32nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we protest most strongly against the Australian Postal Commission’s decision to phase out the Travelling Post Office (TPO) in NSW.
The TPO service has given the country people of NSW a reliable and efficient service for many years. To replace this service with a road system would be a backward step which we believe would result in long delays in mail going to and from country centres.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will look favourably on our petition to retain the TPO service in NSW.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Birney, Mr Fife, Mr Les Johnson and Mr 0’Keefe.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia, respectfully showeth; that we support your efforts to strengthen our family and community life.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will:
Obtain each year from each of the State Attorneys General:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petitions received. by Dr Klugman and Mr Leo McLeay. Petitions received.
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,
Petitions received. by Mr Lynch and Mr Millar. Petitions received.
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 program, 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 1980. 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 Intitule of Technology Chiropractic Programme by the Tertiary Education Commission be no longer delayed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Dobie. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament assembled.
The Petition of certain citizens respectfully showeth that allegations have been made by litigants that unjust decisions in relation to ancillary matters are being made at the Family Court of Australia.
We call on the Government to amend Section 79 ( I ) of the Family Law Act, the allow all Family Courts to be open and publication of details of proceedings permitted, provided names of parties and other identifying information is prohibited from disclosure.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Dr Edwards. Petition received.
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 th;il the Commonwealth Government:
. Note that legislation establishing plant variety rights in other countries has had adverse effects, namely:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Howard. Petition received.
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,
Petition received. by Mr Humphreys. Petition received.
Al’onorevole oratore e membri della casa rapresentativa dell’asemblea parlamenlare chiediamo questa umile petizione dei sottoscritti cittadini d’australia noi tutti i cittadini di Flemington desideriamo che il lavoro sia trovato per noi tutti disocupati specialmente per tutti i studenti disocupati che per i primi due anni non hanno trovato lavoro. E che tutte le pensioni vengano aumentate perche in questo mommento sono sulla linea di poverta
E tutti quelli che sotto scrivano la petizione sono in dover di pregare e pregherano sempre.
Al Honorable Orador y Miembros de la Casa de Represen.tantes en el Parlamento reunidos. Esta humilde peticion de los ciudadanos abajos firmantes respetuasamente planteamos que:
Nosotros, los habitantes de Flemington, pedimos que hayu una mayor fuente de trabajo para los desempleados. especial.mente para aquellos que despues de dos anos de haber dejado la escuela aun no han encontrado empleo, y que todos los beneficios de bienestar social sean ajustados para garanzizarun minimo de ingreso adecuado a cada individue
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of. the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
We, the people of Flemington, request that work be found for the unemployed, especially for all unemployed school leavers in their first two years after school, and that all social security and welfare payments be adjusted to a guaranteed adequate minimum income above the poverty line.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Innes. Petition received.
Use of Government Funds in Sutherland Shire
To the Right Honourable, the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives of Parliament in assembly. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we, the parents of children attending State Schools, object to the allocation of $297,000 being granted by the Federal Government to the Sutherland Shire Parent Controlled Christian School for the construction of new primary school buildings. Government school enrolments are falling throughout the Sutherland Shire, and we consider it wasteful of the taxpayers money to build new classrooms when empty ones are available.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Les Johnson. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully petition:
That the government will act to prohibit the use of all public monies for the killing of unborn children. That the said use of government monies is an unacceptable government endorsement of a great national tragedy - the deaths annually of at least 80,000 unborn children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Lynch. Petition received.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that they want the victims of the Hilton bomb disaster to receive a fair and just compensation. They remind the Prime Minister and his Government that they found the sum of $190,000.00 to compensate the Hilton arcade shopkeepers for their loss of business and we the undersigned regard the loss of life and permanent injury even more important than the loss of business. The police involved were guarding the
Prime Minister’s life and one of them lost his life, because the Prime Minister and the other international heads of state were inside the hotel. Three other police were seriously and permanently injured as a result of the bombing. The undersigned petitioners call upon the Prime Minister and his Government to compensate these unfortunate victims.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Leo McLeay. Peiition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned Citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: -
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that there be no extension of Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Leo McLeay. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: -
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would:-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not introduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Morris. . Petition received.
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,
Petition received. by Mr Morris. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Many Australians depend almost exclusively upon TransAustralia Airlines for the provision of essential air services.
The Federal Liberal Party policy objective of selling TransAustralia Airlines within 5 years is contrary to the national interest.
Sale of Trans-Australia Airlines would inevitably result in:
the creation of a private monopoly of major airline services in Australia:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will reject outright any proposal to sell Trans-Australia Airlines.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Morris. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of citizens of the Commonwealth submits:
That offshore oil exploration within the Great Barrier Reef Region constitutes a serious threat to the richest and most varied living system on earth.
Your petitioners request that your Honourable House will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Peacock. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament of Australia assembled. The petition of the undersigned residents of the Moreton Bay Islands Queensland respectfully showeth:
That there is an injustice in existence and a discrimination against the residents of the area known as “The Bay Islands”, (i.e. the island group in Moreton Bay Islands Queensland, comprising of Russell, Karragarra, Lamb & Macleay Islands having a population of approximately 600 residents) in so much as the present means of transport between the mainland and the “Bay Islands” is now being jeopardized by the iniquitous price structure of fuel as at present applied to our current transport facilities.
To this point in time, the burden of the road tax as applied to fuels for the maintenance of our water transport systems on which we rely for survival, has, although difficult, been within the capacity of the transporters to absorb. Owing to the recent increases in fuel prices and the probable future increases, the transporters have and will have no alternative than to cease operations or adjust the fare structure, placing it beyond the capacity of the residents, thus isolating and seriously restricting communications both in welfare and medical areas. While we appreciate the necessity for a tax structure may we humbly bring to your attention the unique circumstances or our situation. We therefore request that the road tax be removed or be subsidised to enable the survival of these vital services. May we respectfully draw attention to the authorities that our water ways are in fact our road ways without the necessary physical upkeep of maintenance. We also desire to stress that the unique situation demands individual assessment and attention. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the parliament of Australia will seriously view this matter and treat it on its own merit according to moral justice, by (a) removing road tax for transport services only and not private usage to our islands or (b) subsidisation of the existing transport services.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received. by Mr JulI. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the PIVOT Action Group showeth:
That private funding of the Programme for In Vitro Ovum Transfer (test tube baby) could be exhausted in the foreseeable future.
Your petitioners therefore pray that the necessary action be taken to allow this research programme to be continued in its present form in Victoria.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr MacKellar. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament assembled. The petition of certain citizens of NSW respectfully showeth our concern- The Addison Road Community Centre, Marrickville, is under threat, because for nearly five years, the Ethnic and Community based groups which run activities in the Centre have been unable to secure any long-term lease. This means that this unique multicultural Centre, situated on ten acres of land in the heart of the city is being constantly thwarted in its attempts to develop. Not only does it provide a valuable community service in Marrickville it also has a large area of open space which is rare in the inner city.
Application has been made to the Department of Sport and Recreation for a $50,000 grant to upgrade their community hall. Hut 24.
Unless a long-term lease is negotiated the Centre is not eligible for Capital Funding. We urge relevant Federal and State Departments to act immediately to come to agreement on the sale of the land and the signing of a long-term lease with the Addison Road Community Centre.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received. by Mr Leo McLeay. Petition received.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, 1 shall move:
That this House urges the Prime Minister and the Minister for Environment and Home Affairs and the Executive Council to immediately declare all the Barrier Reef region, as defined by the schedule to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act of 1975, as a marine park under the Act. Such action is urgently necessary to prevent the Queensland Government and National Country Party elements in the Federal coalition from allowing petroleum exploration upon the declaration of the Coastal Waters State Titles Act.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House -
1 ) express its deepest sympathy to those who have suffered death and destruction of property in the vicinity of Naples as a result of a severe earthquake which occurred on the evening of 23 November last
shares the grief of those Australians of Italian origin who have lost members of their families or friends as a result of this catastrophe
congratulates the Government for the rapidity of its response to the disaster in allocating an immediate sum of $500,000 and for its decision to match on a dollar for dollar basis contributions made by the State governments to the appeal launched by the Italian community
notes with satisfaction that all the contributions made to the fund will be tax deductible and urges all Australians to contribute generously
commends the Government for the speed with which it introduced special provisions to enable Australians of Italian origin to bring family members affected by the earthquake to Australia, and notes with satisfaction that the offices of the Department of Immigration in Italy have been ordered to give priority to applications from survivors and to nominations from relatives in Australia and
commends the Government for its excellent record of humanitarian assistance Tor major disasters occurring in various parts of the world and assures it of support in these endeavours from all members of this House.
The notice is seconded by the honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield).
– I give notice that, on General Business Thursday No. 8, 1 shall move:
That this House -
recognises that the rapid pace of large scale volume of export orientated resource development being pursued in Australia is causing widespread dislocation of people from their homes and places of work while acting to drain private funds away from the traditional source of housing finance and pressures increases in home loan interest rates;
acknowledges that security of housing for a growing number of low and middle income earners is being undermined by the rising price of land, housing and finance in the private sector;
condemns the Government for large scale cutbacks in public sector housing expenditure which has imposed hardship on the people in need and which has led to a gross imbalance in the national housing stock.
calls on the Government to expand funds for public housing and to develop an integrated housing policy which will redress the growing housing problem.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House notes that while the Prices Justification Tribunal fixes a maximum wholesale price for petrol in every capital city in Australia the major oil companies, after justifying further increases, are still able to sell petrol in certain selected areas below the approved Prices justification Tribunal maximum wholesale price. While the Government has introduced a freight equalisation policy this House deplores the great disparity in price between the capital cities and the country areas of Australia, and calls on the Government to strengthen the powers of the Prices Justification Tribunal in determining the wholesale price of petrol.
– I indicate to the House that most of the Notices of Motion given yesterday and today contain within them the basis upon which the proposition will be argued. During the last session of the Thirty-first Parliament I made it clear that I would accept only notices that put a proposition as distinct from the material that would justify the proposition. As from tomorrow I will take only notices with propositions.
– Will the Minister for Foreign Affairs remove any suspicions that the Government’s policy towards recognition of the Pol Pot administration of Kampuchea is a confidence trick, because it continues to recognise the administration several weeks after the Government announced-and the Australian media faithfully reported - that the Government had withdrawn recognition? Will he do so by stating unequivocally: Firstly, whether this Government continues to recognise the Pol Pot administration; secondly, if so, precisely when will withdrawal of recognition be effected; and thirdly, whether there is any truth in the rumour gaining wide currency that the recent change of Foreign Affairs Ministers was designed to pour cold water on the whole policy of withdrawal of recognition?
– The question of the Government’s decision to de-recognise in due course the Pol Pot regime was the subject of detailed discussion between me and representatives of the Association of South East Asian Nation countries during my tour of those countries a week or so ago. I made clear that the Government’s decision was a firm one. I also reminded them that they should be very conscious of the fact that Australia had co-sponsored with the ASEAN countries the resolution on Kampuchea which was passed at the United Nations. I said that as we had acted in concert with them in relation to that resolution so we would wish to act in concert with them on any actions and initiatives that they took following the passing of that resolution.
There is considerable activity amongst the ASEAN countries at present to see what opportunities may open up as a result of the passing of the United Nations resolution. I told my counterparts in the ASEAN countries that, firstly, Australia would wish to see what developed as a result of those initiatives; and, secondly, we wished to time our de-recognition of the Pol Pot regime so that it caused least difficulty to them. That was accepted and understood by the ASEAN countries.
– I address my question to the Minister for Education. I refer to the Government’s election commitment to increase per capita grants to level 6 non-government schools to 40 per cent of overall government schools standard running costs. Can the Minister advise the House whether this commitment will be met in 1981 in order to ensure that the genuine freedom of educational choice can be extended further particularly with regard to this, the largest of the lower resource using sectors of the educational system?
– It is a fact that the Prime Minister in his policy speech indicated that during the life of this Parliament the Government would take action to increase the per capita grants to the level 6 non-government schools to 40 per cent. I am also able to advise the House that recently the
Prime Minister instructed all Ministers to give urgent consideration to the various policy undertakings. So far as my portfolio is concerned, I am doing that at this very moment. I am unable at this stage to say at what rate we will be giving effect to the 40 per cent per capita undertaking, but I hope to be in a position within the next few days to make an announcement in this respect.
I take the opportunity to point out that the level 6 schools are the schools with the lowest resource levels. Indeed, the resource levels of the level 6 schools are approximately 30 per cent below the average of the government schools. It is because of this low resource level that the Government has seen fit to take the policy decision that I have referred to and we will be moving towards the implementation of the undertaking as soon as possible.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been directed to the aluminium smelters that are operating in and planned for the Hunter Valley, the proposed support power houses to supply electric power and the new coal mines, both open cut and underground? Is he also aware of the Hunter Valley Vineyard Association’s call to resite the proposed Alumax smelter? Will these projects irreparably pollute and destroy the environment? Is the Government satisfied that these irreplaceable resources are being used in the best possible way and that Australia is getting value and a fair and just economic return? Finally, before the point of no return is reached will the Government set up a House of Representatives select committee to investigate, report and recommend to the Parliament on these projects?
– I am grateful to the honourable gentleman for his question. I think that the Commonwealth had really regarded the issues involved as ones on which the New South Wales Government should make a decision. I am well aware of the attitude of the vignerons in the Hunter Valley. I think that many honourable members would occasionally appreciate their products. They would also know that some of the vignerons who believe that they will be under threat have won in international competition against the best vineyards of France. They are carrying Australia’s name very high in a way that brings praise to this nation and to what they produce. It would be a major tragedy if an industrial development were so to pollute the atmosphere that those vineyards had the quality of their product–
– The rest of the question concerned people. What about them?
– It involves both, but these are issues which rest in the hands of the New South Wales Government. I know that approaches have been made to that Government and am advised that it is the vignerons who have spearheaded the expression of concern- for reasons that the honourable member would well understand. I am also advised that if the smelters were moved 20 or 30 miles - I suppose I should give distance in kilometres - there would be no danger at all to people or vineyards.
As a result of the honourable gentleman’s question I will consider whether an approach should be made to the Premier of New South Wales expressing the honourable gentleman’s view. It would be interesting to see what came out of such an approach. Basically, the issues that the honourable gentleman raises are serious ones. At the same time, they are issues to which the Government of New South Wales should address itself.
The honourable member for Petrie having addressed a question to the Minister for Housing and Construction -
– The question is out of order.
– I ask the Minister for Housing and Construction whether Federal funding for State housing in Queensland has been directed to constructing more houses for leasing to major industries than for individual tenants in some towns and cities, including Gladstone. Are housing costs in Gladstone among the nation’s highest, in part because of a failure of governments to require major undertakings to contribute a fair share of the costs of community infrastructure needs created by those undertakings? Has he consulted the Minister for National Development and Energy to ensure that the benefits of decentralisation, diversity of job opportunities and State and Federal government help to local government are extended to growth centres in Queensland, as they have been in other States? If so, will he announce the results of those consultations before the Queensland elections are held this week?
– The questions asked by the honourable member for Capricornia involve matters which are basically the responsibility of the
States. For a long time Commonwealth governments, particularly the free enterprise governments, have contributed both through direct grants and loan funds to overcoming the housing problems of people. We are dedicated to the proposition that as many people as possible in Australia should own their homes, and we are very proud of the fact that in excess of 70 per cent of people in Australia own their homes. I remind the honourable member for Capricornia that recently the Federal Government gave to the States a firm commitment to provide $ 1,000m over a five-year period so that they could plan over that period how best to overcome their housing problems. I point out that a firm commitment of $1,000 - $200m each year for five years- is a tangible expression of the Government’s concern and interest in the problems of housing. That is a fair slice out of an annual Budget.
The responsibility for allocating housing funds in the States rests squarely on the States. We have never sought to dictate to the States how much of their finance they should allocate to housing. Over the next few months I will be holding consultations with all State housing Ministers to finalise the framework and guidelines of the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which will cover a five-year period. Honourable members should take cognisance of that. The States will have the responsibility of allocating that money to the various areas in the States. Additional money will be made available each year in the Budget; that was part of the commitment. The States will have the responsibility of allocating so much for home purchase and so much for welfare housing.
Additionally, within the guidelines the sum of $50m has been allocated to the States for innovations. Those innovations can be initiated very much at the whim and the will of the States. An amount of $30m will be provided for the purpose of implementing innovations in relation to home ownership. That will allow cheaper interest rates for people who do not have the ability to meet high interest and redemption payments. Also, $20m–
– You are worse than your predecessor.
– My predecessor in the seat of Darling Downs was Sir Reginald Swartz. I understand that in this House when a question was answered by Sir Reginald Swartz, who was much loved by all honourable members, Opposition members would indicate that they would bring a chair around to allow him to develop his point further. He would be extremely disappointed if I did not follow his example. Within the new arrangements there will be plenty of flexibility for the States to do all those things about which the honourable member asked. I take on board the point that he raised–
– Order! So far I have treated the Minister’s answer as a maiden answer to a question and I have not stopped him. However, I am afraid he has reached the end of my tolerance. The honourable gentleman will complete his answer.
– The honourable member asked me a series of questions, and they are very important questions. They are very important to honourable members on this side of the House because we are interested in shelter.
– Order! The Minister will conclude his answer.
– I abide by your decision. I refer to the point the honourable member raised about costs. I ask the honourable member to adopt a sense of responsibility. The greatest chaos or crisis facing the housing industry in Australia is the implementation of a 35-hour week, because that would add 4 per cent to the cost of building materials in the housing industry.
– Order! The Minister will resume his seat.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Capital Territory, and I request at the outset that he keep his answer briefer than the one we have just experienced. Has an amount of some $2m been granted by the Commonwealth Government towards the establishment of a motor racing circuit in the Australian Capital Territory? Is the Minister aware that Australia’s premier motor racing circuit is located in my electorate at Mount Panorama? Further, is he aware that no grants have been offered by the Commonwealth to maintain or improve that circuit? In view of the Minister’s generous and benevolent nature, will he pass on a substantial slice of the Australian Capital Territory cake to Bathurst if in fact money has been granted?
– I thank the honourable member for his question. The honourable member in fact made representations both by telegram and letter to the Prime Minister following the indication in the policy speech relating to the proposed international standard motor racing circuit in the Australian Capital Territory. Money has not yet been allocated. A number of representations have been received not only from the honourable member for Calare but also from the honourable member for Gwydir, the right honourable member for New England and a number of motor racing associations throughout Australia. Responsibility for the matter rests with me and the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment. We are closely looking at all the matters that are coming to us. It is fair to say that every representation will be fully considered.
Might I take the opportunity in conclusion to make the comment that the proposal of an international standard motor racing circuit for Australia is of enormous potential. Events at the circuit could attract in excess of 100,000 people. The Government is anxious to secure the very best advice on the proposal. I can assure the honourable member for Calare that we will look very closely at representations from him, the Bathurst City Council and all other interested groups.
– Did the Minister for Communications order his Department to prepare a submission for Cabinet by this morning on amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act designed to change the licensing and public interest provisions? Did the Minister need that submission in order to discuss it today with Mr Rupert Murdoch? Did he in fact do so or does he intend to do so?
– The Minister for Primary Industry will be aware of the distress caused by the extraordinary delays in the payment of drought relief to farmers severely affected by drought in my electorate and other electorates in Australia. What can the Minister do to speed up the New South Wales Government’s dilatory manner of passing on Federal drought relief funds to needy farmers?
– I share the honourable member’s concern about this matter. Indeed, as a result of discussions I had with the Prime Minister following a visit I made with my colleague, the Minister for Transport, to certain drought stricken areas in northern New South Wales, it was arranged for Mr Hallam, the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, to come to Canberra to talk with me about the matter. I put to him four or five points that emerged during the course of the discussions at Bourke and Moree. The first related to the slowness of administrative procedures for processing claims for assistance, which the honourable member’s question bears on. The second related to the restrictions placed on the $40,000 carry-on loans whereby people in fact could apply for only a $20,000 carry-on loan if they had not been in a drought situation in the year before. The third point raised related to the level of restocking loans and the fourth related to the level of subsidies for freight.
We had a fairly frank discussion. I pointed out to Mr Hallam that in fact New South Wales was dragging its feet both in terms of administrative procedures and in matching what other States were prepared to do in assisting drought stricken farmers. I noticed in the Press, although I have had no confirmation from the New South Wales Government, that Mr Hallam has announced some proposals he thought he might put to his Government following our conversation. One is that it make available to those who had made an application for relief a sum of $5,000 on a deed of charge basis. In other words, if a farmer had put in an application and $5,000 was made available immediately while that application was being processed this would assist considerably. I pointed out to the Minister for Agriculture that it was necessary for the New South Wales Government to increase the number of men available to process these claims in the drought stricken areas. Following this question I can do no more than again get in touch with Mr Hallam and ask him for confirmation that his officers are trying to improve the administrative arrangements. My colleague and I found on our tour of the north that a great number of farmers were finding it difficult to get a hearing and any sensible response. So following the honourable member’s question I will press again the Minister for Agriculture to see whether I can get some further information.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister and refer to the commitment by him to implement the whole of his policy program, including that announced in the policy speech as well as the supplementary statements which accompanied that speech, and to his statement that he ‘will work with determination to implement it as fully and rapidly as possible’. 1 refer the honourable gentleman to page 9 of the supplementary policy statement under the heading ‘Manufacturing Industry’ which states:
Australia will be best served by an industry structure placing less reliance on protective measures than at present.
What industries has he in mind which would face less protection? Over what period will protection be phased out? What effect will this have on the level of unemployment, particularly in regional areas?
– The honourable gentleman need have no fear; we will not follow the precedents that were set in some earlier times. For example, the decisions made in the textiles, apparel and footwear industry obviously stand. It would be quite unreasonable to take any other view. What we do in this matter balances all the considerations–
– What industries do you have in mind?
– It is a continuation of the approach that we have adopted over recent years in this matter.
– What are the industries?
– There are no industries which the honourable gentleman can say are suddenly being left open without protection, without assistance. Quite plainly the more competitive this economy can become the better it will be; the more industries that can export, the better it will be. But at the same time there are social, economic and regional factors that have to be taken into account. We have required that in the charter of the Industries Assistance Commission, but it has not always in its recommendations fully taken into account the social objectives and considerations that the Government would have in mind. The kind of decisions that we have made and will make will take the social and human factors very much into account. The honourable gentleman need have no worry and no concern that we will follow the example that he or others in an earlier administration set in a somewhat careless fashion.
– Is the Treasurer aware of widespread criticism in the community of the handling of the issue of gold coins by the Royal Australian Mint? Is this criticism basically directed at lack of communication with those who applied for coins, the cashing of cheques without making refunds to those whose orders would not be met, the fact that most multiple orders will not be met and the fact that the proof coin applicants still do not know whether their applications will be successful even though their cheques were cashed several months ago? Can the Treasurer inform the House of the current situation with the gold coins?
– It is a fact that public response to the i i”st minting of an Australian gold coin in over 40 years was beyond the anticipation of both the Mint and the Government. To that extent I think it is a source of satisfaction that there has been such very great interest. The situation is that all orders for the uncirculated coin will be met. All orders for the proof coin cannot be met and because of the unprecedented response it was decided some few weeks ago that we would limit the supply of proof coins to one per applicant. I appreciate that in a number of cases, particularly where people had lodged orders on behalf of a group of members of a family or other associates, that has caused a degree of disappointment. I very much regret that, but the sheer physical job of processing all the proof coins has been beyond the resources of the Mint. The types of skills required to meet that sort of demand are not ones that can be easily obtained overnight because they involve fairly specialist skills and the process of preparing the proof coins involves a good deal of expertise on the part of those involved.
I am concerned at suggestions of undue delay in responding to people who are not going to get the number of proof coins they ordered. I will make inquiries with a view to speeding up as much as possible the process of responding and of communicating with people as to their position.
In defence of the Mint I say that the anticipated response to the proof coin was about 30,000. Indeed, the number applied for is more than double that. That gives some idea of the dimension of the exercise. I hope honourable members will bear in mind that this is the first time for a long period that this has been done and inevitably there is a degree of trial and error in it. The response has been quite beyond the most enthusiastic expectations of the Mint.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the United States Department of State has compiled a report on human rights practices? Does that report include a list of governments which have violated human rights? Is the Government of Queensland cited in that list for its laws against public street assemblies and the administration of certain laws discriminating against Aboriginal people? In order to give effect to certain international covenants and charters, amongst them the United Nations charter of human rights signed by Australia, will the Government make use of the authority available to it under the external affairs power and initiate discussion with the Premier of Queensland to overcome these infringements of human rights and maltreatment of minorities which are apparently sanctioned by the junior partner in the Queensland coalition, the Liberal Party?
– I will have inquiries made to see what information I can find about the United States report in relation to human rights. I will be in touch with the honourable member in relation to it.
– United Nations.
– I thought the honourable member was referring to a United States State Department report.
– It is a United States Department of State report.
– If the matter could be left to the honourable member and me we could probably sort out the facts. I thought she said the United States Department of State. Some people are capable of asking their own questions and some people are even capable of hearing them. I was not aware of the report. I will make inquiries and see what it contains and see what advice I can give to the honourable member.
However, there is one point I would like to make. It is not generally the practice or the policy of the Government to use the external affairs power to achieve a general extension of the Commonwealth’s own powers. I am sure that was never the intention of those who devised this constitution. In the view of this Government it would be a wrong way to achieve a desirable objective. I will see what information I can gain and will be in touch with the honourable member.
– Is the Minister for Industrial Relations aware of a newspaper report today relating to the purported settlement terms of the Bass Strait dispute? In particular, is the Minister aware that it is alleged that a term of that settlement refers to payment made by Esso to the striking workers? Does this concern the Minister? Will the Minister advise the House of the implications the purported settlement could have on the Government’s industrial relations policy?
– The honourable member will be aware that the strike originated from wages claims for camp staff employed at the Bass Strait installation. But the real question became the right of Esso Australia Ltd to use its own alternative staff labour on the rigs in the face of refusal by its employees to work in accordance with proper directions. This is a matter which Esso considered to be one of principle. I absolutely agree. That principle is the right of an enterprise to use its staff to maintain normal production which might otherwise be affected by industrial action. This is a particularly important managerial right to maintain at an installation such as Bass Strait because of both the nature and the importance to the community of the processes concerned.
I am pleased that a settlement has been worked out and normal work is resuming. I am advised that the settlement involves a seven-day cooling-off period and after that a preservation of management’s right to use staff labour if industrial action is to occur. I am however aware of at least one Press report today which suggested that payment for time on strike was part of the settlement. I expect that Esso will advise me as soon as possible as to the details - the full terms- of settlement, but at this stage I am unaware whether this report is correct. If- I repeat ‘if - it is correct I can say only that the Government finds the practice of demands and payment for time lost on strike to be particularly abhorrent. We have legislated to stop it happening by way of recommendation or award by the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission but we cannot stop it happening as a matter of private bargaining. Employers, though, who concede such claims, I believe, should realise the encouragement it gives to irresponsible union action and the damage it can do to them in the longer term. It is one thing for unions to demand the right to strike - I have made it abundantly clear that that is a right I do not challenge - but to extend that to a demand to be able to strike on full pay is nothing short of extortion.
– If the management is to blame, of course they should.
– The honourable member polled so badly that he should keep quiet for a while. All parties, including the unions and their members, must realise that such demands do not help proper and reasonable industrial relations practices; nor do they in any way enhance the standing of unions in the community.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he recalls saying on 23 May 1976: the Government’s personal tax indexation reforms will genuinely protect the real value of future wage increases.
I ask him whether he recalls, when speaking on the same day, saying of both tax indexation and the family allowance reforms: . . . they give the nation a real chance at breaking the back of inflation as the measures will play a significant part in easing constantly excessive wage demands.
I ask the Prime Minister whether he also recalls this passage in the joint Press statement over his name on 12 June 1976 following talks between the Government and the unions:
The Government for its part noted that this (i.e. the maintenance of real disposable income standards) was a question not only of real award wages but also of cash benefits such as family allowances, the burden of personal taxation . . .
As the Prime Minister specifically regarded it as relevant in 1976 for trade unions then to take into account in making their wage demands the effect in real terms of family allowances and full tax indexation, does the Prime Minister now, logically, regard it as reasonable for trade unions to take into account in attempting to maintain the real standards of their members the fact that the real value of the family allowance for two children has declined by some $3 a week since that time and the loss as a result of less than full tax indexation has been at least $4 a week?
– A large number of things are relevant to the matters that the honourable gentleman raised. It would be also relevant, I would hope, to the Australian Council of Trade Unions and its wages policy and to its general approach to industrial disputation to cooperate with those who are seeking to expand the employment base in Australia.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Resources confirm recent Press reports which quoted him as saying that Australia is rapidly approaching the position where additional uranium projects should be given the go ahead? What is the Minister’s assessment of the future of the Australian uranium industry?
– On Monday of this week I made a speech to the Sydney Chamber of Commerce. In the course of that speech I announced that we were rapidly approaching the stage where the go ahead should be given to additional uranium projects. Perhaps for the benefit of the House and to save time I should incorporate in Hansard, with the permission of the Leader of the Opposition, a short extract from that speech which relates specifically to that question.
– Is leave granted?
– Is this the speech given on Monday?
– Yes; it does not include that bit which referred to you.
The document read as follows -
On the vital subject of energy, the place of uranium in Australia’s trade future calls for special mention. After years of wrong turnings and false starts, the Australian uranium industry is on the move. On 25th August 1977 the Government announced a comprehensive policy for the further development of Australia’s uranium resources. This policy required carefully regulated and controlled development, with regard to the totality of our national interests and our obligations as a responsible member of the international community. Since 1977 a great deal has been accomplished to place the development of the uranium industry on a sound basis, and Australia is now in a strong position to meet the world’s needs for nuclear materials in the 1980s and beyond. Progress in development of the industry has been carefully monitored and controlled to ensure that the Government’s objectives of protection of the environment, the safety and health of workers in the industry, ensuring the welfare of Aboriginals and benefiting the community as a whole are achieved.
