directly today about the most dangerous situation of all for world peace and stability-the Middle East. There it is time Australia raised her voice in support of those seeking practical solutions, including most of our allies within the Western alliance. It is time we urged the present Government in Israel to greater moderation in its policies, time we acknowledged a direct role for the Palestinian people through their chosen representatives, time we accepted the urgency of making genuine progress towards a just and durable solution. All that, of course, has to be based upon a recognition of the independent state of Israel, her entitlement to sovereignty, her entitlement to territorial integrity and at the same time the rights of the Palestinian people to a homeland of their own.
It is true that Australia is a member of the Western alliance. My party has no embarrassment in acknowledging our alliances freely. Where we differ from this Government, however, is at the next step. We can acknowledge our allies and our obligations without allowing that to diminish the independent and national character that is essential to our foreign policy. We do not believe in a fawning and an uncritical role for Australia. We believe in genuine independence within our defined responsibilities, genuine assistance to our region and the international order. If the present Government shares these beliefs, it is surely time it demonstrated them. It did not do so in this statement today or in any of the actions or statements of the Prime Minister in the past week.
Debate resumed from 28 August, on motion by Mr Macphee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I seek your indulgence to suggest that the House have a general debate covering the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 5) 1980 and the Taxation Debts (Abolition of Crown Priority) Bill 1980 as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate.
– Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering these two measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 5) and the Taxation Debts (Abolition of Crown Priority) Bill 1980 which are now before the House are not controversial measures. They involve minor amendments to income tax and other taxation law and are supported by the Opposition. I will be a little more gracious about it and say that they are worthwhile amendments to the tax law of this country and we support them fully. I will mention only one reservation in regard to the Taxation Debts (Abolition of Crown Priority) Bill 1980.
The Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 5) provides for four amendments to the Act. The first one relates to tax relief for Australians working overseas on approved projects. Currently, under section 23 (q) of the Income Tax Assessment Act, any income earned overseas, with some exceptions, is exempt from Australian tax provided it is taxed in the country of origin. This Bill aims to provide a tax exemption for income earned by Australians working overseas, where no tax is levied overseas, on development, construction or other eligible projects approved by the Minister for Trade and Resources as being in Australia’s national interests. Partial exemption will apply for an individual working overseas for a continuous period of three months or more. Full exemption will apply where the services are performed on a single approved project for a continuous period of 12 months or more. The exemption will be a minimum of 25 per cent of the foreign source income for a three-month service, increasing to 100 per cent for 12 months or more.
The reason for this amendment is that it is claimed that Australian firms competing for contracts overseas have been at a cost disadvantage by having to pay employees a higher rate because their earnings are taxed at home, where no tax is levied in the foreign country, while the employees of foreign competitor firms have been wholly or partly free of tax in their home country. That means that the foreign competitors can charge lesser labour costs in their quotes for contracts in these other countries. The cost of this provision is estimated to be $2m in a full year, and the Opposition does not oppose it, provided adequate safeguards exist against exploitation for tax avoidance, as seems to be the case. As we see it, it would not allow further exploitation of tax havens, as companies operating in countries where no tax at all is levied are currently taxed in Australia. Individual consultants may be able to reduce their tax in this way, but it seems that safeguards do exist in the legislation provided that the Government chooses to enforce them. The main safeguard will be the requirement that the Minister must first approve the projects before exemptions are granted. The legislation also contains safeguards against attempts to obtain greater than intended exemptions by inflated payments.
The second amendment relates to the release of taxpayers from liability in cases of hardship. Under section 265 of the Income Tax Assessment Act total or partial relief from payment of tax may be granted in cases where it can be shown that the enaction of the full amount will entail serious hardship because of any loss the taxpayer has suffered, his financial circumstances or the circumstances of the dependants of a deceased taxpayer. This power of relief lies with a relief board, but where the amount of tax is $2,000 or more the case must be referred to a board of review for examination. Where the amount is less than $2,000 the Commissioner of Taxation can exercise his own discretion and allow relief. Because of inflation an increasing number of clear cut cases apparently have had to be referred to relief boards or boards of review, with resulting delay and increased administrative costs. There- fore, this amendment raises the exemption levels to $10,000 for the level below which a relief board may determine applications and to $500 as a level below which the Commissioner may make a decision by exercising his own discretion. The amendments seem to us to be extremely reasonable.
The third amendment relates to credits for tax instalments deductions. In conjunction with the Taxation Debts (Abolition of Crown Priority) Bill, this measure confirms current practice of the Commissioner by making it mandatory that a credit is to be allowed in the assessment of an employee where pay as you earn instalments have been deducted from salary but the employer has failed to issue a group certificate or a tax stamp sheet. Although this is only putting into the Act what already occurs in practice, the Opposition agrees that this is a worthwhile amendment. In our view it should be absolutely clear in regard to company insolvencies that in the case of unremitted tax instalment deductions an employee should have no obligation to pay tax a second time on the same income simply because his employer failed to remit to the Taxation Commissioner the tax instalments taken out of his pay on his behalf.
The fourth amendment brought into effect by the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 5) relates to the taxation incentives for the arts scheme. This scheme has applied since January 1978 on a three-year trial basis. Gifts of property to the Australiana Fund or a public library, museum or art gallery qualify for a tax deduction at current market value regardless of the amount paid by the donor or the length of time the property has been held. This is in contrast with the treatment of gifts under the general gift provisions where gifts of property, other than money, to approved funds or institutions qualify only for a deduction equal to the cost price and only if it has been purchased by the taxpayer within the preceding 1 2 months. The more liberal treatment for gifts made under the taxation incentives for the arts scheme is designed to encourage people to contribute to the build-up of a high standard public collection, an objective which is thoroughly supported by the Opposition. Some $2.7m worth of items has been donated to date, at an approximate cost of $ 1.4m. The amendment in this Bill now extends the scheme from the threeyear trial period basis to an indefinite provision of the Act.
The Opposition sees no reason to oppose this measure, especially as adequate safeguards seem to exist against exploitation. Substantial antiavoidance measures were introduced in 1978 against gifts which did not confer a real benefit on an approved institution but were designed solely to achieve tax deductions for the donor. The Commissioner also has the power to reduce the deduction if he does not regard the proposed market value as being realistic. The Bill also provides that these incentives are to be extended to the Commonwealth’s new art rental scheme Artbank. Under this scheme the Government will buy paintings and art works which are then rented out to government agencies. The extension of the scheme to the Artbank scheme is supported by the Opposition.
The Taxation Debts (Abolition of Crown Priority) Bill is the other Bill with which the House is concerned in this cognate debate. The aim of this Bill is to abolish the rights of the Commonwealth to receive payment in priority over other creditors in cases of insolvency. This decision was announced by the then Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs on 13 September 1979, following a report on the subject by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, tabled on 2 June 1978. Basically, the Government’s actions co-incide with the Committee’s recommendations; that is, that the Crown be placed on an equal footing with creditors in the private sector. Under present laws a company liquidator or receiver is required to pay income tax in priority to all other unsecured debts, and where he has taken possession of a company’s assets he is required to set aside some or all the assets to the value notified by the Commissioner to provide for tax payments to the Taxation Office before allocating funds to any other creditors or even to employees. This often means that other creditors or employees will get substantially less or nothing at all, creating severe hardship in some cases. Consequently, the Bill repeals section 221 of the Income Tax Assessment Act which gives priority to payment of income tax.
Section 215 is also modified to allow the liquidator or receiver to part with assets to satisfy secured debts such as amounts owed to employees for unpaid wages, accrued leave or other entitlements after which he would be required to set aside a pro rata share of the remaining assets to pay income tax equal to an amount which the Commissioner, as an ordinary creditor, would be entitled to receive. Thus the Commonwealth will have only the same right to a share of the assets to meet income tax as any other ordinary creditor, which means it has only a right to a share of such assets which are left after secured and preferred debts, including employee and administration costs, have been met. However, in one area the Government has departed from the Committee’s recommendations. Income tax instalment deductions and withholding tax on dividends and interest remitted overseas will maintain their priority. The Government has not really said why this is so. The Treasurer (Mr Howard), in his second reading speech, said:
However, as indicated previously, the Government takes the view that the special considerations that apply in relation to pay as you earn tax instalment deductions and withholding tax deductions from dividends and interests distinguish those debts from other Crown debts.
That is very unspecific. He does not say what these special considerations are; he just says that there are such special considerations. As I understand it, what he means when he talks about these special considerations is that in the cases of pay as you earn instalment deductions or withholding tax, moneys which would be in the hands of a company which becomes insolvent - which is money either deducted from employees’ pay or deducted from dividends payable to overseas shareholders - are not in any way the property of that company because in both cases it is acting as an agent of the Taxation Commissioner in collecting that tax. In that situation there is some difference between that kind of money which may be in its possession and moneys which would be in its possession as the result of its normal trading activities. I understand that to be what the Treasurer is getting at, but that is supposition on my part. It is certainly not spelled out in his second reading speech. Nor was it spelled out by the then Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs when he reported to the Parliament in September last year on the Government’s decisions in relation to the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. Both the Treasurer and the then Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs have referred to these special considerations.
I believe and the Opposition believes that the Government owes the Parliament more of an explanation than that. If the Government is not going to pick up all of the Senate Committee recommendations, reasons should be given rather than the Government’s simply saying that special considerations apply. Some argument should be advanced as to why the recommendation of the Committee that no such priority should apply even in the cases of PA YE instalment deductions or withholding tax- is not being followed. Some reason should be given to the Parliament. No such reason has been given and we strongly urge the Government to give the Parliament that reason. The Treasurer apparently will not reply to this debate. Certainly when the Bills go to the Senate I believe the Government has a strong obligation to explain to senators why that recommendation of the Senate Committee has not been followed.
– I too support the two Bills now the subject of debate in the House - the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 5) and the Taxation Debts (Abolition of Crown Priority) Bill. The Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 5) provides several very worthwhile improvements in the tax law even though they may not in themselves be of individual major moment. The proposals for the relief from Australian tax of certain income which Australian residents earn from their personal services rendered overseas certainly should in time - I hope it will do this in the short term as well - give a considerable boost to the development of Australian consultants, engineering firms and the like. 1 hope also that the proposals will be an incentive and an encouragement for them to get into the overseas markets where our expertise undoubtedly is recognised and where we have great opportunities for further expansion. This in itself will lead the way - it certainly should - to increased export activity and to a general greater involvement of Australian companies and expertise overseas.
Other proposals included in the Bill, such as the removal of the determination date for deductibility of gifts in accordance with the taxation incentives for the arts scheme, is a further complement to the very worthwhile taxation incentives given by the Government in this area in the last couple of years. This has been of considerable benefit to the development of museums and art collections in Australia. A similar comment can be made concerning the extension in the Bill of the scheme to cover gifts to Artbank.
The Taxation Debts (Abolition of Crown Priority) Bill also makes a significant and I think a worthwhile improvement to taxation law in the sense that it abolishes generally the rights that the Commonwealth has to receive payment in priority over other creditors. As I understand the Bill, it will have potential benefits in the event of company insolvencies. It will have considerable benefits in terms of protecting the rights of wage earners and employees of those companies, particularly in respect of the tax credits they may have paid. I think the Bills are very worthwhile.
I had some doubts about the Taxation Debts (Abolition of Crown Priority) Bill when I first saw it. I was concerned about the extent to which the Government has gone in the sense that it will now be ranking Crown debts along with those of all other unsecured creditors. In other words, the Crown will rank after all secured creditors. That is a very significant movement. That is a provision about which there could be differing views. However, I believe the general thrust of the Bill certainly is heading in the correct direction. Both Bills are money Bills. They relate to the general subject of taxation and they deal with particular aspects of it. It is to this issue and others that flow from the general issue of taxation that I wish to address most of my remaining remarks today.
We are in the run-up period to a Federal election. Therefore, it is understandable that debate in this chamber should perhaps be more politically charged than usual. Indeed, we have seen this during the last couple of weeks. However, I do not believe that confers the right on any political party to make statements in this House which are blatantly in conflict with the facts. I regret to say that this is precisely what the Opposition has done in recent days and weeks when discussing the economic situation in Australia and its alternative proposals to those put forward by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in the 1980 Budget. I hope that this state of affairs will change in the weeks ahead because I believe that the Australian public deserves and I am sure will demand a more coherent approach by the Labor Party than what it has proposed to date for the Australian taxpayer, the Australian borrower - whether it be for a house, a car or anything else - the wage earner, the young, and the aged. Yesterday in this House the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), tried to paint the picture that if the present Government is returned at the next election, interest rates will rise whereas if Labor, by a catastrophic miracle, won government then interest rates would fall. To his credit the honourable member for Gellibrand looked and sounded most uncomfortable when he painted this extraordinary picture. He knows perfectly well that this picture is totally at odds with economic rationality and totally at odds with the real world.
The Labor Party like perhaps the sirens who tempted Ulysses are attempting to beguile the Australian public into believing that a Labor government would at one and the same time be able to do several things - firstly, increase government spending; secondly, reduce taxation in some areas; thirdly, lower interest rates; and, fourthly, create new jobs through massive spending of taxpayers’ funds on artificial make-work schemes. Anyone who takes a minute of his or her time to examine these propositions together knows that they are quite imposible of achievement all at the one time. The only one of the four propositions that could be achieved is the first - that is, an increase in government spending. There is no doubt that this would be achieved under a Labor government. The shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Gellibrand, is committed to this policy as is the entire Labor Party. Already we have had five policy proposals for spending from the Opposition which alone would increase government spending by a basic minimum of S2,000m each year. These five areas are make-work schemes, housing, health, welfare and education.
On top of that the Labor Party is committed to establishing a hydrocarbons corporation, to push the private oil and gas explorers aside and to go out and engage in the riskiest of all possible exercises, namely, exploration for oil and gas. On the basis of a few other broadly similar corporations in other countries, the cost of this corporation would be between $800m and $ 1,400m. It would use taxpayers’ money on the highest risk operations in the whole world. Not one of the other corporations on which Labor’s proposal is said to be based is prepared to risk its people’s taxes in this way. Labor’s further spending proposals seem to grow day by day without rhyme or reason and without any attempt to take account of their effects on inflation, jobs, interest rates or on other parts of the economy. The proposals have been announced in odd places. For example, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) used a radio program to commit Labor for the first time to a $50Om increase in age pensions. Because he happened to be in Tasmania one day he decided to announce that a Labor Government would subsidise economy class air fares between Tasmania and the mainland at a cost to every other air traveller in Australia, without any regard to equity between air travellers and without any clear indication of cost.
The shadow Minister for the environment and tourism, the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), has committed Labor to paying a substantial share of the cost of an enormous number of so-called leisure centres throughout Australia; another uncosted, but highly expensive commitment of taxpayers’ funds. So we are now up to added spending commitments by Labor of a basic minimum of more than $3, 500m. Much of this would be a continuing, annual commitment. These figures do not include the additional 200-plus spending proposals to which Labor is committed in its party policy platform. The mind boggles at the total cost of these commitments.
How would this massive increase in spending be financed? There are only three possible alternatives: First, to increase taxes massively; secondly, to attempt to borrow the money either from the commercial banks or the general public - this is money which would have to be repaid by taxpayers at a later date; or thirdly, to print money. When it was in government between 1972 and 1975 Labor used all three alternatives. It would appear inevitable that it would be forced to resort to all three alternatives again. Whichever alternative or combination of alternatives Labor might adopt, the results would inevitably be much the same. There would be higher taxation. The Labor Party has given notice of this in its proposal for a capital gains tax, a resource tax and a tax on oil companies which would raise more revenue than the present Government’s oil levy and therefore make petrol prices higher. It has implied that estate and gift duties, which the present Government abolished, would be reinstated; and it has proposed more.
Yet at the same time the Opposition talks about tax cuts in other areas. I suggest that it would be quite impossible for Labor to reduce taxes in any area given the size of its spending proposals. Inevitably there would also be higher interest rates. The honourable member for Gellibrand claimed in this House yesterday that interest rates will rise when the present Government is returned after the next election. At least he has accepted that the Government will be returned, which is entirely understandable given the wild, illogical, extravagant and unbelievable promises Labor is now making. At the same time the honourable member for Gellibrand criticises the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for having given his expectations of interest rate movements during the 1977 election campaign and he criticises the Treasurer (Mr Howard) for not being prepared to speculate on future interest rate movements. Surely one cannot back both of those propositions. The Treasurer has very properly refused to speculate on future interest rate movements. He has also made it perfectly clear that, given the spending proposals that Labor has both firmly announced and firmly foreshadowed, it would be inevitable that interest rates would rise enormously if Labor came to Government.
If governments take an increased share of the total national cake, it means that they must be demanding a larger share of the money markets; the demand for money from government rises and the cost of borrowing that money- the interest rates - has to rise. These interest rate rises would damage every person in our community - pensioners, young couples wishing to borrow to buy a home, people who already own a home but are still paying it off, farmers, small businessmen trying to finance their operations and large companies seeking to expand their operations and create new job opportunities. The interest rate rise under Labor would damage virtually every Australian.
These are not fantasies on my part nor on the part of the Government or its advisers. This morning I took the opportunity to check the views of the financial community. I contacted financial experts in Sydney and Melbourne to see what they had to say on this subject. In Sydney- which is one of the two major financial cities in Australia- the expectation amongst the financial experts is that the election of a Labor Government would lead to a major rise in interest rates.
– They are going to rise anyway, thanks to the Government’s policies. Why do you not tell the truth for once in your life? You know that interest rates are going to go up 2 per cent in the new year. What are they up to now?
– I seek the protection of the Chair.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J. D. M. Dobie)- Order! The honourable member for Robertson will contain himself.
– I have obviously touched on a fairly sensitive nerve, and understandably so. The financial community in Sydney, on the basis of announced policies by both parties to - date, unanimously says that under a Labor Government interest rates would rise enormously more than they would under the present Government. The Melbourne financial community says that the election of a Labor Government would cause interest rates to rise significantly, that it would cause a major fall-off through uncertainty in the rate of capital inflow, that it would cause a major deferral by Australian investors in the level of capital investment- with all the implications that that has for growth, productivity and job creation - and that interest rates would rise, as I have said, for two reasons, namely, through significantly increased government expenditure and through the existing redemption commitments. So the taxation proposals, coupled with the spending proposals that Labor has proposed since the Budget, add up to a major increase in government spending, a major increase in taxation, a major increase in inflation and therefore a major increase in unemployment. If the Opposition were serious in its concern for unemployment there is no doubt that it would have to make a major change to its present economic priorities.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes. I was in my room when I heard the most outrageous claim by the honourable member for Ballarat (Mr Short). He said that I had recently released a policy about socalled leisure centres, which was- I quote his words- ‘uncosted’. On the contrary, it was extremely well costed to the last cent and I specifically mentioned an amount of $6m which would be the total spent by a Labor Government on leisure centres. This is the sort of outrageous distortion and dishonesty that has been perpetrated in this House.
Mr SHORT (Ballarat)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
– Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes. The honourable member for Robertson mentioned a figure of $6m–
– For leisure centres.
– He mentioned a figure of $6m for leisure centres. The honourable member, following a visit to my electorate last week, was reported as saying that the Labor Party–
– Order! I remind the honourable member for Ballarat that when making a personal explanation he must show that he has been misrepresented.
– I am sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Robertson claimed that I alleged that his proposal for leisure centres was uncosted and would cost many millions of dollars. I based that comment on a report in the Ballarat Courier, the day following the honourable member’s visit to my electorate last week. He was quoted as saying that Labor would build a minimum of 75 leisure centres throughout Australia. He said that the average cost of those leisure centres would be approximately $lm and that the Federal Government would pay something like one-third of that cost. That alone would amount to $25m which is a fairly far cry from the $6m that has been cited.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Staley) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 27 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 Staley) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 August, on motion by Mr Fife:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence to suggest that the House have a general debate covering this Bill and the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) 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.
– Order! Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering these two measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed:
– These two Bills, the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Bill and the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 2), provide legislative authority for payments to the States and to the Northern Territory for educational institutions in 1981 and for adjusting the grants for 1980 in respect of cost increases. We are dealing with the Bills together but I want to speak about them separately because the Opposition will be moving specific amendments in relation to each of the Bills. We will be doing that partly because of the necessity to counteract the kinds of fantasies of diseased minds which we have just listened to from the honourable member for Ballarat (Mr Short), but also to make quite precise and quite clear the amounts of money that the Australian Labor Party will be spending on its particular programs. So, to the motion for the second reading of the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Bill 1980, the purpose of which is to provide legislative authority for payments to the States and to the Northern Territory for government and nongovernment schools in 1981 and to adjust those grants for 1980 in line with cost increases, I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not opposing the Bill, the House is of the opinion that (a) an extra grant of $36 million in December 1979 prices for capital funding for schools, and (b) an extra grant of $8.5 million in December 1979 prices for special programs should be provided for the year 1981’.
The purpose of the amendment is to make quite clear what the ALP would be spending in its first year of office in relation to schools over and above the amount that has been committed by this Government in this year so that the Australian people can be quite clear about the spending program of a Labor government. We want to explain also exactly why we would spend those specific amounts. First of all, why would we spend $36m in December 1979 prices for capital funding for schools? The reason is simply that under this Government a backlog of needs has grown up in the capital area. One need only read the reports of the Schools Commission to recognise the kinds of needs that have built up as a result of this Government’s neglect in this field over the past five years. The backlog is particularly noticeable in schools in dense population areas and in rural schools.
The expenditure of the $36m will be in accordance with the basic principle of need which has always guided Labor policy in the educational field. We would spend that $36m, and no more, in relation to outmoded buildings; to update equipment in schools; to replace temporary accommodation, which is far too common in Australian schools; to provide further teacher housing in isolated areas; to build up amenity blocks, particularly in schools which lack these types of facilities; to supplement library stocks which have been run down; and to develop sporting facilities. That amount of money will be used specifically to catch up with the backlog that has developed in the past five years. All the provisions I have just outlined have been underlined by the Schools Commission as areas of neglect and of need. Again, we note that the Government’s guidelines provide no increase in capital expenditure for 1981.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. My point of order is a novel one. Nevertheless, it is a substantive one because for the last two years we have had Estimates committee sittings to deal with this specific matter.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! There is no point of order.
– The point is: Why was it not raised at the Estimates committee meeting?
-Order! There is no point of order.
– You were not there.
-I call the honourable member for Bonython.
– I am perfectly happy to respond to what the honourable member for Denison has just said. Honourable members on the other side of the House know, and those who are responsible recognise, that this Government has this year made a farce of the Estimates committees by breaking every understanding which was established with the Opposition last year. Let me just repeat those understandings: Firstly, that there would be adequate time for honourable members to read their documents and to prepare themselves for the examination of the Estimates; secondly, the Estimates committee meetings would be held at times when the Parliament was meeting and thirdly, there would be adequate notice of when they were to take place. Honest members on the Government side - soon to be on the Opposition side - know that their own Government has betrayed those kinds of understandings made in order to establish the Estimates committees.
– Why did you not go to the meetings?
– Because I had several others to go to. On several occasions this Government arranged for several Estimates committees to meet at the same time. It was extremely difficult for honourable members to attend them. The tragedy of what has happened is that the experiment of Estimates committees in this House has probably been destroyed. Those of us who are concerned with these types of–
– You destroyed them by not turning up to them.
– Let me say to the honourable member for Denison, in relation to his last remark, that if he looks at his attendance and at my attendance at those committee meetings he will find that there is no doubt about the quantity and the quality of the attendance. Let me return to the problems that we are facing.
– I attended every one I was required to attend. You did it deliberately. You boycotted them. Hypocrite.
-Order! The honourable member for Denison will come to order. I suggest that the honourable member for
Bonython direct his attention to the business before the House.
– I will try to avoid the distraction of the mouth from Denison, but he is so extraordinarily provocative that it is difficult not to try to deal with his idiocies. I return to the point I was making: There is a real need for capital expenditure in schools. No allocation has been made this year for capital expenditure for 1981 for either government or non-government schools. We have suggested how in 1981 we will correct that with an expenditure of $36m. Let me’ say that the emphasis, in discussing this point, is very much on the primary schools and on creating an adequate and appropriate school environment for kids starting their educational experience.
The second part of our amendment provides an extra grant of $8.5m, in December 1979 prices, for special programs for the year 1 98 1 . In this case we have provided a three-year program in relation to a set of special programs. But what we are saying quite clearly is that in the first year we will spend $8. 5m, carefully costed. I will say again where that money will be spent. Over and above the expenditure of the Government laid down for 1980-81 we will increase first of all the expenditure on handicapped children in institutions, a prime consideration given national commitments in 1981. We will increase expenditure there by 50 per cent as part of that total $8. 5m. Secondly, we will increase the disadvantaged schools program, which has been neglected, by 20 per cent over the present estimate; the disadvantaged country areas program by 25 per cent; the innovations program by 30 per cent; and special education by approximately 8 per cent. Together those increases will make a cost of $8.5m for 1981. We will have the program then running through the following two years.
– Is that the entire program from Labor on education?
– We are dealing with this measure. The honourable member can go round to try to find some others as well. I am dealing with this Bill. It should be pointed out because, knowing the Government as I do, it will, no doubt, produce the tale that in those increases we have allocated nothing for migrant or multicultural education for 1980-81. The reason we have done that is that we believe sufficient Galbally money - some of which is provided under this Bill - will be available in 1981 under the program of the present Government. Indeed, when we examined this problem it appeared that no further funding could be absorbed by the system in the first year for multicultural education. We have provided for substantial increases in the second and third years. Indeed, one should note here that the Government has made no commitment to fund migrant or multicultural education under the Galbally report beyond the end of 1 98 1 .
