27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I give notice that at the next sitting I shall move:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade the following matter: The operation of the Australian National Line’s freight and passenger shipping services to and from Tasmania, with regard to (a) the profitability or otherwise of the operation: (h) the necessity or otherwise for the recent freight rate increases in the operation: and lc) any amendments necessary or desirable to the governing legislation to enable the operation to be carried out al the lowest possible freight rate.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Were representations made on behalf of pea growers and processors for Commonwealth assistance for refrigeration, which is surprisingly expensive, of last year’s surplus crop which was estimated at 50% above the Australian consumption? What was the result of those representations? Was consideration given to the fact that pea growers were not granted any devaluation compensation and that on the contrary it was estimated that devaluation in New Zealand meant a tariff reduction to that country, with its advantage of very much lower production costs, of 20%? Can the Government, if it has not already done so, give fresh consideration to this request?
The honourable senator flagged the substance of the question he was proposing to ask me; so I sought some information on the matter from the Department of Trade and Industry. It is my understanding that the Minister for Trade and Industry has not received representations on behalf of pea growers and processors for Commonwealth assistance for refrigeration and that pea growers have not been granted devaluation compensation. Honourable senators will be aware that in 1966 the Government established a panel comprising representatives of growers and processors of peas and beans, together with officers of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Primary Industry. The panel provides a forum for discussion of the industry’s problems and aready means of communication between the industry and the Government. The panel has devoted a great deal of attention to the question of competition from New Zealand. In fact, a second panel, comprising representatives of growers and processors and officials from both Australia and New Zealand, has also been established. It has been successful in securing agreement between the industries of both Australia and New Zealand on the level of exports from each country to the other. The Government would consider the panel to be the appropriate industry body to make representations on behalf of growers and processors. It would, of course, give consideration to any representations seeking assistance to the industry.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science aware that, according to recent psychological studies carried out under the sponsorship of the Carnegie Corporation ot the United States of America, half of ali growth in human intelligence takes place between birth and age 4 and a further 30% between age 4 and age 8 or that, in relation to formal education, two-thirds of a child’s intellectual development takes place before he even commences primary education? Is the Minister also aware that for many children, especially children of poverty, lack of intellectual stimulus preordains failure in later life? In these circumstances and especially in the light of the remarks of the Minister for Education and Science on the subject of the role and importance of pre-schools, as reported in the ‘Australian’ on 16th July last, might we expect that his views will be given tangible expression in the form of greater recognition of and aid to the many forms of preschool, kindergarten and similar institutions in which the very young are being taught and that the financial support given to these institutions by parents and citizens will be classified as allowable taxation deductions?
– [n view of the enormous growth of the educational programmes both of the States and the Commonwealth over the last 6 years it is not unnatural that energetic politicians now seek assistance for the fringes of educational responsibility. It would be known to the honourable senator that the Government has instituted assistance for preschool education in the last 2 or 3 years. That programme is increasing significantly. As to psychological studies conducted in the United States, either of children aged from 1 year to 4 years or from 4 years to 8 years, [ confess a complete absence of knowledge. I will refer the point to the experts of the Department and see whether they can vouchsafe anything of assistance to the honourable senator.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to the decision of Turkey to devalue her currency? As Turkey is one of Australia’s keenest competitors in overseas dried fruits markets, 1 ask whether an evaluation has been made of the possible detrimental effects on our dried fruit exports arising from Turkey’s action. If necessary, will the Government take such monetary compensatory action in favour of our dried fruits producers as will enable them to retain markets in the face of Turkey’s new currency advantage?
– My attention has been drawn to the devaluation action taken by Turkey. That action has resulted in quotes for Turkish exported dried fruits being made at special prices. The honourable senator may recall that recently the signatories to the International Sultana Agreement - Turkey is one of the signatories - held a meeting. I think it was held in June. A decision was made that the Agreement was to be carried on for a further year. Discussions took place at the meeting on the devaluation of Turkey’s currency and the fact that the Agreement had been under some pressure for some time because of its continued breaching by Greece. I will discuss the other part of the honourable senator’s question with the Minister for Primary Industry and let him have a further reply.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. Has his attention been drawn to a statement by Professor Zelman Cowen, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Queensland, that it is disturbing to see one man or woman standing in front of 250 students for 55 minutes at a lecture? Accepting that such a statement from an authority like Professor Cowen is factual, 1 ask whether the condition referred to by him is typical of other Australian universities or whether it is in the University of Queensland alone that such unsatisfactory lecturing procedures obtain. Does the Minister agree with Professor Cowen’s statement that such a state of affairs is disturbing? Will he investigate avenues to overcome the seriousness of lecturing at universities under such conditions?
– Any statement by Professor Zelman Cowen should be considered with great respect. He, in his new position as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Queensland, would feel quite entitled to make a statement such as that to which the honourable senator has referred. The teaching of 250 students by one lecturer obviously involves disadvantages, but whereas classes of that size may exist in some of the more populous universities, that is not by any means an indication of the ordinary class size in many universities in the country. We cannot devote the whole of the country’s resources to providing staff for Australian universities.
To indicate the extent of the Government’s contribution to universities, I point out that in 1966-67 the Commonwealth contributed $50m to State universities, and this year it is contributing $78m. So it should be recognised that ever since the Menzies Government appointed the Australian Universities Commission, the Commonwealth has made probably its most significant contribution to the education of the country by making available greater opportunity for university education. The percentage of people able to go to universities has grown immeasurably over the last 15 years of this Government’s term of office, and the staff to teach those people has grown correspondingly and has been remunerated on a most affluent basis. Having said all that, I shall take Professor
Zelman Cowen’s statement into consideration to see to what extent it is generally applicable as an indication of class size in universities.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware of the excessively and unreliably slow rate of delivery by the Postmaster-General’s Department of letters and packages - sometimes taking up to 1 week for interstate mail? By way of an example, I ask the Minister whether she knows that in order to ensure that a letter posted at the Canberra Post Office before 9.30 a.m. will be delivered to a Sydney city address by the next day, an excess rate, in addition to the normal Se airmail postage rate, of 20c is required? As, in this example, the hopeful recipient of such a letter is only ) to 1 hour’s flying time away from Canberra, will the Minister take up with the PostmasterGeneral the possibility and urgency of eliminating such an iniquitous obligation on the taxpayer to pay a 25c postage rate before being guaranteed a 24-hour delivery service?
– I have noted the points which have been raised by the honourable senator concerning delays in mail deliveries, and I shall certainly take them up with the PostmasterGeneral. On previous occasions in this chamber I have been asked questions about delays in the delivery of letters. The PostmasterGeneral has always said that if an envelope can be produced which has on it the time of posting, (his is of assistance in discovering where there may have been a delay. If the honourable senator has such an envelope it would be a good idea if she could give it to me. 1 shall certainly take up the points which have been raised by the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In the light, of the fact that the lamentably small increase of 50c a week in pensions will not become effective until lst October next, and because increased costs of many commodities took effect very shortly after the Treasurer brought down the Budget, will the Government, on compassionate grounds alone, make the increased payment of pensions retrospective to 18tb August in order to compensate pensioners, to some degree, for the 6 weeks during which they will have suffered under the high cost of living?
– When there is an upward variation in pension rates traditionally this matter is raised in the Senate. As I look across the chamber I have in my mind certain honourable senators who have raised this matter. But it has always been the practice of the Government to fix a date for the payment of increased pensions and to attempt to get the legislative programme through by that date. 1 am happy to say that the Senate has always co-operated in getting the legislation through by the due date in order to enable the increases to be paid. In this instance, I believe, the date suggested for payment of increased pensions is Lst October. As long as I have been here, in similar circumstances - and I do not suggest that it should be done on this occasion - the Opposition has always put a case for retrospective payment of increased pensions. 1 do not believe that retrospectivity will be granted on this occasion, but I certainly will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Treasurer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Will the PostmasterGeneral give close attention to establishing a uniform telephone charge throughout Australia as a further incentive towards decentralisation, especially a& communication costs arc second only to transport costs?
– 1 congratulate Senator Douglas Scott on asking his first question this afternoon. I note the points that he has raised. I am appreciative of the problems which face people living in remote areas. I will have pleasure in placing his comments before the Postmaster-General to obtain an answer.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the fact that earlier this year a referendum of fruit growers rejected a stabilisation plan for the dried fruits industry and proposed negotiations to discuss a new and improved scheme, can the Minister advise to what extent these matters have been determined?
– A referendum of growers of dried fruits was held earlier this year - in March - to decide whether the stabilisation scheme should be renewed. At present intra.industry discussions on this matter are taking place, lt is hoped that from these discussions will come a scheme with which the industry can proceed.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is the Government aware that the citizens of Melbourne are to be denied again electric power for healing, lighting and television and also to be denied again public transport facilities by reason of a strike called for tomorrow by a small group of selfish industrial dissidents? Is it a fact that the organisation which is striking now has and for considerable time has had a log of claims before the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission? Does the Government propose to take any action to endeavour to maintain industrial arbitration or may the people of Melbourne expect to continue to be held indefinitely to a ransom which they cannot pay?