In addition to the existing uranium mine at Mary Kathleen in Queensland, development approval has been given for the Ranger and Nabarlek projects in the Northern Territory, and the Yeelirrie project in Western Australia. Work at Ranger on the development of the Ranger mine and milling plant is proceeding on schedule. Full scale production of uranium, at a rate of 3,000 tonnes a year, is expected to start as planned late next year. Almost all of that production has already been committed for sale overseas. At Nabarlek, production of uranium started last June. Just recently, the first shipment from Nabarlek was made from Darwin, and the company has also begun to repay the uranium it borrowed from the Government’s stockpile. On the basis of the estimated resources at Nabarlek, about 60 per cent of those resources have already been committed under contract or firm letters of intent. The Yeelirrie project is expected to begin production in 1985-86, and under the development arrangements there is an expectation of an assured market for a substantial proportion of its uranium production.
These markets for export of uranium, these commitments by overseas countries are a statement of faith and confidence in Australia, and in Australia’s reliability and capacity to supply. Such statements are not restricted to overseas countries.
One of the more satisfying moments I have experienced was the news of the oversubscription to the recent share issue by Energy Resources of Australia. It was not only a massive vote of confidence in the Ranger project but a vote of confidence in the Australian uranium industry and in the Government’s policies. That vote of confidence was repeated a few days later, on the 18th of October. I also take particular personal satisfaction in the whole arrangements involved in the sale of the Government’s interests in Ranger, and the establishment of Energy Resources of Australia. I always have and always will stress that business activities are a matter for the private sector, but I must admit that the Government will not pass up the opportunity to make a good deal on behalf of all Australians.
Ladies and gentlemen, the election of Governor Reagan as the next President of the most powerful and most influential nation in the world should augur well for the Australian uranium industry. Governor Reagan’s platform culls Tor an accelerated use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes through technologies that have been proven efficient and safe. Such a commitment by the United States will also give a lead to and strengthen the resolve of other countries to bring about a similar development.
Uranium is on the move. The existing projects in Australia are substantially committed. However, we cannot afford to stand still. The momentum of Australia’s advance into the world market must be maintained. We are therefore rapidly approaching the position where additional uranium projects should be given the go ahead.
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition. The uranium industry in Australia is certainly on the move. Uranium is now being mined and exported. I think all of us have to recognise that this has not happened without a good deal of difficulty. The Australian Labor
Party and the Australian Council of Trade Unions have run a scare campaign against the mining of uranium, but it has failed. We have seen in this country people prepared to invest in the development of uranium. We have seen overseas people willing to invest and also to negotiate long term contracts for the purchase of our uranium. Those who have tried to halt the development of uranium should now start to understand that that is not acceptable to the Australian people and that they should come down out of their trees and realise that uranium is a very important form of energy essential to the requirements of many people around the world if they are to maintain and develop their living standards. In helping people to do this Australia can also get benefits.
– Just tell us who.
– The honourable member is still making an issue of uranium. It has been the third election campaign in which he has tried to make an issue of it. I think members of his own party will get sick and tired of his putting forward his own policies which are just not acceptable to the Australian people. The rest of the world is moving ahead. With the coming to office of the new President of the United States of America it is quite obvious that the United States will give a lead to the world in encouraging the use of nuclear power for peaceful purposes. As oil gets scarcer and more valuable, people will have to turn to alternatives. The best, the safest and the most reliable form of electric power generation of the future is uranium - nuclear power.
– I refer the Minister for Communications to the tragic earthquake in southern Italy. I am sure that the sympathies of all members of the House go out to those who are suffering. I note that the Government has responded promptly in terms of making funds available and in terms of facilitating the settlement in this country of those made homeless. Is the Minister aware that present telephone arrangements are unsatisfactory? Will he take some action to help communications between those in the devastated areas and their families in this country?
– The House certainly shares the general attitude included in the honourable gentleman’s question with respect to the disaster in Italy. It is an appalling tragedy and all people in Australia can only feel sympathy for those who are involved. The problems of communications, of course, are quite acute for those in Australia who have relatives, friends or associates who live in that area. I am very conscious of the problem.
Indeed, the honourable member for Sturt has canvassed the matter with me and I have asked Telecom Australia for an urgent report on ways by which, particularly in South Australia where there seems to be some difficulty, communications can be improved. Of course, it is not just a matter involving Telecom; it is also a matter involving the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. Between the two bodies I hope to be able to have a response fairly soon. As soon as I do I will let the honourable gentleman know.
– I draw the Prime Minister’s attention to the fact that over 200,000 young Australians will leave school at the end of this year and go on to the labour market. I ask him to explain to the House and to the people of Australia why his Government persists with the policy of bringing in skilled migrants - at present 20 per cent of Australia’s requirements for industry, and the number is increasing every year - while we have so many tens of thousands of unemployed young Australians.
– The Government accepts that its first obligation is to do everything it can to train more Australians.
– You have done nothing.
– A very great deal has been done.
– You have done nothing, absolutely nothing.
– Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will remain silent.
– Don’t tell lies.
– The honourable member for Port Adelaide will withdraw that remark and remain silent.
– I withdraw.
– A very great deal has been done. My colleagues have set in train a number of discussions with representatives of the States, employers and the trade unions to assist in that objective because some of the problems in relation to training and retraining are institutional and historic and they are not ones that it is within the unilateral power of this Commonwealth Government or any Commonwealth government to overcome. If the honourable gentleman can assist us with that in part and if there can be greater flexibility in relation to some attitudes within other sections of the community that would assist in helping to train more Australians.
That is the first objective that we have and it is one that has been pursued energetically. We will continue on that course. But it will not assist the general level of employment and it will not assist people who are out of work if projects and production are held up in Australia because there is a need for skilled labour which is not being filled. It will advance the economy more and help more Australians, both skilled and unskilled, if projects are enabled to go ahead because skilled labour can be found, whether it be in the first instance, I hope, from within Australia or, if not, from other countries. That is the general approach that we have adopted and we will continue that approach. I am sure that it is one that is in the overall interests of all Australians, including those who are looking for work.
– Can the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs indicate to the House the special arrangements that he is making for Italians from the earthquake zone to join members of their families in Australia? Will any special arrangements be made during the selection process?
– Special arrangements have been made. An officer of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is in the area and is interviewing people who might wish to come to Australia. People who are immediate family members of people in Australia - dependent spouses, aged parents and children - will be able to come without interview. Those who are in a more extended family situation will be interviewed and, subject to passing the normal health and character checks, they will be welcomed into Australia. Their applications will be expedited.
– Do the health checks apply to immediate family members?
– Yes, but in a relaxed situation. Obviously the Australian public would expect that we would protect it from highly contagious diseases and things of that nature as well as ensuring that the applicants comply with basic character requirements. The applications will be expedited and requirements will be quite relaxed by the usual immigration standards.
– I ask the Treasurer: In view of the indication in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that the Government intends to persist with its monetarist economic policies, will the Treasurer explain how he hopes to avoid the catastrophic consequences which similar policies are bringing about in Britain under the Conservative Government; namely, rampant unemployment and a complete rundown of manufacturing industry?
– I am very pleased that the honourable member for Burke recognises the proper emphasis placed in His Excellency’s Speech on the role of monetary policy in achieving the anti-inflationary objectives of this Government. I can assure the honourable member and other honourable members of the House that this Government will persist in the pursuit of firm monetary policies. It is only by pursuing firm and effective monetary policies that the long term anti-inflationary goals of this Government will be maintained and further enhanced in the future.
The honourable gentleman attempts to draw an analogy between the situation here in Australia and the situation in the United Kingdom. It is true that there is a broad similarity in approach in many of the economic areas between the Conservative Government of the United Kingdom and the present Government in Australia. I make it plain to the honourable gentleman that the circumstances inherited by the Conservative Government in the United Kingdom bore, of course, the hallmarks of many more years of socialist administration than fortunately was the situation in Australia and, as a consequence, the policies being, I believe, courageously pursued by the British Government will take longer to take effect. I can assure the honourable gentleman that the sorts of policies that successfully have provided growth, reduced inflation, greater competitiveness, an attractive investment climate and 200,000 more jobs in recent months will be continued. The linchpin of those policies will be the pursuit of firm monetary policies.
– I understand that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports intends to lodge a request for detailed information.
– Yes, Mr Speaker. I seek information in relation to the operation of the parliamentary departments.
– I ask the honourable member to hand his request in writing to the Clerk. If it is in order it will be printed in today’s Hansard. In due course I will reply and that reply will be printed in Hansard. I understand that the honourable member for Lalor likewise has a request.
– Yes, Mr Speaker. I seek information with respect to the Parliamentary Library.
– I ask the honourable member to hand his request in writing to the Clerk. If it is in order it will be printed in Hansard. I understand that the honourable member for Bonython also seeks information.
- Mr Speaker, I seek information in relation to the Parliamentary Library.
– If the honourable gentleman provides his request to the Clerk I will give a reply.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 1 8 1 lay on the table my warrant nominating the honourable members for Chifley (Mr Armitage), Cook (Mr Dobie), Forrest (Mr Drummond), Wakefield (Mr Giles), Deakin (Mr Jarman), Scullin (Dr Jenkins), Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) to act as Deputy Chairmen of Committees when requested to do so by the Chairman of Committees.
– Pursuant to statute I present the annual reports and financial statements of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia and Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia together with the Auditor-General’s report thereon for the year ended 30 June 1980.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report for 1979-80 of the Department of the Special Trade Representative.
– Pursuant to section 88 of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation
Act I present the annual report 1979-80 of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation.
– For the information of honourable members I present five documents headed ‘Ranger Uranium Project’ concerning the divestment of the Government’s interests in the Ranger uranium project.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1 949 I present the thirty-first annual report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority for 1979-80.
– Pursuant to section 9 of the Coal Research Assistance Act 1977 I present the annual report of the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council 1979-80.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Australian Safeguards Office for 1979-80.
– For the information of honourable members 1 present the annual report of the Decentralisation Advisory Board for the year ended 30 June 1 980.
– Pursuant to section 6 of the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Act 1978 I present copies of relevant documents concerning financial assistance to Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia in respect of projects in conjunction with the development and management of water resources during 1980-81.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Albury-Wodonga Development Act 1973 I present an interim annual report of the AlburyWodonga Development Corporation for the year ended June 1980.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Department of National Development and Energy for 1979-80.
– For the information of honourable members I present the Snowy Mountains Council annual report for 1979-80.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Department of Industry and Commerce for 1979-80. Copies of this report have already been distributed to honourable members.
– Pursuant to section 53 of the Overseas Telecommunication Act 1946, 1 present the annual report of the Overseas Telecommunication Commission (Australia) for 1979-80.
– For the information of honourable members I present reports of the Australian Delegation to the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, eighth session, Parts I and II.
– Pursuant to section 17 of the Meat Research Act 1960, 1 present the fourteenth annual report of the Australian Meat Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1980.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Dairying Research Act 1972, 1 present the eighth annual report of the Dairying Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1 980.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Poultry Industry Assistance Act 1965, I present the fifteenth annual report on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30 June 1 980.
– Pursuant to section 36 of the Australian Dried Fruits Corporation Act 1978, 1 present a report for the first period of the Australian Dried Fruits Corporation’s operations, the period 1 January 1979 to 30 June 1980.
– Pursuant to section 1 6 of the Pig Industry Research Act 1971, I present the ninth annual report of the Australian Pig Industry Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1980.
– Pursuant to section 7 of the Tobacco Industry Act 1965, 1 present the annual report of the Tobacco Industry Trust Account for the year ended 30 June 1 980.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Chicken Meat Research Act 1969, I present the eleventh annual report of the Australian Chicken Meat Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1980.
Pursuant to section 10 of the Science and Industry Endowment Act 1926, I present the audited accounts of the Science and Industry Endowment Fund for the year ended 30 June 1 980.
Pursuant to section 10 of the Primary Industry Bank Act, 1 present the second annual report of the Primary Industry Bank of Australia Ltd for the year ended 30 June 1 980.
– Pursuant to section 16 (2) of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973, 1 present the eighth report of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Authority, dealing with the general administration and working of that Act and of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948 for the year ended 30 June 1980.
– -Pursuant to sections 10 and 10A of the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residences Act 1953, I present the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residences Trust annual report and the associated Auditor-General’s report for the year ended 30 June 1 980.
– Pursuant to section 43 of the Criminology Research Act 1971, 1 present the eighth annual report of the Criminology Research Council for the year ended 30 June 1 980.
– Pursuant to section 28 of the Legislative Drafting Institute Act 1974, I present the sixth annual report of the Legislative Drafting Institute for the year ended 30 June 1980.
– Pursuant to section 44 of the Australian Film Commission Act 1975, I present the annual report of the Australian Film Commission for the year ended 30 June 1980.
– Pursuant to section 6 of the National Fitness Act 1941, I present a report on national fitness in Australia 1979-80.
– Pursuant to section 42 of the Australian Film and Television School Act 1973, I present the annual report of the Australian Film and Television School for the year ended 30 June 1980.
– Pursuant to section 43 of the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975, 1 present the annual report for 1979-80 of the Australian Heritage Commission.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report for 1979-80 on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report for 1979-80 of the Department of Home Affairs.
– My attention has just been drawn to the fact that a very distinguished former member of this House, Minister and Judge of the International Court of Justice, Sir Percy Spender, is in the chamber. On behalf of all honourable members may I say that we welcome him.
Honourable members - Hear, hear!
– Pursuant to section 42 of the Health Insurance Commission Act 1973, I present the annual report for 1979-80 of the Health Insurance Commission.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report for 1979-80 of the Director-General of Health.
-For the information of honourable members I present the annual report for the 1979-80 financial year of Qantas Airways Ltd.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– The report discloses a loss that constitutes a national scandal, due to the inactivity of the Government.
– Is the honourable gentleman speaking to the motion?
– Under the circumstances, because of insufficiency of time at this stage, I move:
– I ask the honourable gentleman, if he is moving the adjournment, not to speak to the motion. Otherwise I will have to rule that he has taken up his time for debate. I will grant him an indulgence on this occasion but warn him for the future. The question is that the motion be agreed to. Those of that opinion say aye–
– On a point of order–
– To the contrary, no–
– On a point of order–
– The honourable gentleman will retain his calm. I believe the ayes have it. I now call the honourable gentleman in respect of his point of order.
– My point of order is that if there is provision in the Standing Orders for reports such as this to be debated when presented I would be grateful if the House could be advised. I have not seen that procedure followed and it might be very useful.
– There is no such provision in the Standing Orders. There is a provision that the honourable gentleman may be called to speak to the motion. If he chooses to move the adjournment of the debate his right to speak is preserved. If, however, he speaks to the matter he evaporates his right to be called. He cannot be called a second time. I have indicated to the honourable gentleman that I will give him indulgence on this occasion. If, in the future, he speaks as he has just done he will sacrifice his right to speak on a later occasion. I can only suggest that he pursue with the Standing Orders Committee an amendment of the Standing Orders.
– I think that both rulings are wise, Mr Speaker.
– The honourable gentleman will withdraw.
– I withdraw, but I do not think that you understood what I said, Mr Speaker. I said that I think both rulings are wise. If I may clarify that, one reason is that I believe it to be an appropriate and advanced course of procedure if reports can be debated when they are tabled. That has not been the practice.
– I apologise to the honourable gentleman. I had wrongly understood him to say: ‘I think both rulings are unwise’. Under the circumstances, we are in agreement.
Pusuant to section 39 of the Maritime College Act 1978, 1 present the annual report of the Council of the Australian Maritime College for the period 10 October 1978 to 31 December 1979.
– Pursuant to section 12 of the Immigration (Education) Act 1971, 1 present a report on the operation of the Act in relation to child migrant education during the financial year ended 30 June 1980.
Pursuant to section 57 of the States Grants (School Assistance) Act 1978, 1 present a report on financial assistance granted to each State.
– Pursuant to section 24 of the Metric Conversion Act 1970, 1 present the tenth annual report for 1979-80 of the Metric Conversion Board.
– Pursuant to section 19 of the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act 1960, 1 present the annual report for 1979-80 of the National Standards Commission.
– Pursuant to subsection 38 (4) of the Defence Service Homes Act 1918, 1 present the statement of conditions, which came into operation on 1 October 1980, setting out the terms and conditions of insurance provided by the Defence Service Homes Corporation.
– Pursuant to section 26 of the Building Ordinance 1972, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Building Standards Committee for 1 979-80.
– Pursuant to section 13 of the Building Ordinance 1972, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Building Review Committee for 1979-80.
– Pursuant to section 13 of the Surveyors Ordinance 1967, I present the annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Surveyors Board for 1979-80.
– Pursuant to section 14 of Fire Brigade (Administration) Ordinance 1974, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Fire Brigade for 1979-80.
– Pursuant to section 17 of the Agents Ordinance 1968, I present the ninth annual report of the Agents Board of the Australian Capital Territory for 1979-80.
– Pursuant to section 38 of the Parliament House Construction Authority Act, I present the annual report of the Parliament House Construction Authority for 1979-80.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Department of the Capital Territory for 1979-80.
– Pursuant to section 5 of the Careless Use of Fires Ordinance, I present the annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Bush Fire Council for 1 979-80.
– Pursuant to section 39 of the Architects Ordinance 1959, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Architects Board for 1979-80.
– Pursuant to section 53 of the Homes Saving Grant Act 1976, 1 present the annual report for the year 1979-80 on the administration and operation of that Act.
– Pursuant to section 36 of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Act 1970, 1 present the tenth annual report of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation for 1979-80.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Department of Housing and Construction for 1979-80.
– I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s determination to introduce a new indirect tax in spite of its inflationary effects and unfair impact on middle and lower income earners.
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
– When it comes to taxing the public, no government has been more crudely mercenary, or more promiscuous in its motives and actions, than the Fraser Government. Whatever way the measurement is made - as a proportion of total national resources, in aggregate terms, in real terms or in per capita terms - this nation is reeling under the most severe tax burden in its history. That is the sad and undeniable record of five years of Fraserism. The Fraser Government is now determined to introduce a broadly based indirect tax and it seeks to masquerade that squalid little deal as a tax reform. Its concept of tax reform is as comfortingly diverting and as entertaining as the prospect of a weekend on a medieval rack. The Fraser Government’s idea of tax reform is not just to impose a new tax, and more tax, but to propose a form of taxation that will make commodities and services dearer, create higher prices and reduce household purchasing power, increase inflation and reduce living standards. Dearer goods and service and lower real spending power mean that fewer goods will be sold, and that is disastrous news for business, especially small business. More inflation will mean more unemployment.
More than that, this is a callously unfair form of taxation. It has the public support of the Queensland Premier, the man who is to twentieth century politics in his State what Henry Fox was to eighteenth century politics in Great Britain. For the record, what Henry Fox did with the British Pay Office the Queensland Premier has been doing with his State’s mineral development. The fact is that the Fraser Government does not have a mandate to introduce this viciously regressive tax. It had an unparalleled opportunity to obtain that mandate five weeks ago at the national elections. It fudged on the opportunity because it knew that the Australian taxpayers were weary of the Government’s inventiveness in adding to the tax burden they have to carry and would repudiate such an unfair, regressive and economically and socially dislocative tax as it is now determined it to impose. Whatever its final description, the undeviating effect of a broad indirect tax will be to tax the wealthy less and the rest of the community much more. Once again, the great principle behind the philosophy of Fraserism comes into play - those who are well off will be given more, while those are less well off will be left to pay the bill.
The Government has to answer several questions, not one or two but all of them, in relation to the proposals to introduce a new tax - more tax but, worst of all, a regressive tax which will punish the great bulk of families in Australia. The first question is: Why introduce this new tax? It is suggested by inspired leaks from the Government that it is necessary to introduce this new and regressive tax to offset the decline in petrol tax revenue which will occur after 1983; that is, after the next national election. Let us make this an issue for the next election. Let the Australian people determine whether they want the introduction of this sort of tax. There is no need to rush the introduction of this tax for that purpose. If it is so that the essential reason for the introduction of this broadly based regressive indirect tax - call it a value added tax, a retail sales tax or a turnover tax; it still has the same effect - is to offset the decline in petrol tax revenue after 1983, it seems to demolish the kite flying put out as saccharin to the electorate that it will offset the tax cuts that the Government is proposing. The facts are that if the Government is contemplating exclusively income tax cuts, it is a clumsy way to bring that about and, more importantly, it is regressive.
We therefore come to the next question. What are the motives on the part of the Government for introducing this new tax,.apart from the fact that the rate of growth in petrol tax has fallen quite drastically? A phenomenal rate of growth was brought about because the Government, contrary to its pledges to the Australian community, did not progressively phase in the application of the petrol tax but rather in one fell swoop introduced it with full effect. The rate of growth that has been valuable to the increase in revenue about which the Government is so voracious has gone. It is seeking to introduce another broadly based indirect tax to contribute that rate of growth in revenue that it wants. Therein lies the motive. The Government wants to hide the severity of the tax bite it is about to apply to the community. Of course, it wants to increase revenue.
There is another aspect of this that has not been attended to by commentators, and that is simply that the States will be conscripted into the introduction of a second income tax, so beloved by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as a part of his federalism policy. The reason for that is simple. Under the Commonwealth-State financial arrangements at the moment the States share in revenue from income tax. If the Government can contrive a situation in which there continues to be substantial growth in total revenue but by the introduction of an indirect tax reduces the rate of growth in income tax revenue, it is not disadvantaged in terms of its total revenue needs, but the States are. Of course, this proposal is nothing more or less than a fiscal spit on which the Fraser Government proposes to impale the States.
But the impact of this is horribly regressive. People, households, on more modest incomes are going to contribute more relatively than people on higher incomes. The household expenditure survey statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the period 1974-75 to 1979-80 make this point tellingly. They point out that all households with incomes below $334 a week- that is, the great bulk of households in Australia - spend a far greater proportion of their incomes on expenditure items than do households on incomes above that level. More than that, they spend a far greater proportion of their incomes as expenditure than the Australian average. For instance, households with incomes between $134 and $234 a week spend nearly 100 per cent of their incomes as expenditure - that is, on commodities and services. There is no room for savings. Therefore, the imposition of indirect taxes falls most heavily on them. The broader they are made the more punishing they will be in their effect on those families. Let me turn to households with incomes in excess of $568 a week. The expenditure of these households as a proportion of income falls to a little over 61 per cent. So we can see from these official statistics who is going to pay as a consequence of what the Government has in mind.
The fifth point I wish to make is concerned with the inflationary impact of indirect taxes.Indirect taxes are inflationary. They push up costs. Indeed, the Government’s policies in the last five years in relation to indirect taxes, including the petrol tax and its policy in relation to health insurance charges, have resulted in the addition of an average of 1.75 per cent to the consumer price index over that period. That is, the Government’s policies have been particularly nasty in their impact in aggravating inflation. Like the Bourbons, not having learned anything the Government is determined to bring about a new tax which will aggravate that trend even more.
More specifically, who will be the worst casualties as a result of this sour and curdled tax reform, as it is described so meretriciously? The people properly paying no tax now will be the people who will have to carry the greatest burden relatively. The pensioners, who have no other income than their pensions and who are not paying tax, will be paying in the future. The poor, whose numbers have increased in five years from one million to two million of our fellow Australians, will be paying. We now have a situation where Australia has one of the highest levels of relative poverty in the industrialised world. Yet per capita we are one of the wealthiest countries. That is the record of the Fraser Government which is going to make these people pay. It has a grand strategy to tax the aged, the disabled, the widowed, the impoverished and the infants in the community.
– And the unemployed.
– And the unemployed. Of course, in principle this strategy is on all fours with the great social reforms attempted by the Fraser Government in the last five years. Let us just recall some of them: The proposal to tax children’s allowances in cases where children earned pocket money; the abolition of maternity allowances; the attempted abolition of funeral benefits for pensioners; the effort in 1978-79 to reduce the number of pension adjustments following inflationary movements from two a year to one a year so that the Prime Minister could pay for the reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty for the wealthy graziers, inter alia, from the western districts of Victoria. That is the nature of the principles that inspired these people. Those least able are the people who are going to pay.
Let us look at the impact that indirect taxes have already had on families. The average Australian household is paying $1,770 a year in indirect tax federally - that is about $34 a week. A ‘modest’ - I put that word in inverted commas so that the irony does not escape anyone because it is modest for this Government - 10 per cent consumption tax would add at least another $3.40 a week to the burden of more than $34 a week which already is being borne.
Let us look at some further inequity questions to which the Government must respond. In 1975-76 the University of New South Wales carried out a survey into spending profiles of our community. It found that in 1979-80 terms indirect taxes represented 8.3 per cent of incomes of households on between $200 and $250 a week. It found also that households on incomes in excess of $580 a week - that is, households consisting of people such as members of this Parliament - pay only 5 per cent of their incomes in indirect tax. Now, of course, because of the petrol tax, the disparity is even higher - much higher- to the disadvantage of the more moderate and middle income households in this country. Let me put that another way. What that survey means is thatclearly it is an understatement because of the bite of the petrol tax subsequent to its being taken out - in 1979-80 income terms a household on $200 to $250 a week pays at the very least 66 per cent more of its income in indirect taxes than the household on $580 a week. I do not see why households which are made up of people such as members of the Federal Parliament should be getting off so lightly, even if they are members of the Government, which is behind this tactic.
It is suggested by some commentators in a completely ill-informed way that offsets can be introduced for those who are disadvantaged by the changeover to a substantial increase in indirect taxes. But the offsets require policies from government - they require a range of policies, not just one or two. All we are likely to get from the Fraser Government is a straw, instead of lifebuoys, thrown onto the fiscal waters for victims of the Fraser Government’s latest hit and run tax policies. For instance, let the Treasurer tell us: Will he immediately increase substantially all pensions and social security benefits in this community with the introduction of a broadly based indirect tax? Those people are not paying tax now and fiddling with tax thresholds will not save them in any way at all. Will he introduce a guaranteed income or a negative income tax? That would be a phenomenally daunting task, I can assure him, as one who worked for several years in this area. Will he introduce something like that at least to mollify the suffering that is going to be imposed on the poor? In the absence of that those people will be horribly disadvantaged. Will he immediately boost children’s allowances - they have not been adjusted since 1976 - to save money at the expense of families?
We have to raise this question: Can we trust the Government if it gives any undertakings on these matters? Of course we cannot. The offsets will not be fairly and equitably applied. Just look at the Government’s record. Look at the effects of tax changes in the last five years. I thank the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) for the table he has prepared in this respect. The table shows comparatively that a person on $11,500 pays $2.40 a week extra in tax over that five-year period as against someone on the Prime Minister’s income, which is in excess of $82,000 a year. That person pays $58.40 a week less tax. That is, moderate and middle income earners pay more tax under the Fraser Government’s taxing policies; people on high incomes like that of the Prime Minister pay not just less tax but very large amounts less tax. Let me put it another way: The Prime Minister has seven times the income of the income earner I have cited, yet as a result of tax charges he is $6 1 a week better off than that moderate income earner.
There are alternatives. One is a resource rental tax - that is, a tax on excess profits by the big mining corporations. Another is clamping down in a fair dinkum way on tax avoidance instead of thrashing about with a feather. But once again the people of Australia are being set up for another king hit from the greatest tax bully in the history of the nation - the Fraser Government. The
Fraser Government has - this is on the public record of August this year - the enthusiastic support of the Queensland Premier and his Government. The proposal, in whatever its final form, will be one for a new tax, more inflation, less pay packet spending power and lower living standards. It will be objectionably regressive, making middle and modest income earners pay more tax. It will make pay tax those who do not and should not pay tax - pensioners, the poor and children.
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– It is, as befits the record of the Fraser Government, a policy proposal built on deception and dishonesty- tactics appropriate to a sneak and bully.
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I greatly welcome the discussion of the matter of public importance presented by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and thank him for providing me so early in this session of parliament with an opportunity of explaining to the Parliament precisely what the Government is about in the taxation area. Firstly, I totally reject the inference in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition that in some way the Government has already taken a decision to change the Australian taxation base. That is completely and utterly untrue and every time the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) or any other Labor Party spokesman around Australia makes that statement over coming weeks it will be repudiated.
All the Government has done is to recognise the inevitable, and that is that it is high time that we had an objective look at the Australian taxation system. We have recognised that there are many defects in the present personal taxation system that operates in Australia. Within an overall objective of reducing and not increasing taxation, it is the goal of this Government to see whether we can achieve a better mix, a better combination of taxation within the overall amount that we are required to collect. There is only one thing that ultimately determines how much taxation a government raises and that is the size of government activities. The only true party of lower taxation is the party of smaller government. The real supporters of higher taxation, of increased taxation in this community, are the supporters of large government. Let me remind honourable members of what we reminded the House of during the last session. Out of the mouths of the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Gellibrand came testimony of the Australian Labor Party’s commitment to higher taxation in our community.
Of course it was the honourable member for Gellibrand, the alternative Treasurer of this country, who said in the now well-remembered address to Labor economists in June 1978:
If Labor does not gain office next election–
He was right about that -
By 1 983, when we could next hope to gain office, we would face a mammoth task in rebuilding the public sector - and maybe an equally mammoth task in convincing the electorate that it should pay a higher level of tax to enable us to do so.
Out of his own mouth came the unrepudiated commitment of the honourable member for Gellibrand to the concept of bigger government and therefore higher taxation. Yet his leader comes into the House and parades as some latter day convert to lower taxation. The Labor Party is absolutely and irretrievably committed to increasing the public sector in this country and the inevitable consequence of that is higher taxation. The only parties that the Australian people can trust to lower taxation in the Australian community are the anti-socialist parties - the Liberal Party and the National County Party. They are the only parties which are committed to reducing the size of government in our community.