Nearly all that $8. 5m increase represents increases in programs which relate to the disadvantaged sector. Nearly all the increases I have just outlined are tied to the strict needs criteria on which Labor policy has been based. One possible exception to that point is the innovations program increases, but we see this as an extremely important part of the special programs because it tends to let a window of light into an education system which certainly needs to encourage experimentation. That is what we would be doing explicitly in the field of special programs. We have laid it down quite clearly. What has happened in education, particularly the schools in recent years, is that there simply has been a lack of leadership, initiative and concern in education. On this Government’s part there is a failure to recognise that we will need an educated community to deal flexibly with the enormous problems which this society will face in the next 20 years. To cope with the problems of the future we need an education system which will produce confident adults; adults capable of adapting to a world of considerable stress and change. Too often we have heard from this Government that in a sense the education system is to blame for the Government’s own failures. One can find in numerous speeches examples of how the schools system somehow is responsible, for instance, for the problems of unemployment in this society. I am glad that the report of the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training very clearly said that youth unemployment arises not out of the education system but because of a lack of jobs in this society. But to deal with the kinds of problems being produced by unemployment amongst young people we need a much more flexible education system. We need to devote much more of our resources to education but in a careful and responsible way. I believe the program I have outlined in relation to this amendment does that for schools.
I turn now to the second of the Bills, the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 2). The purpose of this Bill is twofold: Firstly it adjusts the grants for 1979-81 in respect of cost increases in relation to the tertiary sector, capital equipment and recurrent costs. That is the first object of the Bill. Secondly, it ensures that grants for 1981 for universities and colleges of advanced education are not expended on academic salaries which exceed the levels recommended by the Academic Salaries Tribunal.
On that last point we will not cavil with that restriction. But it is probably important to draw attention to the fact that in some cases it may be an inhibition on universities attracting the best staff for specific purposes such as research. On the other hand one can argue that an element of equity is being maintained in that system by that proceudure, but there are some dangers - as some university people will point out - that because of that limitation in some cases a university might miss out on attracting outstanding research staff particularly from overseas. But our purpose today is to deal with the matter of the costs and the grants. I give notice that we will move the following amendment at the second reading stage of the Bill:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not opposing the Bill, the House is of the opinion that (a) an extra grant of $2m in December 1979 prices for equipment in universities and colleges, and (b) an extra grant of $16m in December 1979 prices for recurrent funding of technical and further education colleges should be provided for the year 1981’.
These increases are directly related to the policy announcements we have made and to the specific increases we would make over and above the Government’s estimates for the year 1981. The reason for the first of those proposals- the proposal to have an extra grant of $2m in December 1979 prices for equipment in universities and colleges - is that the Tertiary Education Commission has, on a number of occasions in recent years, referred to the danger of declining standards in universities and colleges because of inadequate funding. There is a problem with equipment, much of which is outdated. I will quote from the TEC report for the 1981 triennium:
Expenditure on equipment is an inevitable demand on the budget of every institution and to reduce or postpone such expenditure must detract from the quality of teaching and research.
The Commission supports the view of the Universities Council (paragraph A. 16) that the current level of equipment funding understates the reasonable needs of universities.
Of course this is one of the reasons why the staff and students of Adelaide University are going on a single day’s strike to draw attention to the decline in the equipment provisions in universities. We will make an extra grant of $2m in 1979 prices to deal with equipment deficiencies.
It is also our intention substantially to increase funding for research in universities and particularly for the creation of a number of concentrations of research excellence, research institutes particularly concerned with matters of public policy. It has been argued for some time now that the most efficient way of developing research resources in this country is to try to develop centres of excellence with different specialities in different institutions. This is a policy that we will pursue particularly in relation to issues of public policy. We would want to encourage the development within the universities of institutes concerned with policies such as an energy policy, research on the creation of new industries, research into the social impact of technological change and research into youth policies that will be needed in the years ahead. This is to be done in a three-year program. We make no commitment for funding for this purpose in the first year. The reason for that is simply that after consultation with the people concerned it is estimated that it will take something like a year for that program to get underway. However, by the third year we would be spending a minimum of $ 12m on the development of those specialised research institutes. In the first year, that is, in 1981, we would be preparing the program. Expenditure would develop in the next two years, rising to a minimum of $ 12m by the third year. Again, in relation to research, we also propose to make money available for applied research in colleges of advanced education so that they can involve themselves more with local industries and increasingly make a relevant contribution to industry.
Let me now take the second part of our motion; that is the grant of $ 16m in December 1979 prices for recurrent funding of technical and further education colleges. The Government has engaged in an enormous amount of rhetoric about the importance of technical and further education in training tradesmen, apprentices and a whole range of other people in our society, but it is not prepared to put its money where its mouth is. What we intend to do with this $ 16m is simply to restore the 10 per cent growth rate in recurrent funding for the TAFE sector. That $16m will do no more than simply restore the 10 per cent growth rate in recurrent funding for the TAFE sector. As I say, the Government has often talked about the TAFE sector but when we look at the Estimates this year we find that its money certainly has not followed its mouth. Indeed, the 1980-81 guidelines provide for only a total increase in technical and further education of $1. 7m- from $15 1.6m to $1 53.3m- in 1979 prices, a minimal increase for the TAFE sector to which the Government has made a pretty enormous commitment in terms of rhetoric. There is no increase in capital. In contrast, the Williams Committee recommended a substantial increase in recurrent expenditure in the further education sector. Apparently, the Williams Committee report, particularly in relation to the further education field, was to be the Government’s blueprint. It does not seem to have been followed.
There is no excuse, of course, provided for this rather static nature of further education expenditure and that is that the Government, in a sense, has sought to hide its funding on TAFE behind the funds provided for the school to work transition program. The notion was that very much of the money for the school to work transition program would go into the TAFE sector. However, as we all know, the school to work program is now a shambles because of the State government withdrawals from the scheme.
– It is not. The State governments have not withdrawn from the scheme.
– Are the State governments going to put up the $9m in 198 1 ?
– No, they are not. But they are already funding programs.
– Right; the understanding was that they would be putting up $9m in 1981 which is, in a sense, a part of the excuse that this Government had for holding–
– Nine million dollars extra.
– Yes, $9m extra in 1981; and that was part of an excuse for holding TAFE recurrent expenditure in the way in which the Government has held it.
– That is quite unrelated, and you know it.
– As the Minister admits, the $9m is not coming through. It seemed to me to be the only possible excuse the Government could have in view of the Williams Committee report for holding expenditure virtually static in the further education field.
The figures we have given in the amendment represent what a Labor Government will do in respect of expenditure in 1981 . It is, as I say, a modest increase. In view of the problems in the sector one might say that it is probably insufficient, but given the economic circumstances we believe it to be a responsible increase. We believe that there should be some increases because there is clearly a need to show some confidence in the future of the education system in this country and to give it encouragement rather than to use it as a scapegoat and a whipping boy for the failure of this Government’s economic policies. This has too often occurred under this Government. For instance, it has blamed the education sector for youth unemployment. There will be need for considerable changes in the education system if it is to be responsive to the rapidly changing social and economic needs of the last two decades of the twentieth century. For this reason, it needs to be given encouragement and leadership, and the policies I have outlined, even though we recognise that in many ways they are minimal policies, are designed to give stimulus and initiative where there is most need. I believe that in the last five years this, above all, is what the education sector has lacked. In the last three years there has been a steady decline in the proportion of Budget outlays devoted to education. It has now reached 8 per cent of Budget outlays. Furthermore, the various commissions that were set up under the Whitlam Government have increasingly been nobbled and the impact and influence of their recommendations have become less. There have been serious cutbacks in fundings. For instance, universities and colleges of advanced education have suffered a decrease in funding in real terms in the last year and, as I pointed out, there has been only a minimal increase in real terms in TAFE sector expenditure. Therefore, we believe that it is necessary to reverse the trend of the last five years. But we argue, responsibly, that that reverse will be slow, that we cannot make major increases in expenditure. We have tried today to lay out clearly for this Parliament and for the Australian people the amount of increases carefully costed and the areas to which we will direct them.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment, Mr Deputy Speaker, and reserve my right to speak.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I was listening to this debate in my office and during the very intelligent and eloquent speech of the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett), I heard the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) interject and call the honourable member for Bonython a hypocrite. I looked up the seventeenth edition of Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice. Page 471 lists the word ‘hypocrite’ as being unparliamentary. I understand, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you did not hear the honourable member for Denison.
-Order! The honourable member will not presume what the Deputy Speaker heard or did not hear.
– If you heard, why didn’t you make him withdraw it? That is the point.
-Order! The honourable member for Griffith has taken a point of order. He then proceeded to comment on it. I will respond to his point of order. I did not hear the honourable member for Denison use the word hypocrite’. I recall that the honourable member for Denison took a point of order. I indicated to him that there was no substance to the point of order he was raising. There was a very heavy exchange between the honourable member for Denison and the honourable member for Bonython and I am afraid that in all of that I did not hear the word referred to by the honourable member for Griffith. Had I heard the word I would have required the honourable member for Denison to withdraw it. He is not in the chamber now and there is no further action I can take.
– I think this is the first time that I have followed the new honourable member for my former seat of Griffith in a debate. I would have hoped that in the three years he has been a member of this House he would have become more knowledgeable in relation to the Standing Orders. In this debate on education we heard the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) proposing to increase expenditure by way of an Opposition amendment. When I challenged the honourable member by interjection- I know, wrongly so, Mr Deputy Speaker - to expand on the other areas in which a Labor Government would increase expenditure, he declined the challenge. I am asking for clarification. Am I to assume that what the Government had set aside for education in 1980-81 is exactly the same amount as that which a Labor Party would set aside, other than these one or two small increases provided for in its amendment? Is that correct - Yes or no?
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member for Fadden has been here long enough to know that he should direct his remarks through the Chair. He should not ask a question in this manner.
– The stunned silence of the honourable member leads one to conclude that either the Labor Party is promising at some stage a whole lot more or alternatively this is the total amount. Let me assume that the latter is correct.
– I raise a point of order. The only reason there was a stunned silence was that I was following the ruling of the Chair that I could not answer the particular question that had been presented.
-I drew attention to the fact that the honourable member for Fadden was exceeding his rights. He has the privilege of speaking to the House and he proceeded rather strongly to seek to ask a question. I accept the point made by the honourable member for Bonython that it was not within his province to answer directly at that time. This directive does not cut across the normal routine. An interjection is in order if it is made in the context of a comment. However, the honourable member for Fadden directed a positive question, which was out of order.
– If he had gone to the Estimates committee we would have all known.
– The honourable member for Denison has made a good point. According to my calculations the amendments would amount to some $62. 5m. Some members of the public listening to this debate might succumb to the temptation of being fooled. They may think the answer to our problems is another $62. 5m. I am presuming that that is all the extra money that the Labor Party will spend on education if it becomes the Government after the next election. If we compare that $62. 5m with the LiberalNational Country Party coalition expenditure for 1980-81 of $2,867m–
– How much?
– An amount of $2,867m. In the context of the overall picture the bait that is being offered is not very great. Yet Labor has related this expenditure to the two narrow Bills we are debating to give the impression that it will save education in this country.
I believe that under the present Minister for Education (Mr Fife) and his predecessor, Senator Carrick, we have seen a revolution in education efficiency. The yardstick of success is not simply how much one spends; it is what one is getting for the money. Every member of parliament could stand in this place and say we need more for this and we need more for that. Such demands sound good to the electorate. But there is no escaping the fact that this Government has a proper and responsible commitment to the education of the youth of this nation.
I want to speak as a Queenslander- and no doubt I will speak also on behalf of Western Australians. Queensland and Western Australia are the only two States in Australia in which the school population is growing. I am concerned that the people in the other states of Australia have so embraced zero population growth that we have a marked downturn in the number of children attending school. That downturn would be even more significant if it were not for the people of Western Australia and Queensland who have indicated by their propensity to have children that they have trust and faith in the future.
I might praise the Minister but this does not mean I abdicate my right to draw realities to his attention. As Queensland and Western Australia are the only States in which the school population is continuing to grow more thought should be given to the reallocation of the money already made available for education throughout this country. I recognise that the Commonwealth has a topping-up role to play in the main problem area of primary and secondary education. I recognise also that right across the nation an amount in excess of $6,000m a year is being spent by the Commonwealth and the States in pursuit of the preparation of our young people for eventual entry into the work force and taking up an occupation.
There is no escaping the fact that it is all happening in Queensland and Western Australia. I do not wish to be parochial, but I draw the attention of the House to the fact that in my electorate alone, which covers an area from the southern outskirts of Brisbane to the New South Wales border, 53,000 children or young adults are the subject of the family allowance. The number of children in the electorate of Fadden exceeds the total number of children of almost any two other electorates in the city of Brisbane.
– You were a bachelor until three months ago.
– I am not claiming total responsibility for that growth. However it is appropriate to draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that this growth puts stresses and strains on schools. Not all the areas involved are in what might be described as a middle or upper socio-economic area. Some of the schools are in lower income areas and this in itself puts particular strains on the system.
I am very pleased to note that the Schools Commission has made a higher percentage of grants to schools in my electorate than in most other Federal electorates. But the need is most definitely there. I am pleased that the Commonwealth, through the Schools Commission, has recognised the need in some of our schools for a larger than normal topping-up approach. We all recognise the need to give children who attend special schools the same opportunities as those children who come from more wealthy or the more fortunate families so that eventually they will be properly equipped to take their place in the work force.
I make a passing reference to another aspect of the speech of the honourable member for Bonython. The honourable member talked about how the Labor Party wanted the chance to pre pare Australia’s youth for the future. I was able to contain myself better than was the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) when this remark was made. Another fact that cannot be escaped is that in 1977 Commonwealth grants for technical and further education totalled less than SI 00m. The figure this year is $151. 6m, which is an increase in real terms of 54 per cent in three years. Yet members of the Opposition, who apparently were not sufficiently interested in education to attend Estimates committees hearings, stand in this forum and say that this Government is not concerned about our young people.
One could say many things about education. I realise that, because the business of the House is of considerable quantity, I have an obligation to other members who may wish to speak. However, let met point out that it is very easy to stand up in this chamber, or indeed any forum, and say that money should be spent here, money should be spent there. There is no escaping the fact that whatever money the Government allocates has first been taken from the people. If we say to a group of educationists that we should spend another $400m or $500m in the area of education, we will be applauded and cheered. If we say to a group of defence personnel that another $1,000 should be spent in that area, again we will be applauded. If we stand in front of a group of pensioners and make promises that will cost about $ 1,000m, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has done, we will be applauded. The day of reckoning is election day, when people have the opportunity to consider the cost of these promises and realise that what they have been promised is their own money, because that is what it amounts to. When politicians stand and beat their chests, boasting of what they have achieved and what they have spent here and there, it should never be forgotten that what they are doing is simply taking from Peter and spending through Parliament.
I commend this Government for its realistic approach to expenditure in all fields. I simply ask the Minister for Education (Mr Fife), as a homegrown Queenslander and as the honourable member for Fadden, to recognise the growth that has taken place in my State, and also in Western Australia. Please ensure that there is a reallocation and a reward for that growth, because I am not yet convinced that what should be happening is happening.
– This is a rare opportunity to debate the Government’s performance in the field of education and the needs of education throughout Australia. In the first instance, I want to say there need be no misconception about the objectives of the Labor Opposition, soon to become the government, so far as education is concerned. This is an appropriate time for me to tell the Parliament and whoever may be listening that there is available in concise form a very excellent document of some 23 pages headed Education and the future: What Labor will do. This document has been prepared under the name of Senator John Button, the shadow Minister for Education. I say to honourable members opposite that copies of this document are available. Indeed, the constituency at large, and especially people such as the representatives of parent-teacher and parents and friends’ organisations who have an interest in education, may like to obtain this document. I will be very happy to utilise my resources to their utmost to respond to any requests addressed to me. The only address that is needed, of course, is the Labor Whip, House of Representatives, Canberra. In this way the whole nation will be able to know the full details of Labor’s policy, and I invite that response.
The honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) feels that the Labor Party might have a tendency to be reckless about this matter. Looking back, I do not think that there is any over-concern on the part of the Australian community because the Labor Party brought education from a backward priority area when it was in government between 1972 and 1975. There is not the same need to bring that heavy emphasis to bear, but a lot of indifference needs to be redressed. Our objective is to spend in the vicinity of an additional $1 00m on education, if I can put the honourable member who preceded me right on that score.
– Where from?
– For example, $70m would be saved by curtailing the Government’s program in respect of Casey University which nobody, including the honourable members opposite, appeared to want. So $70m could be picked up at the drop of a hat. Another $30m could be saved easily by curtailing the multicultural television scheme enunciated by the Government and incorporating such a service into the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– The Brisbane airport.
– Indeed, the honourable member has mentioned Brisbane airport. There are many other priorities and approaches. We are saying that we would give education its proper priority and this Government has failed to do that. I want to be precise in respect of the amendment moved by the honourable member for
Bonython (Dr Blewett). He has said that it is the Labor Party’s intention in the first year of office to provide an extra grant of $36m, at December 1979 prices, for capital funding for schools. That is an extra $36m. He has also undertaken to provide an extra grant of S8.5m for special programs. On top of that, the Labor Party opposes an extra grant of $2m for equipment in universities and colleges, and an extra grant of SI 6m for recurrent funding of technical and further education colleges. Those matters happen to be the subject of the amendment moved by the honourable member. In addition, it is proposed that there should be payment to individuals.I have been discussing payments to institutions and services, but this special provision for payments to individuals concerns an additional outlay of $8.5m to isolated children, $5m for postgraduate awards, and an additional $30m for the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme. I think those comments will put the honourable member for Fadden right on that score. The Labor Party has precise and prescribed financial objectives and it is prepared to account for them in every shape and form, including the question of where the money will come from.
We are debating two Bills, the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Bill 1980 and the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1980. In the interests of time I will curtail my remarks because I know that a number of my colleagues want to join in this debate. The purpose of the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Bill is to provide legislative authority for payments to the States and the Northern Territory for government and non-government schools. Of course, those few words cover the funding of a great variety of services for government schools, building and equipment projects, and recurrent expenditure. A few of the significant headings involving substantial financial outlays include the migrant education program; disadvantaged schools in country areas, assistance to special schools, non-government schools, multicultural education, and residential institutions. This Bill is important. It implements the Government’s decisions on the approved recommendations of the Schools Commission, which responded to the Government’s express guidelines for financial assistance for schools in the states and Territories. I say ‘express guidelines’ because it really means that the Commission has been working in hobbles to the extent that, although it may have wanted to accede to the needs of both the public and private education systems, it has been restricted by those overall guidelines of the Government. The Bill reflects the low priority that the Government has placed on education in this year’s Budget. I acknowledge that the Government has allocated a lot of money, but we are contending that it is marginally insufficient.
Commonwealth grants to the States represent only about 12 per cent of total spending on government schools and about 35 per cent of total spending on non-government schools. Total capital grants to States for government and nongovernment schools have been cut by $2.3m on last year’s expenditure. Since 1975 capital grants to government schools have fallen by 23 per cent in real terms despite the fact that the backlog of needs has been documented by State school commission surveys. No matter where one conducts a survey one gets a warm response from people who are interested in education, who are anxious to show that much more should be done.
I have already received early returns from a survey carried out in the electorate of Hughes on education needs, which returns I think typify the needs of schools generally throughout Australia. I do not intend to read the results of this survey because it is parochial, but I will mention some of the matters in relation to which the schools contend there are deficiencies. Some schools call for such amenities as an assembly hall, a weather shed, ceiling fans, a new library, an amenities block, secretarial services and so on. This schedule would no doubt interest honourable members and I seek leave of the House to have it incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows -
Needs- A high school.
Needs - Weather shed; School assembly hall; Improvement of drainage system to school oval; A supply of ceiling fans; Painting of the school; Full time clerical assistant; A supply of resource teachers for remedial work; Relief from face-to-face teaching.
Needs- New library; Assembly hall; Landscaping and turfing of only available playing area; Equipment to implement new curriculum objectives.
Needs- Shelter area incorporating a food service unit; New library; New class rooms to replace demountable buildings erected in late 1 940s; An administration and amenities block.
Though Education Department has made recommendations for a new school to be built on site, plans have not progressed nor above needs met on an interim basis.
Needs- Replacement of timber temporary class rooms some 20 years old which cause delays when changes of periods occur, especially in wet weather; A new assembly hall; Conversion of existing inadequate facility to a gymnasium/indoor basketball facility and/or theatrette.
Needs- Assembly hall.
Needs- Covered weather sheds; Covered assembly area; Restoration work to existing buildings.
Needs- Assembly hall; Covered walkways to toilet blocks and other buildings; New toilet block facilities; Food service unit; More teachers, especially specialised teaching staff.
Needs- Class room facilities and teaching aids; Fencing; Provision of reasonable open space and security; Medical services including aids for handicapped sick bays for pupils; First aid kits; Equipment.
Needs- Assistance for recurrent expenses such as salaries; Problems caused by fact that work value increases that occur during 1980 will not be reflected in grants for recurrent expenditure until 1981.
Needs - 4 class rooms; Library and gymnasium equipment; Multi-purpose hall.
Needs - Assembly hall; Improved canteen facilities and library facilities; Extra class rooms.
Needs- New equipment; Increased funding for recurrent expenditure; Development assistance for playing fields and school grounds.
– I thank the House. Public schools are not the only ones hit by government restraints; private schools also have substantial unmet needs. For example, the New South Wales Planning and Finance Committee which administers capital funding to nongovernment schools has before it applications for grants for new schools or extensions to the value of approximately $25m for 1981. These applications cannot be met by the funds available which amount to no more than $7. 3m. In short, the Federal Government has not responded to the needs of education in Australia.
The Australian electorate does not accept the Federal Government’s view that the Australian Government has not a direct moral and financial responsibility to ensure that every child in Australia is offered an equal educational opportunity. It is for this reason that the Labor Government, when in office, gave education top priority. The backlog of needs was so great that the Labor
Government was obliged to quadruple expenditure on education within the first two years of taking office. While we were in office we lifted education expenditure from $442m to $ 1,663m per annum. I can only say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Nobody can indict Labor with indifference in respect of this important area of social responsibility.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
- Mr Speaker, I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) wants to make an important statement about the election which will be conducted on 1 8 October.
– Is the honourable member asking for leave to continue his remarks at a later hour?
– Yes, Mr Speaker.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, honourable members will be aware that under the terms of the Constitution an election for the House of Representatives must be held within the next few months. I wish to inform the House that the Government has recommended to His Excellency the Governor-General that the House of Representatives be dissolved and that the necessary notices of Senate election be given in time for election of both Houses on Saturday, 18 October 1980. The timetable I have proposed to His Excellency is as follows: The issue of writs, 19 September 1980; the close of nominations, 27 September 1980; the polling date, 18 October 1980; the return of writs, on or before 17 December 1980.
His Excellency has agreed to communicate this timetable to State Governors with a view to its being adopted for election for senators in each of the States. When replies have been received from the States, I shall inform the House. I propose to recommend to His Excellency, the GovernorGeneral, that he dissolve the House of Representatives on Friday, 19 September 1980.
– by leave- Mr Speaker, the announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) heralds the end of the second and last Fraser Government. Its departure, indisputably an act of self-destruction, is also a great public service. Many more than a score of Government members will pack their bags and depart the Parliament for the last time next week. Their departure will be the greatest public service they have given an otherwise undistinguished public life. We have before us in its terminal state a government that has built ‘success’- in inverted commas for its irony- on the making of promises it intends to break, failing in economic management, a scandal ridden ministry and a divisive and unscrupulous Prime Minister. The Australian public has had more than enough of the Fraser Government style. The Government has had more than enough time to get things right, and it has failed.
I refer honourable members to some of the slogans on which the Government has built its success. It said that a $4,000m borrowing by an Australian government would be evidence of bankruptcy for the nation. The facts are that under the Labor Government in 1972 to 1975 the Commonwealth’s indebtedness increased by $2 billion. Under the Fraser Government it has increased by more than $12 billion. Another slogan was that it would bring about smaller government. Expenditure on the public sector in Australia now stands at in excess of 38 per cent of the gross domestic product, the highest level of government activity we have seen in the history of the nation. Ah! Honourable members opposite are scuttling.
– Order! The House will come to order. The House will now have a few minutes’ silence. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– Indeed, a few minutes’ silence is appropriate for our departing friends. Another slogan of the Government was that it would end the tax rip-off. Total revenue - total taxes - in the hand of the Fraser Government now stands at nearly 34 per cent of gross domestic product, which is unaparalleled in the peacetime history of the nation. There was the slogan that there would be smaller deficits as a result of the Fraser style of government. The highest level of public sector deficit in the nation’s history was in 1977-78 - 6.1 per cent of gross domestic product. The average for the public sector under the Labor Government was a little over 4 per cent. Under the Fraser Government, it is well over 5 per cent of gross domestic product. In August 1977 the Prime Minister said that a pool of unemployment was not a part of the Government’s strategy, yet in this year’s Budget the Government confesses that there will be even higher unemployment as a result of the Budget strategy. In September 1978 members of the Government said that inflation of 5 per cent ‘is within our reach by mid-1979’. Something happened to their reach, because by the end of this year inflation will be of the order of 1 2 per cent to 1 3 per cent.
They promised in 1977 that within 12 months interest rates would be down by 2 per cent. Interest rates are about to go up. The Reserve Bank has advised the Government that interest rates will have to go up in the order of 2 per cent. This is one of the substantial reasons why the election has been declared early, in some haste. It is simply for this reason. The last thing the Government would care to do before going to the public is display some honesty and some integrity. After all, does it not have a record to preserve? Therefore, the last thing it intends to do is increase interest rates before the election. It will have no chance to do so after the election. Because the Government is tardy on this, and because of the nature of its economic management, this economy is getting into deeper and deeper trouble. The thrust of the Government’s economic management, the components of it and the implications of its not adjusting the interest rates in the way in which the Reserve Bank has warned must be done urgently as a matter of crucial determination of the way in which the economy will go will create widespread trouble for many people in the economy.
In 1976 the Government said there would be no devaluation of the dollar. At the end of the year there was a devaluation of 1 71 per cent.
– Are you there, Bob? Where’s Bob?