– I have seen continuing references to the disputes that have bedevilled the State’s electricity system.
– I rise to order. The question that has been asked is outside the province of the Federal Parliament. The honourable senator said that certain people are striking and this matter does not affect the Federal Parliament. It affects the Victorian Parliament, these people being employees of the State of Victoria. I suggest that the question ought to be forwarded to the Premier of Victoria or to the Victorian Minister for Fuel and Power.
– I would like to speak to the point of order. I asked whether the Government was aware of certain facts, namely that the people of Melbourne were being denied certain facilities.
I then asked: ‘Is it a fact that the organisation which is striking has a log of claims before the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission?’ I further asked: ‘Does the Government propose to take any action to endeavour to maintain industrial arbitration?’ My belief is - but I am not sure of this and that is why I asked the question - that this is a matter within the arbitration system which is a Federal Government responsibility. I submit that the question is fairly a question to be asked of the representative of the Minister for Labour and National Service in this place.
– The point of order is not upheld.
– Insofar as the question seeks information as to the operation of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, it obviously is a matter in which one has to acknowledge responsibility. I have kept myself aware of the continuous nature of the disputes that have bedevilled the State Electricity Commission in Victoria. I am not aware whether the disputes are the subject of a log of claims before the Commission. I shall ascertain whether they are and pass on to the honourable senator the information that the Minister is able to give me about what action is proposed by the Commission.
– My question is to the Minister for Supply. What firm contracts have been obtained from overseas and locally for the Australian aircraft industry, particularly the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and the Government Aircraft Factories, for the construction of aeroplanes and/or component parts? Are there any prospects of further contracts being obtained? What stage has project N reached? Is there any truth in rumours that the Department of Civil Aviation will take over Avalon Airport and its facilities from the Government Aircraft Factory?
There is no truth in the rumoured takeover of Avalon by the Department of Civil Aviation. The rumour may have arisen from some proposal associated with upgrading Avalon. As to the balance of the question, I have a prepared statement which goes fairly well across the board in relation to the aircraft industry. 1 think it would be more appropriate for me to give this information in a ministerial statement. I may do this today or. if not today, tomorrow. Then the matter will be on the business paper and if honourable senators want to have some debate on it they will be able to do so. I will try to make the statement today, subject to my availability, because I have to be in another place at a certain time.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation consider restoring one of the airstrips on Horn Island to its wartime length to facilitate the operations of scheduled commercial aircraft?
– I have not myself landed on the Horn Island airstrip, but I have flown over it at a fairly low level to try to get an idea of what it is like and what is needed there. I understand that civil airlines use the Horn Island airstrip, which is the airstrip serving Thursday Island. I think that I should have some inquiry made into the present state of the Horn Island airstrip and the length required for aircraft using it to see whether there is any need to have it extended. If there is a need to extend it we will take steps to see something is done, but I imagine that had there been a need to extend it we would have heard before this from the airline operators using it.
– Has the Minister for Supply any information about the auction sale of space tracking equipment, including communications and electronic equipment, and also motor transport equipment at Gove in the Northern Territory? Is this equipment to remain the property of members of the European Launcher Development Organisation or will some of it be used by Government departments?
The European Launcher Development Organisation has the first option on any equipment it may wish to retain for the use of its establishment, which is moving to French Guiana. However it does not appear to want any of the equipment that is at Gove. The ELDO secretariat invited tenders from the European member states of ELDO for the disposal of this equipment and these tenders will close on 7th September. I have here a minute which answers some of the questions the honourable senator posed about the auctions. The surplus equipment at Gove will be auctioned on a set date, and 1 have some information on that.
As to that part of the honourable senator’s question which referred to Woomera, all the ELDO equipment will be disbanded in 2 stages. During the first stage the ELDO secretariat will assess the equipment, if any, it wishes to have sent to Guiana. The secretariat is still making that assessment. The balance of the equipment is to be offered at public auction in Adelaide at the ordinary Department of Supply auction. It is not expected that the ELDO secretariat will call for offers from the member states with respect to the equipment at Woomera. The honourable senator might ask why we are separating the two lots of equipment. The simple answer is that it is a matter of geography. In the Gove area the wet season is not a suitable time for disposal.
Recently a question was asked about the use of certain equipment. An offer has been made to ELDO for the items of technical equipment that are of interest to Australia. The Department of the Interior has indicated that it has a requirement for the administrative-living complex and an offer is currently being forwarded to ELDO in relation to that. With regard to the disposal auction, a preliminary advertisement is expected to be published in all capital city newspapers, the ‘Northern Territory News’, the ‘Centralian Advocate’ and ‘Farmer and Grazier’ over the next few days. It will include a long list of the various items which will be offered. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate that list in Hansard.
Guidance and tracking equipment, telemetry equipment, communications equipment, telecommand equipment, ballistic camera equipment, electronic test equipment, vehicles - -Landrovers, Minimokes, Scooters, Commer Bus, Cranes 5-10 tons, Semi-Trailer, Tip-Truck, Compak Fork-Lift.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister seen reports in the Press that the price of wheat on the international market has risen by nearly $4 a ton in the last few days? Can the Minister confirm that there is a strong demand for Australian wheat in the United States of America and a general world increase in grain prices?
– 1 have seen a report in the Press and I am very happy to say that the price of wheat has jumped by $3.75 a ton in the last fortnight, making it $63.75 a ton instead of $60 a ton. There has been a strong demand for Australian wheat as was stated by Dr Callaghan, Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board only recently. However, 1 point out that despite the improved prospects of the Australian crop we still have about 500 million bushels to dispose of.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. The Minister is no doubt aware of the isolated nature of Cape Barren Island in Bass Strait, lt is often cut off from shipping in bad weather, and the aerodrome is in bad shape. Is the Minister aware that the indigenous community on the Island is most concerned about the closing of the hospital and the departure of its trained nursing sister? They are concerned also at the lack of someone on the island trained in first aid, for amongst the Island people are aged and invalids as well as families with young children and babies. Will the Minister make representations to the MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs to have an inquiry made into the closing down of the hospital and the lack of a trained nursing sister on the Island?
– I was not aware of the facts which the honourable senator has placed before the Senate and I am wondering whether these matters are perhaps more directly concerned with the State Minister. However I shall certainly take the matter up with my Federal colleague and get what reply I can for the honourable senator.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service been drawn to the fact that police estimates as published in today’s Press of attendances at the union organised, political, stopwork rallies yesterday in all Australian capital cities totalled approximately 20,000 persons. ls it correct that this means that approximately one-half of 1% of wage and salary earners attended the rallies, that is, if all those who were there were wage and salary earners as opposed to being students, retired persons, pensioners and others not included in the 4 million wage and salary earners? Does the Minister draw any conclusions from this as to the extent to which the wage and salary earners of Australia approve of being used by Mr Hawke and others as pawns for purely political purposes?
– I have seen the Press report which stated that the figures were supplied by Mr Hawke’s organisation. I take the honourable senator’s word that these figures aggregate about 20,000 which, on my understanding of arithmetic, would represent about 1% of trade unionists and about one-half of 1% of the work force of Australia. I think that this is a striking indictment and condemnation of the view of those people who organised a disruption of industry for the purpose of protesting against a parliamentary budget. We have a system of government in this country whereby some people accept it as a responsible office to represent their people in Parliament for parliamentary purposes, lt is a very contemptible conception of the function of trade unionism for people to think they can organise mobs, disrupt industry and deprive people of wages for what are really political purposes.
– I rise to a point of order. Standing order 99 in respect of rules applying to questions states, amongst other things, that questions shall not ask for an expression of opinion. In my view the honourable senator is simply giving an expression of opinion.
– In any event, I think the Minister has finished his reply.
– Would you, Mr President, allow me the pleasure of stating that on this occasion it was my opinion that was asked for and not Senator Brown’s. We will leave him to the Victorian Executive and the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is the Minister aware that Tasmanian exports of abalone meat and aluminium ingots to Japan, amounting to $lm per year, have again been placed in jeopardy because of the cessation of the Tegular Tasmania to Japan shipping service? Will the Minister take up with the shipping line concerned and with the Australian National Line the possibility of applying common freight rates as with the United Kingdom-Australia trade to Tasmania, or at least investigate ways of mitigating the expensive trans-shipping costs to mainland ports if this direct service is discontinued?