What have we done in the five weeks since our victory on 18 October? We have done two very important things.’ They ought to be seen as complementary to one another and ought to be looked at objectively for what they are. Firstly, we have established an examination of the functions of the Commonwealth Government to see whether there is any unnecessary duplication of the Commonwealth Government’s activities so far as the private sector is concerned and so far as the programs of State governments are concerned. That is an exercise in pruning unnecessary Commonwealth Government activities. It is not an exercise in increasing the size of government; it is an exercise in seeing whether we can further reduce the size of government. It is therefore an essential prerequisite to any long term approach to lower taxation. That of course has been criticised by the Opposition - the party that now parades itself as being concerned about lower taxation and taxation reform.
Also we have announced an investigation into the Australian taxation base. We are not about increasing taxation. Our longer term goals are to achieve a reduction in taxation. But we recognise, unlike the Australian Labor Party, that we can do that only if we are successful in holding back the level of public expenditure. Unless we are prepared to say that and unless we are prepared to do that we do not honestly have any hope of reducing taxation. Any party that pretends around this country that it can simultaneously reduce taxation and increase expenditure is misleading the Australian community. It is about time that simple, fundamental fact was recognised and accepted by the Opposition in this Parliament. We are about examining whether it is better to change the mix and combination of taxation in Australia. We have taken no decision on that matter. I recognise, and I do not mind saying it in this debate, that there are very powerful arguments for and against changing our taxation base.
The Australian taxation system is characterised by a number of features. Firstly, by world standards Australia is a lowly taxed country. The taxation average figure for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries is 35.8 per cent of gross domestic product on the most recent figures available. When we take all taxes into account Australia, with a figure of 28.8 per cent of gross domestic product, is one of the lowest taxed countries in the industrialised world. But unlike most of the countries of northern and western Europe which are referred to so often by the Labor Party as absolute epitomes of comparison in economic management, Australia relies less heavily on indirect taxation than do countries in Europe. Correspondingly, we rely very heavily on personal income tax as a source of revenue.
Personal income tax as a principal source of revenue has a number of desirable features. It also has a number of drawbacks. It is an undeniable fact that under a personal taxation system the opportunities for evasion and avoidance are greater than exist under a system that relies more heavily on indirect taxation as a source of raising revenue. Equally, indirect taxation has an impact on the price index. The Leader of the Opposition asked me to give guarantees about what would happen to people on different income levels if indirect taxation were introduced.
I can only say to the Leader of the Opposition that all of those matters would be taken into account by the Government in its consideration of whether there should be any change in the taxation base. I go back to what I said at the commencement of my remarks, and that is that the Government has not taken any decision to change the taxation base. Any suggestion that we are committed to a major change in the taxation base is completely false. The only thing that we are committed to is a reduction in the overall taxation burden and within that objective an examination of whether it might not be possible to obtain a fairer and more efficient combination or mix of taxation.
Surely, every member of the Australian community who is interested in having an efficient and fair taxation system would want to see an objective inquiry into our present taxation system. Surely everybody who is interested in fairness and equity would welcome what the Government is doing rather than categorise it in the way in which the Leader of the Opposition has just done. What the Government is about is seeing whether we can get a fairer tax deal for Australian families and whether we can introduce a taxation system that provides more incentive not only for Australian families but for all people who contribute to the bearing of the taxation burden in our community.
As I said at the beginning, what we are really about here is two things: Firstly, we are about the attitudes of different political parties in Australia towards the overall level of taxation, secondly, we have to ask ourselves some fundamental questions about what the combination or mix of taxation ought to be. I was intrigued to hear the Leader of the Opposition- presumably the honourable member for Gellibrand agrees - so vehemently repudiate the idea of even an examination of indirect taxation by the present Government. It was not so long ago that some of his front bench colleagues had different ideas. We go back to 1977 for this very interesting quote from an interview reported in the Australian of 29 June 1977. It states:
In order to get on with the social programme we have in mind, we must recognise there is a limit to the amount extra that can be collected in income taxes and therefore our thinking is ranging over the indirect taxes.
They were not the words of somebody on the Government side, they were the words of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) who is now the shadow Minister for Industry and Commerce in the Opposition. I wonder whether the honourable member for Adelaide any longer shares those views on indirect taxation, or whether he is now repentent and totally in support of what the Leader of the Opposition has said. The Government has embarked upon the examination that I announced last week, not with a goal of increasing taxation, not with a goal of creating a less fair and a less equitable taxation system in Australia, but rather with a goal of seeing whether it is possible or desirable to bring about a different mix or combination of taxes within the Australian community. It may well be that at the end of that investigation and inquiry we will conclude that, with all its faults, the existing taxation system with its heavy reliance on personal income tax and with perhaps some changes is preferable to any major change in the taxation base.
Let us not be so cowardly, so narrow-minded and so lacking in objectivity that we cannot even face the idea of looking at our existing taxation system. That is what the Opposition is inviting us to do. The Opposition is inviting us to say: ‘Oh no, turn your back on it, it is too hard, it is too complicated. Don’t touch it. Don’t have the courage to ask a few fundamental questions about our system. Simply turn your back on it and walk away from it’. I can tell the Opposition that the Government has no intention of doing that. We remain committed to bringing about greater equity and efficiency in the Australian taxation system. Despite all their words and all their rhetoric in the last election campaign, the fact remains that this Government, the Fraser Government, a LiberalNational Country Party Government, has done more to fight tax avoidance and evasion in the Australian community than any Labor government ever dreamt of doing. Nothing that the Leader of the Opposition, his colleagues or any other members of the Opposition can say will alter that fact. In the interests of equity and fairness we have been prepared to attack tax avoidance on a massive scale.
Later on this afternoon I will be bringing a Bill into the House to impose very severe penalties on certain forms of tax evasion. This is yet another illustration of the determination of this Government to prevent those in the community who would unfairly shift their tax burden upon those who are less able to bear it. Of course we share the concern of the Leader of the Opposition about low income earners in the community; of course as part of the process of asking questions about our taxation system we will be concerned to see that there is no unfair burden thrown upon the poor and the low income earners in our community. I can assure the Leader of the Opposition and the House that in the examination that takes place over the coming weeks and months it will be our intention to ensure that the system is made fairer, more equitable and more efficient rather than less fair, less equitable and less efficient.
I conclude by repeating the basis of the Government’s exercise at the present time. This is not an exercise in increasing the overall burden of taxation. We remain the only parties genuinely committed to reducing the taxation burden because we believe in smaller and not larger government. It is an exercise in determining whether, in the overall totality of taxation in Australia, it might be desirable and possible to bring about a different mix or a different combination of taxation. Inevitably that will lead us into an examination of alternative forms of taxation; inevitably we will have to ask ourselves whether the present system does not contain too much disincentive for effort; inevitably we will be asking ourselves whether the present system or any alternative system places an unfair burden on low income earners and the poor in the Australian community. All of those considerations will be comprehended in the inquiry. I give the House the assurance that the purpose of the inquiry is the goal of a fairer, more equitable and overall or lower taxation burden within the Australian community. It is not an exercise in increasing taxation because, indisputably, we are the parties committed to lower taxation as we are the parties committed to smaller government.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has understandably shown great sensitivity to his party’s being portrayed as a high tax party because his Government, of course, came into power with the notion that it was going to reduce taxes and, of course, has done precisely the opposite. Since the Government came to office taxes have grown to the highest levels in our history as a proportion of gross domestic product. That is a trend which is still continuing and something which, of course, is a great embarrassment to the present Treasurer. His attempts to try to persuade the Australian people in this Parliament that his Government is a low tax government will ring hollow to the Australian people. They know that in the five years in which it has been in government it has done nothing in respect of tax reductions. What it has done is bring about continuing increases, apart from a couple of small episodes of tax reductions, but basically overall a continuing stream of tax increases both in respect of direct taxes and indirect taxes.
The Treasurer’s attempt to say that the Labor Party is a high tax party because of some comments that I made in mid- 1978 is also rather pathetic. Those comments were made before the Government broke its promises in respect of tax indexation, before it brought in an income tax surcharge and, most importantly, before it brought in import parity pricing for Australian produced crude oil and thereby bringing about an enormous increase in indirect taxation which has greatly affected the taxes paid by every Australian in this country. So the situation has changed very substantially since the comments I made, which the Treasurer reiterated again today, as he has many times in the past.
Reference to that import parity matter reminds me that that decision, an enormously important decision by this Government in respect of taxation in this country, was made without its ever being put to the Australian people at an election. It was not put by this Government in 1977 as part of its election policy, it was something that was snuck in after the election. Now we see it all happening over again. Having been told nothing at this election about an increase in indirect taxation we are now going to have an increase in indirect taxation brought in by this Government without any suggestion of that being a part of its program at the preceding election. This is a central issue in this debate about which the Treasurer has said nothing. In our view, this Government has deceived the Australian people by hiding from them an intention to bring about a fundamental change in the tax system in this country without bringing it to their notice prior to the elections. In our view, there can be little doubt that the Government intends to introduce some such broad based indirect tax. There is little doubt either, despite what the Treasurer said here again today, that the Government’s intention to do so was formulated prior to the recent election. I believe that the events of the last few weeks demonstrate this very clearly.
Before I look at the events of the last few weeks, I will go back to mid- 1978 when the Government conducted a large inquiry into this issue of broad-based indirect taxes, something about which the Treasurer said nothing here today. On 30 June 1978 the Treasurer announced that the Government was examining the Commonwealth system of indirect taxation. He did not say for how long it had been examining it by that date, but he said that the Government was then examining it, that it was considering various broad-based indirect taxes and that he had asked the Australian Taxation Office to conduct a review into the practical aspects of a retail sales tax. That review by the Taxation Office was made available to the Government just before Christmas of 1 978. In other words, it was almost a sixmonths investigation by the Taxation Office, quite obviously a very substantial and thoroughly exhaustive investigation. On 24 January 1979, about a month after the Government got that report, the Treasurer announced that having considered the Taxation Office report on the practical aspects of introducing a retail sales tax and having completed its consideration of options available for new indirect taxes the Government had decided not to go ahead with such a tax. The Treasurer said that the reasons given for not going ahead with that tax were these: . . . any significant move towards a broad based indirect tax would have had a direct effect upon consumer prices and thus inflationary expectations. As well it would have involved an inevitable period of uncertainty and some confusion as both traders and consumers adjusted themselves to the new system.
So inflation was apparently the key factor which persuaded him at that time not to go on with such a tax. That is what he said the problem was. In fact, inflation was less than it is now when it is being reconsidered. We went to this election with that being the last word from this Government. At any time that the matter has been raised since January 1979 - it has been raised periodically - the Treasurer has said: ‘My last word on the subject is on 24 January 1979 and we have not been thinking about it ever since.’ Immediately this election was over it became clear that the Government was considering such a tax. The day after the election the secretary of the Taxpayers’ Association, Mr Risstrom, claimed that the Government was considering the introduction of such a tax. The Treasurer again simply referred back to his statement of January 1979 and refused to make any further comment. He did not deny that the Government was considering the introduction of it in the near future. His refusal to rule out the prospect immediately raised speculation, and understandably, that such a tax was being contemplated. On 10 November, again just a couple of weeks after the election, the Australian Industries Development Association made a public call for the introduction of value added tax, one form of a broad-based indirect tax. The Treasurer responded the next day by saying that the Government would examine the AIDA proposal very carefully, again not saying that it had examined it and it had no intention of introducing such a tax. He just said that it would examine it very carefully. So speculation mounted further.
On 19 November speaking on the radio program PM the Treasurer revealed that he had asked his Department and the Taxation Office to prepare a paper canvassing options available to the Government on tax, which paper would inevitably involve consideration of what he termed the fundamental question of whether there should be greater reliance on indirect taxes and the various forms of indirect taxation. He said that this report was sought by the Government two weeks previously. He said this on 1 9 November. That meant that he sought this report from his Department about two weeks and a couple of days after the election. One must ask why did not the Treasurer announce it at that time? Why did not he announce to us all when he decided to get that report that he was seeking that report from his Department? Why did not he reveal this on 11 November when he responded to the AIDA saying that he would carefully examine its call for VAT. He did not announce that he had already asked his Department to conduct such an inquiry. The obvious inference to be drawn from his refusal to reveal his action for two weeks is that it would have looked rather too blatant to announce it just two weeks after an election. So he waited two weeks more and then tried to justify it. He said that it was nothing more than a sort of forward-looking exercise that a recently reelected government should undertake. Well, as we see, it is nothing of the sort. It is merely an attempt to give legitimacy to the Government’s long-held intention to bring about a fundamental change to the taxation system by putting a much greater emphasis on indirect taxation.
The Treasurer’s attempt to have us believe that he woke up one morning soon after the election and was struck by the thought which had not occurred to him since January 1979 that he should seek a further report on extending indirect taxation simply will not wash. We do not believe that to be the case. What fools he must think the Australian people are. Does he really expect us to believe that that suddenly came to him just a couple of weeks after the election? Any doubts that some people may have had about the shonkiness of this current inquiry that he has now asked for, which is an inquiry to last a few weeks, compared with the six-month or seven-month inquiry only a year and three-quarters ago must surely have disappeared when the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer both publicly expressed their opposition to one of the options for a broad-based indirect tax about which the Treasurer supposedly asked his Department for advice. He has asked his Department to look at various taxes including VAT. But while it is looking at it, he and the Prime Minister are publicly announcing that it is not an option. What sort of a shonky inquiry is this? Why are they wasting the time of their departments by asking them to investigate taxes which they say they will not introduce anyway? Is this some sort of a job creation program which the Government has established?
The Prime Minister announced on Monday of last week that the Treasurer was opposed to the introduction of VAT and that he agreed with the Treasurer. The Treasurer had not, to our knowledge, said any such thing publicly. He then informed the Press that he did not support VAT either and that he knew the Prime Minister agreed with him. What a charade this was! This farce demonstrates, if nothing else demonstrates, what a sham this report is that the Treasurer is currently seeking from his Department. Why ask it to canvass an option that he and the Prime Minister are against. How can it be possibly introduced when they have already announced their opposition to it?
Clearly from all this evidence there can be no doubt that this Government has greatly deceived the Australian people. It has clearly gone to the election with the intention, if re-elected, of bringing about a reform to the tax system which would be, as the Treasurer has described it, a fundamental reform and kept that intention hidden from the Australian public. For this it deserves the strongest condemnation, particularly when we consider at the same time that the Government was concealing from the Australian public its intention to increase taxes.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Australian Labor Party creates the greatest sham in bringing forward such a matter of public importance as this, particularly with its record on taxation. I do not go back to the period 1972-75 for proof of this but to the man who is now the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and who, when the Australian Labor Party was in government in 1975 was the Treasurer. In that period he probably brought upon Australia the greatest increase in every form of taxation that this nation has experienced. It is so easy to come into the House and talk about record this and record that. If we go through the actual records they show that it was in the period 1972-75 that the Labor Party imposed the greatest increase in taxation on Australians. On the figures that 1 have, total taxation revenue increased from 25.52 per cent of gross domestic product in 1972 to 29.68 per cent in 1975 and 29.90 per cent in 1976 which were the years of Treasurer Hayden. So if there is a charade it is the Labor Party that is presenting it.
It is ironical that the Leader of the Opposition who has been beaten rather severely over the head with more than a feather duster by the Queensland Premier should bring the Premier into this argument. The residents of Queensland are the lowest taxed residents of any State in Australia. This has been indicated by a recent survey which was made available through the Bulletin.
– The New South Wales rate is pretty high, is it not?
– It probably is too. So we have somebody casting aspersions on a man who has done more through the Liberal-National Courtry Party structure to lower the incidence of taxation on Australians. It might be a better thing if Mr Wran were replaced by Mr Bjelke-Petersen in that regard.
Let us come to the basic argument. The Opposition has talked about inflationary pressures on something that is a myth which has been created by Mr Risstrom by floating in the Press the proposition that a value added tax is something new. It would behove any government to have a continuous formal review on all aspects of taxation, direct and indirect at all times just not at any particular time. Any government that did not have that would be removing itself from its responsibilities of office. Of course, while we hear Mr Risstrom and the Labor Party saying that VAT will be inflationary, it is all a matter of their being the prophets of doom. I can recall the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) saying in this House something that would be appropriate to the Labor Party today. He said that if there were a direct or indirect tax charged on economic theory the Labor Party through its theories would be subject to a refund. I think that is fairly appropriate to the shallowness of the arguments it is using today. I think the Labor Party went to the polls on the platform of tax reform. Tax reform, as I said, is a continuous policy. VAT has been said to be inflationary. It is just a matter of the mix. In fact, there is a letter to the editor in today’s Australian which would indicate that VAT is not an inflationary ingredient, depending on the extent that is involved. The writer has taken as the example West Germany which has a form of VAT and which has one of the lowest rates of inflation in the world today. So it is a matter of degree. It is a matter of what other alternatives are available. I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr Howard) on having this review undertaken. I ask him to seek the advice of his back benchers in this regard because there are many good ideas that could spring from that source. He would be welcome to that advice.
Let me go back to Mr Hayden’s record as Treasurer. I have already indicated that the overall tax increased. Honourable members will find that the direct taxation increased from about 46 per cent to 54 per cent in the three years that the Labor Party was in government and particularly when Mr Hayden was in the box seat. At that time tax reform could have taken place. Tax abuse did take place. There has never been a government in this country which has neglected its responsibility on tax abuse more than the Labor Government. Successive Treasurers have put up various items which were never followed through. The Labor Party never reneged on aspects of excise duty, customs duty, sales tax or anything like that as being a means by which it might have alleviated its entry into the indirect tax field by reducing it. No, it accepted everything that was there but reserved its right to criticise at election times and times like this the government that is prepared to continue with this review.
I am not sure just what the findings will bring about. I can say that there are other areas of taxation that have to be considered. I think the National Country Party and the Liberal Party would be the first to say that the people on lower incomes have to be protected to the maximum degree. I would also say that the people on the highest incomes should not be the ones who are put into the ground by the burden of taxes. I believe it is important that any review should take into account both groups and recognise that taxation at the level set by the Labor Government and unfortunately sustained since is a disincentive for people to earn more.
I wish to dwell on direct taxation for a moment. I bring to the attention of honourable members the income tax statistics in table 4 of Budget Paper No. 11. The table indicates that in 1978-79 0.9 per cent of taxpayers had an income in excess of $32,000 and paid tax on portion of it at the highest rate of 60c in the dollar. The table shows also that that 0.9 per cent of taxpayers paid 8.23 per cent of total taxation. In 1975-76, just three years before, 2.1 per cent of taxpayers were paying tax of up to 60c in the dollar and accounted for more than 1 5.6 per cent of total tax collected. So in three years there was a halving of the number of taxpayers who had to pay up to 60c in the dollar and almost a halving of the proportion of total taxation revenue for which they were responsible.
That is an indication that any review of tax revenues in this country should pay close attention to the penalty that is being paid at the moment by those on higher incomes. Productivity and profitability can increase only if we give those people sufficient incentive. In introducing a VAT or some other tax, the Government must take that into consideration. We have also talked about tax abuse. During the recent election campaign members of the Labor Party were quite content to throw around figures such as $2 billion as the amount lost to revenue because of tax avoidance.
– What did they do about it?
– Those figures were never sustained and, as the honourable member for Calare indicates, members of the Labor Party never did a thing about tax avoidance while they were in office. I doubt whether they would have done anything about it had they come back to office - heaven forbid. Lack of action against tax avoidance was just one aspect of their neglect when in government. What members of the Labor Party do not say is that their promises during the recent election campaign, which would have cost between $2 billion and $2.5 billion to implement, were the ingredients in another recipe for the same inflation that was created between 1972 and 1975. If anyone wants to talk about a hidden tax and about how unfairly that falls upon the lower income earners and the poorer in this country let him also talk about inflation and the record rate of 1 7 .4 per cent that was set by Labor in the year ended 31 March 1975. As I said, the Labor Party’s election promises, if implemented, would have again brought about a situation of high inflation.
Taxation is a matter that has to be approached rationally and continuously. Everyone should be able to contribute to the argument and to the eventual result. Whether it be the Labor Party or the coalition parties in office it is absolutely inevitable, as the Treasurer has said, that there is an expectation in this country that if the Government is to make certain expenditures certain consequences cannot be avoided. While expenditure is running at the present rate tax revenue or some other form of revenue has to be found to meet it.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a large input to be made on this subject. I hope that the review being undertaken by the Treasury at present is expanded to include input from the public. If anybody knows anything about the effects and the burden of taxation it is the taxpayers in Australia. We have a responsibility to them to make sure that they pay their just amount and that they are equitably treated by the Government in raising revenue to provide the services that the Australian people require from it.
– The discussion is now concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to provide the machinery necessary for the collection of the levy imposed by the Barley Research Levy Bill 1980, to set up a barley research trust account for the funding of a research scheme and to establish both a National Barley Industry Research Council and State committees. This Bill, which should be read as one with the Barley Research Levy Bill 1980, provides for the Act to become operative on the same date on which the Barley Research Levy Act 1980 comes into operation. It is the Government’s established policy to foster research into the needs of our rural industries. The national barley scheme is a logical extension of those research programs already operating successfully for other industries.
While there are significant quantities of barley produced in all mainland States, the Commonwealth at present contributes annually to barley research in only, three States. The Commonwealth has contributed to the barley improvement plan in South Australia and Victoria since 1956 when these two States together produced the bulk of the national barley output. A separate program with financial support provided by the Commonwealth commenced in Western Australia in 1963. Since the Government confirmed its policy on matching grower levies in 1977, there have been requests for additional Commonwealth funds for barley research and an equitable distribution of those funds among the States. There is general agreement among Australian barley producers and all State governments that a need exists for increased research through an Australia-wide scheme.
Since 1956 barley production has expanded rapidly in all States and from 1972 a statutory marketing authority has been operating in every mainland State, exporting a substantial proportion of the production of each of those States. The proposed scheme will afford an equitable basis for the allocation of Commonwealth assistance to barley research and will be consistent with statutory research schemes for other rural industries. The Bill provides for the establishment of an Australia-wide barley research scheme to which the Commonwealth will contribute. The levy collected on barley produced in a State will be used to finance research programs in that State and the Commonwealth will contribute funds, not exceeding the total levy collections, for a national research program. There is also provision for contributions from sources other than producer levies. Expenditure of any such funds would be on an unmatched basis. In these respects the barley research scheme will be similar to the wheat research scheme which has operated since 1957.
Under the cognate Barley Research Levy Bill, levy is payable when the grower delivers barley to another person. For practical reasons that receiver, under the present Bill, is liable to pay the levy and may deduct the amount from the purchase price or recover in another way from the grower any levy paid on his behalf. The Bill establishes a barley research trust account into which will be paid the funds raised by way of the levy and the Commonwealth’s contribution.
Barley industry research committees, with a producer majority membership, are to be established in each mainland State. It will be a function of each committee to approve expenditure from the State’s share of the account on research to be conducted in the State. In Tasmania, where production of barley is relatively small, the amount of levy collected is expected to be correspondingly small and it is not considered necessary to establish a State research committee. Instead, the Tasmanian Minister for Primary Industry will approve expenditure of funds collected by levy in that State.
A Barley Industry Research Council will be established to make recommendations to the Minister for Primary Industry on a national research program funded by the Commonwealth’s contribution. The Council will consist of 10 members, five to represent State departments responsible for agriculture in the mainland barley producing States, two to represent producers and one each to represent the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australian universities and the Department of Primary Industry. The committees and Council will consult with each other to avoid duplication in the financing of research. Purposes for which moneys from the trust account may be expended broadly follow the precedent of other joint Commonwealthindustry schemes and will be used for scientific, technical or economic research in connection with the barley industry.
It is intended that the research program under the national scheme will begin in financial year 1981-82, funded by the levy on the current harvest supplemented by the Commonwealth contribution. Provision has been made to ensure that receivers of barley who are required to pay the levy on the growers’ behalf have sufficient time to make payments. For levy on deliveries made during the quarter commencing 1 September 1980, the Bill allows receivers eight weeks after the date of royal assent to make payment.
Barley is the most important coarse grain produced in Australia. Gross value of barley production in 1979-80 was estimated at $464m. In that year, barley accounted for over threequarters of the value of Australia’s coarse grain exports. Research undertaken through the new program Australia-wide will help this significant industry to meet the problems and challenges of the future. Those challenges include the development of new varieties, yield improvement, the combating of pests and diseases and many others.
For the first time the scheme will enable a concerted effort to be made for a national ordering of priorities in barley research. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Kerin) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for the imposition of a levy on the production of barley in Australia. The moneys raised by the levy will be used to finance a research scheme for the Australian barley industry. Provisions for the research scheme are contained in the related Barley Research Bill 1 980. The Act will come into operation on royal assent and will apply to barley produced in Australia and harvested on or after 1 September 1980. This date has been chosen to coincide with the seasonal pattern of production. The legislation specifies an initial levy of 1 5c per tonne, with provision for the rate to be varied up to a maximum of 20c per tonne. Any subsequent alterations to the operative rate of levy will be prescribed by regulation.
The Bill provides that any action to change the operative rate of levy shall take into consideration any relevant recommendation of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, which incorporates within its organisational structure a barley committee representing Australian barley growers. The levy is imposed on the production of barley and growers are liable to pay the levy. Levy is not payable, however, unless the grower delivers the barley to another person. For convenience, provision is made in the cognate Barley Research Bill for levy to be collected from the receivers of the barley. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Kerin) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Act 1972 in order to increase the maximum rates of levies which can be applied, for domestic promotion purposes and for research, to whole milk and butter fat production under sections 7 (a) and (b) and 1 1 (a) and (b) of the Act. Under the Dairy Produce Sales Promotion Act 1958, the Australian Dairy Corporation has been given the charter of promoting the sale of all dairy products, including market milk, cream and fresh milk products, in Australia. Funds for this purpose are derived from a levy on the production of all whole milk and butter fat imposed under the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Act 1972.
Under the present provisions of the Act the maximum rates of levy which can be applied, for domestic promotional purposes, are 6c per 100 litres of whole milk and $1.50 per 100 kilograms of butter fat. These maxima have also been the operative rates since 1 July 1978. Falling milk production in Australia has resulted in a decline in the funds collected from the domestic promotion levy in recent years. This reduced level of income is threatening the Australian Dairy Corporation’s ability to continue to finance the rising cost of its established domestic promotion programs, which are aimed at maintaining and improving current levels of consumption of dairy products in Australia, on behalf of the dairy industry.
The Australian Dairy Farmer’s Federation, the major producer body, sought amendment of the Act to provide for increased maximum rates of domestic promotion levy with a view to enabling the Corporation to obtain the necessary level of funds required to mount effective promotion programs. The Bill provides for an increase in the maximum rates of domestic promotion levy which can be applied to 12c per 100 litres of whole milk and $3 per 100 kilograms of butter fat produced.
It is pleasing to the Government that the dairy industry supports the activities of the Australian Dairy Corporation and is prepared to meet the costs involved in sustaining an effective domestic promotion campaign. The research levy provides the industry’s contribution to dairying research activities. The proceeds are appropriated to the Dairying Research Trust Account under the Dairying Research Act 1972, which also established the Dairying Research Committee to make recommendations to the Minister for Primary Industry on expenditure from the Research Account. The Commonwealth matches industry contributions as funds are spent. The current operative and maximum rates of research levy are 0.8c and lc per 100 litres of whole milk and 20c and 25c per 100 kilograms of butter fat, respectively.
The Dairying Research Committee and the Australian Dairy Farmers’ Federation have requested, and the Bill provides, an increase in the maximum research levy rates to 1.2c per 100 litres of whole milk and 30c per 1 00 kilograms of butter fat produced. This amendment is sought to facilitate forward planning for research in the coming years. An early increase in rates of levy paid by producers or the totality of the research effort is not contemplated. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Kerin) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Act 1977. The amendments are designed to meet needs which have become apparent since the Corporation was formed on 1 December 1977. The first amendment I mention is at clause 7 of the Bill. That clause provides for an increase in the Corporation’s membership from nine to eleven. The number of members representing livestock producers is to be increased from four to five. The number representing meat processors and exporters is to be increased from one to two. This amendment will be particularly beneficial in adding to the meat processor and exporter expertise available to the Corporation. The additional producer member will make it easier to ensure that the broad geographic spread of sheep and cattle interests are adequately represented. The Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Act established a producer consultative group and an exporter and abattoir consultative group to provide two-way communication between the interests they represent and the Corporation. The second of these consultative groups included both livestock and meat exporter interests. This proved unsatisfactory because of divergent interests of the two classes of exporters.
Clause 1 5 of the Bill seeks to amend the Act to provide for the establishment of two separate consultative groups. One will represent livestock exporters; the other will represent abattoir proprietors, meat exporters and processors. These groups will replace the present single composite group. The requirement in the present Act for an Australian meat industry conference is to be replaced by a provision for the Corporation to conduct such smaller conferences and meetings as it considers necessary. This change is supported by relevant industry groups.
The amendments I have mentioned deal with the adequacy of representation and communication. Most of the remainder either clarify the Corporation’s powers or relate to administrative matters. I will refer to some of them in sequence. Clause 4 seeks to amend section 10 of the Act which enables the Corporation to exercise controls over the export of meat and livestock through the issue of licences. These amendments are mainly of a formal nature. Clause 5 amends section 1 1 of the Act which makes licences subject to certain conditions, and enables the Corporation to issue directions to licensees in respect of those conditions. The Bill amends this section to put beyond doubt that the Corporation has the powers it needs effectively to regulate exports.
The Bill will amend section 14 of the Act which relates to shipping contracts. It provides that a licensee entering into a contract for the sea carriage of meat or livestock in contravention of conditions approved under the section by the Minister may have his licence suspended or cancelled. This section as it stands at present voids such a contract. This is considered to be an inappropriate sanction which may affect parties other than the licensee. The references to contracts of insurance presently in section 14 serve no useful purpose and are a potential source of difficulty. The Bill proposes that they be deleted.