– He is not here now and the honourable member for Kalgoorlie is, but after the election he will be here and the honourable member will not be, so the honourable member still will not meet him.
– He might be in your place.
– Here is the Government Whip, in his usual after dinner condition - full of arrogance and cheap brandy.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw.
- Mr Speaker, of course I withdraw the comment that he is arrogant.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition knows he must withdraw unconditionally.
– I withdraw unconditionally.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to raise a point of order. We have this doom and gloom forecasting. I thought the Labor Party was trying to lift its standards.
-Order! There is no point of order. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– It is important that we do not get too far from the honourable member for Bendigo, nonetheless. In the 1975 policy speech the Prime Minister said that there would be no international safaris and that Australia did not need a tourist for a Prime Minister. We are glad he is visiting the country again, albeit briefly. In the 1975 election campaign the Government said it would fully index personal income tax for inflation within three years. It is a despicable record of dishonesty to the Australian people. Promises were made, but there was no intention of keeping them.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition well knows that I have indicated I will not accept any implications of dishonesty. The use of the word is unparliamentary. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the word.
– Of course, I withdraw, Mr Speaker.
– Liberal Party Standing Orders!
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I warn the honourable member for Melbourne.
– I beg your pardon.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Melbourne to remain silent.
– You are a joke.
-The honourable member for Melbourne will apologise to the Chair.
– Mr Speaker, I apologise but in all deference to you, Mr Speaker, I did not open my mouth. You made a mistake and you ought to apologise to me.
-The House will come to order. Government members will remain silent. The honourable member for Melbourne is a continual interjector and I assumed that it was his voice. Having learned that it was not his voice, I apologise to him on this occasion but the honourable member for Fremantle is–
– Mr Speaker, I feel that I should own up to the fact that I said that you were enforcing the Liberal Party Standing Orders.
-I name the honourable member for Fremantle.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the honourable member for Fremantle be suspended from the service of the House.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order.
-I will not accept debate on the motion.
– With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, this is an extremely important evening and feelings are running very high. I suggest that you do give the honourable member for Fremantle the opportunity to withdraw. I do not think it would be good for the Parliament, with only a few days to go to the end of this session, to reach such a conclusion.
– Come on!
-The honourable member for Reid will resume his seat.
– Mr Speaker, can I just say that all I was attempting to do was to get the honourable member for Melbourne off the hook.
-The question is ‘that the honourable member for Fremantle be suspended from the service of the House’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The honourable member for Fremantle thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
-I hope that the next Parliament will be a parliament of which one can be proud. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
- Mr Speaker, I join with you in that sentiment. I trust that you enjoy the new Parliament from the comfort of the back benches on this side of the House.
-The honourable gentleman is making an implication against the Chair. I ask him to withdraw.
– Do you mean the implication that you are about to go into opposition? Have I got to withdraw that?
-I ask the honourable gentleman to withdraw.
– I withdraw, but really! I will leave the judgment to be made.
-If the honourable gentleman wishes to misuse the practices and forms of the House that is for him to do. I will draw attention to his misuse of the forms and practices as it is my duty to do. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– This is a government that has corrupted itself. It made promises which it had no intention of keeping. It has shown a clear pattern of deception wilfully practised against the Australian community. This Government has a Prime Minister who said that there would be no international safaris and that Australia did not need a tourist as a Prime Minister. He is the Prime Minister of a government whose members have had 235 overseas trips in all- 23 by the Prime Minister and 42 by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr
Peacock). They are away more than they are at home. It is a wonder that they can even conduct a Cabinet meeting. This Government is scandal ridden. It has been a failure in economic management. It confessed in the most recent Budget that inflation would go up, interest rates would go up and unemployment would go up. The only thing that will go down in the near future is the position of the Government. It will be defeated at the next election. It deserves to be repudiated. There are many members on the Government back benches who will not even have the opportunity of gracing the Opposition back benches after the election. This is a scandal ridden government - a government with a divisive and unscrupulous Prime Minister–
– You are the most propped up Leader of the Opposition.
– And a second rate lawyer with potential for appointment to the High Court.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw the allegation against the Prime Minister.
– Which one?
-The honourable gentleman is not entitled to use that unparliamentary language.
Honourable members interjecting -
-Order! The honourable member for Lalor will remain silent. Honourable gentlemen on my right will remain silent.
– You are the most propped up Leader of the Opposition we have ever had.
-The Minister for Home Affairs will remain silent.
– The Minister for Home Affairs -
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I called upon him to withdraw.
– I withdraw, Mr Speaker. The Minister for Home Affairs was interjecting. He is a man of distinctive character who, for safety, always carries a second opinion in his hip pocket in case he has to act the role of a spaniel at the behest of his Prime Minister.
– You are the most propped up Leader of the Opposition we have ever had.
– The Minister for Home Affairs is always available to change his opinion. This is a government that stands on its record. Its record is a hangman’s trapdoor that it has set for itself. It will be repudiated at this election. The
Australian people deserve much better than they have been getting. They are entitled to decent standards of conduct in government.
– That is rubbish.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The honourable member for St George and the honourable member for Barker will remain silent. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– The people of Australia deserve decent, honest government - government based on integrity. They need a break from what they have experienced for the past five years. They are about to get that break; is is overdue.
– I move:
That the Leader of the Opposition be granted an extension of time so that he can make a better speech.
-Order! The honourable member for Holt is not moving an appropriate motion.
– In respect of education matters the news about the forthcoming election will be very welcome because the momentum of and initiative in improvements in education is well overdue. Before the suspension of the sitting I was explaining that the backlog of needs was so great when the Labor Government came into office that it was obliged to quadruple expenditure on education within the first two years of taking office. By comparison, this Government at best has maintained expenditure levels on some programs, reduced others and ignored the needs of education at the pre-school, infant, primary and secondary levels.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Hughes will resume his seat. I ask honourable members to subdue the level of conversation. The honourable member for Hughes has the right to address the House in silence. I call the honourable member for Hughes.
– The Fraser Government has claimed that budgetary constraints have prevented it from placing a higher priority on education. Its record is appalling. Let me give an account of that appalling record. I refer to the reduction in the levels of funding in real terms since 1975. In respect of general recurrent expenditure for government schools, there has been a reduction of 3.85 per cent. In respect of capital grants for government schools, there has been a reduction of 32 per cent in funding since 1975. In respect of capital grants for non-government schools the reduction in the level of funding since 1975 has been 9 per cent. Expenditure on the innovations program has been reduced by 38 per cent, spending on the services and deployment program by 42 per cent and the funding of education centres by 17 per cent. I would not like to be one of the nervous nellies on the other side of the House who have to confront the parents’ and citizens’ organisations and parents’ and friends’ organisations to give an account of that dismal and appalling performance.
Within equally stringent budgetary controls the Australian Labor Party, when elected, in addition to maintaining the existing funding formulaes of the Schools Commission, pending a review of a needs basis, will return to a commitment by the Commonwealth Government based on a genuine needs policy for all schools. We will double funding levels for disadvantaged schools in country areas over a three-year period, as recommended by the 1979 Schools Commission report. We will increase by up to 50 per cent in current values the Galbally recommendations of special grants to migrant and multicultural education and we will increase funding for the important innovations program. We intend to pay special attention to the needs of handicapped children in institutions and in rural areas, and this issue will receive top priority. We will immediately institute a special capital program over and above the normal capital funding to alleviate the backlog of needs. The immediate increase in expenditure is to be $36m as indicated in the amendment now before the House, and the funds will be used to meet many of the needs of schools in both the cities and country areas.
In conclusion I want to say a few words about the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill, which is also the subject of this cognate debate. The purpose of the Bill is to provide grants for capital and equipment programs for universities, colleges of advanced education, and technical and further education colleges. The reduction of expenditure in capital and equipment grants for universities in real terms since 1975 is 51 per cent. No real new initiatives have been taken to further tertiary education in the last five years. The failure to raise allowances to cover full cost of living increases places the hope of tertiary education beyond the reach of a large number of Australians. There is still no unqualified undertaking not to introduce university fees and other tertiary education fees which were abolished by the Labor Government. I shall tell honourable members what the Australian Labor Party will do in this area within the budgetary constraints to which I have referred. We will maintain a fixed triennium for recurrent funding for universities and colleges of advanced education.
– Got that.
– We will increase funds for equipment in universities and colleges with an immediate emergency increase of $2m. I hope the honourable member for Eden-Monaro has got that. We will allow universities and colleges greater flexibility in the expenditure of capital funds. Total expenditure on tertiary education is down in real terms. The allocations for capital equipment for universities and colleges of advanced education are down 18 per cent in real terms. In general, 1981 programs are to be reduced by 1.4 per cent in real terms. Building works programs will be reduced by $ 16.9m, which is a decline of over 40 per cent in one year.
The Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowance - an allowance which affects the young people in the community who are the future of this country, the sons and daughters of working people, who are entitled to better opportunities - has been raised by the extension of student assistance in the 1980-81 Budget to $49.67 a week. That is still below the dole level. The means test cut-off levels have been raised only by the 1 979 increase in average weekly earnings. After the election has taken place a new Labor Government will raise the TEAS allowance by $8.85 to $54 for 1981. Thereafter we will undertake to increase the allowance in accordance with the consumer price index increases. With the announcement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) about the election on 18 October there is in the offing a new dawn for education, a new opportunity for people who want to ensure that young Australians will be given educational opportunities second to none. That, in the view of the Labor Party, is their right and bound to be their opportunity in the future.
– In this debate on education I do not want to use personal denigration or unpleasant words, and I do not want to make imputations with no substance against people. In fact I want to use none of the trappings of any campaign based on personal vilification that has marked the first 20 minutes of the present election campaign. I want to discuss the serious question of education in a way which I hope may bring to the House, and certainly to the Opposition, some understanding of the problems, some recognition of the fact that it is possible to discuss a subject as important as this without the unfortunate methods used so far by the Opposition. It seems to me that if we are to face four weeks of the sort of personal abuse we heard in the first 10 minutes after the election announcement it will be very difficult to discuss subjects as serious as education in a way that will bring enlightenment. It seems to me that there is a great need in this House to generate more light and less heat. I want to discuss the realities of what the Federal Minister for Education (Mr Fife) is doing.
If honourable members look in a detailed way at the funding of education in Australia they will see that the combination of State and Federal funding for each child in Australia has never been higher than it is now. That is in real terms and that is after accounting for inflation. I repeat: There has never been so much of taxpayers’ money per child spent on education in Australia. That is selfevident. The figures are available. The Opposition cannot deny it; it is the truth. It may personally abuse people about it, but it cannot deny that fact.
If we can establish so clearly that there is a record amount of money being spent on education on each child in Australia, what we have to consider now is whether that money is being well spent and whether it is going in the right direction. I admit that I am not sufficiently competent in the area of educational techniques to know whether the State departments of education, which prefer various styles, one against the other, are correct or incorrect. All I know is that there is a self-evident difference between the way the various States spend the record amounts of money that are going to primary and secondary education in particular. For example, it is evident that the State of New South Wales has dramatically reduced the amount being spent in capital terms on education because it considers that there is a greater priority for spending that money on recurrent items; in other words teachers’ salaries and general running expenses. The department apparently takes the view that it is far more important to reduce class sizes than to provide new classrooms. That may be appropriate in the cities; it is certainly massively inappropriate in areas such as mine which are rapidly expanding and where there is a great need for the building of new classrooms. I recognise that in many city areas there are empty, surplus classrooms which can perhaps best be filled by splitting classes and having smaller numbers of students and larger numbers of teachers.
There is some social benefit in that when one recognises that there appears to be a large number of unemployed teachers who were wrongly promised jobs by the Education Department. Apparently the Department was unaware of the impact on the population made by the contraceptive pill, and quite improperly trained young people and held out to them the prospect of employment. These people went in to the teaching profession despite the fact that class sizes were self-evidently dropping. According to the Schools Commission report there was a fall of almost 5,000 in the previous year in the number of students attending government schools in New South Wales. Yet there has been a consistent increase in the number of people being given the opportunity to enter the teaching profession. This may well be a sensible procedure. As I said, I am not an expert. All I want to point out are the facts, and the facts are that the New South Wales Government has taken that preference. It considers it more important to reduce class sizes than to build schools in developing areas, such as the one I represent, where there is a desperate need for them. The consequences of taking such a decision are very serious indeed for my electorate and for any other electorate which is rapidly expanding. They include, of course, electorates encompassing the western and the south-western suburbs of Sydney, and some sections of the north coast. Certainly the south coast area of New South Wales is massively disadvantaged by this deliberate and determined policy.
Let me explain to the House how this policy is manifested. For example, in the latest year the Federal Minister for Education (Mr Fife) has approved capital funding of about $36. 8m for the New South Wales state school system. That is aimed at helping to build new schools. It is in fact aimed at providing considerable assistance to the New South Wales Government, which has the responsibility for running the state education system. The Federal Government has offered, through the Schools Commission, $36.8m. However, over the last three years the New South Wales Government has taken the view that it does not want that money for that purpose. It has rejected that offer in respect of spending money on school buildings. For example, it has refused to use that money to build a new high school in Nowra. It has rejected that money.
– And in Queanbeyan.
– And in Queanbeyan, as the honourable member for Eden-Monaro has said. The New South Wales Government has chosen instead to transfer that money to the recurrent grant; that is, the grant provided for the spending of money on school teachers and on running expenses. As I said, it may well be a justifiable position to adopt. What is unjustifiable is that it has done that for three consecutive years and in the previous year $5. 3m was transferred and in the year before that $2. 7m was transferred. I repeat: In the last three years $6. 5m has been transferred each year from building new schools into paying teachers’ salaries and other general expenses.
It seems to me totally improper for any New South Wales Minister to say: ‘We cannot build high schools in your area and we cannot build the third Nowra high school, which is desperately needed, because the Federal Government will not provide us with the money’. That is an absolute disgrace. That is the standard of political discussion to which this nation regrettably has sunk when the facts so belie the rhetoric. It seems to me immensely distressing that we have in New South Wales a Minister who is prepared to go to Nowra in my electorate - I use this simply as an example because the problem is all over the State - and to say: ‘It is the Federal Government’s fault that we cannot provide this third Nowra high school’.
When the Minister was ultimately pushed into a corner because of my revelations of the diversion of this sort of funding in the last few years, he at last conceded to the very energetic committee which is seeking the building of this Nowra high school that it will be ready for occupation perhaps by 1984, provided Federal funding of state education does not continue to fall. What he omitted to say, of course, was that in the current year $6.5m of the Federal funding for the building pf schools in New South Wales has been diverted by the State Government for its own purposes because it prefers a different course of action which, as I say, might or might not be a sensible course of action. I do not care about its course of action. What I do care about is its deception.
I would now like to deal in a more positive way with a matter of even more serious consequences, although it is immensely serious that about $27m which the Federal Government has been prepared to grant over the last four or five years for the building of schools in New South Wales has been diverted to other purposes. It might be that the squeakiest hinge gets the most oil; and it appears to me that many teachers have learnt very well how to squeak.
I draw attention to the significant contribution this Government has made to the most needy section of the education system. That section has been demonstrated by the Schools Commission to be category 6 schools in the non-state system. The
Schools Commission has reported that the average resources levels of such schools are about only 70 per cent of the resource levels available to the average state school- not the best state school, but the average state school. Of course, that means with regard to resource levels, which includes such things as playgrounds, classrooms, class sizes and class-teacher ratios, that many of those category 6 schools in the non-state system are on average about 30 per cent worse off - in some areas they are 40 per cent or SO per cent worse off- than the better state schools. That is an area of need.
It is clear that the role of the Federal Government in education is to concentrate its endeavours on the areas of need. That must be its role. Its role is not to be a substitute in running the state education systems. Its role is to pick up areas of need. The greatest areas of need are clearly in the Catholic parochial school system in category 6. That is where there has been a concentration of the Federal money. It is top-up money for the systems. It is not money which provides the needs of the bulk of the systems and was never intended to be. If it is accepted by this House that the proper role of the Federal Government in education systems is to provide top-up assistance to the State governments, which run the state systems, and to pick up the areas of greatest need in the non-state system, surely there should be from both sides of this House overall acclaim for the role that this Federal Government has played in doing exactly that.
Let us look at the funding of category 6 schools. When we came to office $ 101m in constant March 1980 prices was being spent on the category 6 schools, the poor schools of the non-state system. We can see from the current report of the Schools Commission that in 1981, $244m in real terms, after accounting for inflation, is to be spent on this area of need. That represents an increase of 2S0 per cent in Federal assistance to the category 6 level in the non-state system, the area of greatest need. The children in that system are relatively underprivileged compared with those in the state school system. Surely that is the area of need.
Surely this Government has done right by concentrating on that area. One would not know so from listening to anything that the Opposition says. Does the Opposition dislike, treat with contempt, ignore or oppose the non-state system? Does it dislike the Catholic parochial schools which are struggling to provide an alternative form of education? I might say that it is a form of education which saves the state almost SO per cent of the cost of educating a child. If it were not for the non-state system the taxpayers of Australia would be picking up a much bigger education bill.
It is not a question of taxpayers’ money being diverted out of education to something else. It is a method under which the Federal Government, in particular, and the State governents provide money to the non-state education system, particularly the poor end of it, in order to lessen the cost burden on the state system. If people take a contrary view philosophically and believe there should not be an alternative education system then let them also be prepared to pick up the extra tax burden that would be involved.
What do we see as a result of this Government’s positive policies in this area of greatest need in education? Since this Government came to office we have seen a 65 per cent increase in the amount that is being spent on each child in category 6 primary schools, the underprivileged schools where the children are being deprived of a proper education facility when compared with the state school system. That is how the Federal Government has done so much to help. In the secondary school area category 6 schools have had a 65 per cent increase for each child as a result of Federal Government assistance. This is in real terms after one has accounted for inflation. The system is expanding- it can expand only because of the assistance that the Federal Government has been giving- into those developing areas where there had been no alternative school system. If it had not been for this Government that development could not have taken place.
I am overjoyed to see in my electorate, in Kiama, Moss Vale, Bowral, Camden and Albion Park, considerable grants to expand category 6 schools under the parochial system. I am pleased to see also that Campbelltown, which is not in my electorate but which draws some of its people from the Camden area which is in my electorate, is to get a high school under the same sort of assistance from the Federal Government. I hope Albion Park will get one soon. Many people say: Why is it that the Government is encouraging the expansion of the non-state system at a time when state school numbers are falling?’ People who ask that question obviously do not understand what has been happening to the population of New South Wales. They do not recognise that the empty schools are in the inner city and that the massive demands on schooling are in the developing areas such as Nowra, Camden, Albion Park and Kiama. These are the areas where schools have to be built. This is the area of need where once again the Federal Government is responding positively. Not even our most violent opponents can say that we refused to respond to the evident need of the community.
The great thing about this Government is its record of recognition of need and its attempt to concentrate the resources of the taxpayer on the areas of need. Instead of going around buying votes by spreading middle class welfare this Government endeavoured to concentrate its efforts on welfare and schools, in the areas of greatest need. That is an essential and a correct policy which I believe the people of Australia will recognise. It is totally improper to go round buying middle class votes with middle class handouts, the cost of which comes from middle class pockets.
When we are looking at education and at the promises than have already been made by the Opposition as to how it will spend $36m on this, and heaven knows what on that, it is already trying to spend the money of everyone in this chamber and all the people of Australia. It seems to me that the one interest of the Opposition is in finding new ways to spend our money without necessarily being aware whether that money is doing any good. For example, has the education system in Australia improved so dramatically in the five or six years since 1974? Has it improved dramatically even though the amount spent is a record? If one talks to employers one gets the impression that maybe it has not improved dramatically. If one looks at the number of children who have not been properly prepared for their role in a changing society one would think perhaps not. One should recognise the need for the Government’s magnificent scheme to train people in schools for their eventual work roles. The scheme has failed to win the support of State governments, much to my astonishment. Despite this rejection the Federal Government is proceeding with the scheme because it considers that the overwhelming need at the moment in education, apart from assisting the neediest sections of the school system, is to prepare people better for their role in life. In other words, in these vital areas of education the Federal Government has consistently responded to the need. I believe it should be given a continued opportunity to do so in the coming three years.
– The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume), sitting with a fairly slippery grip on his seat, endeavoured in the speech he just delivered to secure a few votes. I do not think he will succeed because, as is fairly normal with the honourable member for Macarthur - we all know that before he became a member of this Parliament he was a fairly slick juggler of figures; now he is a member he still is- I do not think anyone will be terribly impressed.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Parramatta address himself to the debate without due reference to the honourable member for Macarthur.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, with respect, I think it has very much to do with the matter in hand. The honourable member for Macarthur has just been telling us -
– Order! When the honourable member talks about the slick juggling of figures I do not know -
– I think he has been juggling the figures for education fairly efficiently in that little operation, telling us about middle class handouts to middle class people. Could he tell me what $70m-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I find it offensive to be accused of juggling figures which are available from the Schools Commission report.
– Order! If the honourable member for Macarthur wishes to make a personal explanation he may do so after the debate.
– I am seeking a withdrawal of the words ‘juggling the figures’. I find them offensive.
– Order! I was in the process of bringing to the attention of the honourable member for Parramatta the fact that I thought his phraseology was not the best. Since he has offended the honourable member for Macarthur will he consider withdrawing?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, with respect to you and to Cinquevalli, I will withdraw the word ‘juggling’. The honourable member for Macarthur was talking about middle class handouts to middle class people. I can think of a couple that the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) mentioned, a couple of decent middle class handouts to middle class people that we intend to remove and put back into the education field where they are required. I am talking of the $70m that this Government intends to spend on the Casey University for service personnel which no one, not even the Joint Committee on Public Works, wants. If that is not a middle class handout to middle class people I do not know what is. There is also an amount of $30m to be spent on multicultural television which the migrant groups do not want. They do not want to be pushed into enclaves where they do not learn to speak English. They are two very unnecessary middle class outlays that we, as a government, intend to negative and to put back into the mainstream of education. I will say something about a school in the electorate of the honourable member for Macarthur later in my speech.
One of the things upon which I am very pleased to stand in relation to the history of the Australian Labor Party is its record in education when it was in government from 1972 to 1975. Mr Deputy Speaker, I remind you and the honourable member for Macarthur that before we came to power in 1972 of all the developed countries in the world Australia was spending less of its gross national product on education with the sole exception of Turkey. That was the sorry record of 23 years of conservative rule in this country in the area of education. Fortunately, when the Labor Party was in government, it was sensitive enough and attuned enough to the national wants to have that order changed. Today I noticed in the corridors of this House the former Labor Minister for Education the Honourable Kim Beazley. Mr Deputy Speaker, you would probably agree that Mr Kim Beazley was one of the most exalted, compassionate and cultured members ever to hold office in this House.
– The best Minister for Education we have had.
– He certainly was the best Minister for Education we ever had. I would like to cite to the House a very famous saying that Kim Beazley left us with that more or less summed up his attitude to education. It was reinforced by actions which the Labor Government took. Kim Beazley once said that Australia’s greatest resource was not wheat, wool or uranium; it was Australia’s youth. The fact that Kim Beazley believed that, that the other members of his party followed that, is why we did what we did in the area of education in that period.
May I remind the House that in the years 1972 to 1975 we quadrupled the education budget for Australia. To this Government’s credit and, I think, probably to the credit of the Minister for Education (Mr Fife), this Government has attempted at least to make some effort to keep up with our effort, but it is a fairly token effort. During that period of Labor administration, schools, particularly in the western suburbs of Sydney, saw things they had never seen before. Library blocks were built, class sizes were drastically reduced, administrative blocks were built, dental schemes were introduced to allow children in Australian schools to have decent teeth and facilities were provided to allow children with specific learning difficulties to have some assistance. We realised as a government that an educated population would best be able to cope with the problems of the future. We realised that education could help to produce confident adults; that to get a kid to a good school early would give him the best opportunity to have, with good education, all the mysteries of knowledge unlocked to him. As a parent, I am very pleased with our education system, an education system which was so greatly enhanced by a Labor government for three years. We can send our kids to school as babies, uneducated, knowing nothing of the world, and after 12 or 14 years with school teachers we get them back, sophisticated, knowledgeable, cultured, sensitive Australians. Unfortunately, modern school teachers often become the butt of many jokes. Criticisms are levelled at them. They are accused of being trendy, of being socialist, as if that were some great insult. I do not agree. I consider that modern education is more sensitively attuned to develop adults who are better able to cope with the differing social mores, the advanced technology and an expanded knowledge bank - in short, the modern world of the 1980s and beyond.
Meanwhile, this Federal Government has a very jaundiced view of education and educationalists. The Government blames the education system for the failure of government policies. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in particular has made many cowardly attacks on the school system in respect of the things he has promised to do and which he has failed to do. I am talking about lowering the unemployment rate. The Prime Minister blames unemployment on the education system. He ignores the findings of the Williams Committee which suggested that youth unemployment is caused by a lack of jobs, not by the failure of the education system. Yesterday, in this House I directed a question to the Minister for Education concerning a demand in New South Wales for $25m this year in capital grants for necessary improvements to non-government schools. But there is only $7. 3m available to fill those needs. The answer that the Minister gave me - I guess he gave it with some sincerity; he certainly gave it with some conviction - was that standards had caught up, that the standards which were set by the Karmel Committee for schools had been reached. I can tell him that this is largely a nonsense.