– 1 have some information on this which may be of assistance to the honourable senator from Tasmania. The latest advice received by the Minister for Shipping and Transport is that it is likely that satisfactory arrangements will be made for the lifting of the aluminium cargo referred to. He is aware that problems exist in relation to the shipment of cargoes from Australian outports to Japan. These problems are arising principally because of the changes taking place from conventional to container and other modern methods of shipping. The Minister has recently written to the Chairman of the North Bound Conference requesting detailed discussions with the Departments of Trade and Industry and Shipping and Transport to enable officials to establish the arrangements the Conference intends to make and to ensure the shipment of cargoes from outports on the most adequate, efficient and economical basis. The Department of Trade and Industry again wrote to the Conference as late as last week requesting that it set a firm date for the meeting. It is expected that the Departments and the Conference will meet to discuss! this issue in the very near future and, I am informed, the Minister is hopeful that substantial progress will be made quite quickly. I shall refer the balance of the honourable senator’s question which still requires an answer to the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that retailers are exploiting the purchasers of consumer goods in many instances by applying to goods a mark-up to the extent of 50% over and above the manufacturer’s cost plus sales tax? Does the Government condone this practice which must inflate the prices of consumer goods and enable a profit to be made on sales tax?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am not certain that I understand the purport of the question in relation to the mark-up by retailers and, for that reason, I suggest that the question should go on the notice paper so that I may refer it to the Treasurer. I gather from what the honourable senator said an implication that because of a variation in sales tax an added mark-up has been imposed. If that is the implication I would remind him that it is axiomatic that everybody in the retail trade applies a mark-up to goods and the percentage mark-up varies according to the industry. Some people may think that some industries have a higher mark-up than is necessary, but others may think, particularly in respect of some grocery lines, that the mark-up is very low. The question posed by the honourable senator covers a fairly broad canvas and for that reason I ask him to put it on notice so that I may send it to the Treasurer and obtain for him a comprehensive answer.
– 1 address a question to the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities. In view of some questionable conduct by people masquerading as travel agents, as instanced by a case in Sydney involving imposition on members of the Lebanese community by a person purporting to sponsor a charter flight, will the Minister consider the licensing of travel agents, together with a sizable bond being lodged by each such licensed travel agent?
– The honourable senator’s question touches upon a matter which I consider to be very important to the tourist industry. Many travel agents ara accredited by very substantial shipping and airline companies and the arrangements ensure security and integrity of business dealing on the part of those agents. But as will be found in every prosperous industry, and particularly in the tourist industry which is surging ahead with such rapidity today, there is a fringe element which bedevils the integrity of the industry. The instance in Sydney referred to by the honourable senator has caused me concern. Before 1 had knowledge of that incident I had raised this question of the organisation of the travel agents’ industry at the Tourist Ministers Council a Mildura. I also raised it at the Australian Conference of Travel Agents at Port Macquarie some 4 or 5 weeks ago and I have in the last 10 days submitted it to the Tourist Commission for a report to me at an early date. The matter is undergoing consideration at present and as soon as I am in a position to make an announcement I shall announce the decision to the Senate.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior or the Minister for Works, whichever is the appropriate one. Can the Minister advise whether the memorial fountain originally designed and dedicated to perpetuate the honoured memory of the late J. B. Chifley, in the square bearing his name and fronting the Commonwealth Offices in Sydney, is to be renamed Phillip? If this is a State concern, was the Federal Government consulted on or advised of the change? Will the Minister, on behalf of the people of New South Wales, take the matter up with the appropriate authority and thereby correct this wrong to the memory of a great Australian?
– I have some interest in this matter because of my earlier association with Mr J. B. Chifley, and I know of the fountain to be erected. But I am unaware as to the rest of the content of the question. I am not sure whether it is a responsibility of the Department of the Interior, which I represent here, or of the State Government of New South Wales and its appropriate Minister; but I certainly shall have inquiries made for the honourable senator and try to achieve a resolution of this matter for him.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer advocate to his colleague a request that financial assistance be offered promptly to all Stale governments to allow their various rural finance authorities to make an immediate survey of the growing incidence of indebtedness in the rural primary producing and business community which in the main is due to drought, controls of production, lowered export prices and variations in exchange rates - all matters over which producers have no control? Will he take this action with a view to establishing the need for and the benefits to be obtained from a separate authority within the Commonwealth Banking Corporation which might offer to those concerned, through their private banking institutions, loans over longer terms and at a much lower rate of interest?
This is a very comprehensive question, if I may be permitted to say so. I will need to look at it in some depth, even when it is on paper. But, generally speaking, 1 think it should be understood that there are certain avenues of approach in the field of Commonwealth and State relations. Assistance to the States is considered, for instance, at the Premiers Conference. Every year there is a Premiers Conference and Loan Council meeting in which the whole fabric of financial contributions to the States is looked at in terms of their budgetary positions.
Supplementary to that there is provision for assistance under section 96 of the Constitution. Under that section grants are made for special purposes on the basis of representations made by the States to the Commonwealth. The third avenue is a special provision made at Budget time having regard to special State problems. We also have the other avenue in relation to drought and other forms of misadventure which are considered by the States to be beyond their financial resources and in respect of which representations are made by the Premier of the State to the Prime Minister. They are the normal avenues that are open to the States in respect of particular problems.
The honourable senator then went on to deal with the provision of financial assistance through the banking institutions. There is a Commonwealth Development Bank procedure under which certain provisions are made to primary industry at concessional interest rates, as distinct from the ordinary bank rate, in relation to certain aspects of primary industry. All that machinery is calculated to do the type of thing about which the honourable senator asks. But he wants to superimpose on that some fresh representations. All I can say to him is that if he puts his question on the notice paper it will go to the Treasury for examination.
– Yesterday Senator Poyser asked me the following question:
My question is addressed to you, Mr President. On Tuesday of last week I asked a question of you as to why people were being denied entry into Parliament House unless sponsored by a member of Parliament. Again today people were being denied entry on the grounds that the House of Representatives galleries were already full and no further people could be admitted unless sponsored by a member of Parliament. I observed this procedure myself and protested against the practice to the doorkeeper. Is this a new policy to exclude the people from the people’s Parliament? If so, on whose authority has this procedure been introduced?
As I stated in a reply yesterday to another question from Senator Poyser, the admission of persons to this building is not unrestricted but is controlled by House staff who follow certain principles approved by Mr Speaker and myself. Yesterday a considerable number of persons sought admission to the building, most wishing to enter the public galleries of the chambers. Nearly all these people were admitted immediately but when most of the galleries were full and when the number in the Kings Hall had built up to a high level, it became necessary to restrict admission to the building for a short period. Nevertheless, in this period no persons accompanying a senator or member or sponsored by them were refused admission. [ may say that that is the established policy of Mr Speaker and myself, and in view of the need to control and regulate the flow of people through the House we have no intention of altering it.
At question time yesterday Senator Wheeldon directed a question to me regarding an incident which had occurred that day at the front entrance to the House when a group of visitors, representatives of a number of bodies concerned with education, sought admission to attend a meeting of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party Education Committee.
In reply to the honourable senator’s question I can say that inquiries that have been made into this matter have established that the group of persons mentioned by him sought entry to the House in the early afternoon, asking to see a member of Parliament, and in accordance with the normal practice one of them was asked to fill in a card so that the member concerned could be notified that visitors were waiting to see him. This was done and an attendant then endeavoured to locate the member concerned, but it was approximately half an hour before that member could be contacted, and the party then admitted.
It is unfortunate that some delay occurred in locating the member sought by this group but it must be realised that if a senator or member is not in his room or in range of the paging system, it is inevitable that some time will elapse while he is being located. However, the procedure followed by the staff in this instance was correct and was in accordance with the standard practice for handling requests from visitors at the front entrance for appointments with senators and members. In this case the member concerned was in a committee room where he would not be within range of the paging system. I want to make that quite clear because I am very jealous of the good name of the doorkeepers in this House.
On 16th June Senator Keeffe asked Senator Bull, the Deputy President, the following question:
My question is directed to you, Mr Deputy President. Are you aware that waitresses and other full time female staff employed in Parliament House possess figures that compare mora than favourably with any similar group of girls in any other establishment? Are you also aware that the uniforms now being worn by the girls to whom I have referred were designed 43 years ago?
– After 40 years the tide of fashion has turned right around.
– Order! It is the accepted practice that when I am on my feet I am not to be interrupted. If an honourable senator interrupts me, I will handle that situation. Senator Keeffe’s question went on:
If the answer to both questions is in the affirmative, will you contract to discuss with your colleague Mr Speaker the possibility of having a reputable design house such as Prue Acton or Tulloch design uniforms in keeping with the swinging 70’s and not the forgotten 30’s, so that those new uniforms will be available for this very attractive group of girls at the beginning of the Budget session?
The reply to this question is that in the past 12 months the stock of female staff uniforms held by the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms has been allowed to run down in preparation for the purchase of new stocks.
– Run down!
– 1 am surprised that honourable senators see humour in the question. 1 think the whole question is quite unnecessary and I do not see any humour in it at all. However, if these things appeal to some honourable senators, that is all right. It is expected that arrangements to purchase these new stocks will shortly be put in hand. When this is being done it is intended to give consideration to the question of changing the style of uniform now being used and it is proposed to seek suggestions from firms experienced in this field for a style that might be appropriate for use in the refreshment rooms.