Clause 10 of the Bill seeks to amend section 22 of the Act to provide that the term of office of the Chairman of the Corporation may be up to five years rather than three years as at present. The Government looks for the Chairman to be a person of high calibre, well qualified by experience, who is prepared to serve in a full time capacity. He may be required to divest himself of interests, and to accept considerable uncertainty of employment prospects at the expiry of his term. For these reasons it is considered that some flexibility is needed in the term of office which can be provided in order to obtain the services of appropriate people.
Although it will be necessary to re-appoint the existing Chairman for the three year term provided by the existing Act, it is the Government’s intention to convert that term to the longer term provided for in this Bill. I believe all these amendments, and others I have not referred to specifically, will improve the Corporation’s administration and enable it further to enhance its already significant record of achievement. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Kerin) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this 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 have expanded power to engage in trade in the export field, subject to ministerial approval, and will be able to borrow for that purpose under government guarantee, subject to the approval of the Treasurer. 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 winemakers, two of co-operative winemakers, four of wine grape growers, a Commonwealth Government representative and a chairman appointed by the Government. Of the six representatives of private and proprietary winemakers, one will represent producers using not less than 20 tonnes but less than 500 tonnes of fresh grapes or their equivalent in a year, two will represent producers using not less than 500 tonnes but less than 10,000 tonnes, and three will represent producers using not less than 10,000 tonnes. The membership of 14 will be larger by three than that of the Board; one representative each of private and proprietary winemakers, 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 the three categories which I have mentioned. Voting in respect of each category’s representation will be confined to producers within that category. To ensure a reasonable geographic spread of representation, it is intended to provide, in electoral regulations to be made under the proposed Act, that no more than one representative of a category shall come from any one State. 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 21 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 also point out that clause 20 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 21 .
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. 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 Kerin) 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 Kerin) 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 Kerin) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill will introduce into the law provisions under which the courts may impose appropriately severe penalties on persons who engage in evasion of income tax or sales tax through the use of ‘straw’ companies and ‘straw’ trusts. The use of ‘straw’ companies and trusts is inimical to our whole tax structure and there is, at present, no appropriate remedy either through the tax law or through the general laws on companies and trusts.
The measures in this Bill will make it a criminal offence to be a party to, or to aid and abet, arrangements to make r company or trustee incapable of paying its tax debts. While, in the formal sense, these are new offences, they embody concepts that are familiar enough in company law and related criminal law. Although the words used may be different - and the measures more elaborately and comprehensively drawn - the Bill does not in principle break ground that company and criminal laws have not already touched. Let us all be quite clear that this is a measure directed against calculated and fraudulent evasion of tax, and not one seeking to counter the ingenious manipulation of the tax laws which we have dealt with by other means from time to time in recent years.
Over the last three years or so I have introduced into this House on behalf of the Government a succession of measures against tax avoidance practices of the latter kind. Faced with this determined response on the part of the Government, promoters of avoidance schemes can no longer predict with confidence that their tax avoidance packages will prove effective - or indeed effective for long - notwithstanding the efforts some of them make to keep details secret from the Commissioner of Taxation.
As the task of artificial avoidance has become more difficult, the less scrupulous have added a new and, I think most would agree, unacceptable dimension to endeavours to ensure that payment of tax is escaped. What this small group is doing makes the problem a very serious one indeed. Our efforts to ensure that income bears its fair share of tax, and is not made tax-free by artificial avoidance arrangements, are to a significant degree being rendered of no avail by the practices at which this Bill is directed. It is no good to be active in stopping avoidance if at the end of the day companies and trusts could, with impunity, be stripped of the funds required to meet their tax liability. It would also render pointless bringing to finality our separate work in revising the general anti-avoidance provisions of section 260.
The seriousness of the position cannot be overstated. For example, one promoter is known to have stripped some 2,086 companies during a recent period. In 733 of these cases the result has been that the Commissioner of Taxation will be unable to collect tax on taxable incomes aggregating over $128m. Straw company schemes do not require highly complex arrangements. It is relatively easy to remove the assets of a trading company. For example, they can be paid out as a loan that, because of the nature of the arrangement, has no prospect of being repaid. Or the funds can be stripped by having the company pay a grossly excessive amount for what turn out to be worthless shares in another company. To reduce any risk of prosecution for breaches of existing law, and to frustrate recovery attempts, it is not uncommon for shares in companies concerned to be formally transferred to the ownership of people or entities who themselves have no financial substance, but who do possess maximum capacity to frustrate enquiries. Some promoters, however, have now become so confident that no effective action can be taken against them under existing law that they are taking few pains to disguise their part in such schemes.
In typical cases of tax evasion of this kind, the assets of a profitable company are cashed up before payment of tax is due, usually even before the income year has ended. The shares in the company are then sold to a company established for the purpose at a price that represents perhaps 95 per cent of the cash value of the company, if no account is taken of the actual or contingent tax liability on the company’s previous profits. The vendor-shareholders, well satisfied to make a substantial profit on disposal of their shares, leave the matter of paying company tax to the new owners. However, after the sale, the assets of the company are removed by the new owners, using a technique such as irrecoverable loans. It is not difficult, either, to arrange for a $2 trustee company that is liable to pay tax on trust income to have no funds to pay the tax. In other instances, proprietors of employer companies have evaded payment to the Commissioner of pay-as-you-earn deductions made from the wages of their employees. They have done this by having the company stripped of its assets and its business activities then transferred to another company.
Yet again, sales tax is evaded by schemes which ensure that liability for the tax falls on a company that has no funds. Honourable members will recall recent anti-avoidance legislation enacted to counter arrangements in which ‘big-ticket’ items such as cars had been sold in a wholesale transaction attracting sales tax, but at a fraction of their true value. The legislation now enables the Commissioner to assess the tax on the basis of a fair and reasonable wholesale value but schemes currently being marketed by particular promoters are so structured that the company is a straw company and the sales tax is, and was designed to be, irrecoverable. To return to an earlier point, we thus have legislation against avoidance being frustrated by evasion activity. Obviously, if these various tax evasion practices were to remain unchecked, resort to them would become even more widespread and damaging. Their serious nature clearly demands an appropriately serious response.
As I have said, existing legislation has not been found adequate to deal with the evasion practices 1 have outlined. For example, while company law makes it an offence for an officer of a company, with intent to defraud creditors, to be a party to a reduction in the property of the company, the offence arises only where the stripping technique involves a gift or transfer of, or a charge over, the company’s property. The irrecoverable loan technique, for example, is not covered, nor do the company law provisions extend to arrangements to defraud the revenue of tax owed by trustees.
Accordingly, after much anxious consideration, the Government has decided that the appropriate response to tax evasion through straw companies and straw trusts is to introduce appropriate penal sanctions.
The Bill will make it an offence for a person to enter into an arrangement or transaction for a purpose of reducing the capacity of a company or trustee to pay income tax or sales tax that is or becomes payable, or to secure incapacity to pay such tax. Entry into an arrangement or transaction, knowing or believing that it will result in a company or trustee being unable to pay its tax debts, will be covered. Aiding and abetting provisions of a kind familiar under Commonwealth and State criminal law are also included.
As a safeguard, provisions in the Bill will ensure that a person cannot be convicted of an offence unless it is finally determined that the relevant company or trustee is liable to pay tax on which a charge is founded. People who are convicted by a court will be exposed to heavy penalties. The Bill proposes that the penalty on conviction should be either a term of up to five years gaol, or a fine of up to $50,000, or both, as the court sees fit in the particular circumstances. The court will also be empowered to order a convicted person to pay to the Commonwealth an amount not exceeding the amount of income tax or sales tax evaded.
I stress again to the House that the measures are directed at flagrant evasion tactics. For anyone to be convicted, the court would have to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the person charged was guilty of the relevant offence as defined in the Bill. Also, I want to make it very clear that the provisions of the Bill in no way expose to penalty persons involved in the management of companies or trusts that are unable to pay tax because of commercial misjudgment or inadvertence. Because of the criminal penalty consequences that they carry, the amendments proposed by the Bill will naturally apply only in relation to arrangements or transactions entered into after the Bill receives the royal assent.
I have already indicated in this speech that the Government has given this matter much thought. The Government is firmly of the view that measures of the kind contained in the Bill are a necessary and proper response to the type of conduct involved. An explanatory memorandum giving details of the provisions of the Bill is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Kerin) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
The main purpose of this Bill is to make statutory provision for the no work as directed-no pay principle in certain areas of Commonwealth employment, thereby removing the legal uncertainty which has arisen as a result of a recent decision of the New South Wales Supreme Court in Bennett v. the Commonwealth and Another (1980) NSW LR 581. In addition the Bill makes several amendments to the Public Service Act. I will first deal with the no work as directed-no pay provisions of the Bill. It is an established principle at common law that an employer has an obligation to pay wages to his employees so long as the employment relationship continues. On the other hand a right to wages at common law is contingent upon an employee obeying the lawful directions of his employers, and being ready, willing and available to perform all of his duties as directed. Therefore, where an employee does not fulfil those obligations the employer is not obliged to pay wages. The Government is firmly of the view that this basic contractual principle, commonly known as the no work as directed-no pay principle, should apply to Commonwealth employees.
I do not need to remind honourable members that the Australian community has been subjected to great inconvenience and hardship through the industrial actions of some Commonwealth employees and their unions. In recent times, the nature of industrial action within the Public Service has changed. Employees have increasingly sought to escape the consequences of their actions, while imposing inconvenience and hardship on others, by taking what they see as astute, selective industrial action in the form of work bans and limitations while expecting to remain on full pay and to enjoy all the privileges of employment in the Australian Public Service. The Government is not prepared to tolerate a situation where its own employees dictate the terms and conditions under which they are prepared to work. The Government does not believe the public should bear the cost of employing persons who are not prepared to provide the public services for which they are engaged. I believe the Australian people are right behind the Government in the action being taken by this Bill.
It has been suggested that this legislation reintroduces the antiquated common law concept of the master-servant relationship which has been replaced by the industrial law handed down by the various arbitration tribunals. This view makes the assumption that employees have an absolute right to wages. It ignores the fact that the rights are correlative to duties and that the existence of an employee’s right presupposes the fulfilment of the employee’s duties and obligations. The Government does not accept that this common law concept of correlative rights and duties is outmoded and, if it were, the Government considers it appropriate to restate it now. The Australian public has a right to expect of its public servants a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.
It is also suggested that employees have a right to access in any industrial situation to industrial tribunals. There can be no reason for such access if officers and employees fail to perform the duties properly required of them. To understand this I think it is important to appreciate the fact that the common law and statute law, on one hand, and the industrial law, on the other hand, operate in different spheres. Common law, as it may be affected or altered by statute law, determines the nature of the employee-employer relationship and the correlative rights and duties of the parties. On the other hand, industrial law is designed to settle disputes arising within the relationship established by common law or statute law. This Bill determines the nature and extent of rights and duties and there is no reason why industrial law and arbitral tribunals should be able to supersede the relationship so determined. To overcome the circumstances of selective industrial action, Commonwealth employing authorities, with the full support of the Government, have sought to use the common law principles of no work as directed-no pay to deny pay to their employees on occasions when they have refused to comply with lawful directions.
The continuing application of the no work as directed-no pay principle has now been placed in doubt by the Bennett case. That case had its origins in a national campaign of disruptive industrial action by the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association involving selective work bans and limitations. The campaign was in support of a 20 per cent pay claim as well as staffing and related issues. Departments applied the no work as directed-no pay principle and denied pay to public servants who refused to perform their duties as directed. A total of 138 public servants were placed off pay during the periods in which bans and work limitations were in force. Arising out of this industrial dispute action was taken in the Supreme Court of New South Wales in May challenging the power to apply the no work as directed-no pay principle. This challenge was initiated by an employee of the Commonwealth Employment Service engaged under the Public Service Act and was supported by the ACOA
The case was decided against the Commonwealth. The Court held that the Public Service Act and regulations constituted an exclusive code governing the relationship between the Commonwealth and its officers. As a consequence the common law principle which enabled employees not performing their duties as directed to be taken off pay had been displaced by provisions of the Public Service Act and regulations. The impact of the Bennett case has not been confined to situations where employment under the Public Service Act is involved. The decision also raises legal doubts as to whether the no work as directed-no pay principle would be available to other Commonwealth employing authorities which are established by legislation which could similarly be held to be an exclusive code.
This Bill will remove the legal uncertainty that has arisen as a result of the Bennett case. It will make statutory provision for the application of the no work as directed-no pay principle by amending the Public Service Act and the legislation establishing certain statutory authorities. The six statutory authorities requiring amendment to their enabling legislation are the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Australian Postal Commission, the Australian Telecommunications Commission, the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, the Commonwealth Teaching Service and the Overseas Telecommunication Commission. Specifically, the Bill amends the Public Service Act and the legislation establishing the six statutory authorities so as to include a provision which will empower the Public Service Board and the specified statutory authorities to declare that staff who refuse or fail to comply with an authorised direction relating to the performance of their work are not to be paid salary. The effect of such a declaration will be that an officer or employee covered by the declaration will not be entitled to salary until such time as the Board or the statutory authority is satisfied that the officer or employee has complied or will comply with all relevant directions to perform his or her work or otherwise revokes the declaration. Specific provision has been included which will ensure that a declaration will remain in force in circumstances where an employee who is covered by the declaration attends for duty but either performs work other than that which he has been directed to perform, or complies in part only with a direction.
The Bill also provides that all declarations to deny pay are to be in writing and signed by a member of the authority exercising the power or a duly authorised delegate. The provisions also require the authorities to give notice of a declaration to employees to whom the declaration applies. Furthermore, it is expressly provided that this new power and the existing disciplinary powers are not to be used concurrently against an employee in relation to the same refusal or failure to perform duties as directed. The Government is concerned that the new powers should apply consistently and uniformly throughout Commonwealth employment and should not be capable of being overriden by a determination or an award.
Accordingly, provision has been made in the Bill to specify that the power to declare that a Commonwealth employee is not to be paid salary where the employee refuses or fails to comply with a direction to perform duty shall have full force and effect notwithstanding and inconsistency with any previously enacted Commonwealth laws, or any industrial awards or determinations, whether made before or after the commencement of these amendments. The Bill also provides that these amendments shall be prescribed provisions for the purposes of the Public Service Arbitration Act and the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, thereby prohibiting the making of inconsistent determinations or awards by the Public Service Arbitrator and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission respectively.
I come now to the remaining provisions of the Bill which make additional amendments to the Public Service Act. Clause 38 of the Bill amends that Act to enable the Public Service Board to determine terms and conditions of employment for officers and employees of the Australian Public Service.
With this new power the Board will be able to determine for public servants generally salaries and allowances, recreation leave and other leave entitlements, conditions relating to overseas service, hours of duty and the manner of recording attendance, and other conditions of employment. At present the bulk of terms and conditions to be covered by the proposed determination-making power are specified in the regulations or, in the case of conditions relating to leave, are provided for in the Public Service Act itself. These present arrangements do not provide a satisfactory basis on which changes agreed as a result of the normal industrial processes can be implemented expeditiously by the Public Service Board. Amendment of regulations and, where necessary, the Public Service Act can involve considerable time and resources. Because of this the existing machinery has led to criticism in the past by departments and staff organisations alike. The purpose of this amendment is to avoid these problems.
Over the years the Parliament has given virtually all other Commonwealth employers - that is, the statutory authorities - the power to determine terms and conditions. In fact almost 62 per cent of Commonwealth employees are now covered by determination-making powers. The provisions contained in the Bill are similar to the provisions of the Defence Amendment Act 1979 in which the Parliament conferred on the Minister for Defence the power to make determinations in relation to the pay and conditions of members of the Defence Force. In addition, the provisions will give effect to recommendations on this matter by the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration.
The Bill confers on the Public Service Board only the powers necessary to ensure the effective determination of terms and conditions. First, certain terms and conditions of employment only are specified in the Bill and will become the subject of the new power. The remaining terms and conditions of employment will continue to be set out in the Public Service Act and regulations. Moreover the power will not extend to long service leave, maternity leave or superannuation, all of which will continue to be provided for in specific Commonwealth legislation. Secondly, the scope of the determination-making power will not exceed the present scope of the powers in the Public Service Act authorising the making of regulations on terms and conditions of employment. Essentially, the amendment contained in the Bill will result, in relation to terms and conditions of service, in the substitution of the determination-making power for the power to make regulations. Thirdly, the existing safeguards imposed on the fixing of Public Service terms and conditions will continue to apply. Public Service Board determinations will be required to be tabled in both Houses of the Parliament and be subject to the normal disallowance provisions. Furthermore the determination-making power will not limit the jurisdiction of the Public Service Arbitrator or the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Determinations of the Arbitrator and awards of the Commission will override inconsistent provisions in Board’s determinations, just as they are at present capable of overriding inconsistent provisions in the Public Service Act and regulations.
In another amendment to the Public Service Act, clause 43 of the Bill inserts provisions placing on a statutory footing the Staff Suggestions Scheme set up and operated by the Public Service Board. The scheme is designed to encourage public servants to make suggestions promoting efficiency and improving safety and standards throughout the Public Service. The new provisions will enable the Board to authorise the making of payments to staff who have made suggestions deserving of recognition.
Clause 1 1 of the Bill confers on the Chairman of the Prices Justification Tribunal the powers of a permanent head, powers which are normally granted to heads of statutory authorities employing staff under the Public Service Act. Clause 17 of the Bill brings the arrangements in relation to appointments of officers to the Australian Public Service into line with practice. Some doubts have been raised as to the validity of past appointments and the clause puts those beyond doubt also. The remaining amendments are minor in nature or are largely consequential to the introduction of the determination-making power.
The Government considers that the enactment of the provisions of the Bill is of great importance, to both Commonwealth employees and the Australian community in general. The no work as directed-no pay amendments will ensure that the government authorities covered by the Bill will have an express statutory power to put off pay those employees who refuse or fail to perform their duties fully for the period of such refusal or failure. Thus public servants will be covered unequivocally by a principle that already applies generally to employees in the private sector. Equally, the other amendments to the Public Service Act will have important and beneficial effects on the operations of the Public Service. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hawke) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to enable the Government to appoint members of either House as Parliamentary Secretaries to Ministers. The Government believes that members serving in the role of Parliamentary Secretary could provide valuable assistance to Ministers, by undertaking as requested a range of duties including assistance with correspondence and other papers, liaison with other members of parliament, and meetings with delegations and clients of the department and authorities, and other representational activities. Parliamentary Secretaries will be able to play a very useful role, particularly in assisting to bring the views of others to the attention of Ministers. Ministers will of course retain their responsibility to the Parliament.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has already announced the Government’s intention to appoint the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon). Honourable members will know that there have been occasions in the past when members have been appointed to somewhat similar positions. The Government believes that it is desirable that the basis for, and nature of, such appointments should be made quite clear. The Bill provides for appointments of Parliamentary Secretary to be made by the Prime Minister.
For constitutional reasons the position of Parliamentary Secretary is not to be an office of profit. The Bill makes it clear that a Parliamentary Secretary is not to be remunerated beyond his salary as a member of parliament and it displaces the ordinary application of the Remuneration Tribunals Act. Clause 4 does enable a Parliamentary Secretary to be reimbursed such expenses as are reasonably incurred. The amount of such expenses is not to exceed such allowance as is prescribed by regulation or by the Remuneration Tribunal. The opportunity has been taken to clarify the application of the Remuneration Tribunals Act in relation to members of this Parliament who are appointed to non-parliamentary positions the remuneration of which is subject to the Tribunal. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hawke) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hunt, and read a first time.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill is to give speedy effect to the undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his policy speech that the Government would increase the rate of personal care subsidy provided to organisations operating hostels through the aged or disabled persons accommodation program. The subsidy is an important part of that program which assists organisations providing accommodation and related facilities for aged or disabled persons. Under the aged or disabled persons accommodation program, the Commonwealth Government also makes grants available to non-profit religious and charitable organisations and to local governing bodies towards the capital cost of establishing suitable homes for aged or disabled persons.
Honourable members will be aware that in December 1979 the then Minister for Social Security, Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, announced a new three-year $225m funding program for aged or disabled persons accommodation. This new program commenced on 1 July 1980 and over 650 projects have now been approved for funding during the 1980 to 1983 financial years.
I turn to the specific subject of the Bill. Honourable members will know that the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act was amended in 1969 to permit the payment of personal care subsidy to organisations operating hostels to assist them to employ staff who would provide additional services for frail aged residents. These services are intended to encourage the residents to live as independently as is possible for them and include the serving of meals in their own rooms as required, assistance with cleaning, bathing, dressing, laundry and medication. The subsidy is paid in respect of all those residents in approved hostels providing approved personal care services who have reached the age of 80 years, as well as for those residents less than 80 who receive such services.
It is evident that this speedy implementation of the increase in the rate of personal care subsidy promised by the Prime Minister will materially assist organisations in their task of caring for aged or disabled people. In the terms of the Bill now before the House, it means increasing the subsidy, which is payable in respect of prescribed periods of 28 days, from $60 to $80. The increase is to apply to payments which were due on 28 October 1980 - the first prescribed date after the Prime
Minister’s announcement - and to subsequent payments. The estimated cost of this increase will be $3.5m in 1980-81 and $5.9m in a full financial year. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr McVeigh, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill honours the commitment in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of 30 September 1980 to introduce important changes to the Home Savings Grant Scheme. As I will outline to honourable members the Government has acted swiftly to meet the election undertaking in full - in fact in the most generous way possible. So that there can be no doubt let me remind honourable members of the policy pledge. The supplementary statement to the Prime Minister’s speech said that the Home Savings Grant Scheme would be extended to:
Provide from 1 October 1980 a new Home Savings Grant family bonus of $500 for families with one dependent child and $1,000 for families with two or more dependent children. The respective maximum grants, therefore, will increase to $2,500 and $3,000; increase the value limit for which a maximum grant is payable to $60,000, reducing to nil at $70,000; widen the form of acceptable savings.
This Bill will widen the forms of saving acceptable and, most importantly, will introduce payment of a family bonus in addition to the grant. The promised increase in the value of homes for which the maximum grant is payable is being done through amendments to the Homes Savings Grant Regulations. The Governor-General has approved the making of regulations under the Homes Savings Grant Act 1976 to increase the value limit from 1 October 1980. One of the Government’s major housing goals is to encourage home ownership. The most recent official figures show that more than 70 per cent of Australians have achieved this goal. By world standards that is a very high figure indeed.
The Home Savings Grant Scheme is a key part of the Government’s package of policies and programs to help home seekers. Each year thousands of young Australians enter into home ownership and it is of vital concern to the Government that these people be given the encouragement to save. The Home Savings Grant Scheme has provided this encouragement. The success of the scheme can be seen from the fact that over half a million families have been helped with a grant since 1964. The Government is proud of this achievement. The former Labor Government thought so little of this encouragement that it legislated to abolish the scheme.
The changes introduced by this Bill will not only further improve the scheme for all first home buyers but also provide particular help to families who commonly face greater problems when saving for a home. Most families being helped by the scheme are young married couples, on modest incomes, who have been saving steadily. Typically they purchase a modest house or unit as their first step into home ownership, and then set about doing up the garden and making other improvements. These are the people the scheme has always been intended to help.
The importance we place on honouring our election commitment and giving support to Australia’s young families is shown by the fact that we have introduced this Bill in the first days of the new Parliament. The Government makes no apology for this positive support for Australian families. At present acceptable savings under the scheme include moneys held on deposit with a savings bank, building society or credit union, on fixed deposit with a trading bank or paid towards the purchase of land or the purchase or construction of the home. Honourable members will be aware that the Government introduced the Australian savings bond in 1976 with a view to attracting subscriptions to government securities from the small investor, especially from the household sector. It has been somewhat anomalous that these bonds have not been a form of acceptable savings under the Homes Savings Grant Act. Accordingly, we propose in the Bill to remove this anomaly and to honour our election commitment.
The main forms of acceptable savings are those held with the savings institutions which provide the bulk of private housing finance. Most first home buyers are expected to continue to accumulate their savings with these institutions in order to qualify for a home loan. However, some people may wish to hold part of their savings in the form of Australian savings bonds. Acceptance of the savings will remove the discrimination against these people who are, after all, contributing to the good of Australia.
The Bill will include in acceptable savings Australian savings bonds purchased as inscribed stock or purchased for safe custody with a bank. People contracting to buy or build their first home from 1 October 1980 will be able to include, as acceptable savings, their holdings of Australian savings bonds at the date of the contract for their home and at their earlier savings dates. Australian savings bonds purchased or held as bearer securities will not be acceptable savings as their .ownership as savings dates cannot be independently verified.
The Bill will also widen acceptable savings to include one-half of those held jointly with a former fiance. As the Act now stands, an applicant can include as acceptable savings one-half of moneys held jointly with a spouse or former spouse, including a de facto spouse. However, an applicant who has saved for a home jointly with a fiance finds, where the engagement has been broken, that neither the applicant nor the former fiance can include any of those savings when applying for a grant. The Bill will remove this anomaly. Its removal will be at minimal cost to the Government and will end an injustice to these people.
The major proposal in this Bill is for payment of a family bonus for people who have one or more dependent children. We propose that the scheme will now provide a family bonus of $500 for families with one dependent child and $1,000 for families with two or more dependent children. Most importantly the family bonus will not vary with the level of savings. This will make it easier for families with children to get additional assistance. They will be able to get the full family bonus even if they have only relatively small savings to qualify for a grant.
In proposing to introduce the family bonus as an addition to the home savings grant, the Government is giving further recognition to its belief that the family forms the basis of our society. The family bonus proposal recognises the fact that saving the deposit for a home is so much more difficult for a family with dependent children, particularly a single income family. Many young married couples have two incomes and can save quite quickly for their home. But there are other people who do not find it so easy. These are families with children. Often, because of the responsibilities of raising their children, the family has only one income. This obviously restricts the family’s ability to save for a home.
Our information is that about one in three first home buyers have children at the time they purchase their homes. And, of these, nearly three in every four are single income families in which the mother stays at home to look after the children. These are the ones who will receive particular assistance from the bonus. This Bill acknowledges their special difficulties and offers real assistance. Eligibility for the bonus will depend upon an applicant being eligible for a grant. The amount of the bonus will not be related to the amount saved or the value of the home provided the home value does not exceed $70,000. If applicants are eligible for a grant, whatever its amount, they will receive the full bonus of $500 for one dependent child and $1,000 for two or more dependent children. This generous approach will ensure that the scheme will be of particular benefit to families who find it difficult to save enough to qualify for the maximum grant. For families with two or more dependent children, the maximum combined basic grant and family bonus payable will be $3,000. Even the most vocal critic must admit that this will be a great help to families aiming to buy their first home.
Honourable members will note that the Secretary to the Department will be required to satisfy himself that a home savings grant is payable, and that the applicant has a dependent child, for the bonus to be payable. In most cases the applicant will receive child endowment. This will be sufficient to satisfy the Secretary and avoid any duplicated effort to check eligibility for the bonus. This approach will avoid double checking for parallel Commonwealth benefits. It will make it easier for applicants, and will avoid excessive Government intrusion into their lives. Administrative costs associated with the new benefit will also be kept to a minimum. There will, nevertheless, be a number of applicants with a dependent child at their contract date who were not in receipt of child endowment. The discretion in the Bill will enable the bonus to be payable in those cases. In exercising the discretion my Department will, of course, act in close consultation with the Department of Social Security having regard to the qualifications for receipt of child endowment. The definitions of a dependent child or student in the Bill reflect these qualifications.
In some cases applicants for the bonus may not yet have claimed or may not wish to claim child endowment. In these cases the definitions in the Bill for a dependent child or student, in conjunction with the other conditions for payment of the bonus, will provide the criteria for the Secretary to be satisfied that the child or student is a dependant for whom a bonus is payable. In other instances an applicant for the bonus may be the parent of a student child who is receiving payment under a prescribed educational scheme including the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme. Child endowment is not payable in these cases. However, the discretion in the Bill will enable the student child to be regarded as a dependant for whom the family bonus will be payable. A discretion is also provided to enable the bonus to be paid when a child is in a mental hospital or other institution, but the applicant is contributing to the child’s maintenance. An application for the family bonus payment will be made in the same way as for the grant. Payment of the bonus, and reviews of and appeals against decisions, may also be made in the same way. The Homes Savings Grant Act now provides for decisions to be reviewed on request and, if an applicant is still dissatisfied, to be reconsidered by the Secretary. Appeals may then be made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
I have mentioned the changes to the value limit to be introduced through regulations tabled this week. The major increase in the limit for qualifying homes from $55,000 to $70,000 will ensure that many more home seekers are eligible for a grant. No assistance is available for people choosing to buy houses costing more than $70,000. The new home value limits will particularly help first home buyers in higher cost areas such as Sydney and some of the more remote areas of Australia where building costs are significantly higher. Darwin, Port Hedland, Kalgoorlie, Gladstone and Mount Isa are towns which come to mind in this context. More first home seekers in these areas will now be eligible for a grant and, of course, they will also then qualify for the family bonus if they have dependent children. In total some 20,000 home seekers a year are expected to receive assistance, or increased assistance, because of these improvements to the Home Savings Grant Scheme.
There are other important ways in which the Government is giving help to home seekers. One of the most important ways any government can help people to become home owners is to ensure that housing finance institutions are able to sustain a high level of lending for housing. In the 1980-81 Budget the Government has led the way by getting its own house in order. The Government’s determination to have a domestic surplus in this year’s Budget will reduce demands on the private sector to finance Government expenditures. This means that private housing finance institutions will have more money to lend to home seekers. In addition, the last four Budgets have all highlighted housing finance as a high priority in overall economic policies. Most home seekers are able to raise a housing loan in the private market. But the Government appreciates that there are some families which need help with their housing finance. That is why the Government gives help through the Home Purchase Assistance Program, as part of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. The program allocates funds to the States to provide low interest loans to families on low to moderate incomes. Since its inception in 1956 the program has helped more than 170,000 families to become home owners. Families are, of course, eligible for a home savings grant whether they get housing finance through a private lender or through a government-assisted loan.