I would like to refer now to a school in the electorate of the honourable member for Macarthur. I see that the honourable member for Macarthur has vanished from the chamber, as no doubt he is entitled to do. I do not think he wants to be embarrassed. Today, in the public gallery there were children from a school in my electorate - the
Marist Brothers school in Parramatta. I spoke to the brother in charge out in King’s Hall and he told me that next year he was being transferred to a school in Campbelltown which is a very large, newly developing area on the south-west fringe of Sydney and which is right in the middle of the Macarthur electorate. He told me about the problems he knows he is going to face in his new school. In that area there are an enormous number of social problems. There are a great number of single parents with all the problems that that brings for children. There are also migrant families with language difficulties. He finds that the school to which he is going has none of the modern refinements that are required to cope with these difficulties adequately. He has been told to forget about the possibility of a library; there is just no chance of that. All those kids in that school are going to get is a simple classroom. That is their total resource. How do we expect the brothers, with all the goodwill and all the generosity and love in the world, to manage and to enrich the lives of these children for whose future they have been given responsibility, without the basic resources of a library, craft rooms, corrective language teachers, et cetera? But, no, this Government tells us, this Minister tells us, that standards have caught up. I can tell this Minister that he has not caught up with the difficulties that are faced in many new areas. The brothers of Campbelltown, these saintly men, have only their inborn capacity to impart knowledge to these kids, a capacity which flows from their total commitment of their lives to the education of these young charges.
The Schools Commission reinforces my case. It commented sharply on the needs in the capital funding area. The Government’s guidelines provide for no increase in capital for either government or non-government schools, and particularly does this apply to primary schools. Does not this Government realise the importance of enabling all the children of Australia to have equal access to an equal educational standard? I think perhaps the Minister does. He is a New South Welshman and I think there is a certain sensitivity about him which is not paralleled by others on the Government front bench. I think the Minister is probably the victim of Government cutbacks; so I will not hold him personally responsible. But does he not realise that every child in Australia, no matter what his or her social or economic background, is entitled, as a defenceless being, as a child, to have access to equal opportunity in education? Why should it be that a child of a rich family attending schools like the King’s School, Riverview College, Knox Grammar School or Sydney Grammar
School, to cite some schools in New South Wales, should have better educational facilities than kids in Newtown or Redfern, or the migrant kids in Harris Park or the kids in Campbelltown, a newly developing area? These kids are not responsible for the fact that they have not been born into a rich family or a well adjusted family. These kids have enormous problems and I think, as defenceless children they have the social right to have equal access to educational opportunity. When they are adults it will be largely a matter of their own capacity to cope with the world. But as defenceless children they are at the whim of the world and they are looking to a government to provide them with equal opportunities. They got it under our Government. It has been largely dissipated since.
As I said at the outset, our record in education was superb. There were several reasons, perhaps, why the Australian people saw fit to reject us in the election of 197S, and I would not quibble with that. That is the way in which democracy works. This Government is going to the ballot box on 18 October. Perhaps the people of Australia will make a similar decision then. But I do not think that anybody could be justified in saying that our record in education in that period was anything but superb. It seems to me a pity that in the period since outlays on education, expressed as a percentage of gross national product, have consistently declined. We quadrupled education outlays in three years. In the five years since they have increased by about 45 per cent, which has just kept pace with inflation. If only this Government could realise how much better it could do if it used the resources that are available to it in a more equitable fashion.
My colleague, the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett), has moved an amendment and I would like to say something about that amendment. It states that in government, we would be prepared to make an extra grant of $36m in December 1979 prices for capital funding for schools and an extra $8.5m available in December 1979 prices for special programs. The purpose of that amendment is to include what the Opposition would spend as a government in the schools sector, in addition to what the present Government is committed to spending in 1981. The question was asked: Where will the money come from? I hope I explained that adequately when I suggested that we would drop the crazy concept of the Casey University and direct the money back to the schools where it belongs. The purpose of providing an extra $36m for schools is to meet the growing backlog of needs in the areas of concern - inadequate playgrounds, classrooms, equipment, et cetera. That is what we are on about.
Before concluding my remarks, I would like to say something about special education. I have a particular feeling for special education because in my electorate of Parramatta there is a school called the Arthur Phillip High School which is 100 years old and which is a very deprived school. It has just been declared disadvantaged. It has all the classic disadvantages of schools like it around Australia. Its reservoir of students comes from a largely multi-ethnic grouping. About 25 national groups are represented in that school. Part of its arrangements include a language laboratory where children, in particular Indo-Chinese children, who have just arrived in Australia and who have no knowledge of English are taught. Owing to the skill and devotion of a very gentle TurkishFrench gentleman, within 12 months those children speak English adequately. That school also has a special unit in which deaf children are taught. I can tell the House from personal experience of the difficulties that school faces even with the extra funding it gets as a disadvantaged school. I can tell the House of the simple facilities the deaf unit lacks. The facilities are needed to bring deaf children to an education level equal to that of children who can hear. It is largely a matter of lack of Commonwealth funding.
Schools Commission funds for special education - and the kids I am talking about are in this area - for 1981 are at the same real level as in 1980. The Government, the Educational Department and the Schools Commission have expressed agreement with the principle that children should be educated in the least segregated or restrictive environment compatible with the highest quality provision of education. The Schools Commission pointed out in its report of July 1976- this was a long while ago- that there was a need for: the partial or complete integration from this segregated situation into normal classes and the provision of assistance and support to classroom teachers to enable them better to meeet the needs of these children and of others threatened with failure in that situation.
That Commission in its 1979-81 triennium report said that the general position is that special assistance should be provided in the least segregated or restrictive environment compatible with the highest quality provision for students having special needs, and in circumstances which offer maximum opportunity to operate in and be accepted by mainstream society. This position has led it also to specify that funds might be used to assist the maintenance in regular classrooms of students who, without that assistance, would be placed in a special facility or class.
No extra funds or provision for resource personnel in normal schools were provided in this Budget to allow or to encourage these schools to accept handicapped students into normal classes. Schools which enrolled handicapped students had to make provision from their existing resources. On 20 August 1980 the Minister announced:
As a new policy proposal in 1980-81, an additional Sim will be provided under the Schools Commission’s Special Education Program for the extra staff resources required to allow the integration of a further 300 handicapped children into normal schools.
That is a mere pittance. The number of children requiring this segregation into normal schools runs into tens of thousands, not three hundreds.
As a closing gesture I ask the Minister, for whom I might say we on this side of the House have considerable regard, to have another look at the lack of money in this area. These young Australians have a sufficiently large battle because of their physical handicaps, whether they are slightly intellectually handicapped, whether they are deaf or whatever the physical defect they might have. Unless they get streamed into the mainstream of classroom education - unless they can have this advantage - they will always be behind the eight ball. I would suggest to the Minister, with the greatest respect, that this is one area in which a great deal of money would not be required in order to advantage these children. If the Minister can find a few more million dollars to do this I would think even more highly of him than I do now.
-The cognate debate on these two machinery Bills provides the House with an opportunity to address the two major concerns frequently expressed about education in this country- the undermining of our tertiary education institutions and the Schools Commission. Both are deliberate Government policy. Highlighting the Government’s attitude to education is the conviction of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that education and not the Government is responsible for youth unemployment.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)The original question was: That this Bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Bonython has moved, as an amendment, that all words after ‘that’ be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The immediate question is: That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.
– I want to indicate on behalf of the
Government that we will be opposing the amendment to the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Bill and the foreshadowed amendment to the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Bill. I want to indicate this at the outset because the Government has given very careful consideration to the capital needs of schools, colleges of advanced education, colleges of technical and further education and universities. As a result of that very careful consideration and after taking into consideration the advice of the Schools Commission and the Tertiary Education Commission, the amounts that are proposed in the legislation before the House are considered–
– Mr Minister, I want to be tolerant with you, but the facts are–
-Order! Does the honourable member wish to raise a point of order?
– Yes. Under normal circumstances, if the Government Whip had permitted the honourable member for Griffith to speak for a few minutes we would have had no objection to the Minister rising and replying. But the Government Whip actually put the gag, which means that the Minister should not be permitted to speak in reply to the second reading debate. We are prepared to allow the Minister to speak on the second reading of this Bill if my colleague the honourable member for Griffith is given a couple of minutes to speak.
-The honourable member for Reid is quite right. When I put the amendment the honourable member for Griffith will have the opportunity to speak to the question that the Bill be read a second time. I am sorry; it is not in order for the Minister to speak at this stage. The immediate question which I must now put, is: That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-The question now is: That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I do not want to delay the proceedings of the House. I spoke to the Government Whip, the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier), I spoke to the Minister for Education (Mr Fife) and I spoke to the Opposition Whip, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). We came to an agreement in respect of this matter. I had intended to make a very important speech this evening. Unfortunately our time for debate is limited because of the need to consider the reports of the Estimates committees. I do not wish to disturb the House by speaking at great length. I would like to read a quotation from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), and then I will sit down. As I was saying, the Prime Minister blamed education for youth unemployment. The Prime Minister, in a speech to the Victorian State Council of the Liberal Party on 27 July 1980, said:
It is the responsibility of Australian schools to develop the qualities and talents of all Australian students: To find something that each student can do well. I doubt that most of our schools are meeting that standard at this time. To the extent that they are not, I regard the school system as failing young Australians. As a result, many are inadequately prepared for the transition from school to work.
That might explain why total Commonwealth expenditure on education has fallen in real terms by 1.17 per cent since last year. It might explain why, since last year, real expenditure on universities is down by 8.8 per cent, schools spending by one-quarter of one per cent, and total assistance for students by 4.5 per cent. The Prime Minister’s revelation that education is responsible for unemployment might also explain why real expenditure in the last five years is down by 51 per cent for capital and recurrent grants. I finish on that note.
– in reply - I will not repeat all of what I said earlier; but I want to indicate very quickly again that the Government will be opposing the amendment that has been moved on behalf of the Opposition and the Opposition’s foreshadowed amendment. The reason for our opposition is that we gave very careful consideration to the needs of all sectors of education before the introduction of this legislation and we are convinced that the funds provided will be adequate to meet all those requirements. I remind the House that we are not debating tonight the recurrent expenses of universities and colleges of advanced education. That legislation is already in place for the triennium, and honourable members will be aware that the funds to be provided in 1981 will be the same as in 1980 in real terms, that is, after allowing for the inflation factor. I take issue with the previous speaker, the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Humphreys), who indicated that in his view there had been a cutback in the funds being provided in 1981 for new capital works in colleges of advanced education, the technical and further education area, and universities. Of course, that is not in accordance with the facts. The amounts prescribed in the legislation are at least equal in real terms to the amounts provided in 1 980, and in some instances the amounts have been increased.
In the same context, might 1 also say that this is happening at a time when student numbers have either stabilised or have declined. In the government school sector, for example, whilst the same amount of money in real terms is being provided for 1981 as was povided for 1980, there has been an increase on a per capita basis. The enrolments projection indicates that there will be some 23,000 fewer students next year than there were in 1980. I also draw attention to the fact that the Opposition’s approach in this debate to the question of education seems to be a dollar approach. It identifies a deficiency or problem and indicates that this deficiency or problem can be tackled in only one way, that is, by providing additional dollars. Opposition members were at great pains during the debate to misrepresent the situation and to indicate that there had been severe overall cutbacks when, as I have indicated, the fact is that in every sector the amounts to be provided in 1981 are at least the same in real terms as those provided in 1980, and in some instances there has been an increase in real terms.
I think that the Opposition needs to be reminded that governments in Australia - that is, State governments and the Commonwealth Government this year - collectively will spend in excess of $6,000m on education. That is an increase in real terms of about 6 per cent over the past three years, which is a very significant increase, particularly at a time when student numbers have either stabilised or are declining. It is also interesting to reflect that in 1980-81 Commonwealth outlays on education will be of the order of 8 per cent of total Budget outlays for the Commonwealth of Australia. Of course, 10 years ago the Commonweal th was providing only about 4 per cent of its Budget outlays in this vital area.
I do not want to detain the House when other business needs to be dealt with urgently tonight but I want very briefly to re-emphasise that no cutbacks are proposed for 1981. Indeed, the reverse is the position. I also draw attention to what was said by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown) in relation to special education. He quite properly pointed out that this was an area of need and of high priority. I thought for a moment that he was not going to mention the increase that has been provided, but he thought better of it and put it in toward the tail end of his speech. I forgive him for overlooking that point in the early part of his speech, but I do say to him and to the House that I am deeply conscious, as is the Government, of the needs in this area and those needs will continue to be addressed by us and supported.
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 Fife) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 August, on motion by Mr Fife:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move:
That all words after That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not opposing the Bill, the House is of the opinion that (a) an extra grant of $2 million in December 1979 prices for equipment in universities and colleges, and (b) an extra grant of $16 million in December 1979 prices for recurrent funding of technical and further education colleges should be provided for the year 1 98 1 ‘.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-The original question was: That the Bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Bonython has moved as an amendment that all words after That’ be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question now is: That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fife) read a third time.
– I present the seventeenth report of the Publications Committee sitting in conference with the Publications Committee of the Senate.
– This is your last speech too. Farewell!
– I doubt that it will be my last speech. I am quite sure I will be back before the end of this year.
– Hear, hear!
– I thank the Minister for his support. Copies of the report have been circulated to honourable members in the chamber.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed from 28 August, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Willis had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not opposing the second reading, this House condemns the Fraser Government for presenting a budget which continues the discredited economic strategy of the past 4 years, a strategy which has produced -
1 ) a rate of economic growth per capita less than half the average rate for all OECD countries,
a substantial increase in the level of unemployment,
an interest rate regime which has increased substantially this year and will clearly go on increasing,
a rate of inflation which is substantially higher than at the time of the last election and which is steadily increasing,
taxation rates which are the highest in our history,
a decline in the living standards of the great majority of the Australian people, with the decline being most severe for those on the lowest incomes and
intensified social division and conflict by inequitably redistributing income and wealth, and calls for the adoption of an alternative strategy to revive economic activity and reduce unemployment, inflation and inequity as advocated by the Opposition’.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Willis’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Consideration of Report of Estimates Committee A
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I suggest that when considering each of the reports of Estimates committees A, B, C and D the House consider together the proposed expenditures and any resolutions which are covered in the respective reports. This procedure has been discussed with the Opposition which has raised no objection to what is proposed.
– Is it the wish of the House that we adopt the procedure suggested by the Minister? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed. The question before the House is:
That the following proposed expenditures be agreed to:
Proposed expenditure, $20,246,000
Department of Foreign Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $647,434,000
Postal and Telecommunications Department
Proposed expenditure, $230,874,000
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Proposed expenditure, $60,252,000
Department of Administrative Services
Proposed expenditure, $392,960,000
Proposed expenditure, $102,965,000
Department of Defence
Proposed expenditure, $3,194,287,000 and that the resolution agreed to by Committee A in relation to the Parliament be noted, namely:
That the Speaker be requested early in the 32nd Parliament to convene a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee or such other group of parliamentarians as may be determined in consultation with the respective party leaders- (a) to review (i) the sessional orders of the House with respect to legislation and Estimates committees, and (ii) the role and efficacy of those sessional orders and (b) to make recommendations as to their role, function and structure in the 32nd Parliament.
– I place on record my absolute disgust at the way these committees have been run.
– You didn’t turn up to half of them.
– The honourable member for Bendigo just said that we did not turn up to half of them.
-Order! There should be no interjections from the honourable member for Bendigo. The honourable member for Melbourne will take no notice of interjections. The honourable member for Bendigo should not be parading around the chamber and making interjections. I call the honourable member for Melbourne.
– I advise the House that I have three areas of responsibility, three shadow portfolios, and some genius from the other side of the House organised it so that the committees dealing with those three portfolios were to meet on the same day, at the same time. Surely that must be a world record. It seems that to have committees conducted in such a way that the Opposition can partiticpate would be the end of the earth. Government members should not come in here talking about how the Opposition has not cooperated. In reality, it was never intended to have these estimates debated at all; they have been a farce from beginning to end. Nevertheless, we have to make some comment. My colleagues wish to make some contribution in regard to the report of Committee A. It is on record that the Opposition believes the procedures which have been adopted have been absolutely disgusting.
One of my responsibilities involves the Postal and Telecommunications Department. Its books are in a pretty bad state. Australia Post has served notice of the likelihood of fee rises in all areas except registered mail. Standard article rates will rise if the Australian Postal Commission’s expectations of cost increases are not accurate. I remind the House that Australia Post made an identical statement last year and that on 31 March this year standard postal rates rose by 10 per cent, thereby proving the inadequacy of the Commission’s cost forecasting. Telecom Australia probably will raise telephone installation fees this year. The only contribution the Government Whip can make is to get Government members out of the chamber, as he is doing at the moment. Other areas of interest have been raised.
– I am trying to get someone in to listen to you.
– Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will kindly contain himself. I do not appreciate shouts echoing across the chamber for any reason at all. The honourable member for Melbourne will address the Chair.
– I must remind honourable members of Telecom’s expenditure. The possibility of installation fee increases might be an insult to the intelligence of many people who see the profits of Telecom in its annual reports. I suggest to the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott), one of whose portfolios concerns this area, that we should not squander $6,500,000 or thereabouts to update the Norfolk Island Airport. That money would be better spent- as the Opposition would do- in ensuring that the pensioners of this country have telephone installations at a minimised cost in line with the principle that they be given every opportunity to have a means of communication.
Telecom recently increased fees for operator connected service calls, such as person-to-person or reverse charge calls. Any person listening tonight who owns a telephone might And those increases hard to justify if they flick to the page of the directory listing them. There they will And that if they had access to subscriber trunk dialling- as most consumers do- such a call is inordinately expensive, as it is charged for in three ways. There is a charge for service and a charge for using an operator placed call rather than an
STD call. Sometimes a service is not available through STD. A further impost is being charged for day time STD rates at any time, day or night. Telecom has further rises in store for telegram prices, which is a deliberate attempt to phase telegram services out of existence. Telecom continues to raise the price of telegrams and, accordingly, people in rural areas will suffer. Australia Post has the intention of doing away with services which involve railway sorting of mail. The provision of quick access to postal services will not be available.
Ten minutes to cover the whole field of post and telecommunications is a farce. My colleagues want to be involved as well, so I would like to use the little time available to me to talk about one of the most important but least reported events in Australia in the last several months. I refer to the formation of a new consortium by 11 of Australia’s most powerful and influential companies. This consortium will operate in the telecommunications field and I have no hesitation in expressing the view that it will be a threat to public interests in the Australian communications industry. The new consortium’s formation at this time is no coincidence and is almost certainly linked to the Fraser Government’s intentions to allow its business sector mates into the control and financial operation of the domestic communications satellite.
The consortium includes Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd and CSR Ltd, two of the biggest conglomerates in the nation, as well as the Myer Emporium Ltd, the Australian Mutual Provident Society, Ampol Petroleum Ltd, James Industries, Australian Consolidated Industries Ltd and Thomas Nationwide Transport Pty Ltd. The inclusion of a data processing company, IBM Australia Ltd; a media conglomerates offshoot, Kerry Packer’s Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd; and an electronics manufacturer, the AWA company, in the new consortium must be noted to put the whole scheme into perspective. The consortium represents both expertise and user interests for satellite communications. I predict that the consortium or an affiliate will bid for equity when the Federal Government starts selling off its satellite project. The inclusion of private corporate interests in the satellite threatens the welfare of Australians. Usage and service priorities of the satellite system will be turned away from public priorities towards those of big business. Private participation in the satellite represents a step in the direction of commerical national television networking, a threat towards potential satellite public broadcasting and a probable rise in satellite telephony costs for remote users.
Honourable members should make no bones about it; the Australian Labor Party would prevent private penetration into the nation’s telecommunications system. Communications are a national asset. A public monopoly was established with good reason in 1905 and Labor would continue with the common carrier principle. I see the potential inclusion of large user groups in the ownership and control of the satellite as a dangerous thing. Clearly such groups have vested and conflicting interests; they will wish to minimise costs to themselves as users, but maximise profits as operators. That will lead to higher charges for groups of users which do not have the power to defend themselves, such as telephone customers, itinerant data traffickers and perhaps public authorities. I do not believe the published objectives of Business Telecommunications Services are all that there is to be known on this issue. The published objective of researching and defining the long term telecommunication needs of Australian business is a rather vague purpose for a consortium of 11 of Australia’s most powerful corporations.
If BTS and its backers have no intention of taking equity in the satellite then I have no objection to the consortium’s formation. It is an unpalatable but unavoidable fact of life that large and powerful companies will lobby governments to achieve results favourable to their purpose. If it is a reality that such a consortium could participate in the general direction of establishing arid developing technology as well as developing the wherewithal and employing the people who would support and maintain it, then it ought to be controlled by an authority which would curtail its interest to participation at that level, not to owning, controlling and administering, which is the attitude of the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson). He stood over the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley), took the matter to Cabinet and got its approval to ensure that the consortium would make inroads into the control and administration of the satellite. If one starts to talk about communications in this country and examines the track record of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, one will see that the whole matter is in conflict.
The Opposition is not opposed to the satellite per se. But when the Opposition sees consortiums of this nature being developed or coming into existence it wonders where they will start and where they will finish. I can assure consumers of telecommunications in this country that a Labor
Government will not tolerate the consortium. It will play its role in participating in industrial research and design to assist industry in this country. Believe me, Mr Deputy Speaker, the common carrier principle will prevail under a Labor government. In the next few months we will give effect to that principle. Once again, I condemn the Government for its attitude in having this type of Budget debate because it is an absolute disgrace.
– The honourable member’s time has expired. Before I call the honourable member for Holt, I remind people sitting in the public gallery that they are not entitled to talk to honourable members. Will honourable members please pay attention to Standing Orders in that regard.
– The object of the Estimates committees has been to examine the millions of dollars of public money that will be appropriated to the various departments of state. Those Estimates committees are new to this House and have fulfilled a useful purpose. I was a member of Estimates Committee A and I make the point that the Estimates committees cannot succeed unless all members of Her Majestys Opposition participate. It was surprising to attend that committee which dealt with the Department of Industrial Relations and find that no members of Her Majesty’s Opposition were interested in the subject. I would have thought that they would have been interested in industrial relations matters. I work in an area where I have to cope with industrial relations. I would have thought that anybody who knew the area of Dandenong and the electorate of Holt would have understood that the subject of industrial relations is important and one that any honourable member of this House with any integrity would have liked to examine.
– Order! I indicate to the honourable member for Holt that the House is not discussing the report of Estimates Committee C which includes the Department of Industrial Relations. Perhaps he is talking to the motion on whether this committee system should continue. Am I correct in presuming that?
– May I discuss the report from Estimates Committee A?
– Yes, but the honourable member cannot discuss industrial relations per se.
– I apologise to the Chair. I will discuss industrial relations in my second address to the House. It seems to me that the whole system we have adopted in relation to foreign affairs will fall apart unless we can get more co-operation from both sides of the House in dealing with this important matter on which millions of dollars are spent. We understand quite well the report that has been received in relation to the Department of Foreign Affairs. But honourable members on both sides of the House must adjust their minds to work on these Estimates committees if we are to make them valuable. That is why I want to talk tonight about Estimates Committee A which dealt with the estimates of the Department of Foreign Affairs. I was a member of that Committee and I happened to attend the meetings of other committees also. One serious problem arose in respect of foreign affairs. If Radio Australia broadcasts all over the south-east Pacific and into China, it will be necessary for some members of the Department of Foreign Affairs to respond to the replies that arise out of the broadcasts of Radio Australia. Estimates Committee A which dealt with the Department of Foreign Affairs was perfectly correct in asking about Radio Australia broadcasts. It sought to ascertain the reaction of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) to replies sent to the embassies. The Committee went into this in great detail. It is heartening to know that the Department of Foreign Affairs will appoint information officers to various embassies in the Far East so that when Radio Australia does commence broadcasts and letters come in to the embassies from people in the area, they will receive some response.
I should like to comment about the officers in attendance at the Estimates committee hearings. I feel that too many members of the Public Service were in attendance. I would have thought that the appropriate Minister and three or four officers from his department could have managed the work. Nevertheless, this House is in the early stages of examining the millions of dollars which are spent by this country. At least we have made a start in examining some of the matters which are of pressing interest to almost every Australian. Therefore, this debate serves a very valuable purpose. At least we are trying to examine how public money is spent in the various departments.
– We have only 10 minutes each in which to discuss the report of Estimates Committee A which examined the estimates of a number of very important departments, not the least of which were the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney-General’s Department.
– There was plenty of time in the Committee.
– We did not have plenty of time during the Committee hearing.
That shows the ignorance of the honourable member for Macarthur. We had about 40 minutes to discuss the estimates for the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. I think that is the best we could have achieved because of the time factor. I do not know why the honourable member for Macarthur does not address his remarks to reports from committees on which the honourable member served. He was not a member of Estimates Committee A. I want to make the point -
– There wasn’t a Labor man there most times I was there.
-I do not know why the honourable member for Macarthur has to be completely inaccurate all the time. It would be a change if we could hear the truth. Law reform is a matter of extreme urgency. This Government cannot do any more about it because it has now announced that it will go to the polls in 37 days’ time.
– Hear, hear!
– Hear, hear! I should like to make a comparison. I am reminded by a scientist that 37 days is about the life expectancy of a brown blowfly. Nobody wants to be associated with a brown blowfly. It we use that comparison in the parlance of a Pickering cartoon, the Government is out of business with that sort of creature around it. It is a severe indictment of the Government that it did not do much better in law reform. I want to make the point that the Government had had ample opportunities to pass many effective laws which would not have cost anything. I am referring to laws such as the full disclosure of financial interests and standards of conduct by Ministers, members of parliament, senior public servants and the Australian judiciary; laws which would require political parties to disclose donations, and an effective freedom of information legislation to provide maximum disclosure about government processes to the public. The human rights area is an important one and we should pass effective laws in this area. The Government has done nothing to assist the cause of human rights. I make the point that the law provides we have to assemble again with 120 days which brings us up to 16 January. That is probably not the most appropriate time for the Parliament to resume. I indicate to the House that a Labor Government probably would reassemble the Parliament on or about 2 December and it would introduce these sorts of laws. It would have plenty of time to introduce the laws and it would not take five years.
– You cannot do it unless the writs are returned.
– The writs will be returned by then unless the Minister for Home Affairs objects to certain counts which I understand he has done in the past. I think we will be able to get by. Organised crime is a severe problem and plenty of action needs to be taken to prevent it. One of the most important things is to help young offenders when they appear before courts. Effective programs should be introduced in that respect. I would think that the Greek social security frauds case would not be proceeded with under a Labor government. I make that very clear. A Labor government would take advice from Crown law officers.