– Mr President, I must apologise for my interjection while you were speaking.
– Very well.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs or to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Has the Minister seen Press reports that Vesteys Ltd, owner of Wave Hill station in the Northern Territory, may give back, some of its vast tracts of land to local Aboriginals? If Vesteys is prepared to recognise Aboriginal land rights, will the Government now reverse its decision of 1968 when it refused to grant 500 square miles of the 6,158 square miles Wave Hill leasehold to Gurindji and Walbiri Aboriginals? Does the Government recognise the justice of Aboriginals’ claims for land rights, or does it still subscribe to the belief that they are essentially second class citizens?
– I am not clear whether this question should be directed to the Minister for the Interior or the MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs, but I shall take it to the Minister for the Interior who, if he feels that it does not come within his portfolio, will no doubt send it to his colleague. I have a newspaper cutting which purports to state that the Vestey family made a statement that the report in previous newspaper cuttings was not correct.
– 1 direct a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate who represents the Treasurer. In view of the heavy incidence of increased cost to wine makers arising from commodity control, which control is a corollary of the collection of the excise charge of 50c per gallon on table wines and is estimated by an old established wine making organisation in the Barossa Valley to cost a further 30c per gallon, will urgent consideration be given to varying the mechanics of collecting the 50c charge so that it will be exacted not in the form of excise but in the form of a sales tax payable on invoicing wines ex cellar door?
Firstly, commodity control is a modern device that has been introduced now into almost all industries where excise is imposed. It has modernised the tortuous old system whereby it was necessary, for instance, to keep an officer at an oil refinery to use a dipstick every now and again to find out how much of a commodity had been taken out of bond so that the excise could be assessed. The same system applied in wineries. A Public Service officer more or less lived at the vineyard with no other purpose in life than to use a dipstick every day, or every so often, to measure the amount drawn out of bond.
This archaic system went on for years and years until, during the period when Sir Denham Henty was Minister for Customs and Excise, commodity control was introduced into the petroleum industry. Subsequently during my time as Minister for Customs and Excise it was introduced info other industries. It is a modern and sensible system. It is based on the concept that excise is paid in accordance with the bookkeeping. lt is based on the books of the companies concerned which are, of course, subject to snap investigations. In the normal course of events the system involves the companies in certain expense which would otherwise be a charge on revenue - on the taxpayers. That is, broadly, what commodity control means. The honourable senator suggested that we should vary this principle of commodity control for the wine industry, having regard to the institution of excise on Australian wine. He suggested that the principle should be modified in some way to mitigate the effect of an excise of 50c per gallon. J will refer that suggestion to the Minister for Customs and Excise for his consideration. I have some reservations about the suggestion. A constitutional issue would be involved in the gathering of the revenue.
– As a sales tax?
I do not know whether it could be done as a sales tax. That takes the matter into another field altogether. That takes the matter out of the excise field and into the taxation field. That would be a matter of Government policy and of Government consideration as to whether the suggestion was merited and whether it was constitutionally possible. However, we will have a look at the suggestion and make a report to the Senate in due course.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen the recently published reports that in the last financial year Western Mining Corporation Ltd made a profit of $14m; that the Ford Motor Company of Australia Ltd made a profit of $25m; that General MotorsHolden Pty Ltd made a profit of $30m; that Myer Emporium Ltd made a profit of $10m; that Woolworths Ltd made a profit of $10m; that G. J. Coles and Co. Ltd made a profit of more than $llm; that Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd made a profit of more than $12m; and that the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd made- a profit of $60m? Does the Government agree that this widespread picture of giant company profits makes a disturbing contrast with the financial outlook for the average wage earner and pensioner whose hopes have been dashed by the Budget or do these rocketing profits prove where the Government’s real interests lie?
– I think that the question as put is far too simplified. The honourable senator mentioned figures of $14m, S25m and $30m. If a company made a profit of that magnitude, it would have to be considered in relation to the capital involved. A profit of $20m to one company might be a very low rate of profit. Regard has to be had to the magnitude of the company, the number of people employed, the capital investment, and whether the project was heavily capitalised or not. One would have to consider the nature of the company and its role. To take from a newspaper the names of companies which seem to have made a large profit and to argue that this has a bearing on the other matters to which the honourable senator has referred is, to me, a rather oversimplified way of looking at the matter. I know that all the companies which were mentioned provide employment opportunities for a large proportion of the work force in notable areas. In South Australia the motor industry provides employment opportunities for a tremendous proportion of the work force. The question is not as simple as Senator O’Byrne suggested.
I think it is fair to mention also that in this Budget the rate of taxation on company profits has been increased. I could have mentioned this in answer to an earlier question about retrospective payment of pensions. As Senator Webster pointed out recently, that increased rate of tax will be an impost for the financial year 1969-70, so it will be a retrospective tax in that sense. It will mean an increase in the tax, if honourable senators want to argue the position. In any event, the revenue, the taxpayers and the people of Australia up to this Budget were receiving by way of taxation from these companies 45% of their profits. Now the companies will pay 47i%. If the other taxes that are associated with companies are taken into account, far from being critical of these big companies, I think we should hold up our hands in praise that they are providing gainful employment for our people.
– Has the attention of the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities been drawn to a statement made by the Queensland Minister for Mines, Mr Camm, M.L.A., that he proposes seeking the approval of the Queensland Government to enable sand mining to be undertaken at Cooloola, an area on the north coast of Queensland, where unique coloured sands are situated? If the Minister believes, as do thousands of Queenslanders, that implementation of a sand mining policy at Cooloola would be to the detriment of tourist promotion in Queensland and Australia, will he use his good offices to deny permission to mine the sand masses at Cooloola?
– The proposal referred to by the honourable senator has not come under my notice but I shall immediately take interest in the matter. I shall seek such information as I am able to get and make any appropriate representations that are necessary in the interests of tourism.
– Has the
Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral noted percentage figures cited to me yesterday by the Postmaster-General in reply to question No. 336 indicating that the average percentage of Australian content of programmes shown between the hours of 7 p.m. and 9.30 p.m. in March last on commercial television stations which had completed 3 years of operation was a mere 29% for metropolitan stations and 31% for country stations? Will the Minister agree that because much of the 29% relates to replays of football matches, boxing and wrestling and other programmes employing very little professional talent, and includes repeats of previous programmes, the case made out by Australian writers and artists that they are entitled to more job opportunities on commercial television is unanswerable? Will the Minister further agree that the percentages that were cited merely confirm that section 114(1.) of the Broadcasting and Television Act is not being complied with in that stations are not using Australians as much as possible in the production and presentation of programmes. Therefore will the Postmaster-General request the Broadcasting Control Board to ensure that its report to him on new quotas presently under consideration is published before the present parliamentary session concludes?
– J remember the answer that was given to the honourable senator yesterday. 1 am very interested in this matter. Senator McClelland has shown for a long time a very deep interest in television programmes and their Australian content. I had a detailed answer incorporated in Hansard yesterday, but I was amazed that Senator McClelland did not ask his question again yesterday so that 1 could have read that answer out to the Senate. I would have thought he would have wanted the Senate to hear that information. I have noted the points he has raised and I will place them before the Minister concerned.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware of the significance to both Government and private enterprise of automatic data processing or electronic data processing? Is he aware that the Federal Government took a leading role in the establishment of the use of EDP in this country? Is he also aware that recently the Canadian Government took the initial step of encouraging the establishment of an EDP industry in that country and that an allocation of $56m, representing approximately 40% of the initial funds necessary for research and investigation into the establishment of such an industry was made? Will the Minister convey to the Prime Minister an advocacy that Australia should immediately put in hand a feasibility study into the wisdom of establishing an EDP industry in Australia?
The Australian free enterprise economy has attempted to keep up with developments in data processing procedures in other parts of the world. The honourable senator has suggested that the Government should intervene in the establishment of an electronic data processing industry in Australia. It might be best if this question were directed initially to the Prime Minister’s Department or to the Department of the Treasury. It may be that it is in the area of national development because what the honourable senator is suggesting is a further developmental study of this problem. I will send it to the Department of National Development in the first instance. If it is not within the domain of that Department, it will probably direct the matter to some other department for consideration. At that point we will know where the responsibility lies. It may even lie within the field of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; I do not know. But we will find out where the responsibility lies and have an analysis made of the honourable senator’s proposal.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. I ask whether in the statement he made to the Special Federal Court set up to ascertain whether or not he held conscientious objection to war, Mr Brian Ross stated:
Whatever the report of Mr Justice Smithers may be, will the Minister inform this imprisoned peace advocate that in the Government’s view he is misinformed and his best service to mankind would be to kill, to accept laws which force him to kill, and to support our wrong and cruel invasion of Vietnam and our equally wrong reasons for being there?