Governments must also act to contain housing costs. There is no doubt that young couples saving for a home get hurt by inflation. It is most disheartening for conscientious savers to see their nest-egg eaten away by inflation. The reemergence of cost pressures on the home building sector re-emphasises the importance of sustaining our anti-inflationary policies. To relax our policies at this stage would so easily wipe out the hard fought gains of recent years. The worst thing that could possibly happen to the housing industry and home seekers would be the introduction of the 35-hour week. Such an irresponsible move would place intolerable burdens on the housing industry and on the costs faced by home seekers.
Since the Home Savings Grant Scheme started in 1964 some 540,000 grants, totalling nearly $352m, have been made to help people buy or build their first home. Details of the operation of the scheme in 1979-80 are available for the information of honourable members in the Homes Savings Grant Act annual report which I tabled earlier. The scheme is a good one, and it has stood the test of time very well. It recognises that people who wish to become home owners need to accumulate savings of their own. What the scheme sets out to do, and has done very successfully over the years, is to encourage this saving and thus assist people to obtain homes of their own. This package of improvements to the Home Savings Grant Scheme will give more help to home seekers and particularly to families who have the added responsibility of caring for children. These changes, together with our continued encouragement of high levels of lending for housing, will further encourage and assist the Australian community to achieve home ownership. I commend the Bill to the House.
– I seek the indulgence of the House before moving that the debate be adjourned, Mr Speaker. The i Minister for Housing and Construction did not mention in his second reading speech whether the Government has abolished the ninemonth waiting period for people applying for the home savings grant. Could he inform me whether that is the case?
– Does the Minister wish to reply?
– Briefly this Bill implements commitments and solemn pledges made by the Government during its election campaign. As the whole of Australia knows the Fraser-Anthony Coalition Government honours its commitments. It does what it says. The answer to the question–
– The honourable gentleman is exceeding my indulgence. He will resume his seat.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
Mr Spender, for the Committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, presented the proposed Address which was read by the Clerk.
– I move:
May I begin, Mr Speaker, by saying how privileged I feel to have the opportunity to move this Address-in-Reply and to congratulate you upon your election. It is perfectly clear from what was said after the election took place that this House has great confidence in you. As a newcomer to the House I am bound to say that the reasons for that are perfectly apparent. Before I was asked to move the Address-in-Reply I sought, as I suppose newcomers to the House do, advice from parliamentarians who are wise and kindly and experienced, as to precisely what I should or should not do when finally I got to this House. Although there were a few dissenting voices, the burden of the advice was that I should observe, sit tight and say nothing. Then after some months had gone by, by which time it would be May or June of next year or so it seemed to me, I was told that I could get up and ask a question so as to get used to the atmospherics of the House and to get used to the sound of my own voice in the House. But 1 was cautioned very strongly that under no circumstances should the question be of a provocative nature.
One thing that honourable members of the House who are back benchers do not do is to ask Ministers of their own party provocative questions or, indeed, questions which might cause the Minister difficulties in answering. After having put that question I was then advised that I should go to ground once more and emerge in about 1982 when I could unburden myself of my maiden speech. When I came to that occasion I was warned very strongly that I should avoid, at all costs, controversial subjects because I was told that there were honourable members of this House who would make a note of what I said, if I said anything controversial at all, and would keep that note for future use; a use, I rather understood, that might not be wholeheartedly directed towards the advancement of my parliamentary career. As honourable members can imagine, these matters caused me great anxiety. But thankfully, the matter was taken out of my hands when I was asked to move this Address-in-Reply so I will not have to worry myself in the next year or two about when I should finally launch myself.
I replace in this Parliament Mr Bruce Graham who was a member of the Parliament, firstly for the seat of St George for eight years between 1949 and 1958, and then for the seat of North Sydney from 1966 until his recent retirement. Mr Graham has devoted a great deal of his life to the service of his country. I think honourable members will be aware that before he came to this House he was a squadron-leader in the Royal Australian Air Force, I think between 1939 and 1948. He is a man who I have always found to be of the utmost kindness, rectitude and courtesy. I know that in his own electorate he earned the reputation of being a person who devoted a great deal of his time to the unselfish service of his constituents. For my part, ever since my preselection, an event which honourable members will understand is one of the hardest things that one gets through- at least successfully - he has shown me the greatest courtesy and has helped me greatly in getting to know my electorate.
I am particularly honoured to have the privilege of taking over the seat of North Sydney. It is the fifth largest commercial centre in Australia. I feel that I come to the seat not as a stranger since before the redistribution that took place in the late 1940s the south-eastern part of the electorate of North Sydney fell into the division of Warringah which was then held by a very great Australian as a member of this House. During the time he was a member of this House he became Treasurer, Minister for External Affairs, Minister for External Territories and Minister for the Army. When he left this House, he served his country as Ambassador in Washington D.C. for seven years. He then left Washington to serve the wider cause of world peace through law first, as a member of, and then as President of, the International Court of Justice. I am very glad indeed that my father can be here on this day.
I wish now, if I may, to turn to His Excellency’s Address. It was a lucid and eloquent statement of the aims of this Government. It is a statement that assumes that government is in the interests of all Australians and not just for any one group or section, no matter how large. I welcome, as I hope all honourable members of this House welcome, the aims which His Excellency outlined in his speech.
I wish now to concentrate upon one area of that Speech. Honourable members may recall that His Excellency mentioned the urgent task of improving industrial relations in this country. Now, to speak of industrial relations in a maiden speech or at any other time raises a subject which has been known to generate a bit of controversy from time to time. The reason I do it is that in preparing myself for this occasion I consulted Hansard and the debates which have taken place. It seemed to me that it was almost impossible to find a subject that did not generate some kind of controversy. I found that even such apparently innocuous subjects as beef roads in the Northern Territory, country post offices, and superphosphate bounties had their strong, and at some times, bitter partisans, and those who would attack them with equal vigour. So, since one must venture into the field of controversy at some time I have chosen to say something on this one field.
In the time that I have been at the Bar, particularly over the past few years, I have had the good fortune to act for quite a large part of that time- I speak here specifically of the last few years - for trade unions and for trade union officials, and also to advise them. This has enabled me, I think and I certainly hope, to gain an understanding of the state of industrial relations in Australia, the legislation which governs the trade unions and industrial relations, and the social and political forces which have moulded that legislation. What I have learnt has left me with a profound sense of disquiet as to the whole system and its capacity to function in the future.
There are obvious defects in the system. Let me instance one: The number of trade unions in this country. We have, I think, about 3 1 5 unions with a total membership of 2,855,000 in round figures. West Germany, with a union membership of slightly over 9 million, has about 19 unions only. It is obvious enough, and I think most members would agree, that the number of unions in this country needs to be reduced. I would welcome legislation which provided for easier amalgamations when an amalgamation was in the country’s interest, in the national interest. For example, amalgamations to bring about the existence of one union in an industry and thereby, amongst other things, cut down on the inter-union wars that afflict certain industries and make negotiations easier, generally speaking, would be in the country’s interest. But amalgamations just for the sake of growth are not, in my view at least, in the interests of the country. There must always be a community benefit to be derived. I therefore welcome what I have heard of the legislation that is proposed in that area.
Whilst there are areas in which the Government can act - I speak of a government of any political persuasion - there is, I think, a much larger question that needs to be answered, and that is this: We have one of the worst industrial records in the industrialised world. I am not here to apportion blame because the truth of the matter is - I think anyone who knows anything about industrial relations realises this - that there is blame to be found on both sides of the record. But why is it so? Why is our record for strikes and stoppages, for bans and for other forms of industrial unrest near the top of the list? We are not yet at the top of the list, but with a truly competitive spirit we seem to be striving very hard to get there. Is it some ineradicable trait which we cannot remove? If that is so we are on the short road to chaos. Or is it, at least in part, a product of the system in which trade unions and employers have to organise their industrial affairs? My view is that in part at least the system is to blame.
Our industrial system - and I speak of the whole complex of laws that regulate the existence and activities of employer and employee organisations and the settlement of industrial disputes - is based on the constitutional premise that primarily industrial matters should remain with the States. The result of the acceptance of this premise has been that this Parliament is strictly limited in the kind of legislation it can enact. There are certain heads of constitutional power which are open to this Parliament to deal with employees - at certain times or with certain groups.
But, in the main the Parliament must always return to section 51, placitum (xxxv), of the Constitution - the power to make laws with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State, together with the incidental power. Because of the narrowness of this power - and despite the remarkably expansive interpretation the High Court of Australia has given to it - this Parliament cannot act to deal directly with industrial unrest. It cannot legislate to deal directly with industrial unrest no matter how grave the consequences of inaction and no matter which party is in power. It cannot fix wages, hours or conditions of employment. These matters, so vital to the industrial and economic life of this country, are left to the industrial tribunals established either under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act of the Commonwealth or to the State industrial tribunals. Most certainly I intend no disrespect to those tribunals or to the dedicated and hard-working people who sit on them. But is it not astonishing that the Federal Government - the Government that has the management of the economy and must pay the electoral price if that management is judged to be bad - is altogether excluded from decisions on matters which so directly affect the economic life of this country, and that these decisions are to be left in the hands of independent tribunals which are neither responsible to the people nor answerable to this Parliament?
The difficulties that the Constitution, section 51, placitum (xxxv), cause us these days are not limited simply to the narrowness of the power itself. The very terms in which the power is granted has resulted in a system which is highly technical and legalistic and which is undeniably a source of great revenue to lawyers - I can hardly speak against that - but which for employees and employers who get into it and who have to seek to resolve industrial disputes it can become an extraordinarily difficult maze. Honourable members will be aware that, mainly depending upon the constitutional power contained in section 51, placitum (xxxv), the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 was enacted. That Act has been amended on 70-odd occasions and often as a result of constitutional challenge and this Parliament’s reaction to constitutional challenge.
What are some of the problems that that Act throws up? Let me outline very briefly a few. Before anything can be done, before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission can exercise jurisdiction, an industrial dispute of some sort must exist. There is no room in the system for mediation before dispute. A dispute, real or artificial - honourable members will well be acquainted with the nature of paper disputes which are really artificial at heart- must first exist. Thus the whole impetus of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is towards the creation of disputes, something which does not seem to me to promote the cause of industrial peace. Next, the dispute must extend beyond the borders of any one State. A purely intrastate dispute, no matter how important, no matter what the national consequences, is not enough. Once a dispute exists there is only one process open to resolve that dispute - the process of conciliation and arbitration. Other ways of resolving disputes, such as by collective bargaining or the appointment of a friendly expert agreed upon by both sides for the purposes of seeking to iron out problems before they really emerge, are beyond the scope of the Act and, in all probability, beyond constitutional power. In summary, section 51 (xxxv) of the Constitution has, I think, brought about a system which is inflexible and highly technical and which in my view, promotes industrial unrest. As honourable members will be aware, there are separate State systems - six of them. Honourable members will know that some 48 per cent of awards governing the work force are State awards, 39 per cent are Federal awards, and the balance fall under no awards at all. Honourable members will also know that one of the results of having different State systems is that disparities emerge between Federal and State awards in one industry. What then happens? That is simple enough. If one finds one is under a Federal award which is not as advantageous as a State award, one will seek to get out from the one into the other. What then happens? Industrial unrest occurs. That is precisely what took place at the Kurnell refinery some few months ago.
Let me give the House one last instance, perhaps, of the damage that can be caused by the system. We have systems of dual union registration in this country. The Federal system provides for the registration of one form of union, and the State system for another. As a result of a series of decision, one view of the law - I speak now of the State of New South Wales- is that neither a federal body nor the State branch of a federal body can represent the interests of union members in industrial tribunals. It has to be a State union and a State registered industrial union. That, to my mind, is a result which is as ludicrous as it is inconvenient.
Honourable members will be aware also of the fact that by reason of the dual systems, there has sometimes grown up a need to have a Federally registered body and a State registered body, with overlapping membership, a different set of rules for each one, and different laws governing each one. What does this result in? I think it was well put in 1969 in the famous decision of Moore v. Doyle where it was said that ‘When factional differences arise in trade unions, or when it suits the interests of some litigant or litigants to do so, the Federal or State body can be attacked and its valid operation, its entitlement to assets, funds and membership imperilled’.
Fascinating as the present system may be for lawyers, surely it is a system which, of all systems, requires the law to be clear, to be flexible and to be as simple as possible. Surely the time has come for us to seek to obtain power for this Parliament to cover the field. Whether this be done by amendment to the Constitution - and I am well aware of how rough a road that can be - or by a referral of powers, or by some form of cooperative State and Federal government legislation, is another question, just as it is another question what one does with the power if granted. But the question that must be asked is whether we are content with the system that we presently have. To those who suggest that this is an exercise in centralism, I give this answer: The Constitution recognises that needs and times change. As the needs and times change, so should we. What was acceptable and understandable in 1900 is utterly inappropriate for these days. The choice that we have is to continue with a system which manifestly fails to meet the needs of the times or to seek to change it. I have no doubt what the choice is that we should take.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– I second the motion moved by my colleague the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Spender). I feel honoured in being given the opportunity of seconding the Address-in-Reply, and, in so doing, making my maiden speech so early in the life of the Thirty-second Parliament- a Parliament that will usher in a decade which promises to be one of rapid development for Australia and one in which all Australians must share in the promised gains. On behalf of the citizens of the Riverina I wish to endorse the expressions of loyalty to our most Gracious Sovereign. It was a privilege to be elected on 1 8 October as member for the seat of Riverina, and I thank the electors of the Riverina for the trust they have placed in me. My special thanks must go to my wife Joan and to my family for their understanding, and to Richard Bull, son of the late Senator Bull, for his assistance in my campaign.
Over the years there have been a number of members for Riverina who have made a significant contribution to their electorate and to the nation, and I would like to make mention of those of more recent past history. Hugh Roberton, a former Minister for Social Services, was Australia’s first Ambassador to Ireland. Bill Armstrong worked hard to protect the small businessmen from the ravages of harsh probate duties. Al Grassby, one of the most publicised political figures of his parliamentary era, was a man of great energy and drive. John Sullivan, who, after a distinguished Army career, entered the Federal Parliament in 1974, worked tirelessly throughout the electorate.
Following redistribution of Federal electoral boundaries in 1977 the seat of Darling was eliminated. Up to that time the seat had only four members since Federation. This brought Broken Hill and the west Darling area into the Riverina electorate. Following the 1977 election John FitzPatrick, the former member for Darling, became the member for Riverina after serving his former electorate for eight years. John FitzPatrick is well known for the work he has done for the isolated children of the outback, and I know I would be expressing the view of everyone in the Riverina electorate in wishing both John and Mrs FitzPatrick a long and happy retirement.
As with a number of electorates, the Riverina is large in area. It covers approximately one-third the land area of the State of New South Wales. It extends from the Queensland border in the North to the Murray River or Victorian border in the south; from the South Australian border in the west to Narrandera in the east; from the Mundi Mundi Plain to Moombooldool and from Milparinka to Moama. The extreme north of the electorate, which includes the townships of Tibooburra and Milparinka, is adjacent to the vast inland Australian deserts. The west Darling region is almost entirely semi-arid sheep grazing land, bisected by the Darling River on which historic towns such as Tilpa, Wilcannia and Menindee are situated. The unique silver, lead and zinc mining city of Broken Hill is situated in this region, and because of its isolation it has earned for itself a reputation of independent ruggedness combined with overwhelming friendliness. The importance of its contribution to Australia’s welfare cannot be overestimated, for it is here that this nation’s real industrial growth began. Today’s mining explosion follows the pioneering efforts of Broken Hill.
The area to the south of Broken Hill is mainly sheep grazing country, with the town of Wentworth situated at the junction of the Darling and Murray Rivers. From this point eastward it becomes apparent why the electorate is called the Riverina. In the south-east it is a rich pastoral and agricultural region watered by the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Lachlan Rivers. Here are found the wide open saltbush plains grazed by sheep and cattle. Around Deniliquin and Hay are some of Australia’s best known merino sheep studs. The contribution that the pastoral industry and its supporting services have made in my electorate and to Australia cannot adequately be estimated.
The northern and eastern sections taking in Rankins Springs, Lake Cargelligo, Hillston and Narrandera, as well as towns like Barellan, Weethalle and Tullibigeal are part of the great Australian wheat belt, while the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area including Leeton and Griffith produces a large percentage of Australian table wines as well as a great variety of vegetables and fresh and dried fruit. Some of the best quality citrus juice comes from the MIA, and the industry is in a relatively sound position thanks to the intervention of the Federal Government during 1977-78. The MIA, along with the Coleambally Irrigation Area and the Deniliquin region, produce the majority of Australia’s rice crop. The rice industry is considered by many to be Australia’s most efficient primary industry, and about 85 per cent of Australia’s rice production is exported.
The major part of the Riverina is dependent on the river system that flows through it, and it has become apparent, particularly in this dry period that we are experiencing, that our major water storages are being tested, and the uncertainty of supply is starting to worry existing users. Within reasonable environmental constraints we must conserve every possible drop of water, it being one of our most precious natural resources. It is not good enough that Australians practice constraint in times of drought; it should become second nature to conserve water wherever possible.
Although priority for water storage development is a matter for State governments it may become necessary to provide funding similar to that recently announced for the Burdekin scheme in Queensland in order that major storage works can be undertaken. In the late sixties and early seventies mention was made of turning major coastal rivers such as the Clarence and Mitchell inland, eventually to join the Murray-Darling system, but because of technical and other difficulties these schemes were shelved. It is time these schemes were reappraised so that no area is left unexplored in obtaining water for our parched inland.
Apart from the need for major storages there is also a lack of adequate water storage for a number of small towns in the electorate, particularly in the far west where carting of water for human consumption and ablutions is part of a way of life. The use of water, particularly for irrigation, has increased an already existing problem of salinity build-up. Highly saline water is destroying valuable land and polluting our major river system.
This has become, therefore, one of the most pressing problems not only of the Riverina, as the Murray-Darling system is the major life-giving artery of south-eastern Australia. Fortunately, through the combined efforts of the States affected and the Federal Government, work is being carried out that should lessen the 1 .5 million tonnes of salt that travels in solution to the Murray mouth each year. Although New South Wales is estimated to be responsible for less than 10 per cent of the saline inflow, works being carried out in the Riverina in accordance with the Maunsell report under the National Water Resources Scheme should help alleviate the problem in that area.
Another major problem that plagues the electorate, and no doubt other electorates throughout Australia, particularly in the more isolated areas, is the lack of all-weather roads. This adds to the feeling of isolation, particularly during wet periods. I will support any constructive move that will obtain increased funding for outback road construction and maintenance. It may be that new methods of financing will have to be implemented.
Communications play an important part in the life of the Riverina, and in this area improvements need to be made. Presently, the signal received from the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the north-western area of the electorate around Tibooburra and the north-eastern area around Rankins Springs is poor. This is untenable as many people rely on the ABC for news, education and entertainment. Television to many is still unavailable, and it is unfortunate that there are groups who oppose the launching of the communication satellite as announced in the last Parliament.
There are varying reasons given for the opposition, the most consistent being that it is technically not suitable, and another the fear of private enterprise controlling the satellite. I ask anyone who opposes the satellite project to spend a few months in outback Australia in midwinter or midsummer without those forms of communication that the majority of citizens in Australia take for granted.
Whether by satellite or land-based communication the people of the outback are entitled to better radio, better telecommunications, and television receiption at a reasonable cost. It is to be hoped that this can be achieved in the near future. In my electorate it is the women in particular who, in trying to care for their families, suffer most trauma through lack of all-weather roads, poor communication and lack of an assured water supply. There is a substantial Aboriginal population in my electorate, and although in the past circumstances have tended to isolate them from the broader community it should be the endeavour of both the black and white communities to work to achieve better communication and therefore a better understanding of each other’s problems.
The canned fruit industry plays a vital role in the MIA as it does in a number of other agricultural areas of Australia. Following the statutory marketing scheme introduced by the present Federal Government, returns to growers have been stabilised and accelerated. Upon listening to the opening speech presented by the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) at the annual conference of the Australian Canning Fruitgrowers Association held in Griffith earlier this week, and on talking to industry leaders and Mr Sam Catanzariti. local Chairman of the Canned Fruitgrowers Association, and Mr Ray Taylor, Chairman of Directors of Letona Co-op Ltd cannery, it becomes apparent that an increase in the guaranteed advance payment on fruit deliveries from 70 per cent to 80 per cent is warranted. It is to be hoped that the Minister for Primary Industry, in conjunction with the Treasurer (Mr Howard), can make this adjustment shortly so that the coming harvest will be subject to the new payment level.
In 1983 the City of Broken Hill will be celebrating its centenary. As in most mining communities, the citizens of Broken Hill have serious doubts as to their future, as presently it is almost entirely dependent on that area’s non-renewable resource of silver, lead and zinc ore. With this realisation, the Broken Hill City Council prevailed on the Premier of New South Wales, who agreed to instigate the formation of the Broken Hill Economic Review Committee. This Committee has the backing of the New South Wales Government and has on it representatives of both the New South Wales and South Australian State governments, union representation, and other city representatives. The Federal Government has a representative on the Committee, but as an observer only.
The Committee believes, as I do, that the people of Broken Hill are entitled to know where their future lies. Young married couples want to know what the risk is in investing in new homes, this normally being the largest investment that they will ever make. Unless there is a plan for the future, business people will not invest and gradually the city will fade, this being hastened by uncertainty rather than actual economic reality.
Because I believe that the future of Broken Hill will be based on political decision, and because that city has been such a cornerstone in building the Australian economy, I must urge the Government to change the role of its delegate from merely one of an observer to that of a fully participating member of the Committee.
In a number of regional centres in Australia a great deal has been accomplished in providing modern office accommodation for Commonwealth office workers. In this regard Broken Hill is sadly lacking, with the Commonwealth providing neither reasonable working conditions for its officers nor convenient service for the public. It is to be hoped that the Government will look to constructing suitable new accommodation for its employees to match office accommodation already provided for workers of the other two arms of government, both local and State.
A recent announcement by the Federal Government that land had been acquired so that the east-west runway of the Broken Hill Airport could be extended was welcomed in that city. The extension of the runway will allow the airport to operate at a full capacity throughout the year, and will allow the use of fully laden F28-100O Fokker Fellowships. This will cut the time for the SydneyBroken Hill run from the present 2 hours 30 minutes to 1 hour 35 minutes and add greatly to tourist traffic. It is essential that the proposed extension work on the airport be completed as rapidly as possible so that another strand can be added to the cable that will suport Broken Hill’s future.
Many tributes have been made in the Parliament to those non-English speaking settlers who have come to this country since the Second World War and helped to make the Australia we know today. It would be remiss of me to speak of the Riverina, and in particular the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, and not pay a tribute to those people of Italian heritage whose love of the land and hard work have done so much in developing the MIA. Many Italian settlers have come to the Riverina since World War II, but there are some who helped to develop the MIA when it was in its infancy. We in the Riverina acknowledge that we owe a great deal to these people for the prosperity and progress of the area. I would like to second the remarks of the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) in extending, on behalf of the House, sympathy to the people of southern Italy in regard to the earthquake which occurred last Sunday.
As the new representative for Riverina I am proud to represent the National Country Party.
My concern is that responsibility for the family in our society has been threatened by changes of technology and economic circumstances. The old virtues of loyalty and responsibility no longer seem to mean as much today as they should. Without loyalty the prospects for our community must be the poorer. Only yesterday in the valedictories to a former Leader of the National Country Party, Sir John McEwen, reference was made to the fact that among his attributes was the loyalty that he inspired in others and which he in turn gave to them. In spite of the complexities of the modern world and the freer society in which we live, those qualities which inspired the early settlers in Riverina are, I believe, as important in the development of Australia today as they have ever been. In spite of the jingoism that sometimes is attributed to excessive expression of loyalty to the nation, I am sure that the developing consciousness of our Australian identity, motivation and purpose, is more a motivation attributable to our maturity as a nation, and I commend those who seek to advance the Australian name, image and purpose. It is the duty and responsibility of both our educators and parents, by example, to instil in the youth of our country a pride in being Australian.
The combination of natural resources and human endeavour in the Riverina has allowed for the production of primary produce that is second to none in the world. Along with the mines of Broken Hill, the contribution to Australia’s wellbeing cannot be over-emphasised. As with the people of the Riverina, we should all look to the future with optimism and confidence, but always be ready to share our responsibilities as well as our prosperity.
Before calling the honourable member for Banks, I remind honourable members that the honourable member will be making his maiden speech and I request that he be accorded the customary courtesy.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I first convey my congratulations to you upon your re-election as Chairman of Committees. I would be pleased if you would carry my congratulations to the Speaker on his reelection also.
I rise today to make my first speech in this Parliament with pride and humility; proud to have been chosen by the local members of the Australian Labor Party as their candidate, and by the electors of Banks, humble because of the great honour that is extended to me, a person coming from the working class, in being able to join other honourable members in this Parliament of Australia. It is indeed an honour to be the first speaker from the Opposition in this debate.
The electorate of Banks was established in 1949 and has since been represented by only two former members of this Parliament. The late Eric Costa represented the electorate for the first 20 years and Mr Vince Martin, the immediate former member, represented it from 1969 until his retirement in October of this year. I am pleased to say that Mr Martin is with us this evening. I wish to pay tribute to him, not only on my own behalf but also on behalf of his many friends in this Parliament and in the electorate, for the dedicated, capable and efficient manner in which he represented the residents of the Banks electorate and the people of Australia. Being a quiet person by nature, his manner often belied his immense feelings of compassion for the people he represented and his talents and capabilities in assisting so many of them to achieve a greater standard of living. My personal thanks go to Vince Martin for the friendship and assistance he has given me over the last 1 2 months. I extend my best wishes to Vince and his wife, Jean, for a long, happy and healthy retirement.
I wish also to express appreciation to my wife, Valerie, and my children Paul and Catherine, who are also present tonight, as well as other members of my family, for their assistance and understanding over many years. Without such help it would not have been possible for me to have been elected to this Parliament.
To those loyal and dedicated members of the Australian Labor Party in the electorate, I extend my sincere thanks for their support and assistance. Those of us who are members of the Australian Labor Party look on it not as an organisation but rather as a way of life, having ideals and philosophies which, through democratic social equality, will eventually free man from the yoke of oppression, hunger and disease and bring him to a better world where his dignity will be given full recognition and in which he may live in peace. To those honourable members who believe that this is an impossible dream, I say that they should not be here in this Parliament representing the people of Australia. We must, if we are truly to represent the people of this nation, carry their hopes and aspirations into this Parliament and do everything in our power to see that they are put into practice. To the people in the electorate of Banks, I extend my sincere thanks for their having enough faith in me to elect me as their representative for the term of this Parliament.
The electorate of Banks is a metropolitan seat located in the south-western area of Sydney and flanked on its southern and western boundaries by the Georges River. It is an area which has seen steady growth over the last 30 years, with subsequent increases in population to its present number of 1 10,000. The area has developed rapidly over recent years with the provision of additional facilities for its residents, which has largely been due to the dedicated representation by the local State members of parliament and the aldermen on the councils of Bankstown, Hurstville and Canterbury. However, the amount of work that State and local government authorities are able to carry out is largely dependent on the allocation of funds from the Australian Government. Because of a lack of funds the State Government of New South Wales has been unable to proceed with much needed improvements to the transport system in my electorate. The lack of adequate rail services and road facilities is causing constant inconvenience to the residents. There is an urgent need for amplification of the rail service between Riverwood and East Hills, and for amplification of the main roads network, particularly in regard to Canterbury Road and Henry Lawson Drive. The Federal Labor Government’s allocation of funds in 1974 to provide for the amplification of the East Hills rail line was later set aside by the present Government. The State Government is doing what it can to improve the transport systems throughout the State but because the Federal Government is continually reducing in real terms the amount of funds available each year, the situation is becoming deplorable. The people in my electorate want a fairer share of the money that the Government collects in oil levies and petrol taxes.
I now wish to leave local matters and refer to some matters of national concern to which I believe we need to pay special attention in the future if our nation is to progress for the benefit of all its people. I pledge here and now that while I am a member of this Parliament I will be unrelenting in pursuing policies which will bring a greater quality of life to the Australian people. Australia is a land of vast natural resources and it is fair to say that the exploration and large scale use of those resources commenced in earnest only within the last 40 years. Before that time Australia was a small and politically unimportant country with an economy based on rural production and dependent on Great Britain for its international relations and most of its trade. During recent years we have witnessed a tremendous growth in the development of our natural resources such as coal, oil, uranium, iron ore and bauxite, all of which have been exported either after further processing or in their original state, for use in the production of world necessities.
Other than for the export of uranium, which I believe should be left in the ground until its byproducts are proved safe beyond any doubt, one could at first sight believe that the development and export of our natural resources is good for Australia and its people. However, we know different because at present we have not the orderly exploration of our natural resources but the exploitation of these resources by profit hungry multinational corporations which at times are aided and abetted by the Australian Government and some State governments. We are selling our natural resources at rock bottom prices to overseas corporations which, for the most part, pay little or no taxes to the Government. I am of the firm belief that this nation’s natural resources, which started to form in the dawn of time over 3,000 million years ago, should be developed and used in a proper manner to ensure that Australia receives the true value of such resources, the benefits of which should then be used to raise the standard of living of our people. This Parliament has the responsibility of ensuring that the people of Australia are not denied their rightful share of the natural riches of our nation. I commend to the Government the establishment of a committee of this Parliament to ensure that the proper and orderly exploration, development and marketing of Australia’s natural resources takes place and that fair market prices are obtained for such resources. Only in that way, with such a watchdog committee, would the people’s interests be protected.