– You would have to get advice.
– A Labor government would get advice. When we take into account the outrageous costs of that case - it has cost about $4m - it is a matter that ought to be considered seriously. A Labor government would be anxious to guarantee that a judicial audit would be carried out into the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to ensure that it complied with its charter, operated within the law and was responsible to government. A Labor government would also consider - I think it is appropriate- altering the Australian Constitution so as to provide a fixed term for Parliament. The Parliament would not then be faced with the nonsense it was faced with tonight when the Government made a surprise announcement about when the election will be held. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) knew some time ago when the election would be held. That is the sort of nonsense we have to put up with. Of course, if we look at it from the point of view of guaranteeing a fixed term, provided that the Government retained the confidence of the House -
– You would have to have some conditions.
– It would need to have the confidence of the House. Let me make this point to the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott), who is at the table and who is showing keen interest: We have had a number of elections since 1969. We have had elections in 1969, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1977 and 1980. In other words, we have been going to the polls twice as frequently as was originally intended and therefore there are important constitutional provisions involved. Surely the Australian people will agree that we need some stability in the Parliament.
We also want to guarantee that when a royal commission on drug problems makes 246 recommendations, we do something about them. When the Williams Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs was debated the other day the Minister said that he had implemented 59 of the 246 recommendations. He had, but they were a minor 59. The major recommendations were to alter the existing legislation in the fields of Customs, immigration and taxation. They were matters in respect of which Mr Justice Williams recommended changes in the law, but nothing has been done. The Labor Party would not just be sitting on reports, it would be doing something about them and altering laws as a matter of urgency in accordance with the recommendations. We would create a special unit of the Australian Federal Police to enforce drug trafficking laws throughout Australia. We would be co-ordinating and cooperating with State police forces in that regard.
In the four minutes left to me I shall talk about foreign affairs.
– Did you issue a paper on that too?
-I did. As a matter of fact I spoke about it at the University of New South Wales. It met with unanimous approval of the concept that we ought to have some stability in government and so that it is not left to the whim of a Governor-General to dismiss a government.
– That means you have got to get rid of the Senate.
– We do not have to get rid of the Senate. We can organise some arrangements for the Senate.
– It is a very complex amendment.
– Not really. No.
– I do not want to interrupt; I am sorry.
– The Minister has done pretty well up to date. The question is: What should we be doing in a number of sensitive areas in foreign affairs? I mention again the recognition of the genocidal maniac Pol Pot, which is doing us no good in the world. Our recognition of him destroys our credibility as we are recognising a person who has destroyed 3,500,000 of his own people. The Government is trying to justify that recognition on the basis that the Vietnamese are still in Kampuchea. If the Vietnamese were to withdraw, who would save the remnants of the Kampuchean people from Pol Pot? That problem should be looked at first. Those of us who have been to the refugee camps along the border with Thailand know full well that the Kampuchean refugees are more fearful of Pol Pot than anybody else. If they were to return under his regime they would be destroyed. The man should be tried as a war criminal and here we are giving him recognition. In the forthcoming weeks we will guarantee that he gets a place in the United Nations. On what basis are we doing this? Is it to help China? That appear to be the issue.
Let us be very clear about it. As Australians why do we not tell the Chinese that we do not favour that sort of insidious support. It does nothing for peace in the region. It has done nothing for mankind or human rights and it does nothing to help the cause of peace for the people in the region. We should be giving aid to Vietnam and to all the areas that need aid. We should not be following the policies of other countries on the basis that they are best for Australia. We are getting ourselves into a dreadfully weak situation. The recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting which the Prime Minister reported to the Parliament on made no substantial progress in that area. We do not have to take our foreign policies from Lee Kuan Yew or anybody else. They are not really interested in Australia and they have the audacity to suggest that we are a team of loafers. When honourable members think of what our servicemen went through to support causes that guaranteed the existence of Singapore, they can imagine what Australians think of that sort of talk.
– You are right.
-I am glad to know that the honourable member supports me. What is more important is that in South Korea there has been an oppressive regime for a long while. Such regimes always talk about free trade. They say: Let us get the workers in and make them work for a dollar a day; make them work under the barrel of a gun because we are going to make progress and economic development’. Kim Dae Jung has now been recommended for execution by the prosecution at a trial taking place in South Korea. His only crime was to defend human rights in South Korea and to oppose President Park, who was determined to get rid of him. Unfortunately, President Park was assassinated. Kim Dae Jung was able to tell me 12 months ago: ‘They will assassinate me if they do not execute me, Mr Bowen, because I am in the way*. He said: ‘Will you go to the United states and tell President Carter to use his leverage? He has 35,000 troops holding the line here. Ask President Carter to use that leverage to guarantee human, political and civil rights in South Korea’, Now this man’s life is in jeopardy.
I urge this Government, which has done nothing, to take immediate action and severely criticise the South Korean regime. I want it to indicate that it will employ boycotts and trade sanctions against South Korea if that country dares infringe the liberty of this man, whose life is probably going to be extinguished because there are other hoodlums who get in power who believe that if they exterminate people, they will bring about peace and prosperity. The Government must do more than say: ‘We have done all we can*. We want some practical result in this matter
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Among the estimates we are considering are those for the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Defence. During the past five years this Government has had to wrestle with very serious economic problems; yet it has still been able to increase its commitment to defence and to broaden and develop our own independent foreign policies. When we came into government we found an economy that was almost bankrupt. That had its effect upon the defence capability of this country as well as the very serious effect upon general economy growth. I am quite sure that the hard won gains of the past five years will be recognised by the Australian people at the election on 18 October. They know that as well as again introducing policies that would lead to a serious economic downturn, the Australian Labor Party would have a very detrimental effect upon the defence policies and the security of this country.
The estimates include very welcome increases in expenditure in the Department of Defence and they include appropriate matters for the Department of Foreign Affairs. I think it is very important that we should strive in this country to find a substantial bipartisan basis for foreign affairs and defence policies. That does not mean that there should not be debate, but surely we can obtain a consensus on the basic ways in which Australia should develop its foreign policies and surely there should be a consensus on the need for national security and strong national defence. Surely on vital matters affecting our future we should not have fundamental divisions between the major political parties. It causes me deep concern to listen to or to read reports of statements recently made by the Opposition about our major ally, the United States of America. The Opposition has stated through the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) that it will repudiate agreements entered into between Australia and the United States for certain American naval forces to operate in our waters or to use Australian bases. Those people in Australia who wish us to have what were formerly called great and powerful friends have to accept the fact that those powerful friends, if we need their assistance, will have to bring into the region powerful systems of support.
To say that we will not allow American naval ships to enter our ports because they are nuclear powered just defies all logic. To say that we will not allow ships to enter Australian waters because they may be carrying nuclear weapons simply defies the facts of modern life. The Soviet Union is attempting to expand its power throughout the world. It is determined to extend its dominion wherever it is able to do so. It does not really matter whether it has a planned program of world domination, as some people say, or whether it is prepared to take advantage of every opportunity that arises, as some other people would say. The end result is the same. The Soviet Union will, if it is able to do so, dominate the world in accordance with its Marxist-Leninist philosophy.
It is important to note what a recent British White Paper said. It is an extraordinary document in that it was produced basically by Government departments which ordinarily are apolitical. The Government of Britain set its seal on the document, but it is basically a White Paper. It pointed out that it is a basic tenet of Marxist-Leninist philosophy that communism will ultimately be extended to every nation and that its spread should be promoted, if necessary by military means, when the circumstances are right. If the Soviets get the opportunity to gain a warm water port on the Indian Ocean, they will do so.
Anybody with any knowledge of the history of the Afghanistan area knows that the Soviets are trying now to stir up trouble amongst the Baluchis. The Baluchi tribes live in certain parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. If the Soviets can get a national Baluchi Liberation Front going and set up a puppet liberation movement or a puppet government, they will be able to control the Baluchi area and to set up a front country called Baluchi which would have a 700 or 800 mile coastline on the Indian Ocean. Then there would be a Soviet puppet state, with all that that implies - including Soviet bases - on the rim of the Indian Ocean. From where would we seek assistance? Are we to tell the Americans: ‘Go home. Take your ships away. Do not support us. We do not want you at HMAS Stirling”! Are we to do that? That is what the Labor Party has said. It has said that if in government it would repudiate the agreement between Australia and the United States in relation to the use of bases and ships.
Recently the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, a committee which, I think, has provided a valuable insight into these matters, took evidence in Perth. It took evidence to the effect that in the last few years nine American nuclear powered submarines had been to the base at HMAS Stirling with hardly a protest from the citizens of Perth. Apparently one fellow rowed out in a boat and waved a flag in protest against the submarines. But I point out to the House that those submarines were almost certainly nuclear armed and were accepted by the public in Western Australia who want to see American ships using the base. They want to see them visiting Western Australia. The Labor Party’s saying that it would repudiate those agreements simply means that it has thrown away any opportunity of winning a seat in Western Australia and that our good Western Australian colleagues, including the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr), will be back. We will probably even win extra seats in that State. The same situation will apply in the eastern States.
I well remember a few years ago wishing to visit the United States Enterprise in Sydney Harbour. What happened? The Wran Labor Government refused to allow it to enter the harbour. Some years before, when another government was in power, the Enterprise had visited Sydney Harbour. On the most recent visit honourable members who wished to visit that vessel in the course of parliamentary duties - in this case as members of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee - had to go to Hobart to do so because the Tasmanian Labor Government was prepared to welcome the Enterprise with open arms. I pay credit to that State Labor Government under Mr Lowe. The Labor Party is split on the issue at the State level. At the Federal level the left wing has got hold of the party. Only this week a representative of the Socialist Left wrote in a newspaper that Australia, like Iran, should wake up to the fact that the United States is our enemy. That is the socialist Left of the Labor Party in print. If I am not mistaken, the person who wrote that works for a member of the Labor Party. I am subject to correction because I am not sure of the situation in Victoria, but the fellow who wrote that is a prominent member of the left wing of the Labor Party which has dominated the Labor Party’s foreign policy and which is leading it into these anti-American declarations and into the repudiation of agreements. The Australian people will never wear this.
Then we had the disgraceful decision by the Labor Party that in government it would resume foreign aid to the Government of Vietnam which poured 20 divisions across the border of Kampuchea and attacked that country. My views on the Pol Pot regime are a matter of public record in this House, going back, I think, to 10 October 1979. I absolutely abhor the Pol Pot regime, but there can be no sanction of the Vietnamese invasion of that country. For the Labor Party to say that it would renew aid is a sellout of all the principles of democracy that we in Australia stand for and of the principle of the inviolability of nations. The Labor Party is giving succour and welcome support to that country which attacked another country with naked aggression. I commend the Government for its increase in defence expenditure and I call on the Labor Party to join us in a basically bipartisan foreign policy approach to the future of Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Before I call another honourable member, I remind the honourable member for Melbourne that if he insists on quietly saying ‘fascist, fascist’, I will be forced to deal with him. I call the honourable member for Lalor.
– Mr Deputy Speaker–
-I called the honourable member for Lalor.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Should we not get the call now? They cannot make up their minds.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– I defer to the honourable member for Prospect.
– I think the House would have been more impressed by the speech of the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), his valedictory address in this House, if there were not so much hypocrisy associated with anti-Russian statements by this Government. Let me point out two things. Exactly one year ago–
-Order! I guess that I had better sit down the honourable member for Prospect and be consistent with the Speaker’s ruling. I point out that the use of the word ‘hypocrisy’ is unparliamentary. I request him not to use it.
-I withdraw. It is the hypocrisy of this Government because the honourable member–
-I complained about the use of language.
– The honourable member for St George obviously has not much influence on this Government if the views which he expressed in this chamber tonight are the views which he puts forward to the Government.
-I do not want to interrupt the honourable member for Prospect, but he did not apply the word ‘hypocrisy’ to the honourable member for St George. He applied it to the Government on the first occasion. I am asking him not to use that sort of unparliamentary term - and I did not ask him to withdraw.
-I would be very pleased if, after I explain what I mean, Mr Deputy Speaker, you could offer me an alternative word.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Did the Chair call the honourable member for Lalor first or not?
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Lalor resumed his seat and the honourable member for Prospect remained standing.
– The only point I make is that 12 months ago the House received a report on human rights in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. That report contained a large number of recommendations. This Government undertook to make a positive reply to that report within six months. Twelve months have elapsed since then. During those 12 months Government supporters have made very many speeches about the Soviet Union and the Government has quadrupled trade with the Soviet Union. I agree with the honourable member for St George on the issue of giving aid to certain countries which behave towards other countries in an aggressive fashion. But if we do not believe in giving aid to Vietnam, the position does not change when Vietnam is able to pay for the trade. As far as I am concerned, there is no moral justification for selling to countries goods which we are not prepared to give them if they behave in an objectionable fashion. I am in favour of banning trade with countries which invade other countries, and on many occasions the Opposition has stated the same proposition. Honourable members opposite argue that we should criticise those countries and deal with them. Yet when it comes to that point the Government sells those countries more, buys more from them and then talks big about dealing with them. Trade is quadrupled.
I now will get down to the point that I wanted to make. I want to criticise this Government for its handling of the estimates of the Department of Administrative Services. Amongst other agencies the Department of Administrative Services runs the Government Information Unit, the Government Parties Support Secretariat and State Coordination Officers. I think it is the first time ever in this Parliament there has been a blatant expenditure on political items such as the Government Parties Support Secretariat. Something of the order of half a million dollars is proposed to be spent by this Government on straightforward political campaigning. I am all in favour of public funding for elections. I think it is a reasonable proposition to have public funding for elections.
– A total tragedy.
– The honourable member for Lilley says that it is a total tragedy. I am prepared to argue with him on that matter. Surely it is wrong, if one opposes the public funding of elections, to spend half a million dollars on party political work just for the coalition parties. There is a half a million dollars expenditure involved and there is no justification for it whatsover. This Government is spending the money. Let us compare that secretariat - as Government members have tried to do - with the New South Wales Government’s monitoring services branch which does a similar sort of work. The important difference between the New South Wales unit and the Federal unit is that the New South Wales monitoring services branch provides the electronic clipping services and other services to each and every member of the New South Wales Parliament. The information provided by the Government Information Unit, the Government Parties Support Secretariat and the State Coordination Officers paid for by this Government goes only to Ministers. That is wrong. I hope honourable members on the other side of the House see that it is wrong. That is not the only place where the Government falls down in using the Public Service and public funding for its own political benefit.
In November 1978 in an answer to a question on notice, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said:
It is also the long standing convention . . . that Ministers do not require public servants to involve themselves in party political issues.
Public servants who feel that a particular request is contrary to the concept of a non-partisan Public Service are free to raise the matter with their Permanent Head and the Permanent Head with the Minister.
That answer is to be found on page 2790 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 14 November. The Government and the Prime Minister are using the Public Service continuously for the purposes of politics. The Prime Minister replies to every person who signs petitions and replies to individual letters sent to him, obviously prepared and paid for by the Public Service. That is wrong. Last year the translation staff of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs were asked as a matter of priority to translate the Prime Minister’s weekly electoral talks for the benefit of the ethnic Press. Surely the speech that he gives as an electoral talk quite clearly is a party political broadcast. Yet the translators of the Department were asked to translate it for the benefit of the ethnic Press.
On 1 1 September 1979 the staff of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs were required to write and to put out a Press release attacking Australian Labor Party policy on immigration matters. Since that date the staff has been required to write Press releases. One of the Press releases referred to the ‘ignorance and gullibility of the Opposition’. I think that is wrong.
– Ha, ha!
– Surely the honourable member for Holt, who often refers to the propriety of government, knows that it is wrong for the Public Service to be used for that purpose. In April last year the staff of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs was required to brief Senator Baume on immigration policy for a meeting of the Gordon branch of the Liberal Party. One can go on and on. The Government is continuously using the Public Service for party political purposes. The Government is using taxpayers’ money continuously for that purpose. It is all very well for honourable members to smile. I can think of no word apart from ‘hypocrisy’. Mr Deputy Speaker has informed me that the word ‘hypocrisy’ is an unparliamentary word. I am sure that when I sit down he would have thought of some alternative word to describe the behaviour of the Government parties.
– The honourable member can think of an alternative word.
- Mr Deputy Speaker–
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration of Report of Estimates Committee B
– The question before the House is:
That the following proposed expenditures be agreed to.
Department of Social Security
Proposed expenditure, $346,562,000
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $441,522,000
Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs
Department of the Capital Territory
Proposed expenditure, $84,344,000
Department of Home Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $98,01 8,000
Department of Aboriginal Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $1 17,210,000
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure, $1 , 699,83l , 000
– Before I call the honourable member for Hunter I remind the House that this may well be the honourable member’s swansong. He has had a long and colourful career in this House, much more colourful in years gone by than currently, but that is up to the judgment of honourable members. I am sure the House wishes him well.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am grateful for your indulgence, the indulgence of the Government and Opposition Whips and all party members. I can assure honourable members that this is my swansong. I am not like some honourable members who do not know whether or not they are making their last speech. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has declared that the election will be held on 18 October.
– That was a good speech, Bert. Sit down.
– I thank the honourable member. It is customary, in the interests of all honourable members, for them to drop out of events in the House and to concentrate on their political futures and that of their parties. I have been a member of this Parliament for 20½ years and have enjoyed it immensely. I have enjoyed the friendships I have made although I have offended a few people. I have passionately believed in keeping politics clean. I believe I have made a contribution in that regard.
– Ha, ha!
– I do not think it is a laughing matter. Democracy has to be preserved. Honourable members should set an example in honesty and integrity. Soon after I was elected, I gave an undertaking to my Hunter federal council - which has been repeated on several occasions since then- that the whole of my assets, minimal as they are, and those of my wife and family, are open for scrutiny at any time whilst I remain the member for Hunter. I have represented one of the most powerful Labor electorates in the Commonwealth and it has been a great honour. Tonight culminates just on SO years of my family name representing that electorate. My father - a former coal miner - first became a member of this Parliament in 1928 as the honourable member for Hunter. He remained in that position until 1958 when, due to declining health, he stood down after discussing the matter with his family, particularly me, in order to protect the then controversial Labor leader, the late Dr Evatt, a former High Court Judge and Leader of the Opposition. Surprisingly, Dr Evatt, at his own wish, remained the member for Hunter only from 1958 to 1960. It was not my intention to take up a political career but Dr Evatt persuaded me that I should give it some consideration. As a result of that persuasion, I became the member for Hunter and have had to contest only one pre-selection ballot.
To the people of Hunter, I want to say on behalf of my family and myself that we are deeply grateful to them for the honour they have bestowed upon my family in allowing us to represent that electorate for almost half a century. I do not think that is a record. I think the Watkins family would hold that record. David Watkins became the member for Newcastle at the time of Federation. He was then succeeded by his son, David Watkins, Junior. So the Watkins family would probably hold the record for representing a Federal electorate for the longest period. We are also aware that the late father of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), Larry Anthony, who was spoken of so much in my home by my late father, represented the seat which the Deputy Prime Minister now represents. However, the period he has held that seat does not run to 50 years. I remember names like Frank Brennan, Frank Forde and Chifley, Texas Green–
– Eddie Ward.
– Yes, Eddie Ward, Joe Lyons, Billy Hughes and Stanley Melbourne Bruce who, I think, was the only Prime Minister ever to lose his seat in an election.
– Until this one.
– It could well happen. They were all names synonymous with my teenage years. I have great faith in the integrity of the Labor Party. It was the custom for members representing the Hunter to speak on matters relating to coal and the problems being faced by coal miners. But I think I am entitled to say that the coal miners of Australia today, through the strength of their unions and sympathetic governments, enjoy working conditions equal to or better than those enjoyed by coal miners in other parts of the world. But until only 30 or 50 years ago, I would say that coal miners were the most exploited industrial workers not only in Australia but also in most other parts of the world. I have already said- I say it again- that to all those whom I might have injured through adhering to my principles of keeping politics clean, I apologise. There is one person on whom I think I did drop my punches a little low. I believe that person is a great Australian. I refer to a former Prime Minister, John Gorton. I have said to the Press and to John Gorton personally that I did not anticipate that what I said in the House and which I had read in a magazine in the Parliamentary Library would have reached the proportions it did reach and cause him so much worry and concern. Again, I say to John Gorton: If you hold the view that I hurt you unduly, I apologise. When I first came into this House I copped some torrid times. As chief Crown witness in many criminal cases when I was fighting against very astute and highly paid defence criminal lawyers to protect society I had some torrid times. As I had been bruised myself considerably before I came in here it was not as hard for me as it was for some other honourable members to dish out a bit of what I had copped down through the years.
The issues of war and peace are among my great concerns. One thing that upset me deeply in my 201 years in this Parliament was Australia’s very unfortunate involvement- I am putting this as mildly as I can- in that barbaric war in Vietnam. I am proud of my party’s stand on that issue. I said in the Parliament during debates on that issue that one day my grandchildren or my great grandchildren might want to read where their grandfather or great grandfather stood on that issue. I am proud of my record, if ever it has to be looked up. I am sorry that the then Government took the stand it did. I believe that many members of the Government silently hold the view that I am expressing.
We all believe in adequate defence. Tonight the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) spoke out on this matter. But I am sometimes perturbed when I find that we are going to spend $48m on a No. 1 strike base at Darley in Western Australia, that we will step up the Learmonth base and make vast public expenditure on the Woomera base.
Government members - Hear, hear!
– The brethren opposite should not say ‘Hear, hear!’ until they hear this: The United Nations is sponsoring a conference in Sri Lanka next year in connection with the future and a possible peace zone in the Indian Ocean. I think we are treating that conference with great shabbiness when we step up our defence and surveillance of the Indian Ocean before the outcome of the conference is known.
I will not worry the House much longer other than to say that I hope that one fay- (Extension of time granted). I am grateful for that extension of my speaking time. I hope that one day there will be no necessity for regimes like the Pol Pot regime which we learn has massacred 200,000 people to be invaded by Vietnamese forces to put it down. I hope that a United Nations force composed of troops of the great powers- the Soviet Union, the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain - will go into a country like Kampuchea and say: ‘Pol Pot, you are finished. The world is speaking out against you’. That is the sort of situation that I hope I am spared long enough to see.
We are making steps towards the declaration of assets not only of members of parliament but also of people in positions of trust and the declaration of the pecuniary interests of members of parliament. I wholeheartedly applaud the financing of a national newspaper which will take an impartial view df the government and the opposition. It will be financed out of government funds and, as I say, I wholeheartedly support it. It was one of the aims of the Whitlam Government. We also want to see the continuation or the stepping up of an independent Australian Broadcasting Commission.
The Parliament has been tolerant of me. I am . grateful for the friendships I have made. I am sorry for those whom I might have hurt. I wish the Parliament well. I hope that the next Parliament will be under the leadership of my present leader, Bill Hayden who, I believe, will act in the interests of all Australian people and not just the sectional interests which Government members are sometimes forced to act on behalf of. I thank you for your tolerance, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I thank the Minister and all honourable members for listening to my final speech. I am voluntarily retiring.
– Hear, hear!
– It is my privilege to follow the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) and as a member of this House may I say that he will be missed. His family has made a contribution over many years to the Australian Labor Party and to the electorate. I speak as I find and I must say that there are two areas in respect of which the honourable member for Hunter has been directly involved in matters affecting my electorate of Denison. One relates to the transfer of the Antarctic Division headquarters to Hobart. The honourable member for Hunter was a member of the Standing Committee on Public Works which conducted lengthy hearings in Hobart and on whose report the green light was given to that magnificent project to go ahead.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m. I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I require that the question be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
Consideration of Report of Estimates Committee B
– The other project that the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) was involved in during Public Works Committee hearings was the recent decision to transfer the Antarctic base. This is the SI Om project to which I have referred. He was also present at a later hearing which considered the establishment of the $8.4m Commonwealth Law Courts in Hobart. I thank the honourable member for Hunter, for the attention he gave both to those projects and for the very keen interest he showed in the welfare of the electorate of Denison as a member of the Public Works Committee.
It is my privilege to speak briefly this evening on the estimates approved by Estimates Committee B relating to the Department of Social Security, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the Department of the Capital Territory, the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Health. Because of the restrictions on time I intend to speak mainly on the estimates relating to the Department of Social Security. But I will be making a number of other references to other departments which were considered by our Committee.
I believe the time has come for people in Australia to have a very good look at what governments are doing to protect the family. It is my belief that the family is the basic unit of our community. Whilst we have as a government introduced the family allowance scheme which is regarded by those who are genuinely concerned with the interests of the family as the greatest social justice initiative introduced in this country since Federation, I want to express the view that the time has now come for family allowances to be reviewed and to be increased. When one considers that the current monthly family allowance rates of $15.20 for the first child, $21.70 for the second child, $26 for the third and fourth child and $30.35 for the fifth or subsequent child have not been increased for some three years, one comes to the conclusion that the value has been to some extent eroded. I believe the time has come to rectify this and to rectify it quickly.
Those who were present at the meeting of Estimates Committee B will recall that I asked Mr Wryell, the Deputy Director-General of Social Services, and Mr McAlister, a financial adviser from the Department, what the cost would be to increase the family allowances. The cost works out very roughly at $200m a year for every $1 a week increase in family allowance benefits. Therefore if the intention was to increase every family allowance payment in Australia by $1 a week the cost would be of the order of $220m. If we increased it by $2 a week for every payment the cost would be $440m. If the rate were increased by $3 a week the cost would be in excess of $660m.
I want to make the point, and make it as bluntly as I can, that I believe the resources of Australia can stand an increase in family allowances. I believe there should be an increase and I believe there is a substantive argument for the indexation of family allowances. I have placed before the House a notice of motion. If it is not dealt with before this Parliament adjourns it will be dealt with when the House meets again after the election, when I will be in the House to participate in that debate.