– The honourable senator’s question expresses a most unfortunately distorted and depraved view of matters which lie deep within the conscience of very purposeful people. As this affects an individual I would wish to have reference to the record before making any answer to the question, and therefore I ask the honourable senator to place it on the notice paper.
– My question follows upon that of Senator O’Byrne. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether it is a fact that unemployment in this country at the present time is and in recent years has been less than 1% of the Australian work force? Is it a fact that in recent years in Britain under a Socialist
Labour Government the unemployment rate has regularly approached at least 5% of that country’s work force? In spite of calls by unions and certain political parties for workers to stop work for disruptive strikes, rallies and every other device which disrupts industry, has not this antiSocialist Government maintained a world low in unemployment? Do these facts not adequately demonstrate where the true interests of this Government lie, that is, in attempting to provide a better life for all our citizens?
I thank the honourable senator for his question. I agree with him when he says that we in Australia have probably the best record in the free world in relation to employment and unemployment. We have a level of unemployment which fluctuates between less than 1% and a little over 1%, and that has been the position for almost a decade. When we bear in mind what I said recently about Australia being a primary producing country with seasonal employment and, as a consequence, people constantly going in and out of employment, and when we realise that with our vast continent we have a geographical problem but still have a work force which practically and in principle enjoys full employment, this is indeed a proud record.
– Go back to 1961.
– This is 1970. The honourable senator wants to go back 10 years; I will take him back to 1939. Honourable senators opposite interject and when the heat is turned on them they start to yelp about it. The honourable senator asked for it and I am giving it to him. His people talk about 5% unemployment being full employment. Let them put that into their pipes. By interjection Senator Cant said: ‘Go back to 1961.’ Let us go back a little further to when the former member for Parkes, Mr Haylen, said that 5% unemployment represented full employment. Going backwards is crazy. We are living in the 1970s now. Honourable senators should live with it. They talk about a new form of dress. I think it is more relevant to say that over a decade this Government has given full employment to the people of Australia. This is all the result of good government.
It is regrettably true that in the United Kingdom there has been unemployment over a period. This is not peculiar to the United Kingdom. The problem faces other countries. The United States and Canada have had it and they have it now. I believe they have a far higher rate of unemployment than we have in Australia. When Australia, a primary producing country with a concentration of population on the seaboard and vast under developed areas, is able to achieve full employment with unemployment fluctuating between just over 1% and less than 1%, the simple truth is that it all adds up to good, free enterprise government.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Supply. Is it a fact that Australian troops in Vietnam have dried fruits included in their diet but they are supplied from America? As the Department of Supply buys dried vine and tree fruits, but not for Vietnam, will the Minister take steps to see that, if possible, dried fruits for our troops in Vietnam are supplied from Australia thereby assisting the dried fruits industry?
– The honourable senator asks about the victualling of Australian troops in Vietnam. My Department is not the originating department; it has orders placed with it by the various Service departments. My department provides in accordance with requisitions. The subject matter of the honourable senator’s question is really a responsibility of the Department of Defence. To the extent that I represent the Minister for Defence here I will have an investigation made and report to the Senate on the honourable senator’s question as soon as I can
– Can the Minister for Housing indicate the average cost per square foot of building brick homes and timber homes for the respective State housing commissions?
-I shall get the honourable senator a detailed reply to that question.
(Question No. 374)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commanding Officer of the United States Naval Communication Station has confirmed that he fully supports the maintenance of all laws relating to protection of flora and fauna. In the case of the Joint Defence Space Research Facility, representatives of the two Governments cooperate closely with the local authorities to ensure that Australian laws and regulations are observed. Upon arrival at the Facility, United States personnel are informed of the Northern Territory fauna protection laws.
(Question No. 539)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
In view of the Minister’s reply of 12th May 1970, concerning smuggling lines imposed on Messrs Hannagan, Oxford and Dor for the illegal export of 34 Australian parrots, have these fines now been paid?
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
On 5th June 1970 I answered a question without notice which Senator Lillico asked me concerning a grant to Carlton United Breweries Ltd for industrial research and development. At that time the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) was making some inquiries into the possible effect on hop growers of the development by that company of a new and improved process for the extraction of resin from natural hops. I undertook to give a further reply to the question when these inquiries had been completed. The Minister for Trade and Industry has now supplied me with the following reply:
The Department of Trade and Industry has made some inquiries and it appears that in recent years there has been a trend for Australian brewers to require hop varieties with a higher resin content and a growing number of growers are believed to be changing over to new strains of bops to meet these changing market conditions.
I understand that the likely result of the new process developed by the Carlton and United Breweries would be to enable Australian brewers to obtain significantly higher production from a given input of hops.
The effect this will have on the total returns to hop growers in future years will depend on the operation of a variety of factors, including the extent to which resin content may be related to prices received for hops; the enhanced potential for development of an export trade in hop extract; the extent to which the new technology may be adopted by the Australian brewing industry as a whole; and the growth of Australian consumption of beer.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - I present the following papers:
Audit Act - Finance - Report of the AuditorGeneral for the year 1969-70, accompanied by the Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure.
Reports on Items
– I present the following reports by the Tariff Board:
Alloy steel, high carbon steel and electrical steels.
Breathing appliances and artificial respiration apparatus.
Ceramic tableware (New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement).
Footwear with non-leather uppers, etc.
Sorbitol and mannitol.
Vulcanised rubber sheets, etc., and Paper clips of base metal (Dumping and Subsidies Act).
The last report does not call for any legislative action.
– At question time Senator Poyser asked me a question about the aircraft industry in Australia. I suggested it would be more appropriate to make a ministerial statement giving some information.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The most appropriate way of dealing with the honourable senator’s question is to outline briefly the situation at each of the 3 major defence aircraft production establishments, that is, the Government Aircraft Factories at Fishermen’s Bend and Avalon in Victoria, Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd at Fishermen’s Bend in Victoria, and Hawker-De Havilland Australia Pty Ltd at Bankstown and Lidcombe in New South Wales. At the present time the work load of the Government Aircraft Factories, Victoria, consists of Jindivik production, on which forward orders ensure continuity until 1973; Ikara production, on which there is a substantial forward workload; the manufacture of Macchi canopies; Mirage spares manufacture; Project ‘N’ development - the first prototype is due to fly in mid 1971; Turana development and miscellaneous production and servicing work. The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd is currently working on Macchi airframe and Viper engine production - the last Macchi is due for delivery in mid 1972; Mirage and Atar spares manufacture; servicing and modification of Avon, Atar and Viper engines; some Ikara work and some commercial work.
Hawker-De Havilland Australia Pty Ltd is engaged on Macchi airframe and Viper engine production, miscellaneous spares manufacture, overhaul of various engines and aircraft, and some commercial work. The work loads for 1970-71 for these facilities are expected to be approximately 1 million man hours for the Government Aircraft Factories, 1,600,000 man hours for Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd and 1,200,000 man hours for Hawker-De Havilland Australia Pty Ltd. Without new prospects these work loads could be expected to reduce substantially in 1971-72. The Mirage replacement would not have any impact on the Australian work load for some 4 years at least. The main prospects for an early new work load are the possibility of producing Macchi aircraft for New Zealand, co-production of light, observation helicopters, the manufacture of an anti-aircraft missile for the Army, Turana production, project ‘N’ production, and participation in overseas defence projects through off-set orders, coproduction and subcontracting.
Honourable senators are aware that a great deal of effort is being expended in attempting to develop projects for the industry so as to maintain the work load. But as I have said in this place on a number of occasions, it is not an easy area that we are in and we are confronted with a problem which is not peculiar to Australia but is a current problem in the aircraft industry all over the world. However, every effort is being made to find a suitable work load for the aircraft industry in the companies to which I have referred.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - ls it desired to rearrange the business?
– Yes. I move:
For the purpose of debate I suggest that orders of the day Nos 2, 3 and 4 be dealt with concurrently on the motion to take note of the papers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr President, the purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to amend the present bounty legislation in order to enable bounty to be paid on approved books manufactured by private enterprise for the Commonwealth or a State. Honourable senators will recall that in the original legislation introduced into this chamber in September of last year books produced by, for or on behalf of the Commonwealth or a State were excluded from bounty consideration. Experience in administration of the Book Bounty Act 1969 has shown that books so excluded represent a significant part of the output of local printers and that there exists a risk of a section of this market being lost to lower cost overseas printers.