I now turn to social welfare, an area in which great compassion and understanding are required. We must resolve a number of issues if we are to prevent our society becoming more divided into the haves and have nots. The reported two million Australians, including 500,000 children, who currently live in austere, degrading and wasteful poverty are not only being denied a fair go but also they are unfortunately being cast as symbols of our lack of interest or concern. In the period 1 972 to 1975 a valiant attempt was made by a concerned Labor Government to try to dispel some of the inequalities in our society. Just when success was at hand, when it appeared that the dead weight of oppression was being lifted from the shoulders of so many unfortunate people and a fuller and better life was dawning for them, those who are now on the Government side of the House who considered themselves born to rule went to extreme and fanatical lengths to defeat a government elected by the people only 18 months before. At that time, in November 1975, not only did they dash the hopes of the underprivileged in our land but also they destroyed a democratic convention.
Democracy is a very fragile state at any time, without its being weakened further by the abuse of constitutional power. I would like to think that after 200 years of European occupation and 125 years of differing forms of democratic government this country has advanced enough to be able to stand on its own feet and manage its own affairs without the necessity of being dependent on outside influences. Despite the legal and constitutional complexities involved, I intend to pursue a course for this Parliament to investigate the ways in which we may achieve eventually a democratic republic of Australia free of any outside influence but still part of the Commonwealth of Nations. I come back to the needs of those people in the community who are less fortunate than ourselves - the pensioners, the handicapped adults and children, the homeless, the poor and the unemployed. I implore the Government to listen to the cries for assistance from these, our fellow Australians, and raise the amount of Government assistance to a level which will allow them to live with dignity. Honourable members should take a good look at those families who are forced to survive on low incomes. I know it must be hard for many of those honourable members sitting on the Government benches to realise how difficult it is for families on low incomes to survive, or what it is like to be poor. Low income families need relief, and they need that relief immediately. That relief can be given by way of increased family allowances on a means tested basis and by taxation reductions.
Recent talk and posturing by Government Ministers and leaders of our business community about the possible introduction of value added taxation and other lucrative indirect taxation schemes must cease. VAT and indirect taxes hurt those on lower incomes and make it easier for the wealthy in our society. We should do away with all indirect taxation and impose only direct taxation on income earned. Sufficient safeguards to ensure that there are no loopholes or tax avoidance schemes to help the greedy and the wealthy dodge their rightful share of payment for all the services provided by a democratic government would need to be established by legislation. This Government, which has done nothing for low income families, now has the hide to think up new ways of introducing taxation injustice by shifting the burden from the wealthy to the middle and low income earners. We must care for and protect the family unit because it has been, and will remain, the backbone of our society. Every member of that unit has the right to share in and to benefit from the riches of this nation. We have the responsibility to protect and nurture the lives of all Australians, regardless of their age, race or social standing. This includes giving land and social justice to our Aborigines, the first Australians, who came to this land some 30,000 years ago but who are treated like outcasts by those in authority and by so many of their fellow Australians.
I now want to say something about unemployment and the human beings who cannot find work - those unfortunate people whom the Government treats more as statistics within acceptable parameters than as suffering people. The plight of the unemployed is like a cancerous growth in the society, and yet for the last five years the Government has done nothing positive to reduce unemployment which, at the moment, is greater than at any time in this nation’s history. Unemployment continues to grow; jobs for the family man and for the school leaver are becoming fewer, and nothing positive has been done for the people displaced by technological change. Let us get down to basics and do something for people, and forget the statistics. Let us institute job creation programs so that work will be available for all who want it. Let us get this country moving again with employer and employee working together side by side, with the Government and the Opposition, for the benefit of each and for the benefit of Australia. To achieve this the Government has to be the catalyst; it has to restore business and community confidence by forthright actions and not by rhetorical posturings.
We must control the rate of technological change so that an orderly process of full employment is retained in industry and commerce alike. It is not logical for a country to allow improved processes in the work place if such changes create unemployment. Technological change must occur only when community benefits are evident, not when the employer wants bigger profits by replacing men with machines. No nation can afford an ever-increasing number of people who are unemployed and survive as a democratic nation. Every revolution in history has occurred in countries with high unemployment, where dissatisfied people without hope in the future have resorted to violence. We do not want this to happen in Australia. We love liberty and freedom too much for that. The time to act is now before it is too late to reverse the downward trend.
All the matters which I have spoken about this evening are, in my opinion, of great importance.
They need our attention now because they affect people, and I love people, particularly the poor and the underprivileged in our community. Unfortunately, however, Government members have paid scant attention to these matters in their Address-in-Reply speeches. I must speak briefly about one other very important matter because, if we cannot achieve it in our time, all those other matters, important though they are, are irrelevant. I refer to the achievement of peace on earth. If we cannot attain peace in our time, all of that which we have achieved in the past and all of our aspirations for the future will be in vain. We need to pause briefly to contemplate the day when our world may no longer be habitable by man, woman and child. We all live under a nuclear sword, hanging by the slenderest of threads which is capable of being cut at any moment. I do not believe that war and destruction are man’s destiny. I believe that man wants peace, that he wants to live in a world free of conflict, free of hunger and disease, wanting only to live in freedom and to be able to share in the riches that are abundant in this world of ours. Let us resolve to work for world peace. Let us plead with other nations to lay down their nuclear weapons of destruction. Let us not seek to lay blame for past misdemeanours but rather let us chart a course for peace in our time. If we in this Parliament and those in other governments and regimes throughout the world were to put all our energies and abilities into achieving peace, future generations would record our time in history and remember it with pride.
In conclusion, I wish to say that I have come to this Parliament to see that those matters about which I have just spoken and others which I had to omit through lack of time are achieved. I would like to think that we could all work together, both Government and Opposition, to solve the problems of the future so that Australia will prosper and develop for the benefit of all its people.
– Firstly, I congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your re-election as Chairman of Committees, again by a suitable majority. I would be grateful if you could also pass on my congratulations to Mr Speaker. Secondly, as a member not of long standing but of sufficient standing, I would like to congratulate the three honourable members who have already made their maiden speeches in this debate. I believe that the content of all their speeches will need to be read and reread.
The honourable member for Banks (Mr Mountford), who has just completed his speech, showed up some of the differences that really do exist between the Government and the Opposition. I propose to speak briefly about these differences in my speech this evening. He clearly highlighted the differences that exist between the Government and the Opposition in respect of the Governor-General’s Speech. In my view the Governor-General’s Speech yesterday was quite brilliant. It set out very clearly and succinctly many of the issues which face Australia. It also set out very clearly many of the principles which have basically guided the Liberal and the National Country parties for many many years, principles which unfortunately in the last election and in the past few years many people in Australia have not quite understood. How often do people say: ‘Well, there is not very much difference between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party - you are all very much the same’. People seem to think that they should make a choice between individual candidates or on the basis of issues that happen to be around at the time, issues often quite artificially invented at the time of elections. I propose to talk briefly about the fact that that sort of view in Australia is quite false. There are very strong differences between the Government and the Opposition. I believe that the Governor-General’s Speech has given the lead to the Government’s pressing even more strongly in the next three years those principles which are so different from the principles of the Labor Party.
The Opposition and the Government, of course, have many similarities. I am not running away from that. I believe in all sincerity that both sides of the Parliament want full employment. I believe in all sincerity that all of us in this House are nationalists. I do not mean that we are nationalists in the nasty sense, the sense that denies the fact that we are really citizens of the world. We are nationalists in the sense that we want our country to do well not only for our own people but also for the good of the world. We would like to have an efficient country in which our own people can get on, become affluent and help those worse off than ourselves. In that sense we are similar. We are also similar, despite what the Opposition might say from time to time about us and despite what we might say from time to time about it, in our concern for those in our community who are not as well off as perhaps the more affluent are. If one looks through the chronology of social security legislation - the innovation and the evolution of the great social reforms - one finds that, of course, both the Liberal Party and the Australian Labor Party have been responsible for very important legislation since 1 908 when in fact parties more of our persuasion first introduced the age pension.
Having said that we are similar in many ways, I propose to draw to the attention of the House some of the distinctions that are very important, especially when we are trying as best we can to cope with the great potential of this country as we go forward in the 1980s, in particular as we go forward in this present Parliament. The Opposition is a self-confessed collectivist party. It is a group of people who believe that decisions are best made in a democratic sort of way by groups of people and that those decisions, having been made, should be reasonably enforced within that same group of people and perhaps in many cases within a wider group. The Opposition believes in planning as a matter of faith. It believes that it is important that we know exactly where we are going. It likes to put things down on paper, to make blueprints and to follow plans through. It is important to the Opposition that all the things we are involved with in our daily lives are first of all dreamed up and set out and then followed, again probably by a group of people actively and collectively. Perhaps this is a little bit unkind, but the Opposition has a particular view of social justice which says that its view is the best view. In other words, a group of people who are perhaps bureaucrats or politicians as distinct from individuals believe that they are really in a better position to decide what is social justice.
The Opposition tends to believe in monopolies. Perhaps members of the Opposition do not like hearing that. However, the best example of this is the Opposition’s adherence to the monopoly union movement. That, of course, is one of the great areas of monopoly. This belief does not apply only to trade unions. The Opposition also believes that monopolies should operate in business. Despite the fact that the Opposition talks about trade practices, perhaps it should be remembered that a government of the persuasion of this Government first introduced trade practices legislation. Nevertheless, it has always seemed to me - I think this is borne out in fact - that the Opposition likes larger businesses because, again, it believes that it is easier to control a small group of very big entities in the interests of what it calls the ‘common good’.
The Opposition also happens to believe - this perhaps also may sound a little tough - in the protection of privileged people in respect of jobs. Perhaps more jobs would be available if privileged people in certain areas were not protected. In the more intense socialist systems than any of those in the West, privilege, as distinct from commonality in the community, starts to flourish. I think it is quite logical to expect that if this country were to slip into the socialist abyss privilege would again burgeon as it did many years ago when we had a very strong class society.
I have pointed out some of the things to which the Opposition obviously adheres. This has shown up quite regularly in the decisions it has made and, of course, in many of the utterances made during the last election campaign. On the other hand we have some other views. Some of those views impinge more harshly on people, others do not. Perhaps in the centre of our philosophy - this again is shown up in the Governor-General’s Speech - is our regard for individual people. It is a matter of faith for the Liberal and National Country parties. I am not saying that we always adhere to it as well as we should, but we do not have very strong faith in the individual. Of course, that faith in the individual can often be damaging to other people. If individuals are big they can become bullies. That is a well-known fact in every school. Nevertheless, we say that the entity that matters most in a community is an individual, a single person, a person who after all is born with a single mind. That is probably the first and most important point about us, and again that flowed through in the Governor-General’s Speech.
Second, we believe in markets. We believe that markets are not bad arbiters; that markets do sort out good solutions. I am talking of free markets, competitive markets, markets where nevertheless there is some guarantee - government will come into it somewhere - that competition can be preserved. We believe that if a lot of individuals are allowed in a basically unfettered way to make decisions then they will make fairly sensible ones. Some people will make stupid decisions; others will make good ones, but overall people will come to a level. They will wake up when they make bad decisions; they will learn by experience. So we believe in markets. We believe in people being allowed to set up little businesses and to sell their goods. Perhaps if their products are not good they will not be able to sell them. They may have to move into another business or work for the Government. We certainly believe in the market as a good arbiter. It is very much a part of our philosophy.
Therefore, we also believe in trying to get out of the hair of people who want to operate in the market. If we are to do that it means that one of the things we have to remember is that governments are perhaps the biggest entities that can get in people’s way. So obviously we believe in smaller government. I am not saying that the government is small enough. I am not saying that we believe strongly enough in smaller government, but the logic of our philosophy is that we believe in smaller government. Logically at the same time we also believe in lower taxes. I am not saying that we have been able to lower taxes as much as we would like. As was pointed out during Question Time this morning, there were promises of full tax indexation. We have not been able to keep that promise. It has been a very difficult problem but if possible we have tended towards lower taxes. Following the Governor-General’s Speech I believe that honourable members on this side of the House should take heart that we will follow that part of our philosophy right through.
In contradistinction to the Opposition we believe also in anti-monopoly situations. That was not put very well but we do not believe in monopolies; we do not believe in people exercising power that cannot be overcome by individuals. We do not believe in monopoly unions that accept a flexibility upwards but never a flexibility downwards. We do not believe in monopoly businesses which can impose price structures which people cannot resist, price structures not only protected through their monopoly situation at home but also protected by government imposed tariff protection. In principle we do not believe in that. We believe that individuals who are basically healthy and who were born in a country where a potential exists should be able to look after their own futures. They are the distinctions. I believe at the beginning of the Parliament it is well to say that there are distinctions. I believe that when the next poll comes those distinctions will be even sharper to the Australian people and as far as I am concerned–
– You hope.
– I certainly do hope. I believe that in that interjection is an implication that there are distinctions that we can hope will be much sharper. I hope that those distinctions will be seen by the Australian people as being much sharper. I will quote the logic that I am talking about that appeared in the Governor-General’s Speech. He said:
My Government will give particular attention to encouraging the growth of the private sector and to increasing the freedom of choice of taxpayers in spending their own incomes. It will be an important policy objective to continue to restrain public expenditure so as to provide scope for reducing the burden of taxation.
I have talked about all of those things and we believe in all of them. Of course, the big question is whether we can stick to those beliefs. It is not always easy for back benchers to field many of the objects of people who come along when their pet program is to be cut or, as in many cases, cut right out. It is very easy for people to say: ‘Well, we had better not cut this program’. We understand that we want to have smaller government, less interference, but surely we can cut somebody else’s program! It is essential for us in government to understand that everything has to be looked at and, in particular, things that do not impinge on those who are disadvantaged. There are so many programs that we have in this country that have nothing to do with looking after disadvantaged people, have nothing to do with the defence of the country, have nothing to do with providing infrastructure that only governments, in some cases, can provide. We are involved with so many of those things, and in my view all of them need to be constantly under question because of the logic that I have just stated.
In my electorate are many people who will benefit from this direction that I believe we will have to take. In Eden-Monaro are many exporters in primary industry and some in secondary industry. They want to see tariffs brought down and perhaps a more sensible exchange rate. Those exporters depend on the market for the benefits that can flow through to jobs in our community. We have a large number of people in the Public Service. I say, quite unashamedly, that 1 hope those people - I refer particularly to those in the Commonwealth Public Service - will have a very challenging time in the next three years. We have many people engaged in the tourist industry. In a sense this too is an export industry, an industry that depends on competitiveness and innovation to attract business if we follow our ideals properly. That sort of industry does very well under our sort of government. We have, as do many other areas, a tremendous number of small businesses in Eden-Monaro. The people in those small businesses are saying more and more: ‘Why can’t the Government get off our back’. If we can get off their back those people will prosper even more than they have prospered in the past three years.
There are many aged people in my electorate. Of course, those aged people will depend on an efficient country that can afford to pay allowances to make certain that they are properly looked after. I refer not only to aged people but also to disabled and other disadvantaged people and families who need a philosophy that says: ‘Let’s cut back on taxation and let’s give the family a go.’
Finally, one thing that needs to be mentioned in a short speech is that if we are to follow these philosophies and our principles which, as I have said, are very sharply different from those of the Australian Labor Party, more of our people in this country need to see themselves as part of the system. We need many more people who consider themselves, as they probably are already, small ‘c’ capitalist. We need people, perhaps through a range of options that the Government might look at in the near future, who will see more incentive in getting involved in the development of our own country.
The honourable member for Banks (Mr Mountford), who preceded me in this debate, mentioned the trap of selling off our country needlessly. While I do not intend to engage in an argument about artificial constraints on who spent money where, I would say this, that it will be a darned sight more satisfying to our country if our own people can be positively encouraged to invest. We as individuals have a very poor record in that regard. We need an understanding of profit. We need Australians to understand again that if a profit is made an investment can be made and that future consumption can be provided for. There are so many things we need to do to encourage more small ‘c’ capitalism. We can do it through education, through the tax system, and through a number of measures that are quite obvious.
Apart from referring to that encouragement, which I hope to be able to talk about at greater length at some other time, I would like to say that the Governor-General’s Speech is about a government of which I am proud to be a member. Many people on this side of the House have at the beginning of this Parliament a tremendous amount of drive to follow our principles, and to show up those sharp contrasts between us and the Labor Party so that a decent thing will happen at the next election; that is, instead of getting a touch over 50 per cent of the vote we will get two-thirds of the vote or better.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - I call the honourable member for Wills. Before the honourable member proceeds I remind the House that the honourable member is making his maiden speech. Interjections are, therefore, out of order.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, at the outset I congratulate you on your appointment and ask you to convey the same sentiments to the Speaker. As one of the tardier maidens to appear before you I express the hope that I shall do nothing in the future to upset unduly the even tenor of your ways. I also express my appreciation of the untiring efforts of my predecessor in this place, Gordon Bryant, and thank him for handing over an electorate in such fine and impregnable shape.
I come to this House after 22 years with the Australian trade union movement, an organisation often denigrated by our opponents in this
Parliament when it suits their perceived political purposes but the existence of which is a sine qua non of a free and democratic society, as I have had occasion to say before. The only societies where one does not have such movements with the right of men and women freely associated together to withdraw their labour are the dictatorships of the Left or the Right. That movement in Australia has been extremely generous to me in providing unique opportunities to develop whatever intrinsic talents I may possess. I place on record my appreciation for being given those opportunities.
I have become increasingly conscious that in such a democracy ultimately it is only in and through the parliament that decisions can be made which will fashion for all our people the opportunities to release their talents in work and in leisure - the opportunities to be well-rounded, constructive human beings, the opportunities for happiness for themselves and in relation to others, which seems to me what government should be about. I am grateful, therefore, to the people of Wills for having elected me to this House as their member. One would have hoped, of course, that it had been as part of a transition which would have had us sitting to the right of your chair. That is not the case. In the circumstances, I thank all my colleagues who have now given me the responsibility and the privilege of representing our party in respect of industrial relations, employment and youth affairs in this place. In that respect I pay particular tribute to the tremendous work done by my predecessor in these shadow portfolios, my good friend and colleague the member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young).
I wish to assure my electorate, my colleagues and you, sir, that I shall discharge these obligations of membership and of the shadow portfolios with a very clear perception of the appropriate role of the Opposition in this House at this time. That role, I believe, has two aspects. First, and by definition, is the duty to oppose - to oppose the actions, decisions and proposed legislation of this Government where analysis reveals such actions, decisions and proposals to be against the interests of the Australian people. When an Opposition through paucity of numbers, a lack of will, or allowing itself to be seduced by a specious invocation of the concept of mandate resiles in any way from this task, to such an extent is the efficient functioning of a parliamentary democracy diminished.
That same view of the interests of the Australian people should similarly provide the basis for discharging the second aspect of the role of the
Opposition; that is, to establish positive and constructive alternatives to what we see as deficiencies in the positions adopted by government. Mr Deputy Speaker, I can assure you that I will rigorously play my part in this role with a view to ensuring that in 1983, or whenever the next election is held, we shall indeed be occupying the Treasury bench and giving the country what it has so grievously lacked for the past five yearscompassionate, competent government concerned with the welfare of all Australians.
There is no doubt that we live in a troubled country. The facts are attested to by bodies who surely cannot attract the contempt and disdain of this Government. In its publication Poverty Power and The Church released on 8 September 1980, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace said:
Poverty in Australia is often ignored because the poor tend to be hidden away or concentrated in specific areas. But poverty is real. In the mid-1970s it was estimated that there were over a million poor in Australia. At the end of the 1970s, another estimate put the number at almost two million - that is, one person in seven in Australia has seriously inadequate access to housing, medical services, employment, education and even food and clothing.
Mr Deputy Speaker, these are the figures used also by the Brotherhood of St Laurence which just last month released 14 ‘Selected Indicators of Community Hardship and Disadvantage 1975-80’. Clearly not all our economic and social problems can be attributed to the policies of this Government. Other governments of different political persuasions in other parts of the world are not without their problems at this time. What is singularly characteristic of this Government, and particularly this Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), is, on the one hand, its blatant misrepresentation of what it is about - in yesterday’s speech the Government referred to its concern to ‘strengthen the family and through it the basic social fabric of this country’ - and, on the other hand, its callous indifference to the dimensions of the problem.
In his election policy speech of 30 September the Prime Minister in describing a situation where over 100,000 kids between 15 and 19 could not find work found it sufficient to say of those who leave school: ‘Some move smoothly into a job; others have difficulty’. Even more insidious is the attempt to blame the victims, to make them appear indeed the victims of their own inadequacies. This was perhaps best typified by the comment of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) reported in the Australian of 2 October 1980. The article reads:
He said the young needed to be bold and have heart. ‘In the first place they might not get the job they really want. But if there is a bit or go and a bit of spirit in them they will get the job’, he said.”
A Government supporter - Hear, hear!
– ‘Hear, hear’, they say. In other words those 100,000-plus young Australians without any job really have only their own lack of go and spirit to blame, according to this Government and according to that interjector. Such attitudes and statements by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are part of the consistent and persistent attempt by this Government to create divisions and confrontations, to set Australian against Australian. They do this when the crying need is to create cohesion, a sense of common purpose leavened by a constructive compassion for that growing body of our fellow Australians who are underprivileged, whose existence is characterised by a relative poverty not only of the material things of this life, but also perhaps more importantly, by their inability to see for themselves and their children any brighter horizon where they can hope to break free from their demeaning circumstances of poverty.
As we have moved into the 1980s under this Government, we have moved inexorably towards that destabilised and dangerous position described by Disraeli as ‘two nations’, the nation of the privileged and the nation of the poor. There can be room for legitimate argument between competing policies when the country is confronted with times of economic difficulties. But there can be no room for the attitude of this Government and its leader who have accepted with complacency this increasing division in our society and indeed have done so much to foster divisiveness Even more, there should now be no room after five years of all this, for the hypocritical charade of what in fact were the Prime Minister’s words yesterday when he said: ‘The lives of ordinary people are in danger of being obscured if not lost sight of altogether’ and that his Government ‘cares deeply about the quality of life lived in Australia.’ This was Alice in Wonderland stuff. Indeed the Prime Minister is the Humpty Dumpty of Australian politics, for honourable members remember the response in Through the Looking Glass when Alice objected to his abuse of words: ‘When I use a word’, Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less’.
One would have hoped that considerations of morality would have been sufficient to move this Government from the courses which have helped to produce this condition of two nations in our country. But this is of course an unreal expectation. For the emergence of this condition has not merely been the inevitable residual of a conservative philosophy which frowns on the undue intrusion of redistributive concepts upon the position of the privileged. More than this, it has reflected the greater obscenity of five years of fiscal double standards whereby the already highly privileged have been allowed further to enhance their privilege by escaping their obligation under the law to pay tax while the relative tax burden has been remorselessly increased upon members of the middle and low income groups who have little opportunity to evade their obligations. I do not use the word ‘obscenity’ lightly. What other words are adequate when the position has led to the following independent observations? First, the Melbourne Age of 2 July 1980, after deriding the Treasurer’s piecemeal approach of which we have the foreshadowing of yet another example said:
The wealthier you are, the more you can choose how much tax to pay. The size of your tax bill reflects how moral you are, not how much you earn.
The rich can choose tax schemes to suit their greed knowing that the mass of wage and salary earners will be paying for the nation’s roads, for the hospitals, and schools. The tax avoiders are not stealing from the Government, but from the average tax payer who must pay like it or not.
Secondly - if the Prime Minister wants to denigrate the Age he cannot denigrate Professor Russell Mathews whose name he used in his 1975 policy speech - Professor Mathews earlier this year, and it is reproduced in The Politics of Taxation at pages 106 to 107, said: . . . the essential problem is not to make the rich pay higher rates of tax, or even more tax, than the poor; it is to make the rich pay any income tax at all. There has recently been some discussion about the potential for tax revolt in Australia. It must be recognised that a massive tax revolt has already taken place; but it is a revolt of business tax payers against wage and salary earners, of the rich against the poor.
Is that not an obscenity, Mr Deputy Speaker, and is it not an obscenity made more sickening by the fact that it will be precisely those who avoid the law to their own great financial advantage who will be loudest in their condemnation of these wage and salary earners who may take some direct action merely to maintain their previous real incomes? They will call for new and stricter laws to punish such workers and their unions and they will always find a responsive chord in this Prime Minister who is so myopic in his professed concern for adherence to law and order.
David Scott, the widely respected Associate Director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, has recently estimated that the expenditure of $600m could eliminate financial poverty in this country. If this Government had been possessed of a vision of one nation, if it had in fact, as distinct from the saccharine rhetoric of yesterday, really cared for the lives of all Australians, if it had been determined by appropriate amendment to ensure that the laws in respect of taxation applied equally to the rich and to the less rich alike, then the revenue would have been available to effect this great purpose without any increase in the rate of tax. In fact, using the precise reasoning Professor Mathews employed as an indication of the way in which personal income recipients other than wage and salary earners have increasingly avoided their tax obligations, the enormity of this Government’s double standards becomes starkly apparent. If in 1979-80 taxes paid by the non-wage and salary earner category of personal income recipients had kept up the same proportion to taxes paid by wage and salary earners as they did in 1975-76, the public revenue would have been higher by $7 15m. But no, the priorities of this Government are to maintain privilege rather than eliminate poverty.
If it is then a barren expectation that considerations of morality will divert this Government and its supporters from their disastrously divisive course, one can only express the hope that the more persuasive element of self-interest will prevail to produce this result. By this I clearly do not mean that perception which, to this point, has simply equated self-interest with the capacity to avoid or minimise a contribution to the public revenue. Rather, I refer to a deeper perception and a longer perspective of self-interest. Nothing is more certain, I believe, than that in these tortured times of compounding economic complexity no free society founded on the concept of the liberty of an individual can proceed on the assumption that it has some automatic or divine right of survival. In our time we are witness to the insidious forces of the extremes of the Left and of the Right which, by various tactics, would persuade the underprivileged and the oppressed of the haven and solace awaiting in whatever branch of totalitarianism they may be espousing.
We delude ourselves if we believe we are immune from the corrosive impact of such forces in this country. In particular we delude ourselves if we believe that the frustration, the despair, the hopelessness, the increasing cynicism of the unemployed and others in a condition of poverty do not provide receptive ground for the seductive nonsense of such extremists. In a dynamic free society there is and of course should be room for differential reward for the productive exercise of skill, initiative, imagination or effort. And there should be some capacity for those who have benefited from the exercise of such talents to share those rewards with the immediate objects of their beneficence. But those people who have so benefited should comprehend that if they wish the society to survive in which these things can happen then they must contribute meaningfully to the release of the talents and to the opportunities for satisfaction of those less privileged than themselves. Privilege derived in this way is not reprehensible. But privilege without concern, without compassion and without a real contribution to others less privileged is not only an obscenity but also will ultimately be self-destructive.
I would not wish to leave the impression that the problems of our society are to be seen in some simple one-dimensional terms. We all now live in times far different and more complex than those in which our assumptions, expectations and aspirations were framed. There will be a need to expand the time-scale of some of those expectations and aspirations - and that requirement will extend to the trade union movement as well as to others in our community. The essential ingredient in securing a sensible approach to our problems is to have as wide a degree as possible of understanding of the nature and dimensions of those problems. This has not and will not be achieved by the confrontationist tactics of the Prime Minister of this country. Indeed that approach has been and will continue to be counter productive. If the Government seeks to make the trade union movement a scapegoat for its own inadequacies of policy and lack of planning and if it condemns and uses its influence against every claim the trade union movement makes on the resources of this country while applauding the appropriation of those resources by industry, local and foreign, which does not have to back its claim by direct action, then it is creating the classic conditions of conflict.
Australia is a country almost uniquely blessed with vast areas of land, resources under the land and in the oceans around our continent. Particularly we are a country blessed with a population which has been enriched since the end of the Second World War by one of the great migration waves of history - a population to whom the path of political resolution recommends itself and to whom the tactic of terror is still alien. We face an enormous challenge to combine those human and natural resources in an economically and socially productive manner, in a manner which will eliminate the pathetic spectacle of the importing of skilled and semi-skilled labour while our young in growing numbers are untrained and unemployed, and in a manner which will eradicate the canker of poverty in the midst of affluence.
To meet that challenge requires a preparedness on the part of government to plan, to co-ordinate and, on the basis of mutual understanding, to bring the legitimate elements of our society cohesively together. If that were to be done our capacity as one nation to provide decent standards for all our own people and support for others less fortunate than ourselves would be almost unlimited. Our tragedy is not that we, as Australians, do not have the capacity to meet this challenge; it is that we have a Prime Minister and a Government whose natural instincts are not for cohesion but confrontation, not for truthful exposition to serve as a basis for mutual understanding but for partisan propaganda calculated to set Australian against and apart from Australian. We on this side of the House do not feel ourselves powerless in the face of that tragedy. We will, from this day, work to provide Australia with an alternative government which will match not only the resources and the challenge but also what we believe to be the innate sense of fair play of the great majority of the Australian people.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. I call the honourable member for the Northern Territory. I remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech.
– I believe the Governor-General’s Speech is a timely summation of the direction requested by the Australian electorate on 18 October. Contrary to what the honourable member for Wills (Mr Hawke) has just said it reflected proposed policies which will enhance the security and lifestyle of every Australian. I am pleased to respond to the Speech. I am particularly grateful to my wife, Sandy, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), other federal and Northern Territory Ministers, my predecessor, the well-loved Sam Calder, and Senator Kilgariff for their help in my recent election campaign. I pledge to represent all constituents and to fulfil the confidence placed in me by the Country Liberal Party in the Northern Territory and the National Country Party in this place.
I congratulate the office holders of Parliament. I hope that on some future occasion some one will be able to speak in terms about my contribution to this Parliament similar to those outlined in respect of Mr Speaker and the Chairman of Committees yesterday. I extend my best wishes to other new members who have joined this Parliament. Rather naturally I am looking forward to spending a long parliamentary life with the six other new members who have joined me on this side of the
House. I will not go as far as to wish long parliamentary careers to new members of the Opposition but I am looking forward to lively debates with them in this parliamentary term. I believe thanks are due to the Clerk and his staff for their innovation of a most helpful new members’ seminar conducted last week for the first time.