The second matter I want to refer to relates to the current situation in relation to pensions. Many people in Australia forget the fact that with the restoration of the six-monthly indexation of pensions there will be a pension increase in the first pension week of November this year. A double pension for a husband and wife will go up to $106.80 a week. The single rate will go up to $64.10 a week. This once again raises the incredible proposition that two persons not married are favoured under this system as against a married pensioner couple living together. This matter is one of very great concern because, until the recent Budget initiative in relation to people who are either in mental hospitals or in other types of hospitals in which they are unable to cohabit, the indecent pressure that was placed on those couples to divorce in order that their economic situation could be improved was a scandal with which no civilised country can live.
I know of a paraplegic in St John George’s Park Hospital in Hobart whose wife, for economic reasons, is seriously considering a divorce. These people who have lived as man and wife for some 40 years cannot live together again. What sort of system is it, regardless of which party is in power, when that economic pressure can force a married couple who have lived together for 40 years and who can no longer live together to go through the formality of divorce? I urge that this matter be looked at because it is this sort of thing which creates an impression that governments and, indeed, the bureaucracy are not concerned about the family unit. I am concerned about the family unit. Our Government’s commitment to the family unit is recognised by the introduction of the family allowance scheme. I concede that honourable members opposite equally share the view that I propose - that the family unit is the most vital and basic unit in our society today.
I hope we will look at the current system and do something about it. It is totally wrong to force a married couple into a situation of having to divorce for economic reasons. It is totally wrong to perpetrate a system under which those who live together in marriage are economically disadvantaged as against those who are not. I do not raise any moral question. I simply say that to force people into the divorce court so that they can get more money is wrong. I hope someone will do something about it soon.
In the remaining time available to me I want to raise two small but important matters in relation to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Some may say: ‘What is the point of worrying?’ But I think a principle is involved. I believe we are discriminating against British ex-servicemen and the widows of British ex-servicemen in a petty and unnecessary manner. I think it is totally wrong that First World War British Ex-servicemen do not get the benefits in this country that Australian First World War ex-servicemen get. I think it is equally wrong that the widows of Second World War British ex-servicemen are treated less favourably in this country than are the widows of Australian ex-servicemen. My view is that if they have lived here for a reasonable period they should be on a par with Australian beneficiaries. I welcome the decision of the Government to give the same ex-servicemen’s rights to Poles, Czechs and all the other nationals who fought under British command in World War II. We should at least ensure that widows of British ex-servicemen are treated on exactly the same basis as the widows of Australian ex-servicemen from World War II. This is a little anomaly that has slipped through.
The last matter I refer to relates to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I take this opportunity to speak in this Parliament on Noonkanbah. I note that the Opposition spokesman on Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West), is in the chamber. My opportunity to speak on Noonkanbah has been limited by the fact that I have simply not been listed to speak in debates on this subject. But I am a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. I want to say something now and to say it quite seriously in the remaining minute available to me. Whatever one might think about the Noonkanbah situation I want to be heard to say in this Parliament that I have the greatest personal admiration for the current Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Chaney. He is a genuine, sincere and committed man. He is a person who is tremendously concerned about the Aboriginal problem. I want to stand here and say that I believe of all the people involved the one who comes out head and shoulders above all others with a clear conscience, courage, commitment and sincerity is Senator Chaney. I will back him 100 per cent in whatever he decides to do for the benefit of the Aboriginal people not only at Noonkanbah but throughout the Commonwealth of Australia.
– This Government says that it supports selfdetermination for Aboriginals; that it supports racial equality in Australia; and that it stands for the improvement of the material condition of Aboriginals. Yet it remains dependent upon the States - the racist States of Western Australia and Queesland - to administer Federal programs in many socio-economic areas. It makes no real effort to change the financial mix of Commonwealth and State programs by which Federal money is administered in Australia. The Government has also refused to use its Federal powers under the Constitution to effect a settlement at Noonkanbah by acquiring the sacred sites. Senator Chaney, who has just been mentioned by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), says that he stands for negotiation and a compromise settlement, but there is no real chance of that at Noonkanbah while the Court Government continues to adopt a hardline position. Senator Chaney and the Government maintain that Noonkanbah is the exception rather than the rule, but there is no evidence whatsoever to that effect. Already Noonkanbah has had State, national and international repercussions. It is an absolute absurdity for the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to say that it is an exception that proves the rule when it has impinged interstate by reason of two decisions. Firstly, the Aboriginal land councils decided some days ago to halt all negotiations with mining companies until the Noonkanbah issue is settled by removal of the drill. Secondly, the Australian Council of Trade Unions decided to respond to the collusion of the Court Government, Amax and CSR to suppress the Aborigines at Noonkanbah.
It is idle for the honourable member for Denison, Senator Chaney and this Government to say that they stand for self-determination for the Aboriginal people of Australia. This Government has failed the Aboriginal community in Australia and it has failed the Aboriginal community at Noonkanbah. While the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) posed and postured on the world scene, firstly in Africa and secondly in the United States, where he accepted a humanitarian award, a delegation from the National Aboriginal Conference was in Geneva telling the world how this Government treats its indigenous people. This Government claims that in this Budget it has increased expenditure on Aboriginal programs by 19 per cent - up to $138m. To accept that, one has to accept that the $ 10m to the capital investment fund of the Aboriginal Development Commission should be counted as expenditure on Aboriginal programs this year. The fact is that it ought to be taken off the $138m to get the true level of expenditure on Aboriginal programs this year. Of course, it is SI 28m that is available against $121. 6m last year, which represents an overall cut of 7.5 per cent.
A similar situation applies in the key areas of housing, health and employment. There has been an overall cut of 10 per cent in Aboriginal housing programs and an overall cut of 5.6 per cent in Aboriginal health programs. It is true that there has been an expansion of 33 per cent in employment programs, but because the base was so low - $7m annually- still only $ 10.4m will be spent this year, or an extra $3.4m. Similarly, in the area of legal aid the total allocation is $5.3m, which represents a cut in real terms of 4.3 per cent this financial year. Aborigines are the most disadvantaged group in Australia in the areas of housing, health, employment, and particularly legal aid, yet there have been these overall cuts. In the area of housing only 3 per cent of Aboriginal dwellings in Australia are on a par with European standards. A recent survey found that 63 per cent of Aboriginal housing was totally unacceptable.
In the area of Aboriginal health more than one in five aged Aborigines are totally blind. Onethird of aged Aboriginal men and almost half of aged Aboriginal women have sight-threatening trachoma, and in some areas of Australia 30 per cent of Aboriginal children under the age of 11 have active trachoma which will lead eventually to blindness if untreated. One in 28 of the Aboriginal population in some areas of the Northern Territory and Western Australia have contracted leprosy, which has either been arrested or is under current treatment. I was in Port Keats only a month ago, and the sister in charge of the Northern Territory medical service centre at the Aboriginal community there told me that, out of a community of 1,000 people, 60 were on the leprosy register. Of that number, 28 were considered infectious and were under treatment. That is the position in Aboriginal health.
In regard to employment, there is between 50 per cent and 90 per cent unemployment in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia. Dealing with prison statistics, in Queensland Aborigines represent 2 per cent of the general population but 35 per cent of the prison population. In Western Australia Aborigines represent 2.4 per cent of the general population but 41 per cent of the prison population. That comes mainly as a result of their poor socio-economic conditions and a poor grasp of their legal rights. The Government has done very little for them in this Budget.
– Yes. The Government claims that there has been a 50 per cent increase in housing over the last two years, but that is not really true. If it were to be true we would have to take into account the tied grants of $21m last financial year and $22m this year. They represent a percentage of the State welfare general housing grant, which has already been cut by one-eighth from about $550m in real terms four or five years ago to about $75m today. There is a real need to expand the Aboriginal housing associations through Commonwealth grants-in-aid. In all the communities I have visited in the last few months I have found this need. In some communities there is a need for 60 or 70 local dwellings but the Commonwealth grants-in-aid program is producing only enough funds to build three or four houses. There is a need to build something like 14,000 dwellings for Aboriginals over the next 10 years even to get near the demand, but this year only 750 will be constructed. About 1,400 houses a year should be built but the Government is constructing only 750 this year.
In the area of health, the Government has sat on its Program Effectiveness Review report since last March and has refused to release it. On Monday I attended the Estimates committee hearing and spent most of my time trying to get information from the public servants from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner), representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
– What was the result?
– I did not get the information 1 wanted because they were obfuscating.
– Why not?
– They just did not want to give it. The situation is that the Program Effectiveness Review report will recommend that the State grants for Aboriginal health be held steady and that the community-based Aboriginal medical service be expanded, and that is what Labor policy says. I believe that that is what the PER report says, but this Government is sitting on the report. What is more, the governments of Western Australia and the Northern Territory are indicating that they do not want to go on with the trachoma program. Yet areas in Western Australia and the Northern Territory have the highest incidence of trachoma in Australia. The report states that across the Top End of Australia, in those two States the percentage of those under 20 years of age suffering from trachoma which will lead to blindness if left untreated ranges from 38 per cent to 71 per cent. Yet the two State governments are indicating that they do not want to go on with an eminently successful program. When we win office after 18 October we will indicate to these States that the trachoma program will continue and, what is more, we will expand the community-based Aboriginal medical service.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The various, departments dealt with by Estimates Committee B cover roughly, one might say, the area of the welfare state. I think it is of some relevance to reflect on what has happened in that area over a period. I think it has to be recognised that during periods of economic recession it is crucially important that within societies which are predominately dominated by the private sector, there is in place, an income floor and a network of services and support mechanisms that enable people to survive such difficult periods. Indeed I think one has to reflect just what the situation would be at present if it had not been for the fact that in the early 1970s a Labor government was elected.
Whatever else one might say about that Government, it was imaginative and innovative and it did make an attempt - I do not believe it was a perfect attempt- to establish a framework of social services, health services and welfare services that provided for at least something like minimum standards. If that attempt had not been made in that period - an attempt which I think members on the Government side so often reflect upon in terms of extravagance and the great amount of expenditure that was involved in it - the situation of lower income people, of people who are dependent on the state for some kind of insurance, some kind of social security support, would have been much worse after the onset of the recession which emerged during the period that the Labor Government was in office and which has continued through to the present. Certainly this has been the most extended recessionary period that we have had since the 1930s.
I think one can say on the one hand that that was a period of very great innovation, a period in which real gains were made. For example, people on the old age pension and benefits of that type did move very closely to the target of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. One would have to say in fairness to this Government that, particularly in relation to old age pensioners, sickness beneficiaries and people with dependants, it has tended to maintain something like that level of income. I think that is reflected in the considerable expenditure that still remains in place in spite of this Government’s record in terms of overall social security expenditure.
Nevertheless, one has been able to see the same pattern emerging since 1975 that one saw develop in the period following the Labor Government of the 1940s. In the early 1950s one saw a gradual running-down of the programs that were put in place in that period so that people’s real incomes began to decline. One ought not to think of the Government’s responsibility simply in terms of the provision of direct income support. It is important in the present context where the real standard of living of people who are not working is dependent upon a variety of services that governments not only continue to maintain real levels of spending in relation to income support programs such as those that are operated by the Department of Social Security but also provide other basic services. If one looks across the range of areas of expenditure that are covered by this Estimates committee one can see that people have seen gradually but surely in some cases a loss of the income support available to them. Perhaps there has also been a more dramatic loss in access to basic services such as housing, health and so on.
There has never been a government in the postwar period that has been less devoted to providing public housing than this Government.
Health is a critical factor for people who either temporarily or over a longer period are doomed to live on very low incomes. No government has had a more erratic record than this Government in relation to health insurance schemes as well as health services. We have seen the elimination of capital programs for health. We have seen a substantial reduction in spending on key programs such as community health and dental programs. We have seen the Government run through a whole series of changes in relation to health insurance which have meant that working people and lower income people are much worse off now than they were five years ago in terms of the percentage of their income that it is necessary for them to pay on health services. As one goes through the range of Government programs covered by this Estimates committee one sees that there has been a gradual erosion of living standards. But in relation to particular groups of people the erosion has been by no means gradual.
Of course that is why over the past five years we on this side of the House have continued to talk about the issue of unemployment. It is not that we do not sometimes get a little sick of the subject, but the reality is that it is quite incredible that this Government should have been so insensitive to the needs of the unemployed. We know that unemployment places a tremendous burden on the state. We know that the system of unemployment benefits that has been established in this country is simply not designed to cater for people who are unemployed for extremely long periods. The length of time that the majority of people are unemployed is quite considerable. Some people remain unemployed not for weeks but for months and months, and some for years.
What that means for those people, in terms of their personal standing and personal sense of dignity, of course is one thing; but they are people who are not forgotten. They are dependent on other people in the community who, in the overwhelming majority of cases, are themselves on low incomes.
So what has occurred with this massive unemployment? Certainly the level of unemployment is very much greater than the official statistics indicate. All the social policy experts in this country agree that the real level of unemployment is perhaps three-quarters of a million people, and those three-quarters of a million people are in turn dependent on other people. They tend to help to reduce the standard of living and access to any kind of decent quality of life for their families and for the people on whom they necessarily become dependent.
When the Government refuses to index the unemployment benefits of those people who are without dependants and of those young people under 18 years of age, for whom the reduction in the level of benefit has been a massive 64 per cent since this Government has been in power, it pushes those people back into a greater and greater dependence on their local communities, which communities in turn are depressed. I can speak with some feeling in this regard about the people in my electorate. I have seen in the vast housing estate areas of East Preston, West Heidelberg and the immigrant communities of Northcote people’s standard of living going down month by month and people who had some optimism in the early 70s increasingly becoming pessimistic about any real future. It is unfortunate that in the five years of this Government so little thought has been given to solving the fundamental problems of social security, health or other basic aspects of the welfare state.
I remember that when I first became a member of parliament the people I knew in social policy areas were talking about a guaranteed minimum income. Currently, no one is seriously talking about that subject because they know, in the context of this Government’s record, such a concept is completely hopeless. They are not thinking about basic reform of social security in that kind of way. I believe that is the reason that we can look forward to the election of a Labor government. I believe the people in my electorate and in electorates across the country will recognise the need for a fundamental rethinking of social policies.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration of Report of Estimates Committee C
– The question before the House is:
That the following proposed expenditure be agreed to:
Department of Employment and Youth Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $245,059,000
Department of Education
Proposed expenditure, $479,105,000
Department of Industrial Relations
Proposed expenditure, $19,675,000
Department of Science and the Environment
Proposed expenditure, $28 1 , 634,000
Department of Primary Industry
Proposed expenditure, $102,946,000
Department of Housing and Construction
Proposed expenditure, $236,099,000
Department of Transport
Proposed expenditure, $372,253,000
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to concentrate my comments on the estimates of the Department of Housing and Construction. I have already raised several matters in relation to the preferential treatment given by sections of the bureaucracy to IBM Australia Ltd’s tender for the computer contract with the Department of Housing and Construction. There are not only important questions of detail which have to be answered but also there are significant matters of principle which must be addressed. The Australian computer market is 95 per cent supplied by eight foreign controlled manufacturers. IBM, one of the world’s biggest multinational corporations, supplies about 40 per cent of the Australian computer market. Federal Government computer purchases make up about 30 per cent of the market. In the past two years IBM has supplied only 4 per cent of the government market. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard several tables showing the estimated shares of the Australian computer market and of the Federal Government’s contracts obtained by the major suppliers.
The tables read as follows -
– I thank the House. For the computer suppliers the stakes are high. The tendering companies can spend up to half a million dollars in bids to secure a single government contract. They stand to make huge profits or suffer large losses. A large corporation like IBM, not doing too well in its recent bids for government contracts, is clearly able and likely to use considerable influence to gain a more profitable share of the market. Vast amounts of public funds are involved in government computer purchases. Procurement decisions are technically complex, commercially sensitive and politically controversial. But it is imperative that there is public accountability for the expenditure of such large sums for acquisitions with such massive social impact. The present procedures for such accountability are gravely inadequate. Within the federal bureaucracy different departmental contracts are being awarded to different suppliers on a tit for tat basis. I stress that. The contracts are not always awarded on the merits of the tenders. Commercial influences are distorting some decision-making procedures within the Public Service.
The ways by which the corporate sector can penetrate sections of the bureaucracy are subtle and sophisticated. Corporate marketing strategy uses a variety of psychological approaches. The way the Public Service is organised, the way decisions are taken at levels often beyond the knowledge of Ministers, or even permanent heads, makes the Public Service vulnerable to the corporate marketing psychology. Complex questions are raised in relation to the accountability of Ministers for the operation of their departments and for the broadest standards of public administration. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a paper outlining some basics of corporate marketing strategy.
The document read as follows -
The following is a marketing strategy that has been employed by major manufacturers of capital equipment. This strategy has evolved over a period of years for use in competitive situations where a selection committee or recommender has recommended to upper management a major purchase of equipment from a competitive vendor.
Assumption: All marketing personnel must recognise that there is never a technical or cost reason for the selection of competitive equipment. The reason for the loss of any sale is a marketing error. The intent of this strategy is to expose marketing errors and correct them before the prospect makes a potentially damaging mistake.
Step 1 - As soon as it is known that the selection committee or primary recommender has made a recommendation for equipment, other than his own, a call is made on the primary recommender (committee chairman, et cetera) to ascertain the reasons for the recommendation. This call should be made by the salesman with his manager. The intent of this call is to determine in specific detail why the recommender believes the competitor’s offer is better. During this call no attempt should be made to dissuade the recommender rather he should be allowed and led to expand on the reasons for his selection. If there is any emotional reaction to the vendor’s position such as, ‘youmissed what we were telling you’ or ‘you’ve not paid enough attention to us’, this should be carefully noted.
Step 2- The second call to be made within a few days of the first call will again be on the recommender this time in the presence of his management by the salesman and his sales manager. The salesman will review in specific detail the reasons given for selecting competitive equipment and refute each reason by reference to advantages and features offered in his own proposal. During this review the salesman will attempt to engage the recommender in a display of emotion. If cost is given as a reason for selection of competitive equipment, standard putdowns are ‘Don’t expect to get something for nothing’, ‘You get what you pay for’, ‘How can you believe that a company that gives away its products can stand the test of time’, etcetera.
Step 3- The third call will be by the salesman and sales manager on the recommender’s manager exclusively. Here the sales manager will play the leading role. He will appeal to the recommender’s manager on the basis that the recommender, while technically competent, has become so involved in the selection process of comparing detailed specifications he has lost sight of the business purpose. It will also be pointed out that the recommender, by making a public statement of preference, has lost objectivity and is now defending his position. Therefore, it is now up to the recommender’s manager to act both in the interest of his company and in the interest of the recommender by reversing the recommender’s decision. An act, they will claim, which may be initially resented by the recommender but for which the recommender will in the future be thankful. All of this will be accomplished while again reviewing in specific detail the errors the recommender had made in judging their proposal.
This scenario is repeated at successively higher levels of management until the competitor is dislodged. As management calls move up the ladder successively higher levels of the vendor’s management will be called in to make the sales calls. This puts the calls on a manager-to-manager basis and heavier and heavier emphasis will be placed on their dominant market position and the protection this affords the manager. The inference is strongly made that even if something does go wrong (and we both know some things are going to go wrong in projects of this magnitude) if you select his equipment nobody can fault your judgment. There is heavy appeal to the security consciousness of the higher executives pointing out that even if this recommender dies or moves away, if you are doing business with the dominant firm in the market place, your position is secure.
An important part of this strategy is to occupy management’s time, to worry the recommender and evoke displays of emotion from him thereby giving proof positive of his loss of objectivity. The recommender’s management is cast in the role of the older wiser head who must now bring the errant child back in to line. A delicate but necessary function of management
Many selection committees and recommenders of equipment have been frustrated in their efforts to select capital equipment by the procedure outlined. Men charged with technical evaluation are often taken by surprise by the aggressive strategy employed. Often they feel that their positions are threatened and their career jeopardized. Therefore, they are not equipped to play the game with the same level of skill utilized by highly effective marketeers. This need not be the case, however. To be forewarned is to be forearmed,
First, expect that the vendor marketing representative will make every conceivable effort to turn the situation to their favor. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be doing their jobs. When the first call is made, give broad reasons without being too specific. Emphasize that the selection was made on the basis of thorough and exhaustive study that assured complete objectivity. Emphasize that nothing personal is intended but that a purely business decision has been made. Avoid any display of emotion. Second, prepare management for the onslaught by being sure that management is thoroughly convinced that the vendor selected is capable of meeting your company’s requirements. Exposure breeds confidence so the vendor selected should do his part and expose himself as frequently as possible to members of your management.
Third, once a decision is made act on it. Delayed signature of contracts only allows time for the outside vendor to execute delaying tactics and to confuse the issue.
Fourth, recognize that there comes a time when further discussion is fruitless, You’ve given them their opportunity to change your mind, they’ve tried and succeeded or failed, whichever the case may be. Now gently but firmly sever the relationship.
Hardware or software may fail
Service may let you down
May put your company in jeopardy
May jeopardize your job
May try to get you fired
Go over your head to your boss
May have hard time finding a job if you leave the present one
Your programmers may desert you if you change to other vendor
New hardware to be announced
New software to be announced
Visits to customer accounts
Delay furnishing information
Delay furnishing prices
Propose configuration changes
Calls by their upper level management to you
Bring back original salesman on a friendship basis
Sell company size (big is best, more support personnel, more maintenance personnel, bigger office, more capable of taking care of you)
– I thank the House. This paper, which is a remarkably frank if crude statement of corporate manipulation of government bureaucracies, was sent to IBM Australia by IBM in Canada. It contains proposals for attempting to intimidate public servants so that the corporation can get what it wants. The first part, entitled Marketing Strategy’ contains advice to IBM sales people when bureaucratic decisions go against them. The second part, entitled ‘Equipment Selection Strategy’ contains advice on how to resist attempts by other vendors to overturn decisions which favour IBM. The strategy outlined in this document is reflected in the procedures whereby IBM came out on top in the bid for the contract with the Department of Housing and Construction and whereby the senior evaluation officers are seeking to justify their recommendation of IBM.
IBM deals with a number of departments. It appears to have considerable influence within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, especially within the Public Service Board, and within the Department of Administrative Services. Recent changes to the Government’s procurement policy reflects this. IBM has been reluctant to accumulate offset credits. It has sought to bring about changes to the local content provisions so that its operating overheads, its wage costs and its profits can all be included in assessments of local content. I stress that. This means that government procurement of high cost computer equipment without offset, without local content, places the Australian economy in a position dependent on foreign multinational suppliers of advanced technology. We should be striving for greater self-sufficiency and diversity in the Australian production of technology, not less.
It is sad to relate the Government’s actions, particularly its recent decision. I have in my possession documents which indicate - and the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom) knows this - that the Government’s recommendation will be in favour of IBM, which has the lowest Australian content. It is far less than that of the other bidder. On top of that, the offset is also very minimal. This is a sad situation. The only good thing I can say about the situation is that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has set his election date, and that is frozen. Honourable members know that the situation of which I speak will never come about because after 18 October I will be the Minister and the Minister for Housing and Construction will be over here, or maybe he will not even be on the back benches. I stress this, and I hope these terms hang in the gills of the Minister. The computergate scandal of the Department of Housing and Construction demonstrates collusion between big international corporations, the Liberal-National Country Party Government and sections of the Australian Public Service.
Australian sovereignty is at risk; Australian democratic processes will be undermined. Whether IBM or other corporations are involved, the people of Australia cannot afford to allow this skulduggery in such significant areas of government responsibility. The IBM solution recommended by the Department of Housing and Construction will be costly for the Australian people if it is acquired. I stress that although I know that now the Prime Minister has made his election announcement that situation will not occur. The opinion of Professor Brookes, a consultant on the evaluation of tenders, that price differences of the order of 10 per cent are not significant is questionable. I stress that. It is questionable, in terms of the Government’s procurement policy, to accept the least cost technically feasible solution. After the revalidation of tenders in July 1980 the cost differential between the solutions of IBM Australia Ltd and Univac-Prime fell outside the 10 per cent margin. IBM cannot guarantee the delivery of its 3,400 series equipment and the delays of up to two years on past experience would cost the public several millions of dollars. IBM will not accept responsibility for the separate hardware provided by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd in the regions. Whereas the Univac tender includes an undertaking to provide conversion from the existing International Computers (Australia) Pty Ltd systems, the company nominated to convert from ICL to the IBM systems, Rand McDonald Systems, has gone out of business. That is part of the IBM contract. IBM currently can provide only ANSI 68 cobol language for use -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to respond briefly to some of the comments made by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) in his brief speech. We have been through this matter of the purchase of the computer a couple of times already today. I do not know why the honourable member for Reid cannot understand the points that I have put to him in the debate that has taken place already today. I totally reject his suggestions that the Public Service has acted improperly in this matter. The Government has established already very strict procedures for the purchase of data processing equipment. As I have said a number of times already, those procedures have been followed very strictly. They have been adhered to fully. The matter is being dealt with with great propriety. The honourable member for Reid, during the Estimates committee hearing, advanced the cause of a particular tenderer.. The Government has procedures which ensure that all tenders submitted are dealt with fairly, equitably, very carefully and properly. Those procedures will be maintained.
The honourable member for Reid has jumped the gun somewhat once again. I have already indicated to him that the Government has not yet made a decision. He seems to be implying that a decision has been made. At the appropriate time, a submission will be put before Cabinet. There will be a report from the independent assessor, Professor Brookes of the University of New South Wales. There will be a detailed report of the two interdepartmental committees which were created for the purpose of assessing carefully tenders for the purchase of data processing equipment. The whole matter is being dealt with very sensibly and wisely by the Government. It is handling it with great care. At the appropriate time the very best advice will be before the Government so that the right decision can be made in the interests of the public. That is what we are concerned about. We are not concerned about the interests of any particular organisation which might be providing a tender to supply the equipment. We must ensure that the best deal is available for the public and is in the public interest.