As the book bounty was introduced originally as an interim measure of assistance to local book manufacturers pending a Tariff Board inquiry and report on the printing industry it would be inconsistent with that policy if the Government did not act to remedy this situation. Production of approved books covered by this Bill will be eligible for bounty payment if manufactured in pursuance of orders dated on or after 21st April 1970. Work done directly by the Commonwealth or State printers will continue to be excluded from the bounty. T commend this Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22 April (vide page 1013). on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
– We have before the Senate a ministerial statement on Vietnam with which we are to debate ministerial statements on Cambodia and foreign affairs. I intend to restrict what I shall say during the course of this debate largely to the Ministerial statement made on Vietnam on 22nd April in which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read to the Senate the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). In the Prime Minister’s statement, which set out to explain the reasons why one battalion of Australian troops was being withdrawn from Vietnam, the Minister repeated the arguments which the Government has used to justify the sending of Australian troops to Vietnam. Various points were made in support of the Government’s argument. As this matter has not been before the Senate since last April I shall briefly repeat what the Minister said at that time. He said, first of all:
Since 1965, Australian ground formations have been engaged with our allies in resisting armed attack on the Government of South Vietnam.
The argument was then submitted by the Minister that the action which had been taken in Vietnam had been taken in order to resist aggression and a parallel was sought by the Minister with the aggression of Fascists and Nazis before and during the Second World War. He said in referring to the time of the Second World War:
We saw Fascists and Nazi aggression ranging unchecked and subjecting one small country after another to conquest until it had to be stopped - at the cost of a world war - which need not have happened had the aggression been stopped at the beginning. I thought that these lessons, which, let us never forget are of more import to small nations than to large, had been learned.
He then went on to draw a parallel with what was alleged to be a similar such act of aggression, namely, the incident which occurred in Korea in 1951 and thereafter. The Minister said:
Because the prevention of aggression, then, was the basic concept of the United Nations, we saw United Nations forces moving to defeat that aggression.
This was a reference to Korea. He continued:
Australians were there. And the aggression was defeated. And Australian national security was best promoted because it was defeated.
The point was then made that the actions which we are taking in Vietnam are the sort of actions which will encourage small nations to preserve their freedom. The Minister continued:
The one consistent thread of principle - that small nations are best rendered secure if other small nations are not allowed to be overrun - has distinguished our policy through the post war years.
The Prime Minister, and the Minister who repeated his statement in this chamber, then went on to tell us that the policy was proving very successful. The Minister said, in effect: ‘One of the reasons why our policy in Vietnam is proving so successful is that what is described as “Vietnamisation” is taking place in South Vietnam’. He said:
The development that gives encouragement is the progress in what has been called ‘Vietnamisation’ - the movement towards South Vietnamese self-reliance.
Having elaborated on some of those themes, he concluded by saying:
And I believe that history will show Australia was right not to stand idly by and refuse to lift a finger to help a small country attacked from without.
Although a number of things have happened since last April, I would imagine that the arguments put forward in the Prime Minister’s statement would still reflect the stated views of the Government as regards its policy towards Australian intervention in Vietnam. I would like to comment on some of the points the Prime Minister made.
First of all, we have been told that resistance to aggression is the reason for our intervention in Vietnam; that the reason for our sending forces to Vietnam is solely to prevent aggression that is being undertaken against South Vietnam by North Vietnam and sometimes, it is alleged, by other countries as well. I suggest that if the Government’s policy is one of resisting aggression on every occasion on which it takes place, which is what is alleged, then clearly the Government will have to produce much better arguments than those produced when troops have been sent into Vietnam. Many incidents of aggression by one country against another have taken place since the Second World War. Incidents of aggression are still taking place in which Australia is playing no role whatsoever. Tn fact, if one is to say that Australian troops are to be sent into any country in which there is aggression, it would seem to me to be very difficult, if not impossible, from the Government’s point of view to justify the fact that troops have not been sent into Cambodia. 1 am not one of those who argue that an act of aggression has been committed in Cambodia. But, as I understand the Government’s position, the Government does make this claim. If one refers to the ministerial statement on Cambodia, which is also before the chamber at the present time, one sees that the Government is of the view that there has been aggression in Cambodia; but in fact the Government has taken no action to give military assistance to that country. Yet, if one were to accept the arguments that have been put forward by the Government and its apologists concerning the situation in Indo-China, I do not think one could escape from the conclusion that there is a far stronger argument for Australian intervention in Cambodia than there is for Australian intervention in South Vietnam. 1 do not accept either argument; but if there is an argument for intervention in South Vietnam there is clearly a much stronger argument for intervention in Cambodia because in the Geneva Agreements it was clearly stated that North Vietnam and South Vietnam were one political entity, to be divided only temporarily; whereas, in similar agreements relating to a peaceful settlement in Indo-China after the evacuation of the French, Cambodia was constituted as a separate political entity. If the Government is correct in arguing that there has been an invasion of Cambodia, then clearly there is a much more striking case of aggression in the case of Cambodia than there is in the case of South Vietnam. Yet there are Australian troops in South Vietnam and there are no Australian troops in Cambodia. My view is that there should not be Australian troops in either country. But if anything exposes the inconsistency and lack of principle that the Government has shown on this whole question, it is the quite different approaches taken to South Vietnam and to Cambodia.
Other acts of aggression have taken place in many other parts of the world during this period. There was the action of the Soviet Union in Czechoslovakia, which was commemorated by Senator Wright, who is now sitting on the front bench, in a statement in support of the then Minister for External Affairs, who welcomed the presence of the Soviet Union in the Indian Ocean. I do not want to canvass any issues as to whether the Soviet Union ought or ought not to have forces in the Indian Ocean; nor do I want to canvass again what happened in Czechoslovakia. But here we have a Government that has said that aggression by the Soviet Union took place in Czechoslovakia. Far from the Government taking any action, this aggression that the Government claims took place in Czechoslovakia - I would not dispute that - was followed shortly afterwards by a statement from the then Minister for External Affairs, supported by the present Minister for Works (Senator Wright) welcoming the presence of Soviet forces in the Indian Ocean.
– That is a deliberate misrepresentation on your part.
– It is not a deliberate misrepresentation. If I may refer Senator Wright to the Hansard report of the debates that took place in 1969, he will find there ample evidence of what he said on that occasion. He is well aware that had it not been for the action of the Democratic Labor Party the Government would not have changed its policy on this matter so quickly. That again shows the lack of principle that the Government has shown on this question. In fact, there is such a lack of principle that there is no principle at all. The only principle that the Government has shown has been one of being completely subservient to what is the day to day foreign policy of the United States of America.
The Prime Minister referred to aggression by Fascists and Nazis as if there was some parallel between the North Vietnamese actions in South Vietnam and the actions of the Nazi and Fascist states. The actions of the Nazi and Fascist states were universally condemned. The actions of North Vietnam in the conflict in IndoChina have not been condemned by the bulk of the people throughout the world. The actions in Indo-China that have been condemned have been those of the United States of America and those of Australia - not those of North Vietnam.
The Prime Minister went on to refer to the action that was taken by Australia, in accordance with a United Nations decision, to send troops into Korea at the time of the conflict between North Korea and South Korea. In some way which can only be described as specious, a parallel is drawn between the conflict in South Vietnam and the conflict in Korea. I do not doubt that there are some parallels between them. But the weakness of the Government’s position on this question becomes apparent when one looks at the words used by the Prime Minister. In referring to the Korean conflict, he said:
Because the prevention of aggression, then, was the basic concept of the United Nations, we saw
United Nations forces moving to defeat that aggression. Australians were here.
If the Prime Minister says that the basic concept of the United Nations is to deter aggression and if he commends the action the United Nations took in Korea, then clearly it should follow from his argument that United Nations action should also be taken in South Vietnam. But in fact the reverse has been the case. The more one cites the actions of the United Nations, the more one sees the policy of this Government repudiated. The Secretary-General of the United Nations and a majority of member countries of that body have been diametrically opposed to the policies of the United States of America and the policies of Australia in South Vietnam. To refer to what happened in the Korean War as if it justifies in some way what has happened in South Vietnam not only does not assist the Government argument: it repudiates the Government’s argument.
The Minister went on to say that the actions which have been taken in South Vietnam will preserve the independence of small nations. That is the Government’s own statement. One wonders whether members of the Government ever read their own statements. Almost simultaneously with saying that because troops were sent info South Vietnam by the United Stales and its satellites aggression against other small nations would stop, the Minister said that since then something terrible has happened - there has been aggression against the small nation of Cambodia. If both the Government’s arguments are valid - that intervention in South Vietnam was to guarantee small nations independence and to prevent aggression being undertaken against small nations, and that there has been aggression against Cambodia - it seems to me that something is completely contradictory in what the Government is saying. The Government says that troops have been sent into South Vietnam and this will stop aggression against the small nations. Then it says: ‘Here is Cambodia, which is a small nation. Since we sent troops into South Vietnam there has been aggression against Cambodia.’ So whatever substance the Government may have hoped would be in its policy, it has been completely repudiated by its own recital, by its own history of the subsequent course of events. Then comes in the statement probably the most remarkable claim of all. The Minister said:
The development that gives encouragement is the progress in what has been called ‘Vietnamisation’
Has anyone ever heard of a more absurd war than one in which we are told that the people of South Vietnam are fighting to preserve their freedom, yet the allies of that country have to engage in all sorts of manoeuvres in order to Vietnamise the Vietnam war? They certainly succeeded in Vietnamising Cambodia. It is doubtful to what extent they have succeeded in Vietnamising South Vietnam. What an admission of total failure it is. The argument is put to us that South Vietnam was invaded by diabolical hordes from the north - Russians, Chinese and all sorts of esoteric groups.