The electorate of the Northern Territory may be short on population but it is not lacking in importance to the nation or in natural resources. I do not believe it is my task to give a geography lesson or an outline of the Northern Territory’s peculiar meteorology. The national Press is doing a good job of that lately and I am sure many Ministers and members have been button-holed by the Territory’s aggressive super salesman, its Chief Minister Paul Everingham. But I still think it is necessary to challenge the Government and the Parliament on many of its attitudes to the Northern Territory.
Each of my four predecessors who held the seat of the Northern Territory had a recurrent message to the Parliament in his initial address. On 22 June 1923 Mr Harold Nelson said:
It is impossible for honourable members, without personal knowledge, to appreciate the value to the Commonwealth of the vast area of country which I now represent, or to visualise its immense possibilities.
On 1 3 December 1934 Mr Adair Blain said:
I trust that the problems and possibilities of northern Australia will be considered with sanity and sympathy, and that we shall, by a measure of economic nationalism for our tropical regions develop the pastoral, agricultural and mineral resources of this huge area.
On 1 5 March 1950 Mr Jock Nelson said:
The development of the Northern Territory must be treated as a national undertaking, and honourable members should realise now, if they have not realised it before, that the Northern Territory in its present condition is the outstanding weakness in the Australian defence structure.
On 28 February 1 967 Mr Sam Calder said:
I am very conscious of my responsibility to all sections of the community to press continually for development and security in the north.
I must reiterate their sentiments in 1980 because although great strides have been made by the Government in giving self-government to the Northern Territory in recent years new ways of thinking and new attitudes are still needed by the Government and the Parliament. I would accuse any member of this place who is unfamiliar with the Northern Territory of being either ignorant or failing in his duty as a parliamentarian. My offices in Darwin and Alice Springs will be pleased to act as travel agencies if necessary for any member.
The Territory is still sparsely populated with some 120,000 people located mainly in six widely spaced centres and occupying one-sixth of
Australia’s land mass. We know something of the ‘tyranny of distance’. However, our overall population is growing at about four times the national average. We reflect strongly the fact that Australia is no longer a nation of largely AngloSaxon origins. Our Northern Territory community now comprises people of 40 different nationalities, including many descendants of the Chinese who came to the Territory as labourers, miners and merchants in the years after the gold rushes in the early 1870s. As well 30 per cent of Australia’s tribal Aboriginals, some 25,000 in all, the majority living on their own tribal lands granted to them under Commonwealth statute, are determining their futures as Aboriginal Australians.
It is sometimes tempting to consider Territory residents as falling into four distinct groupings: Firstly, Aboriginals; secondly, pioneer families with several generations in the Northern Territory; thirdly, those who have no intention of leaving; and fourthly, those who have every intention of leaving. Self-government and growth have stabilised the community and luckily many more people are now choosing to remain permanent residents of the Northern Territory. Maybe that is because generally other Australians could be described as a peculiar breed of people known as homo sedentarius- that is, they sit on their backsides and do not often know what is going on elsewhere in Australia. I would like to direct your attention to several special groups of Australians who may be loosely classified as either Australis Felix Aridii or Australis Felix Tropicus. They represent small but growing segments of the Australis Felix genus who are peopling central and northern Australia where they experience somewhat different conditions of climate and social isolation from those which face the great bulk of their fellow Australians who cluster in the temperate climate around the shores of southern and eastern Australia in what we refer to as the Deep South. The term Deep South is used to distinguish them further from the previous groups which occupy about 60 per cent of the Australian land mass which is rapidly proving to contain the great bulk of Australia’s natural resources.
On a more serious note, I would make a plea that the Parliament does not neglect to direct some study on the effects of climate and other factors, such as social isolation, on living in central and northern Australia. I might add that I include in these areas large parts of Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia. As member for the Northern Territory, I represent substantial remnants of a proud people, the Aboriginals, who have occupied these areas for around 40,000 years. Some of them are still living close to their traditional lifestyle. Many of them are only one or two generations removed from that condition. They have obviously adjusted appropriately to what by the standards of some Australians are considered harsh climatic conditions. We have much to learn from Aboriginals living in these areas. We have much to understand about the adjustments which those of us who choose to live in these areas have to make if we are to come to terms as permanent residents of this significant part of our country. There are second and third generation white Australians living in this area who have developed lifestyles which indicate that they can come to grips with living in the north. We need to pursue studies on the effects of social isolation on people living in communities in central and northern Australia. These could well be one of a number of research areas which will be of substantial interest to the university which is in the process of being established in Darwin and which will become a reality in 1982.
I spoke a few moments ago about the Aboriginal community within the Northern Territory and I want to take those comments further in a political sense, because there are problems. It is important to come to grips with reality, and whilst the Australian nation must respect Aboriginal people and their culture that does not mean that we have to freeze them into a stone age civilisation. Culture is not static, it changes under the impact of social and economic conditions. Aboriginals are, firstly, Australians with the same rights, privileges, opportunities, accountability and responsibilities as all other Australians.
Land rights have given Aboriginals recognition and dignity, the ability to determine their own futures and a rate of change which they chose to accommodate. But the legislation is not perfect and in many respects it is producing adverse reactions in the community. In some areas of the Territory extensive land claims have aggravated tensions between people living in the community and are frustrating proper development of mining and primary resources. Lately there have been some strange land claims over peculiar snippets of land and even stock routes. I believe that there has been a provocative ambit claim over all unalienated Crown land in the Territory. It is a pity that Aboriginal land claims now echo the adversary mechanisms of industrial courts. Some sectors of the community are beginning to have grave concerns and are saying: ‘Enough is enough’. The Government must review the Aboriginal land rights legislation urgently and also consider the further transfer to Northern Territory control the management responsibilities for national parks which are traditionally and properly State-type functions.
The most interesting media comment that I have noted on the causes of our problem has been best stated by Max Harris in his ‘Weekend Australian’ column of 22-23 November 1980. He said:
Perhaps the most depressing outrage being perpetrated against Australian Aborigines is their being manipulated by outside agencies Tor radical political purposes.
The manipulators are most frequently white left-wing extremists and bright urban Aborigines for whom political careers can be forged through self-proclaimed leadership of Aboriginal claims on the national community.
It has been difficult to finger the professional agitators. It is a dangerous and difficult task, especially when some of the claims they champion are in themselves legitimate.
The improvement of environmental health conditions and raising the levels of employment in Aboriginal communities must demand further special programs and initiatives by government. Policies of both the Federal and Northern Territory governments have a pressing responsibility to create a dynamic and stimulating social and cultural environment if we are to hold people and, let us be frank, people are the only shortage in the Northern Territory. I am looking forward to future immigration policies, in particular, which will encourage closer relationships with Asian countries. We already have wide-ranging strategic, trade, investment and cultural ties indentifying us with the people of the Asian and Pacific regions.
The Northern Territory’s major industries are mining, tourism, fisheries and animal production. In each area remarkable achievements and advances have been evident since the stimulus provided by self-government. I was most surprised at the assertion yesterday by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) that mining and agricultural developments were threatening the manufacturing industry. That is certainly not the experience in the Northern Territory. In fact exciting new manufacturing industries are being created. Perhaps the honourable member could do well to take up my earlier invitation to further his education by coming back to the Northern Territory.
In 1978-79 the top four sectors of the Territory economy registered a staggering one-third increase in production value. Increasing world prices for raw materials, greater production volume and widespread enthusiasm and initiative all contributed. Our mineral production earned $249m, tourism some $85m, our cattle industry recorded $70m, and fisheries production grew by more than one quarter to make us Australia’s top fish producer in per capita terms. Capital commitment to major projects is today running at around $600m.
The Government must assume the role of coordinator of development. It has to solve three problems: Firstly, it must set investment priorities with respect to public utilities and many other parts of the infrastucture. Secondly, the Government must try to keep its activities limited and leave as much as possible to the private sector. For this purpose it must create market conditions that permit private enterprise to work efficiently. Monetary incentives must be strengthened and investment funds directed into the most productive channels. A correct price and cost structure must be developed to serve this allocation process. Thirdly, the Government must seek to attain the highest level of aggregate investment compatible with monetary stability and must abstain from using an excessive share of the investment funds for the public sector.
Development in northern Australia must not be judged only on immediate cost benefit. It must be looked at as an investment in the future of Australia as a whole. The Northern Territory’s mining and resources boom is undoubtedly our greatest current asset. What is to happen through mining in the next 10 years will stagger Australia. The prospects are remarkable and will be significant for the well-being of all Australia. It is important to note that in the Northern Territory we have as much energy resource as is available in the Middle East. The ALP’s policies on uranium are negative and useless. The first member for the Northern Territory, Harold Nelson of the ALP had a great deal of vision in 1923 when he said:
I maintain that it can not matter a great deal whether mineral wealth in Australia is developed by a foreigner or anybody else, but it should not be left lying idle; because mining activity spells progress.
The Government’s commitments to a national rail link from Alice Springs to Darwin and the establishment of satellite communications will open up Northern Australia in ways that it is hard to dream about at present. But I want to go even further to suggest to the Government that studies should be commenced now to cross-link the continent with an additional railway from Mount Isa to north-west Western Australia and to develop further the harbour at Darwin. It was in 1886 that Hon. J. L. Parsons, South Australian Minister for Education and Government Resident in the Northern Territory, said that: Darwin Harbour was second to none, larger than Sydney Harbour and was destined to become the great entrepot of commerce, the great port of import from the East. That statement is still true today.
I conclude my remarks today by referring to northern defence. There is a growing recognition of the fact that distance, difficult terrain, sparse population and lack of transport facilities would cause great difficulties in defending the north and north-west. The Government has undertaken a number of new initiatives and improvements which relate to northern defence. These include the proposed location of a squadron of the tactical fighter force at Darwin; surveillance and patrolling; upgrading of Learmonth airfield; the proposed new airfield at Derby; the proposed amphibious training area in Western Australia; the task force at Townsville as an airborne operational deployment force; expansion of the Army Reserve forces; and development, including rail and air transport. The obvious isolation and vulnerability of the north calls for the development of a reserve force based upon as many population centres as possible. Clearly, a start has been made in the formation and expansion of the 7th Independent Rifle Company, but instead of about 200 men we need to be thinking about 2,000 or 3,000. Shortsighted thinking has blocked development in the past. We now have the opportunity for imaginative forward thinking.
– I call the honourable member for Isaacs. I remind the House that this is the maiden speech of the honourable member for Isaacs and that interjections will be out of order.
– I rise in this House for the first time a very humble person but honoured to represent the seat of Isaacs in the Federal Parliament. I am representing all people in Isaacs, not only Labor voters but also those of various other political beliefs and not only those who voted but also those who were unable to vote through youth or nationality. The people of Isaacs are a fair representation of urban Australia. They range from people in great need to the average Australian groups of modest income families to the exceedingly prosperous. The historical fact that party representation of the seat has changed three times in just over six years is an indication of the varied mixture of affluence, ideals and good sense of the people - the last two factors prevailing in Isaacs at the October election.
I turn now to the name of Isaacs. Of course, the electorate was named after that great Australian Sir Isaac Isaacs. He was a truly great Australian. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly in Victoria in 1892 and was the Victorian delegate to the constitutional convention in ] 897. He became a member of the first Federal Parliament as the member for Indi in 1901. He was the AttorneyGeneral in 1905 and was appointed to the High
Court of Australia in 1906. In 1930 he was appointed Chief Justice of the High Court, but more was to come for this great Australian when, amidst great controversy in 1931 at the age of 76, he was appointed Governor-General of Australia and became the first Australian born GovernorGeneral of Australia. He was a man who was an authority on constitutional matters and who had a great bearing on the history of this great country of ours. I am pround to represent the electorate and the name of Isaacs.
The electorate of Isaacs hugs the shores of Port Phillip Bay for some 30 kilometres and includes some of Melbourne’s best bathing beaches. With the cente of Isaacs being some 30 kilometres from Melbourne, many people rely on the suburban transport services. They include train services. That brings me to an issue that may be contentious, but I feel justified in raising it on behalf of my constituents. Many years ago construction commenced for a third track on the Frankston line - a very important rail line and one that runs right through the middle of Isaacs. The third line was to relieve the congestion and delays that are well known to train travellers in the area. Millions of dollars have been spent in a stop-start fashion. However, at present we are definitely in the stop mode. There are widened railway reserves unused and half completed works deteriorating. The reason for the lack of progress is the shortage of Commonwealth Government funding.
Similarly, lack of Government funding threatens our beaches. They are menaced by the discharge from the creeks that flow into the Bay along the foreshore. The pollution caused by these watercourses has been reduced in recent years. However, despite the improvement, the catchments of these watercourses still include unsewered suburban areas. I must say that it seems an affront to ordinary common sense that construction of essential sewerage programs should be delayed or halted at present, that is, when there is unused production capacity in our factories and high unemployment. I strongly urge that a high priority be given to sewerage works not only in Isaacs but also in all closely populated areas throughout Australia. It is essential for the well-being of families and in particular for the health of young children. As the father of a young boy I can appreciate, as I am sure other members do, the concern of parents over these conditions which can menace the health of their children.
I now refer briefly to His Excellency’s Speech yesterday wherein he said:
My Government has a clear and firm commitment to youth . . .
The hypocrisy of the Fraser Government never ceases to amaze me. I had the unfortunate task the other day of informing a Community Youth Support Scheme group in the electorate of Isaacs that the funding level that it had asked for had not been granted. In fact, the funding granted for the Mentone CYSS - the one in question - would mean a cut in real terms of around 20 per cent over the last two years. So much for the Government’s commitment to youth. Does this Government care about the youth of today? The whole generation is being snubbed, and I do not believe that it will be easily forgotten or forgiven.
I will just mention a little of my own background as this will lead to the subject I wish to talk about tonight. I have spent 16 years working in the media - mostly in the film and television area. The company where I first started as an office boy was controlled by Sir Frank Packer. In fact, Sir Frank was Chairman of the board at the time I was there. I rose through the industry to the position of director. I was a drama director and directed many of Australia’s top television drama shows. I was in this position of director prior to the October election. 1 have also been involved in the industrial side and have been a member of the executive of the Theatrical Employees Union for the past five years and have been Acting VicePresident. All this time in the media has given me some insight into the industry and I have some firm ideas on how the media should be used for the benefit of all Australians.
Tonight I intend to point to one facet of the media- advertising. Quite a deal has been said about this matter over the years but I would like to look at political advertising on television. Many proposals have been put forward and mention has been made in various inquiries about political advertising. However, not enough in-depth discussion or serious thought has been put into this area. It has usually finished up in the too hard basket. Have we really thought about the ramifications of political advertising during election campaigns and the effect it has on people? Does it fully inform the people of the political parties’ various policies or points of view? Is the present setup good enough or fair to all? I say no. As honourable members know, during the last election campaign, apart from half hour policy speeches and some discussion programs, some of which were quite informative, we were bombarded with hundreds of zany commercials of 10, 30 and 60-second lengths. Did these commercials benefit the people? Did they give everyone a better understanding of the real issues of the day? Was everyone more informed and better able to cast an educated vote because of them? Of course not. These emotive spot advertisements do nothing to foster good political discussion. In fact, they turned the whole campaign into a situation that resembled a contest between soft drink manufacturers or the like. The Government parties were the worst offenders. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) did not even take the opportunity during his policy speech to talk about or discuss policy. However, we discovered on reading the newspapers the next day that there were some 50-odd promises and policies which the Government had put forward on a supplementary list. The people of Australia are waiting with bated breath for these promises and policies to come before this House because the majority of them still have not a clue as to what they are. In fact many do not know that they exist at all. Zany or spot commercials do not help this situation. If we take this a bit further, we should ask ourselves: What type of political advertising should we have? Should there be restrictions on the time and placement of political commercials? Or, in fact, should we allow purchased political advertising at all?
Let us look at a few overseas examples. From an investigation of the laws and practice of several countries within the group commonly referred to as the Western democracies two factors stand out. One is that political broadcasts are regarded very seriously and programs arranged with emphasis on policy and discussion. The other is that of fairness to the rival parties. The rules and formulas are different but they aim at what we in Australia would call a fair go. The general theme in Europe is not to allow political advertising. This does vary slightly from country to country where the television setup is different. However, a good example of the attitude of European countries comes from a Dutch pamphlet Broadcasting in the Netherlands, which states:
Party political broadcasts are all of equal length and are broadcast by the parties in rotation.
But let us look at the mother country, Great Britain, a country which has a lot in common with Australia. We have modelled our political system on Westminster and our party political system is also very similar. The television setup is also like our own, consisting of government and commercial stations. However, when it comes to political advertising Great Britain varies greatly from Australia. The Independent Broadcasting Authority’s code on advertising standards and practice prohibits the transmission of political advertisements. I am not necessarily advocating a total ban on political advertisements, but at present Australia is at the other extreme. We allow hundreds of spot commercials, at a cost of some millions of dollars, to invade our television screens in an attempt to mesmerise the public. We even have the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, in its annual report for 1 978-79, stating:
Relaxation of the advertising limits was necessary in order that the public could be fully informed on the issues being put to them by the political parties . . . Two minutes of promotional material plus one minute for political advertising would be permitted. Any part of the two minutes promotional time could be used for political advertising.
The Tribunal is effectively giving the television stations an extra three minutes of advertising per hour. What a bonanza. The stations would want to see a Federal election every year, and all for the public to be fully informed on the issues - fully informed from watching a few seconds of razmataz on spot ads. What absolute rot. On at least two separate occasions in the past four years it has been suggested that no political advertisement be televised which is less than five minutes in length. The first was in an information paper on programming and advertising standards produced by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in 1976. The second was in several submissions to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal in 1977. However, the Tribunal sidestepped nicely and left us with the present situation; or one could say that it was put in the too hard basket.
The present political advertising setup does not give everyone a fair go. The Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, in its report on the public inquiry into the concept of self-regulation for Australian broadcasters, states: . . . require broadcasters to afford reasonable opportunities for the broadcasting of election matter to all political parties . . .
It should have said: ‘While we allow hundreds of spot commercials to flood the air waves and, indeed, allow you to increase your advertising time, it really is a matter of whoever has the most money gets the best go’. The rich get richer, while the poor struggle by. One cannot even get a wide range of opinion throughout the media, as four major groups control the great majority of the media in Australia today. In fact, in three capital cities a person can read the morning and evening newspapers, listen to radio and television and hear the one voice - because of the ownership control by a single company of those parts of the media that I have just mentioned.
Let us get back to political advertising. It is weighted very heavily one way in Australia today. That is to maintain the status quo for the conservative parties in the Parliament. Why cannot we have constructive discussion on policy on our television screens and equal opportunity for that to occur? A minimum placement of five minutes for any political matter would enable all parties to present a clear picture of one or a part of their vital policies leading up to an election. Statements would have to be substantiated and thus the public would be better informed of the policies and type of government that a particular party was offering. Is anyone in this House afraid of that happening? The contrast between many overseas countries and Australia is staggering. Political advertising in Australia is a total sham. The Melbourne Age of 15 October, alongside a detailed table, stated:
On television, Melbourne’s three commercial stations will have shown more than 1 90 ‘spots’ of 60, 30 and 1 0 second duration before the blanket ban on political advertising comes into effect from midnight.
In fact, the exact figure is 192 and those were Liberal Party advertisements alone. A further breakdown of these figures shows that of the 192 advertisements only 37 were of 60-second duration, 104 were of 30-second duration and 51 were of 10- second duration. More than 25 per cent were of 10-second duration. I wonder what great policies were discussed in that monumental amount of time.
Legislation concerning political advertising in this country needs to be looked at closely to give, firstly, a fairer deal to political parties, secondly, a more in-depth and clear discussion of policy needs and thirdly, and above all, to give the people of Australia more real information on the issues that concern them and their families, without razmataz or jingles, so that they can make their choice on facts and not be mesmerised by many emotive 10-second spot commercials.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hyde) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Hodgman) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in addition to Mr Speaker, ex officio, Mr J. J. Brown, Mr Burr, Mr Jull, Mr Katter, Mr L. B. McLeay and Mr Milton be members of the House Committee.
Motion (by Mr Hodgman) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in addition to Mr Speaker, ex officio. Dr Blewett, Mr Chapman, Mr Hyde, Mr B. O. Jones, Mr 0’Keefe and Dr Theophanous be members of the Library Committee.
Motion (by Mr Hodgman) - by leave - agreed to:
That Mr Birney, Mr Lionel Bowen. Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Holding, Mr Jacobi, Mr Jarman, Mr Barry Jones, Mr Millar and Mr Porter be members of the Commitee of Privileges, five to form a quorum.
Motion (by Mr Hodgman) - by leave - agreed to:
That Mr Baume, Mr Ian Cameron, Mr Cunningham, Dr Edwards, Mr Free, Mr Harris and Mr Howe be members of the Publications Committee.
Motion (by Mr Hodgman) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in addition to Mr Speaker, the Chairman of Committees, the Leader of the House and Deputy Leader of the Opposition, ex officio members, the following members be members of the Standing Orders Committee, five to form a quorum, that is to say, Mr Anthony, Mr Giles, Mr Hurford, Dr Jenkins, Mr Mountford, Mr Scholes and Mr Shack.
Motion (by Mr Hodgman) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946, in addition to Mr Speaker, ex officio, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Fisher, Mr Jull, Mr Kent and Mr Scholes be members of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings.
Motion (by Mr Hodgman) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Accounts Committee Act 1951, the following members be appointed members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, that is to say, Mr Beazley, Mr Bradfield, Mr Cadman, Mr Connolly, Mr Duffy, Mr Tambling and Dr Theophanous.
Motion (by Mr Hodgman) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, the following members be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, that is to say, Mr Bungey, Mr Cowan, Mr Humphreys, Mr Innes, Mr Les McMahon and Mr Sainsbury.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment. Would you please convey my congratulations to Mr Speaker. The Governor-General concluded the traditional speech upon the opening of Parliament by saying:
My Government believes that this- an explanation to the Australian people of the ideas, principles and values in terms of which the Government of the day shapes its policies - is something which has been somewhat neglected in Australia and that this neglect has diminished the quality of political life of the country. It believes that this should be remedied. During the life of this Parliament, therefore, my Government will be making a serious and sustained effort to explain to the Australian people the philosophy on which it bases its approach to governing - a philosophy which it sees as liberal in its principles, flexible and undogmatic in its application of those principles to the realities of Australian life and conservative in its distrust of abrupt and sweeping changes as a means of achieving desired ends.
The whole speech is an excellent exposition of Liberal principle. I applaud the speech and the Government’s decision to speak through the person of the Governor-General to the Australian people in the terms that it has chosen. I fervently believe the truth of that final paragraph. Democracy in Australia is very complete and because Australia is democratic, a government must make, using the words of the Governor-General’s Speech, ‘a serious and sustained effort to explain to the Australian people’.
The art of leadership is the art of explaining those things that are necessary to the future wellbeing of the nation and to its people. A politician is obliged to use the opportunity provided by virtue of his office to explain the arguments which are essential to a democratic resolution of important issues. The obligation presents a back bench member with few problems when he holds the same views as his party. When he does not hold identical views, life can be more difficult. But, in the Liberal Party at least, he will not ever be prevented from putting those views. It is nonetheless one of the great tragedies of Australian politics that party discipline has inhibited open debate about inherently difficult issues and has in turn inhibited the public understanding necessary for the implementation of policies which have short run costs and long run benefits. I intend to use the opportunities that come to me as a member of parliament to endeavour to explain to the Parliament and to the Australian people why some tough decisions must be taken. I know that sometimes I will be speaking contrary to the views of my side of politics; I just ask honourable members to remember that although I might be opposing some of the views of my party I am much, much more intensely opposed to the views of the Australian Labor Party.
The Governor-General’s Speech is a fairly general exposition of the Government’s aims. It should be. No government should ever shackle itself with detailed undertakings which can be implemented only in circumstances which are as yet unpredictable. Danger to the fabric of the Australian economy is unlikely to arise from detailed promises broken. The danger lies in unwise promises made and kept. On the other hand, a political party can undertake to do its best to achieve certain fundamental ends. In doing so, it is saying by implication that if necessary it will sacrifice less fundamental ends to the achievement of what it sees as most important. In 1 975 the Liberal Party and the National Country Party undertook to endeavour to restore economic growth, reduce inflation and unemployment, maintain our defences and provide a decent living for the most needy. Of course, we said many other things but I believe that those matters were fundamental. I believe also that they were sufficient reason for our decision to bring about the 1975 election.
A political party can also describe in general terms the means by which it will seek to achieve ultimate goals. The goals and the nature of the means chosen are a party’s philosophy which alone can give it a sense of direction. Further, I suspect that in the absence of immediate threat, only a philosophy can instil a sense of purpose. The Governor-General’s Speech to the Parliament is a fine attempt to sketch a philosophy for the Government during the current Parliament. I find it quite the best statement of a government’s intended general direction since I have been a member of this House. If the performance of the next three years matches the rhetoric of the Governor-General’s Speech I predict confidently that by 1983 Australia will be a freer, safer and economically stronger nation than if that direction had never been chosen.
I intend to devote the remainder of my speech to drawing out some of the necessary implications of the Governor-General’s Speech. The section on economic strategy starts with the reaffirmation of the fundamental aim to restore economic stability and improve growth. It then goes on to state that sudden large changes will be avoided. In my view, that is a very important indication of government intention. No government can prevent change and therefore the realistic choice faced by an economy is between sudden discreet movements or gradual incremental change. Sudden change is disruptive and difficult for business management. This affirmation means, or should mean, that the Government does not intend to bottle up pressures on interest rates, exchange rates, prices or structural change because to do so is to make it very likely that unfavourable change will later take place at a much faster rate, or that necessary change ultimately will take place at a much faster rate. The sentence should mean also that the Government, itself, will not be subject to sudden changes of direction. This is a sensible aim but one which makes the clarification of direction at the beginning of the Government’s term doubly important. The Speech goes on to say:
A primary objective of my Government will be to continue the fight against inflation. Inflation results in fewer jobs and lower living standards for everybody. Firm anti-inflationary fiscal and monetary policies are therefore essential to any lasting solution to the problems of unemployment, the achieving of higher growth and the more rapid raising of living standards, on a sustainable basis.
I might say to that: ‘Hear, hear!’ Very few economists would today believe that inflation can be controlled without controlling the money supply. Unbalanced Budgets make money management difficult. Furthermore, deficits are cumulative problems as the domestic money market becomes cluttered with public sector paper. It is not just the Commonwealth deficit that matters; it is the total public sector borrowing requirement. I think we ought to bear in mind that the total public sector borrowing requirement has changed very little since we became the Government in 1975. As a proportion of gross product it is now very much as it was then. Management of the economy to avoid inflation means that interest rates must be set at levels that will enable the sale of government paper to the non-bank public. Any attempt to interfere with the interest market inevitably in the longer run has implications for the money supply and, through that, for inflation. The exchange rate, if mismanaged, can also have a serious and deleterious effect. The undertaking which necessarily follows from what was said in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is that we will watch all these things to ensure that money management is as tight as it was in the first two to three years after we assumed office. As a result of tight money management that meets its targets we can expect the rate of inflation to start falling again as it did for some time. The Governor-General’s Speech also stated:
My Government will give particular attention to encouraging the growth of the private sector and to increasing the freedom of choice of taxpayers in spending their own incomes. It will be an important policy objective to continue to restrain public expenditure so as to provide scope for reducing the burden of taxation.
I would say that is a clear undertaking. It is an undertaking that says that the Government will avoid wasteful public expenditure. It does not say it will avoid non-wasteful public expenditure. It says, though, that it will cut into programs that do not show the public an adequate return. We should ask ourselves why we find it necessary to give money to sporting bodies. We should ask ourselves whether there is an adequate rate of return on investments in railway lines, airports and so on. But if that aim is to be achieved, the Government must necessarily take some very difficult decisions. I do not doubt that as those necessary decisions are taken on behalf of the Australian people there will be howls from the Opposition benches. Members of the Opposition will talk of a government that is mean, as though any government with nothing of its own to give away could be mean or generous. Governments manage resources on behalf of the Australian people. A clear undertaking of the Governor-General’s Speech is to manage those resources wisely in order to bring the best return to the Australian people. The Governor-General’s Speech said:
A sustained lift in exports and a higher level of capital inflow will increase Australia’s capacity to import and to undergo the structural changes which allow economic growth to build upon itself as resources move to areas of higher profitability. My Government will encourage this process within an economic environment in which industry can invest for the future with confidence.
What that says is that there will be no more decisions like the textiles, clothing and footwear decisions. This necessarily follows from what is said in the speech. Need I say more? The GovernorGeneral’s Speech further asserts:
But my Government does believe profoundly that it is vitally important that the power and functions of the State should be limited and contained.
What that means is less regulation, less public sector ownership to live up to that promise and to that philosophical direction. It means that the Government will be prepared to sell enterprises that are currently owned by the Commonwealth Government.
– T A A ?
– Including TAA. It means that the Government will reduce regulation, that it will be careful of regulation in areas of marketing and that it will reduce monopoly power where it is held by such organisations as Telecom and Australia Post. It means that it will accept the competition that can be provided only within the private enterprise system and it will allow that private enterprise system to face the disciplines that are proper to the private enterprise system. The Governor-General’s Speech said:
My Government will continue to ensure that Commonwealth activities are concentrated in areas of greatest need and that the adequacy of those services, appropriately provided by the Commonwealth is maintained.
A necessary consequence of that is that we will concentrate our welfare payments upon those who need assistance, that we will stop throwing public resources at people who are relatively wealthy and who do not need assistance, and that we will be prepared to tax and means test benefits that come from the public sector so that we can provide a sufficient amount for those on low incomes.
– Like public hospitals?