I make the point that it has surprised me that in a debate of this kind the honourable member for Reid concentrated on this sort of issue and did not direct his attention to welfare housing and to those people in the community who seek it. Rather, he concentrated on an issue of concern essentially to some very large organisations which tendered to supply these pieces of equipment. I reiterate that the Government rejects totally the suggestions that the honourable member for Reid has made in casting unreasonable slurs upon members of the Public Service who are doing their best to provide the Government with very proper information and sound advice on this matter.
- Mr Deputy Speaker–
– Is the honourable member for Reid raising a point of order?
– No, I am seeking a second call to speak for 10 minutes.
– That is not the understanding of the Chair.
– Under the Standing Orders I have a right to rise a second time. The Opposition does not have any arrangements with the Government on this matter. I will speak briefly in reply to the Minister.
-Order! The honourable member for Reid does not appreciate that the House is meeting in plenum; it is not meeting as the Committee of the Whole. The honourable member would be given an opportunity to speak for a second time in the Committee of the Whole. When the House is in plenum honourable members have the opportunity to speak only once and Ministers have the opportunity to respond more than once if the occasion arises. The Chair will not allow debate on the matter,.
– All I can say is that the whole basis of the parliamentary procedure has been raped by this Government. It is an utter disgrace.
-Order! The honourable member for Reid will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Holt.
– The Chair drew my attention to the fact that when I discussed–
– Just a minute. I was seeking the call.
-Order! The Chair was not aware that the honourable member for Robertson was seeking the call.
– He was not here.
– I was here.
– He jumped.
-Order! That may well be the case. I do not mean to offend the honourable member for Robertson, but he does have the habit of perambulating through the chamber during a debate. If the honourable member for Robertson is seeking the call, I shall give him the call in the circumstances.
– I thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker, for that courtesy. I regret that the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) was inconvenienced, but I am sure he will get an opportunity to speak.
– I abide by the ruling of the Chair. Although I was called, the Chair decided to call the honourable member for Robertson. I respect the ruling of the Chair.
– I thank the honourable member for Holt.
– I wish to speak about the environment. In the last five years we have seen under this Government a deterioration in the activities of a federal government with regard to the environment. I want to mention briefly some legislation introduced in the 1972-75 period which was the most far reaching legislation in the history of the Australian Parliament with regard to the environment. Specifically, I refer to the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974, the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975, the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1 975 and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975. Of course, significant legislation was passed relating to the improvement of urban areas, the provision of public transport, the granting of land rights to Aborigines, soil and water conservation, nature conservation and air quality improvement.
The sins of this Government are sins of omission. As I have said time and again, this Government has failed to declare all the Great Barrier Reef region in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to end the risk of oil drilling or any other form of mining. We have seen the desecration of the Kakadu National Park by permitting uranium mining within that park. I refer specifically to what was a piece of legal trickery by drawing the boundaries of the park around the mines at Nabarlek, Jabiru, Jabiluka and Koongarra and declaring those areas not to be within the park. Of course, that is a lot of legalistic nonsense. We know it; everybody knows it. It is a disgrace that one of the two parks that the Federal Government administers- they are Kakadu and Uluru - has been desecrated in such a way. There has been little or no action at all in relation to south-west Tasmania. We have had a situation in which the members of the Liberal Party from Tasmania have repeatedly refused to make clear where they stand in relation to the south-west of Tasmania. Tasmanian Liberals, on the other hand, have supported the damming of the Franklin River. They even rejected the very generous approach of the Tasmanian Government which has rejected the damming of the Franklin River and has proceeded now with the damming of the Gordon River above the Olga River.
– They have rejected your policy too.
– That is not correct. If the Minister reads what Mr Lowe said, he will find that his statement is not correct. Mr Lowe congratulated the Opposition on its policy. Only a very small section of what Mr Lowe said was quoted. Mr Lowe sent a telegram to say that he apologised for the Tasmanian newspaper report.
– He told you to mind your own business.
– He did nothing of the sort. I beg the Minister’s pardon. Mr Lowe has done nothing of the sort. If the Minister cares to have a look at the full statement he will find that Mr Lowe congratulated the Opposition and was delighted with what it said.
– You had better read the Advocate”!
– The Advocate has misquoted him.
-Order! The honourable member for Robertson will ignore interjections.
– I wanted to speak to the Minister because it is the last chance I will get. He will not be coming back after the election. The Government has failed to utilise the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act effectively. There have been some environmental impact statements, but very few, and there have been no public inquiries.
Clearly there are at least two issues that I can think of which require public inquiries. One on the south-west of Tasmania and another one on aluminium would be desirable. The question of Fraser Island- which you are familiar with, Mr Deputy Speaker - and the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry were of similar importance. In that sense the Government has failed completely. No environment impact statements have been prepared on wood chipping leases. There is a great deal of concern in Australia about what is happening with regard to wood chipping.
There has been a rundown on the environmental education program and a virtual abolition of the funding of grants to national parks and no funding at all for coastline protection. I refer honourable members to the policy speech of the Liberal Party in 1975 which specifically mentions funding for coastline protection. The promise was never implemented. There has been unbelievable support for lead in petrol. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcom Fraser) says that there should be more lead in petrol. Now we have the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) disagreeing publicly with the Prime Minister over lead in petrol and the Australian Environment Council clearly saying that the future for Australia lies with lead-free petrol which is cleaner, for the people of the cities of Australia such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, and of course more fuel efficient. That is not what the Labor Party is saying, that is what General Motors-Holden’s Ltd is saying.
There has been inadequate protection of kangaroos and endangered species. The Minister released a statement yesterday about endangered species. He did not make a statement in the House so I was not able to reply. What has concerned me is that for years we have known that there is a vast industry in smuggling birds, both rare and otherwise, out of Australia because they bring prices of $3,000, $4,000, $5,000 or $6,000 each. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of these birds smuggled out in hat boxes, in bags and under peoples’ coats. Eight per cent of them die. They are traded at enormous prices overseas. Why do honourable members think that happens? It happens because the penalty for smuggling a bird out of Australia is $1,000. The smugglers can get $6,000 for a bird outside the country. So if 20 or 30 birds are smuggled - sometimes they are smuggled in hundreds - the penalty for being caught is only $1,000. Why would people not go into that sort of business? The Labor Party will increase penalties to the stage where nobody will ever smuggle a bird out because he will be bankrupt after he has paid the fine. There ought to be gaol penalties for these crimes.
Grants to conservation groups have been cut in half in real terms. From recollection, they totalled $450,000 in 1975-76; they were cut to $400,000 in 1976-77; the same again for 1977-78- which of course is a 10 per cent cut in real terms - and they were cut again to $350,000 in 1978-79 and they have remained at that level. When the inflation rate is considered, the conservation groups - which are the only bodies that monitor the vast array of government and business activities in Australia and the only groups that are there to see that the worst excesses are kept under close scrutiny - have effectively had their grants reduced to half by a government that promised to maintain that level of funding. We propose as a government to more than double the amount to bring it up to the level of funding that existed in 1975-76, with an amount of $750,000.
The area in which I believe the Government has been most neglectful is alternative energy source research - the area of solar energy, ethanol, methanol and power alcohol. A small amount of money has been provided for research in terms of the total of some $15m provided for alternative energy source research. The amount for the renewable sources of energy has been insignificant. On Monday I released the ALP’s environment policy. Once again I am delighted with the response to it. It has been well received. There have been one or two minor criticisms of it, but considering the vast array of measures which we recommended -
– A very substantial policy.
– Yes, and it has been very well received. Unfortunately time does not permit me to go into it in more detail. I want to mention one or two other matters briefly. The Labor Party will declare the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. We will maintain and strengthen the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. We will nominate for the world heritage list the Great Barrier Reef and south-west Tasmania. We will appoint an environmental advocate who will monitor all aspects of the environment and will report annually to Parliament. We will provide funds to the States for the acquisition of fauna habitat, and preservation and the maintenance of Australia’s most significant national parks. We will also provide funds to protect Australia’s coastline so that the very fragile areas will be turned back to public ownership.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J. D. M. Dobie) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Fortunately the Minister for Science and the Environment (Mr Thomson) will be in charge of all of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and will be taking care of the Barrier Reef and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. There is no better member than the Minister for Science and the Environment. He has a deep concern for the Great Barrier Reef. He has the full support of every Australian who knows that this Government will do everything to protect the Barrier Reef and to make sure that the Institute of Marine Science has all the possible funds available to make the Barrier Reef well understood by every person in this country. Before the Australian Labor Party goes off the rails it should realise that what this Government has done in conservation is well worth consideration.
I took part not only in Estimates Committee C but also in the Estimates Committee which looked into the estimates of the Department of Industrial Relations. The amount of $ 19m was discussed by the Committee concerning policies and what should happen in industrial relations in this country. The Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) was present and every member of the staff of the Department was available to this House so that honourable members could report to their electors any matter which they were worried or disturbed about or wished to put to the staff of the Department concerning industrial relations. I have to report to the House that not a single member of Her Majesty’s Opposition bothered to attend that Estimates committee hearing. Never in my political career was there such a damning indictment on the Labor Party, and its great traditions. Labor members simply could not be bothered to attend a committee dealing with trade unions and industrial relations in this country. I am sorry to say this, but it is to those members their eternal shame that they were not interested.
– You are afraid to have an election.
– If the honourable member will just hold his tongue and listen, he will learn something.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J. D. M. Dobie) - If the honourable member for Holt would address the Chair and not other members of the House his time would be more usefully occupied.
– I was addressing the Chair and I misheard an interruption. I was about to say that the Labor candidate for Wills, the former President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, came to my electorate and made a very important speech on industrial relations. It was a pity that the members of Her Majesty’s Opposition could not be bothered even to read the speech made by Mr Hawke or to discuss it in the Estimates Committee. The Labor candidate for Wills put forward some very valuable suggestions concerning the remodelling of Australian trade union law and practice in this country. What he had to say to representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Dandenong was extremely valuable to all those who heard him. If the honourable members opposite paid attention to their triumvirate leader, at least they would have attended that Committee and put forward some of the most sensible views advanced by the candidate for Wills, Mr Bob Hawke.
– Tell Mr Duffy to go to the next Estimates committee meetings.
– If the honourable member wants to interject and display his left wing attitude towards the Labor candidate for Wills, let him go on. The candidate for Wills, the former President of the ACTU, advanced the proposition that Australian trade unions should move very quickly to consider the system under which trade unions in the United States operate. I mentioned the same situation in my maiden speech in 197S. I am impressed with what the former President of the ACTU said, for he at least understands the basic problem of industrial relations in this country. On the other hand, Melbourne is now absolutely rotten with a stink because we cannot get rid of the garbage as the result of an industrial dispute. Why can this dispute not be resolved? It cannot be resolved because the friends of the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) and others in the left wing of the Labor Party have set out deliberately to destroy the very basis by which trade unions operate; that is, by consultation and then by arbitration. It is quite amazing that in Victoria at present left wing members of the Labor Party have deliberately destroyed any possible solution to the present garbage strike. If only they would listen to the former President of the ACTU they would learn a lot more. The sooner he comes to the benches opposite, the better it will be for this House and for this nation because at least he will submerge, by his presence, some of the riff-raff who sit on the benches opposite. As far as I am concerned, the sooner we welcome the former President of the ACTU to this House, the sooner the Australian nation will appreciate his presence.
– You won’t be here though.
– I realise that those honourable members opposite presently in the chamber are from the left wing of the Labor Party in Victoria and that they hate him. All right; go on hating him.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Even Jack the Knife over there can call me anything except a left wing member of the Labor Party from Victoria.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I regret to tell him that there is no point of order, as he may well have anticipated.
– I am sorry that I have caused so much offence to members of the Labor Party. I would have thought that the former President of the ACTU was a very great Australian. We have in this country 284 unions. We have 3,759 wage awards throughout the States of Australia. Can honourable members imagine trying to operate a system in this way? Of course, it does not work. That is why industrial relations are in such a frantic mess. Therefore, it is not surprising that I suggested that the Federal Government, in cooperation with the Premiers and the parliaments in the States, appoint a royal commission to examine employer organisations, trade unions and the wages and award systems in Australia and to make recommendations in the national interest. There are thousands upon thousands of ordinary trade unionists in my electorate.
– What would you know about trade unions?
– They are working on the shop floors of General Motors-Holden’s Ltd, of International Harvester Australia Ltd and of other multinational companies which you loathe but on which the people in my electorate rely for work.
-Order! I have already asked the honourable member to address his remarks to the Chair.
– I was addressing the Chair to suggest that the multinational companies are detested by the Labor Party in this country. I say, again to the Chair, that the multinational companies which provide the majority of people in my electorate with their work are detested and loathed by the Australian Labor Party. I hope that all the industrial workers in my electorate are listening to every word I say.
– You are off the air.
– That does not matter. They will hear about it by other means. The silent majority working in this country, whether they be Greeks, Lebanese, Turks or Italians - wherever they come from - know that they can place their trust in the Liberal Party and in its work on industrial relations, because they know that in the end we will be working for them against the union leader muscle men. Wherever they go, wherever they talk - whether at the races or anywhere else - they know in their hearts that the present Minister for Industrial Relations will be quietly working for them. When we come to 18 October they will do what they have done previously. They do not trust that mob.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration of Report of Estimates
– The question before the House is:
That the following proposed expenditures be agreed to:
Department of Industry and Commerce
Proposed expenditure, $20,599,000
Department of Business and Consumer Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $1 30,369,000
Department of Productivity
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 72,659,000
Department of Treasury
Proposed expenditure, $298,593,000
Department of Finance
Proposed expenditure, $38,566,000
Advance to the Minister for Finance
Proposed expenditure, $125,000,000
Department of National Development and Energy
Proposed expenditure, $75,772,000
Department of Trade and Resources
Proposed expenditure, $325,5 17,000
Department of the Special Trade Representative
Proposed expenditure, $406,000
– I shall devote attention in particular to the Department of Industry and Commerce, the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs and the Department of Productivity and to explaining, particularly for the benefit of the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates), that I spent five hours during the consideration of the votes examined by Estimates Committee D, with you, Mr Deputy Speaker, in the chair, questioning the responsible Minister and, through him, officials of those departments in relation to the expenditure which you have just outlined. I wish also to explain that during those five hours I asked 61 - more than half - of the 120 questions that were asked. Other Liberal and National Country Party members who were present were relatively mute during those five hours. That puts the lie to the charges which have been made over the last two or three days by honourable members opposite, starting with the front bench of the Government, that the Labor Party, in the short time available, did not make a significant effort to make the Estimates committees work.
A significant finding in my questioning with regard to the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs was that this is a government which is negligent in its approach to industrial policy. Frankly, I did not need to ask questions to find that out; I already knew it. But the questioning confirmed that view. This negligence is most starkly revealed in the evaluation of policy and in the resources devoted - or, indeed, not devoted - to the monitoring and reviewing of major items of government spending. Even worse, we find that this is a government which makes bold claims without even a semblance of adequate follow-through relating to those claims.
Let me first consider the Prices Justification Tribunal, as its appropriation comes within the appropriation of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, and at the same time consider the vital issue of the price of petroleum products in Australia. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland) has issued three or four statements in succession on this issue - indeed, a parade of promises - announcing an inquiry by the PJT into petrol prices. It is part of the package of policies that the Government has announced in relation to petroleum marketing in this country. This inquiry is promised as a major element in the package of policies. But the body asked to undertake this wide-ranging and fundamental inquiry is the PJT, the body I mentioned just a moment ago, which has been decimated by this Government. That body has a staff for all of its functions of only 79, far fewer than it had a few years ago. The PJT has suffered radical reductions in its resources yet the government is asking us to regard seriously its policy on petrol retailing and petrol prices. Of course we cannot regard that policy seriously when the Government is using a body which it previously promised it would not just decimate but would exterminate.
Despite the inadequate status of Estimates committees they reveal clearly that the only expectation we can have is a parade of promises. As we found out upon questioning officers at those committees there is no follow through to those promises. Before this year is out an inadequate PJT inquiry into wholesale petrol prices will be received and a sixth year of inadequate action will begin in the unlikely event that this Government scrapes back into office.
The same irresponsibility is revealed in respect of the Australian Tourist Commission. During the questioning we found no formal evaluation had been attempted of the expenditure or of tourist promotions. The same lack of evaluation applies in the small business area where we found almost total ignorance of the financial needs of this vitally important sector of our economy. The same applies also to industries assistance evaluation. There has been no evaluation of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on export incentives. The same applies also to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on investment allowances, on depreciation rates and on the likely effect of accelerated depreciation rates. The administration is not following through on these wild promises that are made. My questioning displayed the enormous neglect on the part of the Government. It hands out hundreds of millions of dollars on assistance programs about which we know practically nothing. The claims made that this is a government of responsible economic management are not only patently wrong but also totally misleading.
Let us look at the Industries Assistance Commission, another statutory body that comes within the appropriations that we are now discussing in this report. It makes reports on export facilitation in the motor vehicle industry which it acknowledges is based on inadequate information. The Government does nothing about it in spite of the officers admitting that many of its policies are based on that inadequate information. The Government treats the process of the reviews of the Industries Assistance Commission with contempt instead of promoting such reviews to insure that the expenditure of the taxpayers of this nation is properly focused. Advice received, such as that in the case of the carpet industry, is ignored or even worse, obtained from bodies which are starved of resources and stripped of their powers. As a result this Government’s industry policies are a sham. In the small business realm there are 15,000 businessmen and women who can tell the stark story of five years under the Fraser regime. They are the casualties of government policies; policies that promised them growth and recovery but instead left them in bankruptcy. I repeat that these 15,000 people are the bankrupts who can testify to broken promises and the ever receding hope for better times ahead. All we are being promised by this Government at the moment is more of the same. The Fraser Government promised these small business people a revival and, through them, a return to full employment for the Australian people. But this Government promised them also access to finance; low interest rates; and relief from the discriminatory tax burden that small businesses had to bear. Instead it gave them the most disastrous period for small business since the Depression. During the hearing of Estimates Committee D, whose report we are debating now, the officials revealed that the total number of bankruptcies for 1979-80 was 4,979, an increase of 1,122 or 29 per cent over the figure for the preceding year.
Bankruptcies are now 162 per cent above the level that existed when the Fraser Government took office. This alarming trend represents a record level of bankruptcies in Australian industry. The increase in bankruptcies has been so strong that the- work load is creating problems for the administration of bankruptcy and, in particular, the Official Receiver’s Office. Managing bankruptcies has become a growth area in the Public Service with 44 extra staffing positions being created this year and new computers being installed to handle the work. It is sad to hear that there is a growth area when we learn that this growth area is in the administration of bankruptcies. At present there are very few other growth areas in the economy. These bankruptcy figures are just the tip of the iceberg. They are only the obvious casualties. But there are thousands of struggling small business traders who are the victims of this Government’s neglect. The Fraser Government came to power promising to remove the financial and tax discrimination against these traders. Yet these same discriminations still exist. Instead the Government applied stringent fiscal and monetary policies that created the stagnant conditions in which the large corporations were able to maintain their expansion but at the expense of the small business competitors. In 1975 the Fraser Government stated that conditions of full employment would not be achieved without a revival of the small business sector. The bankruptcy figures demonstrate the abysmal neglect of the small businessman.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would like to respond to the comments made by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) to the Estimates committees. I congratulate him on the fact that at least he did turn up on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. The reason he was able to say that he participated in half the questions was simply because he was the only member present from the Opposition side and obviously had to get half of the questions. Our people were very willing to co-operate. I can assure him that as Whip, I checked on the committees to see how they were operating. Some of the other Opposition shadow Ministers were not as diligent as he was in attending. One has to look only at the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) who has just come into the House who failed to attend his Estimates committee. The shadow Minister for Science and Environment, who spoke in the debate on the report of a previous Estimates committee, did not even bother to turn up at his committee. One could say: ‘Fair enough, if you wanted to make a contribution and the place was there for you to make the contribution- you should have done so’. The opportunity was not taken advantage of. At the Estimates committee which dealt with the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs only one Labor member, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), turned up. He is now overseas and cannot even comment on the committees. He is retiring from this Parliament. The same situation applied at the Estimates committee dealing with the Department of Education. I say to the honourable member for Adelaide that his Party did not achieve a good record during the Estimates committee discussions. That is an indication of the lack of interest shown by the Opposition in the affairs of this country in those areas where interest is really required
I would like to raise a couple of matters in the consideration of Estimates committees reports. Firstly, I mention the Industries Assistance Commission report during the last 12 months which, if implemented in draft form, would have seriously jeopardised the future employment of tens of thousands of people. A similar proposal was accepted by the Labor Government when it was in office and this caused a massive loss of jobs. Fortunately this Government would not allow that to happen. When the final report was presented this Government rejected it. In fairness to the IAC, let me say that it has produced many reports that have been accepted by governments and by the business and employee sections of the community generally. But as it often happens, where there is an issue of- a very sensitive nature and one which will affect tens of thousands of people, for some reason when the draft report comes out, the whole industry sector, including the employer and the employee organisations, is left dangling, waiting for the final report to come out. Strangely enough, the final report always seems to be a watered down version of the draft report. One wonders at the motive behind such an action.
One wonders whether it is not done in a deliberate attempt to upset the stable industries we have in this country, both from the employer and the employee point of view. The employer, who has the company’s capital invested in equipment and buildings and wishes to expand, is not game to expand; he is not game to put in any further capital which would provide jobs because the IAC report might be accepted. Unfortunately, in anything that appears to be detrimental to or at all effective against the normal populace, the media have that happy knack of making it headlines as if it will be government action. If a report is commented on in the Press for a few days, everybody outside this House assumes that its recommendations in fact will be government action, irrespective of which party is in office.
I have discussed this matter with my colleague, the honourable member for Ballarat (Mr Short), and we have put forward to the Government a proposal that the Industries Assistance Commission Act be amended to make sure that in future the IAC provides, in its draft reports, the necessary allowances for any actions that it proposes in respect of employers and employees and the social changes of the proposals it wishes to bring forward. It seems to me to be a reasonably sensible proposal to put forward. I hope that the Government will accept it. I have suggested that if the Government is not prepared to do so the honourable member for Ballarat and I may have to take up the matter by way of a private member’s Bill. But if the Government is prepared to take up the matter I am sure that honourable members on both sides of the House will consider it because we have all seen the effects of this waiting, this in limbo situation where employers and employees alike are left dangling, not knowing what their futures will be.
We can all remember what happened when Labor was in office and acted rather unwisely on one of those reports. It decided to cut tariffs and quotas. That action virtually wiped out most of our manufacturing industries. A while ago a Green Paper on industry prepared by the honourable member for Adelaide was circulated. Some of the points in that Paper make quite interesting reading. I would just like to mention one or two points because I am sure they will be of interest to most people. The Green Paper talks about a budgetary and monetary program for industry. It states that this program will provide for a measured expansion within the context of an agreement with employers and employees to reduce inflation and that this will be achieved by, amongst other means, the Australian Labor Party limiting claims for excessive increases in incomes. I can see how far the honourable member would get with the unions in trying to limit claims for increased wages, especially when his colleagues have already said that there will be no restrictions on them.
But recently the future leader of the Labor Party and the leader of the Opposition, the future honourable member for Wills, stated in the Press that the ALP would bring in price control. That is beautiful stuff; typical socialism coming right out. He is not even in the place yet and he is predicting this. I only hope that the Labor Party will keep the honourable member for Port Adelaide in this role because he has a far more pragmatic approach to this situation and a far more realistic understanding of what it is all about. The honourable member for Adelaide goes on to say in the Green Paper that incomes and wealth will be distributed more fairly - the old socialism rears its lovely head all over the place. He then goes on to talk of a manpower policy which establishes training and retraining programs. He ought to have a look at what is happening around him. We already have such a program. We introduced it. It is very sucessful. If the honourable member would like to come around to my office afterwards I will give him a brochure or two which will explain it to him in black and white so that he will be able to go back to his electorate and point out what a good job this Government has done in the area of training and retraining.
He then goes on to say that the manpower policy will encourage increased mobility of workers so that people may go to those places where there are jobs. I agree with that one. I am pleased he put that in his Green Paper because his friend in Bendigo who hopes to be a candidate for the Labor Party has accused me of wanting to send people away from Bendigo to get jobs. Here his own Shadow Minister says that that is what a Labor Government would do. This is beautiful stuff and I only hope that the honourable member will send a copy of his paper to his colleagues in order to keep them abreast of what his own party is talking about. The honourable member for Adelaide is quite right. If the jobs are there, people should have the jobs.
– You want people to leave Bendigo.
– If they are going to get a good job and if they are going to be helped by the Government to go, why should they not leave Bendigo rather than be out of work? The honourable member is saying that they should do so in his own program. He should not sneer at the idea.
– I think Bendigo is a place that ought to have jobs.
– I have already said it and I am pleased to see that the honourable member for Adelaide supports it. I am delighted that he does. This must be official Labor Party policy so that makes it very effective for me. I appreciate that. The honourable member then goes on to talk about an industrial relations program. His paper states:
An Industrial Relations Program which emphasises the need for conciliation and dialogue rather than confrontation and punitive legislation and which seeks:
to establish a social and economic partnership between government, employers and employees such as that achieved by social democratic administrations, for instance, in -
Is it Russia? I think it is Austria. Nevertheless, it is the same principle.
– Is Austria the same as Russia?
– Exactly, that is what the Labor Party is going to try to do- the old socialist-communist type of control. This really is the sort of stuff that people in this country should read about and know about. I just wonder what has happened to the honourable member for Port Adelaide allowing the honourable member for Adelaide to put out this stuff because it really is a disaster for the Labor Party’s own planning, except that part of the Paper where the honourable member supports that very principle I have outlined; that is, that this Government has provided training and retraining and it has provided and will continue to provide assistance to people to find jobs. If that assistance involves taking them away from their homes, then assistance will be given to help them to travel to new places.
– This is your swan song, too.