– All Corns.
– Apparently Senator Gair thinks that the Russians arc in South Vietnam. According to what Senator Gair has just told us they have all invaded South Vietnam. Senator Gair believes that there arc Russian troops in South Vietnam. I have no doubt that some people hold that view, but I do not think it is generally accepted. We are told (hat the heroic little country of South Vietnam has been invaded by hostile hordes and the South Vietnamese are putting up courageous resistance. Australia has rallied to the call to assist the South Vietnamese people. But after we have been in South Vietnam for 5 years, the best that the Government can tell us about the resistance of South Vietnam to the alleged aggression is that we are making some progress in Vietnamising the Vietnam army.
Has anybody ever heard a more absurd statement? Was it ever necessary to Britishise the British Army in World War II? Was it necessary to Russianise the Russian
Army in World War II? Has anyone ever said that it is necessary to Vietnamise the North Vietnamese army? It has not been necessary to do that because everybody knows that the people of North Vietnam are supporting their government. Everybody knows that the people of South Vietnam are not supporting what is alleged to be the government of South Vietnam. I wish now to quote to honourable senators in reference to South Vietnam an article published in-
– The ‘Guardian’.
– lt is in the Washington Post,’ a journal of which Senator Gair has no doubt never heard.
– I do not read Communist papers.
– Presumably Senator Gair thinks that the ‘Washington Post’ is a Communist paper. I would not be at all surprised if that is the way that Senator Gair thinks. In the 13th August edition of the ‘Washington Post’ is an article on an interview with Mr Tran Ngoc Lieng, one of the leaders of the legal Opposition inside South Vietnam.
– 111 eagle, a sick bird.
– No, it is not illegal. It is legal. The article states:
When Lieng talks about the war, the Americans and President Thieu, he uses the cautious code language that dovish politicians have adopted in Saigon because of the dangers of arrest or other forms of recrimination by the government.
This is an article in one of the best informed and most authoritative newspapers in the capital of the United States. This is its report of the democracy that we are preserving in South Vietnam. The article goes on:
Government of reconciliation’ seems ‘to be such a code word. Although Lieng stoutly insists that he apposes a coalition government (politicians are in gaol for just that transgression), it is clear that he believes the path to eventual settlement is through a government in which power is shared by both sides to the conflict. More than an hour of conversation brings this out clearly. ‘The United States should announce a timetable for withdrawal of all its troops’, says Lieng along with-
Here are a couple more Communists for Senator Gair - former United States Defence Secretary Clark M. Clifford and a large segment of war-weary American public opinion. ‘It is a serious mistake for the United States to think it can solve an ideological conflict with military force1, he says along with Senator J. William Fulbright and Lawrence F. O’Brien. Leing’s political organisation, the Progressive Nationalist Force, consists of only a dozen or more Saigon intellectuals - professors, lawyers, a journalist and 5 members of the National Assembly. He wishes to charter it as a national party, but he must get 5,000 members in 10 provinces and the government’s blessings.
The article then describes some of the difficulties that have been experienced by any opposition party in organising in South Vietnam, however moderate its views may be. The article continues:
The United States, Lieng says, propelled South Vietnam into its present situation and now must accept responsibility for doing whatever is necessary to gel it out. This could well include dealing with the Vietcong. His interviewer bore down harder. Realistically. Lieng was asked if Thieu is re-elected and American troops stay in Vietnam for 3 years or more, as seemed likely, what did he foresee as the impact? ‘Many South Vietnamese would join the Vietcong and it is possible that South Vietnam would inevitably be Communised’, he answered.
That is the view of one of the members of the legal Opposition in South Vietnam - that far from the consequences of United States intervention being the defeat of Communism - if that is what the United States is striving for in South Vietnam - the consequence of the continued American military presence will be at the end of 3 years the total Communising of Vietnam. Lieng went on to say:
As for me, I am getting pretty old and 1 have a family. I could not join the Maquis.’
The article then states that Lieng’s former law partner, Nguyen Huu Tho, did take that step about 10 years ago and now heads the NLF. This is the situation of all the people who would be regarded as moderates, who in any way have dared to disagree with the police state government in South Vietnam. They have been imprisoned, driven into exile, killed or, whatever their original reservations may have been, have gone over to join the National Liberation Front. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson concluded his statement by saying that history will show Australia was right not to stand idly by and refuse to lift a finger to help a small country attacked from without
What have been the consequences? What conclusions is history already drawing as regards the intervention of the United States and Australia in South Vietnam? I wish now to quote a reference to another politician, an American whom Senator Gair would regard as a Communist. He certainly would be a very long way to the left of the Democratic Labor Party or of honourable senators sitting opposite. I am referring to United States Senator Barry Goldwater, a Republican senator from Arizona and a candidate for United States Presidency in 1964. Senator Goldwater is referred to in an article also appearing in the ‘Washington Post’ of 1 3th August 1970. The article states:
Senator Barry Goldwater predicted yesterday that the Senate would vote next week to abolish the draft-
This proposal came from none other than Senator Barry Goldwater. He referred to the draft as ‘a practice that has no place in our system of freedom’. 1 know that Senator Barry Goldwater would be suspect by Senator Gair, and by Senator Webster if he had heard of him.
– Not as much as you are.
- Senator Gair has made a concession. He says that Barry Goldwater would not be as suspect as I am, but would still be suspect. Senator Goldwater said, referring to the draft: . . a practice that has no place in our system of freedom except as a temporary expedient.
Then he said that he and Senator Mark O. Hatfield would offer an amendment. Senator Mark O. Hatfield is a Republican from Oregon. From the very beginning he has been one of the leading opponents of the Vietnam War. We now find that history, to which the Prime Minister referred in his statement, has now pushed the United States so far that even Senator Barry Goldwater finds it necessary in the interests of his country, as he sees it, to join forces with Senator Hatfield in proposing a Bill to abolish the draft. What did Senator Goldwater say about his amendment? He said:
The amendment embraces many of the recommendations of the report of a presidential commission headed by Thomas S. Gates, who served as Defence Secretary in 1960.
No doubt he is another suspect Communist, according to Senator Gair. He also called for the raising of military pay to attract volunteers - a deplorable proposal to the Australian Government. He proposed that the draft would end from 1st July. That is now the proposal that is coming from Senator Goldwater. Senator Goldwater himself is now opposed to the draft. He is now opposed to conscripting Americans to serve in Vietnam. Our Government is so far to the right that, by comparison with it and the Democratic Labor Party, Senator Goldwater looks like a conscientious objector.
As something has been said about history judging what is right, I would now like to refer to what are some of the apparent consequences in the United Slates. Mr John Lindsay, the Mayor of New York, despite the fact that he lost the endorsement of his Party - the Republican Party - and was opposed by the party machines of both the Republicans and the Democrats, was re-elected as Mayor of New York in the mayoral elections towards the end of last year. A few days before the mayoral elections he marched at the head of the great Moratorium processions through the streets of New York. Mayor Lindsay has said repeatedly that not only is he opposed on moral grounds - on grounds of international sanity - to the United States policy in Vietnam, but also that American participation in the war in Vietnam is completely corroding and demoralising the life of America itself. One cannot see any reference by responsible Americans interested in social questions to the growing problem of crime or to the growing problem of drug addiction in the United States without sooner or later seeing reference to the problems which have been brought about in that country through the divisive, corrupting and brutalising effects of American participation in the Vietnam war. On every hand we find evidence of this. On every hand we find evidence of the effect which this war is having in corrupting American life.
I would now like to refer to Senator Hatfield who is another very prominent Republican congressman. He is a former Governor of the State of Oregon. He was elected to the United States Senate, from the State of Oregon, with an overwhelming majority. He is a member of the President’s Party. He has recently put forward a proposition calling for the total withdrawal of United States troops from South Vietnam. He was attacked shortly afterwards.
– That does not say it is right.
– Senator Gair says that that does not say it is right. J always thought that the main reason why we were in Vietnam was because of the American alliance. Now apparently Senator Goldwater and Senator Hatfield are to be disregarded, and I take it from Senator Gair’s interjection . that he would like to stay in Vietnam himself after the Americans have gone. What does Senator Hatfield say? He says:
Those who support the amendment, in Congress and the millions of citizens across the country, will not be intimidated by false and inflammatory charges.
The Vice-President has chosen to speak about the dangers of American military defeat and has talked about seeing this war through to an end.
But now we see a responsible plan for disengagement attacked with innuendo and emotional rhetoric, and hear pledges that ‘this nation will not go down in humiliating defeat on the battlefield of South East Asia.’