– Hospitals, schools and cash benefits. Performance must match the rhetoric. If it does not match the rhetoric economic growth rates in the 1 980s may be no better than they were in the 1970s. Australia’s economic growth rates in the 1970s were poor whether compared with Australia’s historical growth rates or the rates of other nations including the majority, but certainly not all, of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development nations with which we are most often compared. In particular our growth rates are poor when they are compared with those of the nations to our near north. If our economic growth rates are poor there will be tensions in the Australian community as Australians compete for limited resources. It is much easier in an expanding economy to provide more for some people because under those circumstances we do not have to take things away from people who already have them. If we do not have a stagnant economy either those people who need additional resources will do without or else we will have intolerable tension. We will not be able to cater for our poor, we will not be able adequately to cater for the nation’s defence and we will not be able to reduce tax rates.
I have on occasion deplored the lack of progress of my own party in these directions. On each occasion when I have perhaps criticised my own party for something such as loose monetary control the gentlemen of the Opposition benches have advocated even looser monetary control. When I have said that public sector expenditure was too high the gentlemen on the other side of the House have advocated even greater public sector expenditure. The truth of the matter is, if we have made mistakes the Labor Party has promised to double each of those mistakes.
– I call the honourable member for Holt. I remind the House once again that this is a maiden speech. I trust the House will display its usual courtesies to such a member.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I offer my congratulations to you on your re-appointment and ask that you convey my congratulations to Mr Speaker on his re-election. If the expressions from both sides of the House regarding the tolerance of the Chair are confirmed over the next three years, we will be in for a very pleasant time. I would start my maiden speech by expressing my appreciation and thanks to my wife and family for their understanding and assistance during the campaign and also to those people, particularly in the Australian Labor Party, who assisted me so much and whose help was so essential. I express appreciation to my predecessor in Holt, Mr Yates, for his gracious acceptance of defeat and wish him well for the future.
I thank those electors who have given me the chance of representing the electorate. I assure all electors that every effort will be made to give them proper representation. This will not be an easy task as the problems of Holt reflect the difficulties faced by Australia over the past five years. The issues of unemployment, housing, inadequate funding for local government, cutbacks in education expenditure - particularly in the area of capital expenditure - public transport, the decline in living standards and inadequate social welfare payments have affected the people in that area in the same way as people throughout the rest of Australia have been affected.
Holt is an electorate centred on the city of Dandenong and therefore has an urban base with many large and significant manufacturing industries which in the next few years will face many of the difficult problems which some members of the House have briefly mentioned during this sitting. In addition it also has rural areas. Therefore it is a diverse and interesting electorate. It is an area where there has been enormous growth particularly during the period between the 1977 and 1980 elections. In the last election over 81,000 electors were in Holt.
I regret to say that the Speech of the GovernorGeneral offers no solutions and in my view little hope for those who have suffered as a result of the policies which have caused the difficulties that I mentioned earlier. Unemployment and the social evils caused by it certainly represent the greatest challenge to this Government or in fact to any government. In August 1975, 2,400 people were registered as unemployed at the Commonwealth Employment Service in Dandenong. By August 1980 - a period of five years- that number had risen to 4,075 - representing an increase of 70 per cent. During the five years of this Government the number of unemployed persons increased by 6.5 persons weekly. At the present time in the electorate of Holt 36 persons are registered for every job vacancy. Twenty-nine adult males are competing for every job vacancy. The majority of those adult males are breadwinners. Each is forced to compete with 28 other people for every vacancy. There is a genuine feeling, justifiably, of despair amongst many of those people.
The problem of youth unemployment in the area has reached tragic proportions. Between
August 1976 and August 1980 the number of young people registered as unemployed increased from 826 to 1 ,749. There are only 36 vacancies for those 1,749 unemployed young people in that area. That is despite the tremendous work that has been done in that area by dedicated project officers who worked on Community Youth Support Scheme projects within the electorate. The need for further funding of those projects is becoming crucial because the workload on those project officers is reaching a stage where, in my view, the system will break down unless this Government realises that those project officers in that area are doing a magnificent job.
The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner), when visiting the area during the last campaign, commended the projects. I certainly hope that that is remembered when funding is looked at for that area. I suggest that the figures I mentioned on youth unemployment should be carefully noted by those Government members who, from time to time, trot out that absurd assertion that jobs are available. Anyone who believes this has the ultimate capacity for selfdelusion. The figures are there and they cannot be denied. Honourable members who look at the figures which show that there are 36 vacancies for 1 ,749 unemployed and then say that there are jobs if people want them, are deluding themselves completely.
I want to speak next about the allocation of housing funds in Victoria because I think that after unemployment it is the most crucial factor facing most people in the community. The allocation of funds has been cut from $104m in 1977-78 to $67.9m for 1980-81. In the Dandenong district 3,000 applicants are on a Ministry of Housing waiting list for the purchase of houses and if the policies of this Government in cutting funds in those areas continue the numbers on this list will increase. For those requiring housing for rental the waiting time is between 34 years and five years. I ask honourable members to contemplate the position confronting somebody who cannot afford commercial rent and who is desperate to rent a house through the Housing Commission in Victoria. Honourable members say to them: ‘Well, the period that you will have to wait is between 3i years and five years’. From time to time, despite that position, we still hear Government members talking about this Government as being a government of compassion.
In fact the concept of new federalism has represented a refusal by this Government to accept responsibility for programs to meet the social needs in areas such as those about which I am speaking at the moment. In turn that responsibility has been transferred to the State Government, which in turn transferred it to local governments. The effect of this policy is clearly demonstrated this year by a massive increase in rates. Within the Shire of Cranbourne, which is in the electorate of Holt, the increases this year will average 1 7.5 per cent and in many cases will be as high as 30 per cent. Road construction and maintenance is the largest item of expenditure within the Shire of Cranbourne. In the last financial year 36 per cent of the Shire’s rate revenue was spent in this area. This came about because of the grossly inadequate Commonwealth funds provided for the next five years for road construction and maintenance.
Within the shire of Cranbourne it is being said at the moment that this Government has a pothole mentality when considering the needs of the Australian road system. Again, this is an indictment of the Government because it transfers responsibility to people who are least able to afford it. With the increased tax burden over the last five years the taxpayers in Cranbourne cannot afford to have further inflicted upon them massive increases in rates which have been caused by the failure of this Government to face its responsibility and recognise that the main area of expenditure from rate revenue in that shire has been from road construction and maintenance.
The cuts by this Government for capital expenditure in education have been indefensible. These cuts represent 32 per cent for government schools and 9 per cent for non-government schools. In fact, the last Budget provided no increase at all in real terms. This mean attitude, which is typical of this Government, has inflicted further hardship. Without categorising schools one by one, I can assure honourable members, that in the area there are schools with no permanent buildings at all, with nothing but portables. Schools built in that area eight years ago have no assembly halls, no showers or change rooms and there are schools where physical education classes are taken in the canteen. Schools which were built for 800 pupils will be endeavouring to cope with 1 , 1 00 next year. In the Cranbourne area the need for another high school is desperate, but with the cutbacks in capital funding by this Government it will be impossible for that school to be built unless this Government changes direction. These problems in education are to be found across the board in primary schools, high schools and technical schools, and they affect both government and nongovernment schools. In fact, at the parish level there are many Catholic schools in that area which are in desperate financial trouble.
The problem of public transport is also a crucial problem in the area. Again, this government in a deliberate step has made a 40 per cent cut in real terms in grants to States for urban public transport since 1974-75. It costs $20 a week for people in that area to travel by car to work, and 70 per cent of those people who are fortunate enough to be employed are forced to travel to work by car. The cost of $20 compares with about $8 weekly if there was adequate public transport in the area. This Government prefers to spend massive funds on the electrification of the SydneyMelbourne rail line. This is certainly a dubious priority when one takes into account that railways are responsible for only 2 per cent of the consumption of petroleum products. The car consumes 35 per cent of petroleum products, and more than half of that amount is used in urban areas; yet this Government has reduced grants to the State for urban public transport. This inflicts hardship on people for travelling to work. I repeat that the cost of travelling to work in the metropolitan area of Melbourne from parts of that electorate is as high as $20 weekly. If there was an adequate public transport system the amount would be reduced to $8. This, again, is an example of where the Government has inflicted extra financial strains on those least able to afford them.
It was interesting to note that the previous speaker, the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde), referred to the sale of government enterprises. He mentioned parts of Telecom Australia and I think that Trans-Australia Airlines was also mentioned. It is extraordinary that he should be mentioning that today, because on 25 November 1930 the first telephone conversation took place across the Tasman. The cost of that telephone conversation that day was £6 15s and the average weekly wage was £4. Now it costs $3.75 to make such a phone call. I always find it very interesting to hear Government members going on with a recital about the proposition that profitable government enterprises ought to be hived off to private enterprise. It would be very interesting to know whether on 25 November 1930 there was any private enterprise in this country that would have taken the financial risks necessary to establish what has now been established by Telecom in this country. The same thing applies to the other matters mentioned by the honourable member for Moore.
It is all very well for taxpayers to have contributed for many years to the establishment of various institutions and then tonight hear somebody here say: ‘Now that they have been established at the risk of the taxpayer and now that they are becoming extremely profitable, it is time to flog them off to private enterprise’. That is an absolutely extraordinary proposition. It is a proposition which is not new; it was espoused by the former member for Isaacs at great length. Fortunately we do not have to listen to him here tonight in relation to that matter, but obviously there are still many Government members who will continue to trot out this furphy for as long as they are in this place. I think it is something that they ought to consider, because it is really something that is very stupid, as a close analysis of it would show.
There are divisions in our community now which cannot be tolerated in the long term. The difference between people in this community who are well off and those who are not is becoming greater and greater. The taxation burden which has been inflicted on middle and lower income earners while tax avoidance has become probably the only growth industry during the period of this Government is something that can no longer be tolerated. The brilliant contribution tonight by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Hawke) outlined the alternative for this country, and that is a Labor government.
Debate (on motion by Mr Burr) adjourned.
Newspaper Article - The Parliament - Queensland Election - Drought Relief - Political Prisoners in Uruguay - RAAF Aircraft - Pensions: Supplementary Allowance
Motion (by Mr McVeigh) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to draw the attention of the House and the public to a piece of blatant political bias exercised against the Australian Labor Party by the Courier-Mail newspaper in Brisbane. The Courier-Mail has a notably undistinguished record in covering the forthcoming State elections in Queensland. It has shown a consistent preference for the froth and colour of the campaign rather than concentrating on the issues. Yet this paper has also been one of those media outlets saying, again and again, that there is too much emphasis on personalities, that the various political leaders are failing to develop issues and that the tone of politics should be raised.
I do not say that the Courier-Mail is the only media outlet guilty of this mealy-mouthed approach to the election coverage. Others, including radio and television outlets, have possibly been worse. But as the only morning newspaper in Brisbane, as the longest -established and largest unit of the mass media in Queensland, I believe the
Courier-Mail has a special responsibility to show professionalism and objectivity in its activities. Twice this week, the editor of the Courier-Mail has insisted on changes being made to advertisements submitted by the Australian Labor Party. On the first occasion, Labor Party officials submitted a full-page advertisement dealing with the proposals of the Federal Liberal-National Country Party Government to introduce a new, broadly-based tax, along the lines, so it is suggested, of the value added tax which operates in Britain and other parts of Europe. The same advertisement was accepted without demur by other morning newspapers throughout Queensland. But it was not accepted by the Courier-Mail. Referring to the new tax, the advertisement said:
The Liberal and National Parties back it; only Labor opposes it.
That is a matter of simple, straightforward fact. It is an embarrassing fact for the Queensland Liberals during an election campaign, but that changes nothing. Neither does the attempt by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to defuse the argument earlier this week change anything. It is the Liberal Treasurer (Mr Howard) who is proposing this new tax with the support of the National Country Party. At the State level the Queensland National Party Premier said publicly that he would support the new tax when he returned to Brisbane after the Premiers Conference in August.
The Labor Party opposes the new tax and has done so consistently. That is also a basic fact. But the editor of the Courier-Mail insisted that this statement had to be changed. Because of this attitude the advertisement finally read:
Others favour it; Labor opposes it.
There is only one motive for insisting on such a change and that clearly is to minimise the embarrassment of the conservative parties and to reduce the impact of the advertisement. The second instance is even more blatant. Since 1 1 November the Labor Party in Queensland has been running a 30-second television commercial reminding the people of Queensland of some of the unsavoury incidents which riddle the record of the NationalLiberal Party Government in that State. There has been no legal action against the advertisement and none has been threatened or suggested. Yet when the words of that commercial were transformed into a print advertisement and submitted to the Courier-Mail, as they were today, they again did not measure up to the political standards of the editor. One point in that commercial and in the advertisement submitted to the newspaper today said:
Russell Island - another attempt to conceal scandals involving the criminal law.
The editor of the Courier-Mail insisted on deleting those words ‘involving the criminal law’ even though they are obviously true and illustrate the seriousness of the disgraceful Russell Island land fraud. I suppose there could be some sympathy for attitudes like these if the editor of the CourierMail had consistently toned down political advertising as a matter of taste and of consistent policy. But that is obviously not the case. That newspaper, like most others throughout Australia, without a blush or a twinge of conscience ran pages of scurrilous dishonest advertisements concocted by the Liberal Party and its front organisations during the Federal election campaign. I am not aware that they raised the slightest objection at any stage.
This is the sort of conduct that demonstrates the way so many editors in this country have acted to destroy public faith in the Press as an institution necessary to a free society. It is blatant bias, reinforcing attitudes already being pursued through their news columns. It is beyond the scope of the Australian Press Council. It is unlikely even to become knowledge unless those affected make a fuss about it. That is why I raise this matter tonight. I hope that fair-minded people, especially those in Brisbane, will voice their feelings directly to the Courier-Mail. Voices must be raised against this arbitrary, high-handed and purely partisan exercise of the power of the Press. We all defend the freedom of the Press but in so doing we are entitled to demand that those in whose hands that freedom is entrusted reciprocate by not only allowing but also encouraging the free flow of political debate.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Tonight I wish to express a fear that has been increasingly growing in me. It concerns what appears to be a lack of confidence and a lack of respect that is growing in the community for the Parliament as an institution. There is a lack of confidence that the Parliament is able properly to represent the views and the aspirations of the people of Australia. This is a growing concern to me. I believe it should be a growing concern to all of us who have the responsibility of representing the people of Australia in this place. It seems to me that much of that lack of confidence and lack of respect which has grown throughout the community and which appears to be continuing to pervade the community has resulted largely from the growth of the political parties and their power to manipulate and to dictate to those people who are elected to this place what they should or should not do when they become members of this place. That might sound like the statement of an independent member. True, it may well be. But 1 believe that we are elected to this place to represent first and foremost the people of our constituencies and as a secondary reason - it is only a very small secondary reason - to represent out political parties. We are not elected to act according to the dictates and directions of our political parties.
I believe we have a responsibility to reverse what I see as being a very dangerous trend if we are to preserve this institution of parliament as a place that can properly represent the aspirations of all the people of Australia and to act as a break on executive power. The responsibility for reversing trends that have shown up in our society rests with us. We cannot blame the public at large if it does not respect us as members of parliament or the Parliament as an institution if we do not do what we are constitutionally bound to do. It is our responsibility to take the bit between our teeth, to play the part and to act out the confidence that has been entrusted to us by our electorates. I believe very firmly that this Parliament is not the plaything of executive government. Executive government has its role to play, along with the judiciary and the legislature, in the three-tiered power arrangement in our society. But we, as the legislature, have out part to play. Part of that role is to represent the people and to scrutinise legislation to make sure that it properly reflects the aspirations of the people.
We are not here simply to act out and to do what we are told to do by our executive, whether it be an executive formed by members of this side of the House or members of the other side of the House. Perhaps on this side of the House we have more freedom to exercise our own independent judgment than have honourable members on the other side. I feel sorry for them being in that position. We on this side of the House do have some freedom. If the Parliament, as an institution, is to act out its proper role in our institutional society, I believe it is incumbent on us to establish more select and standing committees of this Parliament which have a proper review function to ensure that legislation that is brought into this place and passed through this place can properly be put on the statute books to represent the future aspirations of this country.
I put this suggestion to all honourable members, not just those of my Party: If we have an interest and a concern for this institution I believe we should establish more of these committees. I put this suggestion to honourable members opposite because it is my view that only through the committees of this Parliament can we properly carry out those review functions, represent our people and act as a scrutinising force over executive government. I believe this is the fundamental role of this Parliament. It is only by way of taking that action and performing the role with which we are entrusted that we can build up the confidence of the public in this Parliament as an institution.
– I also wish to refer to the Queensland scene this evening. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) spoke of the need for restoration of involvement of private members in the running of the country. He suggested we escape from executive rule and party rule. I think one of the main issues in the Queensland election with which all members of this Parliament should be concerned is the style of government existing in that State and the refusal of this Government in any way to intervene in the breaches of international conventions which have been promulgated in Queensland. These breaches were referred to at Question Time by the honourable member for Lilley (Mrs Darling).
Another issue that has fronted and which is featuring in the jingles of the National Party which saturates the television programs is that the Queensland Government is a low tax government. What those jingles do not tell us, of course, is the penalties that the people of Queensland pay for the abolition of the various taxes that are there listed. They pay the penalty that there is 15 per cent less government spending on essential services in Queensland. The only area in which the Queensland Government exceeds the spending of the other States is law enforcement where spending is 7 per cent higher than in other States, not because Queenslanders are more criminal but because the Premier relishes the use of the police force to enforce his peculiar ideas of law and order, again in breach of international convention.
On the point of low tax, however, he conveniently ignores the extra costs that have to be loaded on the people in Queensland to try to balance the Budget because of the abolition of various taxes that were inconvenient to his powerful and well-off friends. I am not suggesting that some of those taxes did not need reforming. However, for example, one of my constituents told me that every time he uses his Bankcard a 3c charge on every $2 is applied in Queensland but in no other
State. Of course, there is no mention of this in the claiming of what a wonderful free tax State Queensland is. What is more, when Queensland does provide public services for which the money has been provided by this Government, from Federal funding, they are not advertised as being joint Federal and State initiatives; they are advertised as Queensland Government projects. As Minister for Health I had to threaten to cut off funding for community health projects being launched in Queensland. Not only did I and any member of the Federal Government not receive an invitation to the opening ceremony - but also we were not mentioned on the plaque which prominently featured the State Government Minister opening that facility. No publicity was given to the Federal involvement in the Press releases that were issued.
That was the sort of thing that went on in relation to every other department. On National Highway One on the coast of Queensland where new construction was going on one could see the signs which read-. ‘A Queensland Government project’, and which detailed the number of miles involved and the estimated cost. What the signs do not state is that every cent of the hundreds of thousands of dollars involved was Federal money. The Australian Labor Party Government had made that highway a national highway and a totally national responsibility. If truth in advertising is ever to be established in this country, particularly in political advertising, it must be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The Premier of Queensland does not understand the meaning of the word.
– I must say in response to the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) that I hope that he will not mind if I take the section of Hansard relating to his speech and forward it to the Premier of New South Wales so that he too can get the benefit of the words of wisdom and advice that the honourable member for Capricornia has given for political purposes on next Saturday’s election in Queensland. It is interesting tonight to have the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Hodgman) required to sit silent during this debate which must be a matter of great frustration to him in view of his performances over the last five years at this hour of night.
The other point I seek to make - this is the main thrust of my speech tonight - relates to the Premier of New South Wales and his Government. This is of particular concern and should be, of course, to the Opposition. It will notice that the Premier of New South Wales took a prominent role in the recently completed Federal election campaign with the result that the lowest swing away from the Government took place in New South Wales. I think there is a causal relationship. The reality of what is happening in New South Wales at the moment in relation to Federal funding of projects in that State is far more serious than the matter raised by the honourable member for Capricornia in relation to Queensland.
I refer to three matters of moment to many people in my electorate. They are: Firstly, the Home Help Service of New South Wales; secondly, the dental therapy schools in New South Wales, including one at Shellharbour; and, thirdly, the drought relief problem in New South Wales with its disgraceful delays in the payment of Federal funding to drought affected farmers in not only the State as a whole but my electorate in particular. I draw the attention of the House to a statement today by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) saying that he had pointed out that New South Wales was dragging its feet in terms of administrative procedures and in matching what other States were prepared to do in assisting drought stricken farmers. That is point one about the way New South Wales is handling its relationships with both the Federal Government and the people of that State who are in need.
Let us look at a matter such as the Home Help Service. It is only as a result of severe and strong pressure from Federal members of parliament such as myself - not, I might say, from the Labor Party members but from Government members in the Federal House - that New South Wales has been reluctantly dragged screaming to a situation where it is to accept the Federal Government’s offer of $3.8m on a matching dollar for dollar basis for the Home Help Service in New South Wales. In our Budget we allocated $3.8m for a matching grant. The New South Wales Budget responded by allocating only $3.07m. In other words, it rejected close to $800,000 of a grant from the Federal Government. It was only as a result of consistent pressure that the State Government at last recognised that it was depriving the sick, the aged and the infirm in New South Wales of $1.6m worth of home help service by refusing to accept the Federal Government’s offer. At last, however, last week there was an acceptance of the fact that this was a disgraceful situation, particularly in view of the fact that the Victorian State Government manage to spend $4.3m - and Victoria is a much smaller State- which we as a Federal Government match with $4. 3m for the Home Help Service. The New South Wales State Government certainly has behaved in an extraordinary way in this respect.
Then, of course, there are the dental therapy schools. There was a false allegation by the Minister for Health in New South Wales, Mr Stewart, that we were cutting expenditure and, therefore, the Shellharbour school may have to close. In fact, the operating expenditure financed by the Federal Government has increased in the current Budget from $3.79m to $4.46m. This maintains Mr Kevin Stewart’s 100 per cent failure rate in stating that Federal funding was affecting both health and dental activity in my electorate in particular and in the Illawarra region in general. He threatened that Federal policies would reduce the number of beds and close hospitals in my area. That was patently untrue and was demonstrated to be untrue. He has falsely alleged that cuts in funding will close this dental therapy school in Shellharbour. That is patently untrue and I cannot understand why Mr Stewart would seek to maintain that record of dishonesty.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In August of this year a deputation representing the Uruguayan people of Melbourne came to Canberra in an expression of concern about the situation of political prisoners in Uruguay. Amongst the people who came was a member of the Martinez family who spoke of the situation of a member of that family imprisoned in the Libertad prison in Uruguay, Raul Noel Martinez Machado. These people spoke about this political prisoner with a great deal of feeling in terms of not only his suffering but also the suffering of many other political prisoners within that prison and within other prisons and the oppression that has taken place in Uruguay over the past few years. They predicted that even though Raul Martinez was to be released in May of next year before that time came he would disappear and perhaps never be seen again. They spoke about the history of such disappearances in Uruguay and with great concern they implored the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, and members of this Parliament to take up the case of Raul Martinez and other political prisoners suffering under the harsh conditions of the military junta which rules that state.
Last week Raul Martinez disappeared and all of the worst fears of his family in Australia and in Uruguay appear to have been realised. I have briefly and simply raised the matter tonight because I hope that many members from both sides of this House who are committed - we hear so often of a commitment to the individual - will recognise that name, will perhaps remember the visit of the Uruguayans earlier this year, will speak to the new Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Street) about the situation existing in Uruguay and ask him to take some action. When that delegation visited Australia earlier this year not only did it come to the Parliament but also it endeavoured to see the Uruguayan Ambassador; but he was unavailable to see them, unavailable to discuss the situation in that country and unavailable to discuss that delegation’s concern. The Australian Government has said very often that it supports and has given lip service to the cause of human rights around the world. At that time the Australian Government did make some commitments to investigate and to monitor the situation in Uruguay, but it sometimes seems to me that when we come to the situation in Chile and in so many other Latin American countries where right wing dictatorships exercise such vicious rule and such repressive rule–
– Where the commies run them.
– That members of the Government do not have quite the same relish and enthusiasm that they might have, for example, as the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) who is always so delicate in his speech when he talks about commie rule! Here is a situation of great humanity and one that I believe all members of Parliament ought to express concern for. I have written to Amnesty International and I hope that group will take the matter up. I also hope that all members of this Parliament, whatever their prejudices may be, will investigate the situation in Uruguay to see whether the facts as have been described to us by the Uruguayan delegation which visited here earlier this year do bear up to an examination. I particularly appeal to the Parliament to take up the cause of this individual, Raul Martinez. I conclude with a short quotation by him from his prison, where he wrote: ‘ . . . it’s night, no rain, no stars, there is a scent of free land . . .’.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Royal Australian Air Force is in the process of phasing out of service by 30 June next year all of its DC3, or Dakota, aircraft. As reported by Air ViceMarshal Barnes, the Deputy Chief of Air Staff in Canberra, in a letter to the West Australian of 1 7 November, of the 1 6 Dakotas still in service at the end of last year four are being retained permanently by the Royal Australian Air Force, three have been used for technical trades training and the other has gone to Point Cook, Victoria, for the RAAF museum. Two more will continue to fly for some time with the Aircraft Research and Development Unit in South Australia. One has been donated by the Commonwealth Government to the Berlin Airlift Memorial Museum as a permanent reminder of the outstanding work done by RAAF crews during the Berlin airlift in 1948-49, and another is to go to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. A further two have been retained by the RAAF for weapons trials involving the Australian designed and developed Karinga cluster bomb.
To summarise what we know: Three are being used for RAAF trades training, two for RAAF aircraft research and development, two for RAAF bombing practice, one has been donated to a Berlin museum, one has gone to the RAAF museum at Point Cook and one has gone to the Canberra War Memorial on the other side of the lake. Out of Air Vice-Marshall Barnes’s tally of 1 6 that makes 10, leaving us with six. For the last 12 months I have been engaged in correspondence with the former Minister for Administrative Services and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence in an effort to have one of these historic planes preserved for posterity at the aviation museum of Bullcreek run by the West Australian division of the Air Force Association.
Bullcreek is in the electorate of Fremantle and I am sure in this matter I speak also on behalf of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins), This museum, which many regard as the finest in Australia, has excellent facilities both under cover and outdoors and has a keen and enthusiastic membership anxious to preserve one of these fine old work horses of the Second World War. Australian ex-servicemen - we only have a few left in this Parliament - who served in theatres of war in the south-west Pacific area, are aware that the Dakota is well remembered for the faithful supply work it carried out regardless of weather conditions. Manpower, arms, food, mail and the evacuation of the sick and wounded could never have been sustained without these planes. The aviation museum considers it vital to procure one of these historic planes for the benefit of future generations of Australians, and I support that view.
Frankly, to date the ministerial response has been disappointing. The only concession granted to the museum has been to invite it to tender for the Dakota decommissioned at the Pearce Air Force base and now held at Perth Airport. The museum does not have sufficient funds to compete on the commercial market for one of these planes, bearing in mind that all of its resources go to maintaining the premises of the museum and the aircraft and items of display. Normally I do not rise in this place to advocate government handouts or gifts, but I make an exception in this case for three reasons: Firstly, the historic importance of the planes; secondly, that after years of utilisation they owe the Australian taxpayer nothing; and thirdly, yet another aircraft could be maintained at no recurrent cost to the taxpayer. Simply my argument is that it has been considered good enough to give one of these planes to an overseas museum, two to museums in the eastern States and to blow two of them to bits. I hope that the new Minister for Administrative Services (Mr Newman) will reconsider this matter so that another one of these fine planes can be retained for the benefit of all Australians.
– Tonight I wish briefly to raise the question of the plight of a number of Australian senior citizens. Over 400,000 Australian recipients of social security benefits receive the supplementary assistance allowance, which is commonly called the rent allowance. A high proportion of these people are aged, single people. The Commission of Inquiry into Poverty found them to be the second largest group of poverty stricken people in this country. They do not own their own homes and the fact that they are paying rent is one of the causes of their poverty. The rent allowance, or the supplementary assistance allowance, is worth $5 a week and this reduces by 50c for each dollar of income a person receives as a pension. Many old people who have come to see me in recent months feel that they will not have much longer to live in this world and they have been trying to put away some money to pay for their funerals.
A funeral in Sydney costs between $850 and $1,000. These people find small amounts of money that they may have to invest to pay for their funerals because they do not wish to be a burden upon their relatives or friends in having a decent burial. These amounts are taxed by the Government in two ways. One is that they lose part of the rent allowance they receive and the second is that they also lose the chance that they have to retain some of their dignity. I hope that the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt), who represents the Minister for Social Security (Senator Chaney) in this place, will take this matter on board. I intend to raise this matter on a number of occasions during this session of Parliament. I think it is most iniquitous that we are now trying to deprive people of some dignity in the last few years of their lives. They are afraid to die because they cannot even n afford to pay for a funeral, as the Government tries to deprive them.
– It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I require the debate to be extended.
– The debate may be extended until 11.10 p.m.
– I will be brief. On any occasion when I happen to be the Minister at the table when matters are raised by honourable members I will respond as I am about to. I will bring the remarks of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Leo McLeay) to the attention of the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) who represents the Minister for Social Security (Senator Chaney) in this House. I will draw the matters which the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack) raised to the attention of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) and the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr Newman) who is also the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence. I will also draw to the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Street) the remarks of the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) in relation to the case of Raul Martinez. I will most certainly again draw the remarks of my colleague the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) in relation to drought relief to the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) in the hope that he will be able to bring a resolution of this matter to ensure that the drought relief gets through.
– The debate is concluded.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m. NOTICES
The following notices were given:
Mr Viner to present a Bill for an Act relating to the appointment of the Honourable Robert James Baldwin St John as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Samoa.
Mr Viner to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Remuneration and Allowances Act 1973.
Mr Ellicott to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Christmas Island Act 1958.
Mr Macphee to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Migration Act 1958 and for purposes connected therewith.
Mr Macphee to present a Bill for an Act to extend the application of the Immigration (Unauthorized Arrivals) Act 1980 to the Territory of Christmas Island.
Mr Newman to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Ministers of State Act 1952.
The following paper was deemed to have been presented on 26 November 1980, pursuant to statute:
Customs Tariff Act- Orders- Developing Country - Nos. 6,7(1980).
Mr Holding to ask Mr Speaker:
Mr Barry Jones to ask Mr Speaker:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 November 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1980/19801126_reps_32_hor120/>.