– The honourable member has been very helpful to me. I am delighted that I have had the opportunity to rise in this chamber tonight and thank the honourable member for supporting the very things that I have been espousing.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to speak on the estimates for the Department of National Development and Energy, the Department of Trade and Resources, the Department of the Special Trade Representative and the Department of Industry and Commerce. Not so long ago, we had a visit to this country by the American futurologist, Herman Kahn, the Director of the Hudson Institute in New York. He said two things which I think are true. He said firstly that resource rich countries are lazy - not that the people are lazy but that the countries do not seek to find solutions when they can rely so easily upon resources. Secondly, he said:
Australia is a country of marvellous opportunities. You should end up with the highest standard of living in the world. But I bet you 11 mess it up.
He would be so right about that if we were talking about Australia under a Fraser Government. If the Fraser Government should happen to be returned to power at the end of the year, his prediction will of course come true.
The Government has no creativity whatsoever in its brain and has no idea what to do with this country. It wants to create the hot-house environment of an active, ambitious, internationally competitive primary export sector. It wants to encourage its growth. It wants, therefore, to change the structural sectors of the economy. But the Government cannot have the primary export sector growing as rapidly as it would like without its impacting upon the less competitive sectors. Yet the Government promotes structural change by the development of the primary export sector and then resists that change with tariffs and quotas in the secondary sector - a complete conundrum of policy; no explanation; no rationalisation; just hope for the best. Of course, the best never arrives.
The Government is incapable of thinking about any long term economic plan for Australia. As we move through the 1980s it is possible that Australia could have, with a capital inflow and development of our resources and our agricultural sector, an appreciating currency, an appreciating exchange rate which would act not only to cut back the size of our export performance but also to destroy many of our traditional industries. One of the ways in which our traditional industries could be protected from an onslaught of imports which would be used to hold our exchange rate at the level which we thought would be most advantageous for us, would be to expand the economy so that the expansion of imports would not in fact wipe out our traditional manufacturing base.
But has the Government thought about any of these things: About how to manage the exchange rate through the 1 980s, about expanding the economy, about the labour implications of that, about dramatically lifting our immigration program? Not on your life. It has no such thoughts, no manpower policy and no ideas because the Government is singularly lacking in any understanding about where this country ought to go. Even if we were to see the development of these resources, what is in it for the average Australian? Firstly, the alienation of his ownership and control over them to a stack of international companies which would seek always to minimise their income tax here and take their profits somewhere else. There is no attempt by the Government equitably to share the wealth of those resources with the right kind of taxing mechanisms which would guarantee that the Australian people were partners in that development.
In fact the Government has not in any way planned for the development of Australia at all - not in its manufacturing industries, in its mining industries or even in its agricultural industries. It took the Labor Party in Government in the 1940s to stabilise the wheat industry; it took a Labor government in the 1970s to stabilise the wool industry. We are talking here about the two great agricultural industries of this country. The wool floor price scheme was developed by the Labor Government between 1973 and 1975. Every great measure which has ever been introduced into agriculture came from a Labor government. Even in the area of the economy the Government says it represents and nurtures - that is, the agricultural sector - it has never, when the test has been upon it, come to the party in providing a long term future for that industry.
So, no matter where one looks, there is never any semblance of a plan, never any ideas. It is all left to the market so-called. Of course, the market is not a genuine market. We sell our resources to a cartel in Japan. We have sold our coal and iron ore at prices which were virtually cost plus for years. Our iron ore industries in Western Australia just two years ago were almost insolvent. Our coal industry in New South Wales and Queensland even this year will post the lowest profits for many years simply because the Government in incapable of designing some kind of trade policy which protects our interests and maximises the sale of our products. It is said that that is how the world market is. That is not how the world market is. That is how Japan plays off the fools of the Fraser Government.
When we look at the wider world market - the sale perhaps of iron ore and coking coal to Europe, the Middle East or parts of Asia- again we find there is no plan, there is no policy, there are no trade agreements, there is no attempt to increase the size of Australian ports to take larger vessels, and there is no attempt to get efficiency and to reduce the unit costs of energy for the transport of materials. Indeed, we talk about embarking upon a renaissance in our mining industry. Yet the Government never thinks in terms of transporting a higher and higher proportion of those resources in Australian ships. We are an island continent, a maritime country, relying upon the maritime industry. Yet we have taken a decision, with the exception of the Australian National Line, virtually not to participate in the huge freight bonanza which will be available from shipping this country’s resources. This is a foolish policy. It is one which would be pursued only by a government totally lacking in imagination.
No matter where one looks - whether it is in terms of mining, agriculture, manufacturing, or the tertiary sector - as my friend and colleague the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) said a few moments ago, the Government has no ideas about how to keep the structural competition between sectors in some kind of harmony so that Australians maximise the benefits in terms of their standard of living, in terms of their employment and job security and in terms of their economic and physical well-being. These are the things which are completely away from the mind of the Fraser Government. It believes that simply letting the international companies come to Australia, mine the resources, sell them for what they like, is the way forward. It is not the way forward. No other country behaves in the way Australia does. This country has so many natural benefits and advantages for Australians, but they are not being maximised.
The Government is now talking about embarking upon the national development program without the slightest idea of the implications for the country, for the sectors I have mentioned, or ultimately for the kind of wealth that Australians should accrue from mining and shipment of resources or the production and shipment of agricultural products. It has no plans whatsoever. It is the worst example of a laissez-faire government that one could ever imagine. When we look at other comparable countries we find economic plans, we find really ambitious entreprenurial government activity. We never find that in this country. This is not a businessman’s government at all. It does not understand the capitalism it breaches and it does not understand the free enterprise system. It is a government made up of small debts courts solicitors, failed real estate agents, secondhand car salesmen and insurance salesmen. There is not a decent businessman among Government members. When they travel from this country to deal with the Teal business people of this world they are taken to the cleaners. Australia does not have a future under the Fraser Government. Its real potential will never be realised while we have timid, smallthinking, unimaginative drones forming a government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Friday, 12 September 1980
– Some point has been made during the last couple of days about the role played by the Opposition in the Estimates committees. It certainly is clear that the Opposition is the party which is taking the report stage more seriously because more Opposition speakers than Government speakers have spoken in this debate.
The two points that I wish to make in this brief report session relate to the suppression of important statistics by this Government for political purposes. One point relates to statistics on foreign ownership and control of Australian industry. In 1973 the Labor Government established in the Australian Bureau of Statistics a section known as the foreign participation section. The job of that small section was simply to develop statistics on the degree to which various sections of industry were foreign owned and controlled. We considered that was important information that the Australian people should be able to obtain. We still regard it as extremely important information for the Australian people to be able to obtain. But they can no longer obtain it. This Government has seen fit to destroy that section and abolish the keeping of those statistics. As I said, this section was set up in 1973 to investigate foreign ownership and control in various industries. It produced reports on manufacturing industry, various segments of the mining industry, financial corporations and insurance companies. So we have for the mid-1970s good information on the degree to which those industries are foreign owned and controlled.
In 1976 the Fraser Government, not caring of course about the degree to which we are foreign owned and controlled, halved the foreign participation section. This information was given as a result of Opposition questioning during the Estimates committee deliberations. In 1978 the section was abolished. Certainly some other figures are available which give some indication of the extent of foreign investment and the income which is payable overseas, but they do not give us reliable information on the degree of foreign ownership and control - nothing like it, in fact. The official from the Australian Bureau of Statistics who was questioned during the Estimates committee meeting said that the alternative figures have all sorts of imperfections for the purpose of ascertaining foreign ownership and control. The reason given by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) for scrapping this section was that ‘other things had a greater claim on the resources of the Bureau’. He implied that it was more important for the Bureau to produce other statistics than those on foreign ownership and control. Certainly there are other statistics that probably have at least an equal ranking and may be a higher ranking than foreign ownership and control figures. Certainly, there are a lot of figures published by the Bureau which require manpower to ascertain and which are of very minimal use indeed. For instance, how important is it to obtain and publish statistics about rock lobster storage in Western Australia or about chicken hatchings and slaughterings.
– Chicken hatching is very important.
– Of course they are important to certain sections involved in that industry. I am not against the collection of those statistics, but if we are going to look at what are the most important statistics to have, it is far more important to have statistics on things such as foreign ownership and control than on the issues I have just mentioned. It is an extraordinary set of priorities, in our view, which say that there are better things on which to use our small amount of manpower- 23 people when it was in full flight and about a dozen later - than the collection of statistics on foreign ownership and control. That shows how little regard this Government has for the degree to which Australia is being sold out to foreigners. The Government policy, of course, has been to bring about an open-door foreign investment policy, and it does not want the Australian people to know to what degree our country and our industry and our resources are owned and controlled by foreigners. The Government simply does not want that information to be known. If it did, it would allow statistics to be collected to demonstrate what is happening in this area, but by abolishing that section the Government is suppressing important and basic information that would enable people to know what is happening to this society and to the economy. The Opposition regards this an extraordinarily retrograde step by the-Government and an extraordinary indication of its careless disregard for the national interest.
The other area to which I am concerned to draw attention in regard to the suppression of important information relates to employment statistics. The Government has scrapped one of two series of employment figures just before an election, and I regard this as an absolutely heinous activity. We have had two series of statistics for some time now. The first, published by the Bureau of Statistics and taken from pay roll tax data, relates to wage and salary earners in civilian employment. That series has been published for a long time and has been revised at various times, including 1979. The second series concerns the labour force survey figures, which come from a monthly survey of the population conducted by the Statistician. So we have had two series of statistics on employment, and they have shown a markedly different employment growth in the last year or so. In the year to May the labour force series showed a growth in wage and salary earners in employment of 176,000. On the other hand, the civilian employment series showed a growth of only 52,000 in wage and salary earners in employment in the year to April. There is a fantastic difference between 176,000 in one series and only 52,000 in the other. That is an amazing difference and one which is obviously of concern to all of us who want to know what is happening in the economy. In Statement No. 2 of the Budget Papers it is stated at page 18:
It is further stated that the Statistician is investigating both series. So he is concerned about them and he is investigating both of them. However, the Government has seen fit to suspend one of those series while the investigation is going on but not to suspend the other one while it is being investigated. Of course, it is no surprise to find that the series that has been suspended is the one that has shown the low employment growth of only 52,000 over the last 1 2 months. The series that is showing the high employment growth of 176,000 is continuing to be published while it is being investigated.
This is an extraordinary development. It is highly unusual for the Statistician when he is investigating or revising a series to suspend its publication. Normally, it is continued to be published until the revised series is available, when it is published with backdated revisions. That is not happening in this case. This politically important statistical series on civil employment has been suspended just before an election. It has not been published for the last couple of months, so the latest figures available are for April. In our view, the Government has done this deliberately to give a better impression of what is happening to employment than is the case. It has also happened despite the fact that the man in charge of that section of the Bureau which produces these figures has said that the scrapped series is the best one. According to a report in the National Times in March this year, he said:
There’s something funny in the Labour Force Series - that is, the one that is still being published-
At the end of the period. It seems there’s a violent fluctuation between August and November. You can’t place to much reliance on short-term movements in the Labour Force surveys.
He went on to add that the Bureau preferred using the civilian employment series for measuring short-term movements in employment. That is the series that has been scrapped. The one the Bureau says we should be using is the one which this Government has scrapped. Of course, the Government has scrapped it because it shows that in the four years from April 1976 to April 1980 the growth in employment was only 92,000 and in the private sector there had been a decline of 10,000. It showed that private employment of wage and salary earners in the four years from April 1976 to April 1980 had declined by 10,000. This series, which is a great political embarrassment to the Government, has been suspended until this election is over. We think that that is an absolutely heinous activity.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is:
That the remainder of the Bill be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair)- by leaveread a third time.
Consideration resumed from 19 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 Sinclair) read a third time.
House adjourned at 12.19 a.m. (Friday)
The following notice was given:
expresses its concern at the evidence of a recent finding by the United States Federal Court, delivered on 12 May 1980, that dioxin was the most acutely toxic substance yet synthetized by man, and
calls on the Federal Government to ban all chemicals containing the substance dioxin until a thorough scientific investigation has been made and reported to this House.
The following papers were deemed to have been presented on 1 1 September 1980:
By Command of His Excellency the Governor-General:
Treaties - Text of-
To which Australia has become a party by signature -
Exchange of Notes dated 3 March and 27 June 1978 constituting an Agreement amending the Agreement between Australia and the United States of America concerning Space Vehicle Tracking and Communication Facilities.
An Agreement between Australia and the Federal Republic of Germany concerning the launching of two scientific payloads from Woomera for scientific purposes - Notes dated 16 February 1979.
Exchange of Notes dated11 January and 29 March 1979 constituting an Agreement between Australia and the United States of America regarding the importation of meat into the United States of America.
South Pacific Forum Fisheries, Agency Convention - Agreement signed in Honiara on 13 September 1979.
Trade Agreement between Australia and Thailand, signed in Bangkok on 15 October 1 979.
Agreement on postal relations between Australia and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, signed in Hanoi on 18 October 1979.
Agreement between Australia and the Federal Republic of Germany for the reciprocal safe-guarding of classified material, signed in Bonn on 27 November 1 979.
Exchange of letters dated 27 November and 10 December 1979 constituting an Agreement between Australia and the Asian Development Bank relating to a further contribution by Australia to the Asian Development Bank’s Technical Assistance Special Fund.
Notes dated 28 December 1979 and 10 January 1980 concerning an Agreement between Australia and the United States of America amending and supplementing the Air Transport Services Agreement between the United States of America and Australia, signed in Washington on 3 December 1946.
Agreement between Australia and the People’s Republic of China on Co-operation in Science and Technology, signed in Canberra on 6 May 1 980.
Agreement between Australia and Denmark concerning Mutual Recognition of Tonnage Certificates, signed in Canberra on 1 5 May 1 980.
Cultural Agreement between Australia and the Philippines, signed in Manila on 1 5 April 1 977.
Agreement between the Patent Office of Australia and the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization in relation to the establishment and functioning of the Patent Office of Australia as an International Searching and International Preliminary Examining Authority under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, signed in Geneva on 29 February 1980.
Agreement on Trade, Economic and Technical Co-operation between Australia and the Republic of Iraq, signed in Canberra on 1 1 March 1980.
Exchange of Notes dated 29 May 1 980 constituting an Agreement further amending the Agreement between Australia and the United States of America concerning Space Vehicle Tracking and Communication Facilities, signed in Canberra on 25 March 1 970.
Exchange of letters dated 12 August 1980 constituting an Agreement extending the Agreement between Australia and New Zealand on Tariffs and Tariff Preferences.
To which Australia has become a party by ratification or accession -
Convention and Operating Agreement on the International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT), London, of 3 September 1976, signed on 16 February 1979 and entered into force for Australia on 16 July 1979.
Second Amendment to the articles of agreement of the International Monetary Fund, Washington, 24 March 1976, entered into force generally and for Australia on 1 April 1978, pursuant to Article XVII of the original articles of agreement of the International Monetary Fund.
Amendments to the Agreement establishing the South Pacific Bureau for Economic Co-operation, Apia 17 April 1973; ratified by Australia on 30 April 1979 (not yet entered into force).
Agreement on an International Energy Program, done at Paris on 18 November 1974, as amended, and acceded to by Australia on 1 7 May 1979.
Protocols of 1979 for the Fifth Extension of the Wheat Trade Convention and the Food Aid Convention constituting the International Wheat Agreement 1971, Washington, 25 April 1979 entered into force on 1 July 1979.
Convention on Tripartite Consultations (International Labour Standards) (International Labour Organization Convention No. 144) Geneva, 21 June 1976, ratified by Australia on 1 1 June 1979 and entered into force for Australia on 10 June 1980.
Agreement on the Precipitation Enhancement Project (P.E.P.) between the World Meteorological Organization, Spain and other member states of the World Meteorological Organization participating in the experiment, Madrid, 23 January 1 979, acceded to by Australia on 11 July 1976, and entered into force for Australia on 16 August 1979.
World Tourism Organization Statutes, done at Mexico City on 27 September 1970 and adopted by Australia and entered into force for Australia on 18 September 1979.
Amendments to the Agreement establishing the South Pacific Commission, Canberra, 6 February 1947; done at Noumea, 10-13 October 1978 and accepted by Australia on 5 October 1979 and entered into force for Australia on 4 June 1980.
Protocol relating to an amendment to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, Chicago, 7 December 1944, signed at Montreal on 30 September 1977, ratified on 7 December 1 979 (not yet entered into force).
International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures - Annex F. 5, concerning urgent consignments, Brussels, 15 June 1976, accepted for Australia on 22 January 1980 (not yet entered into force).
Arrangement Regarding Bovine Meat, Geneva, 12 April 1979, acceded to on 1 February 1980 and entered into force for Australia on that day.
International Dairy Arrangement, Geneva, 12 April 1979, acceded to on 1 February 1980.
Agreement on Import Licensing Procedures, Geneva, 12 April 1979, acceded to on 25 February 1980, and entered into force for Australia on 26 March 1980.
Amendments to the Convention on the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organization, adopted in London on 14 November 1975, and 9 and 17 November 1977 accepted for Australia on 29 May 1980 (not yetentered into force).
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, New York, 19 December 1966, signed for Australia on 18 December 1972 and ratified by Australia on 13 August 1980; the covenant will enter into force for Australia on 14 November 1980.
To which Australia is contemplating becoming a party by ratification -
Protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1 2 August 1 949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), and to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), adopted at Geneva on 8 June 1977; signed for Australia on 7 December 1978.
Agreement between Australia and the Hellenic Republic on Cultural Co-operation, signed in Canberra on 20 November 1979.
Protocol to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973, London, 17 February 1978, signed for Australia on 30 May 1979.
International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, London, 7 July 1978, signed for Australia on 29 November 1979.
Constitution of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Vienna, 8 April 1979, signed for Australia on 3 March 1980.
Agreement between Australia and Saudi Arabia on Economic and Technical Co-operation, signed in Jeddah on 23 March 1980.
Convention on the Celebration and Recognition of the validity of Marriages, the Hague, 14 March 1978, signed for Australia on 9 July 1 980.
International Rubber Agreement, done in Geneva on 6 October 1979, signed for Australia on 30 June 1980.
Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, New York, 18 December 1 979, signed for Australia on 1 7 July 1 980.
South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (SPARTECA), Tarawa, 14 July 1 980, signed for Australia on that day.
To which Australia proposes to become a party by acceptance -
Amendments to the International Convention on Load Lines, London, 5 April 1966, adopted in London on 12 October 1971, 12 November 1975, and 15 November 1979.
Amendments to the Convention on the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organization, Geneva, 6 March 1948; adopted in London on 15 November 1979.
Pursuant to statute:
Defence Act- Determination- 1980- No. 23- Allowances for Applicants for Entry into the Defence Force.
States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act- Amendment of the schedule to the subsidy scheme in relation to the State of New South Wales, dated 5 September 1 980.
Telecommunications Act- Australian Telecommunications Commission- By-laws-
Telecommunications (Charging Zones and Charging Districts)- Amendment No.3 (1980).
Telecommunications (Community Calls)- Amendment No. 2
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 21 November 1979:
Australia, appoint arbitrators to hear building disputes against members of the builders trade union, the Housing Institute of Australia.
– The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
A provision (whether in an agreement to arbitrate or otherwise) than an award under an agreement to arbitrate shall be a condition precedent to the bringing of an action with respect to any matter to which such agreement applies, shall be read only as an agreement to arbitrate and shall not prevent any cause of action from accruing before arbitration and shall not affect the institution, prosecution or defence of any action or counterclaim.’
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 20 February 1980:
What action has the Government taken on each of the nine recommendations made by Major-General Stretton in his Report on the Darwin disaster of 1 974.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The recommendations in the Report by Major-General Stretton which I tabled in the House on 1 December 1976 ranged widely; and I informed the House then that all these matters had been examined. Action on the recommendations involved not only the Department of Defence and many other Commonwealth Departments, but also State Departments and Agencies and non-government organisations as well.
Actions taken by my Department on Major-General Stretton’s recommendations can be summarised as follows:
All relevant Australian Government agencies should study the design of their communications system to ensure that before, during and after natural disasters, communications are efficient and guaranteed.’
Action: Steps have been taken to reduce the possibility of communications failure in future. These steps include improvements in the design of communications building and emergency equipment.
Emergency broadcasting stations at Darwin and Sydney, originally built for Civil Defence purposes should, if practicable, be adapted to also cover emergencies arising from natural disasters. Some priority should be given to the construction of the Emergency Broadcasting Service in the Brisbane area and further consideration given to the construction of additional Emergency Broadcasting Stations in disaster-prone areas’.
Action: An inter-departmental committee on emergency broadcasting, chaired by the Director-General of the Natural Disasters Organisation (NDO), assesses possible requirements for such services, for civil defence or dealing with natural disasters. As a result of recommendations of this committee, the Postal and Telecommunications Department and Telecom are establishing a transportable emergency broadcasting station.
The committee has recommended against establishing an emergency broadcasting station in Brisbane, mainly for technical reasons and because adequate coverage is available from existing stations in the area.
Recommendations (c) and (d)
In the framing of the Natural Disasters Act, consideration should be given to providing for the modification of normal administrative procedures during periods of emergencies arising from natural disasters. The question of legal powers for a duly appointed Controller of the disaster site in an Australian Territory should also be considered.
There should be appropriate legal provisions requiring consultation with the Natural Disasters Organisation for the preparation of counter-disaster plans in Australian Territories. This matter should be considered in the framing of the Natural Disasters Act.’
Action: Legislation is not considered necessary to enable NDO to perform its essential functions. The Northern Territory and several States have counter-disaster legislation. The Australian Capital Territory does not have specific legislation, but a wide range of emergency powers are available.
Negotiations should be undertaken with the States with a view to establishing a Natural Disasters Procedures Committee to meet under the Chairmanship of the DirectorGeneral NDO.’
Action: The Director-General of NDO meets regularly with the Directors of State and Territory emergency services, to discuss procedures and other matters relating to civil defence and natural disasters. Problems would be discussed in this forum.
A Natural Disasters Voluntary Organisation Committee be formed under the chairmanship of the Director-General NDO.’
Action: A meeting was arranged by the Director-General of NDO of representatives of non-government organisations, to discuss the types of services they might provide in dealing with natural disasters, and how these services might be provided. It is considered that there is no need at this stage for establishing a national committee to co-ordinate voluntary assistance in natural disasters.
Recommendation (g) “The NDO be authorised to hold a central stock of key disaster relief stores which would be costed against the NDO division of the Defence Vote.’
Action: NDO has established, at the RAAF Base, Dubbo, a stock of equipment and other supplies for disaster relief.
The Department of Education be requested to take immediate action to introduce the teaching of first aid into Australian Government secondary schools and to encourage the States to take similar action.’
Action: As a result of an approach by NDO, the Department of Education supported the teaching of first aid on a voluntary basis for the community generally, but it did not favour making the subject compulsory in schools.
This recommendation comprised a list of actions by NDO which the Minister was asked to note.
Action: The Minister has noted the actions to which MajorGeneral Stretton recommended his attention be drawn.
The honourable member can be assured that NDO continues to work closely with other Commonwealth departments, State and Territory counter-disaster organisations, and other authorities towards providing an effective system in Australia for coping with natural disasters.
asked the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 20 May 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 22 May 1 980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On15 August 1980, I announced that letters to and from Naval personnel serving in Royal Australian Navy ships outside Australian waters would be carried by air at the Australian internal rate of postage. This would not apply to parcels. The introduction of this arrangement is not a restoration of the earlier forms of postal concessions. Rather, it recognises the problem of air mail delivery to and from ships deployed overseas, as distinct from mail for other Defence Force members in permanent locations overseas who receive allowances to compensate for higher postal costs. The additional annual cost of the new arrangements is expected to be approximately $28,000 at 1 979 prices.
Defence Force Aid to Yacht ‘ApolloI’ (Question No. 6234)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 19 August 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 19 August 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is shown in the tables attached hereto:
There have been eight transits by eight ships through the Suez Canal from 1 April to 31 July.
Indian Ocean ship day figures for the USSR, USA, UK, and France are shown in the following table:
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 19 August 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
to (4) The Ministerial Council for Companies and Securities has referred to the National Companies and Securities Commission for consideration and report:
The reports by the National Companies and Securities Commission on these two questions have not yet been forwarded to the Ministerial Council.
Support Facilities at Edinburgh, South Australia (Question No. 6252)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 19 August 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development and Energy, upon notice, on 20 August 1980:
– The Minister for National Development and Energy has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
) (a) The petroleum product sales that qualify for an allocation of indigenous crude oil as at 20 August 1980 are:
(Question No. 6287)
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 20 August 1980:
Was 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (salts and esters of) containing greater than above the prescribed amount of dioxin declared a prohibited import under item 1 8 of the second schedule of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations; if so, when.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 20 August 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Sabre aircraft; Maritime patrol project (comprising Attack class and 16 metre patrol boats and NOMAD aircraft); Electronic target ranges; Development of defence R&D capability; Language training; Sioux Helicopters; DC3 aircraft; Survey and Mapping of Kalimantan, Sumatra, Irian Jaya, Maluku; Field radio transceivers; Mobile automotive repair workshops; Overhaul of Indonesian CI 30 (Hercules) engines and gearboxes; Landrover vehicles.
Commencement and completion dates of individual projects are published from time to time through press releases, public relations handouts, Defence reports etc. Project costs are included in the overall figure quoted in (2) above. That figure includes also expenditure on training and advisory assistance and combined exercises. Further details on any of the above projects can be made available if required.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 27 August 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Arrangements exist for this kind of information to be supplied by banks. The income tax regulations require banks (and other companies) to furnish statements showing ‘the names and addresses of all persons to whom interest in excess of one hundred dollars was paid or credited during the year preceding the year of tax, and the amount so paid or credited to each person’. The regulations also authorise the Commissioner of Taxation to make modifications of the particulars to be shown on the statements. These regulations are utilised in the administration of the taxation law but specific requests regarding individual depositors are also made as the occasion demands.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 September 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1980/19800911_reps_31_hor119/>.