He says this about the United States, and I believe that it applies to the position in Australia to the same extent as it does to the position in the United States:
On April 26, 1967, I stated in a speech: ‘What kind of men have we at the helm of government who would deliberately coerce the public into accepting their policies on the threat of being branded traitors?’
My position today has not changed. . . .
The most repressive periods in history have occurred when public debate has been silenced by those who abused positions of political power. This has not been the exclusive domain of demagogues or dictators either on the left or on the right. Nazi Germany, McCarthyism, Hungary and Czechoslovakia all stand as examples of people intimidated into silence and fear.
Full and rational discussion of vital issues, both here in the Congress and across the country, must not, and cannot, be curtailed by those who cry isolationist,’ ‘pacifist,’ ‘blind impatient politicians,’ or other such divisive intimidations.
The real threat to our American way of life is within the household of America rather than 10,000 miles away in Indo-China.
The real threat to our Australian way of life is here inside this country - the destruction of our living standards, the intimidation of our trade unions and the intimidation of all those people who dare to speak against the rotten, corrupt war in Vietnam which every day increasing evidence is indicating we are losing. This is the first time in the history of Australia or in the recent history of the United States that our forces have been involved in an overseas war in which great masses of our people have been opposed to the Government’s policy. This is corrupting and dividing our country in pursuit of an idiotic mission in South Vietnam which, if one reads the statements of the Prime Minister himself cannot be justified at all. The Minister’s statements lack logic, cohesion, and any form of historical evidence. Yet in support of a statement such as this we are being asked to send Australians away to be killed. We are causing great harm to the country of Vietnam. We are abetting, by our rather timid compliance, the doing of great harm to the United States of America and through it to those many parts of the world over which the United States has vast influence. Above all, we are creating deep divisions within our country and causing what well may be irreparable harm to the people of Australia.
– We have listened to the usual smart alec speech on foreign affairs by Senator Wheeldon who is obsessed with Vietnam, as well he may be, because after all at the time of the Moratorium the honourable senator is on record in this Senate as saying that he supports the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong. He having said that, we would expect this type of speech again today. I can well imagine the smile coming across the face of General Giap, the North Vietnamese Defence Minister, who said that one of the objectives of the Communists was to destroy the will of the Western world to resist. He has an ally, because every word uttered by Senator Wheeldon was aimed at destroying the will to resist. It is another example of the success of the psychological warfare which the Communists have waged in order to achieve their objectives- I will not follow Senator Wheeldon in Vietnam today. T have other things about which I want to speak. Senator Wheeldon having said that he supports the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong, we can judge the whole of bis speech on that.
I wish to take issue with Senator Wheeldon on only one other matter. He said, with his usual disregard for the facts, that Mr Freeth had said that he welcomed the Russians in the Indian Ocean. Mr Freeth said no such thing. I have his speech here and I have gone through it. The word ‘welcome’ is used once.
– Take that matter up with Senator Gair.
– Do not try to get away from this. The honourable senator made this deliberate statement. We can judge the rest of his speech on this statement. The word ‘welcome’ was used once. Mr Freeth said:
The Australian Government at all times welcomes the opportunity of practical and constructive dealings with the Soviet Union, as with any other country . . .
The word ‘welcome’ was not used anywhere else in the speech. So much for the facts which Senator Wheeldon wished to put before us today. I wish to speak seriously and not to engage in a lark. 1 think I should start by briefly examining the objectives of foreign policy. As I understand them, the objectives of the foreign policy of any country are to protect and to enhance the security of the country and that of other vital interests - political, economic and social. With this, there must always be the acknowledgement that our security and welfare is inextricably bound up with the security and welfare of others. There always appears to be one problem with regard to foreign policy, lt must always be developed in an area of uncertainty because we can never be precise and certain of the reactions or intentions of other countries or of the changes in attitudes of other countries with whom we deal and whose policies are of concern to us. It seems to me that foreign policy must always be flexible enough to be able to change quickly to meet changing circumstances because nothing remains static for long, particularly in the changing and turbulent area in which we live.
Nothing illustrates this more than the slightly discernible change in Japanese attitude to the outside world. This is illustrated best by her attendance at the Djakarta conference on Cambodia. No-one can doubt that Japan has an important role to play, particularly in Asia. I think it is important that we should continually seek a better understanding with Japan and encourage her to play a growing part in the economic development of Asia; nor should we overlook her potential interest in the security of the Indian Ocean - a matter with which I shall deal in a moment - because 90% of Japan’s oil passes through the Indian Ocean as does a good deal of her trade, particularly with Australia.
As I have just indicated I would, I now turn my attention to the Indian Ocean, which is an area of growing concern and involvement. In the past the Indian Ocean has not been of great concern to us as its security has always been guaranteed by the presence of strong military and naval forces from the United Kingdom. The announced withdrawal of the United Kingdom forces has brought home to us the vulnerability of this ocean bordered as it is by some of the most populous countries in the world and some countries which are going through great economic, political and social change. The United Kingdom decision to withdraw, at the time it was announced by the previous United Kingdom Government, was one for the United Kingdom alone to make. Undoubtedly it introduced a new element of uncertainty and instability in this area. Now there has been a change of government in the United Kingdom and some change of policy. What that will be, we do not know yet. I do not believe that we can make any long term decisions based on the certainty of a continuing United Kingdom presence.
If we have a very quick look at the Indian Ocean area - and then come to the matter of the Russian presence in the Indian Ocean - firstly we must look at the attitude of some of the African countries which, as far as I can ascertain, have no definable Indian Ocean policy. They are more concerned with their own search for internal stability through changed tribal groupings and power balances within their own countries. There exists within these countries not only Western influence but also strong Chinese and Russian influences - in most cases in competition. This is an area of conflict between China and the Soviet Union. I will mention briefly that subject a little later. Pakistan, which is a country bordering the Indian Ocean, has no Indian Ocean policy, as far as I know. It has shown little or no concern with the Indian Ocean area. Ceylon has a run down naval base at Trincomalee. It has had a change of government. It is difficult to know where Ceylon will go. There must always be a question mark about future Ceylonese policies, particularly in relation to China because any change there would certainly not be welcomed by India. If one could rationalise Indian policy, it is opposed to any major power attempting to dominate the Indian Ocean area and is opposed to the provision of bases to any foreign power. As far as one can ascertain, that is Indian policy. Singapore and Malaysia welcomed a continuing United Kingdom presence and now are very concerned at the departure of United Kingdom forces. They wish to see, if the United Kingdom does eventually leave the area, as I believe it will, a strong and credible counterveiling force remain. 1 turn now to what has really drawn our attention to this area. I refer to the appearance in 1968 of some Russian ships in the Indian Ocean. I do not believe that at this stage we should become overobsessed with the Russian presence, but I believe that we should try to assess the implications of the Soviet presence. as best we can and also to assess the Soviet’s objectives and intentions in the Asian area. Today, because of the shortage of time, 1 am content to make 2 or 3 observations. In recent times there has been a stepping up of Soviet diplomatic and trade activity in the South East Asian area particularly. The Soviet has also been providing substantial military support to India to counter the threat from China. The Soviet has provided some economic support to India, but this, as we know, is always tied support. Recent reports suggest that some military support has been given to Pakistan also. It would appear that Russia is showing considerable interest in the South Asian region. One could perhaps make a judgment and say that Australia is not likely to be endangered directly by the Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean except in the event of a global war or in the event of a threat developing to security because of a political upheaval in the South Asian or South East Asian area.
As I mentioned before, I do not think we should become too obsessed with Russia because, in the long term, it may well be that China will present a greater threat than the Soviet Union in the Indian Ocean area. Already China has strong influences in Pakistan. 1 need not go into the history of how she obtained those influences, but the influences are substantial. With the change of government in Ceylon, China may well have some influence there. Already there is some economic penetration in Ceylon. China has strong influences in Tanzania and Somalia, particularly in Somalia, in conflict with the Soviet Union. She is organising and arming the national liberation forces. We hear a lot about national liberation forces and what their objectives are in the Yemen. Also China is not unaware of the Persian Gulf area where today Russia is exercising strong influences as the British withdraw. So we find China taking an active interest in this area and, in many portions of it, in conflict with the Soviet Union.
I have already referred to the statement by the former Minister for External Affairs, Mr Freeth, which came under strong criticism. I have defended it on 2 or 3 occasions in this place and will still defend it because I believe it presented a true picture. Let us examine the reasons why the Soviet Union has moved into the Indian Ocean. First of all. she is a global power and desires to act as a global power. In recent limes she has moved away from maintaining only an inshore navy. She has moved to the Mediterranean and I suppose it is sensible, if one is a Russian, to move next into the Indian Ocean, where she is now trying to exercise influence and counter Chinese influence. Secondly, her objective is to extend Soviet influence wherever possible at the expense of Western influence, and this may not please us.
Thirdly - and I do not put these points in any order of priority - she wishes to counter the influence of China and establish for herself a leadership role in the cause of underdeveloped countries. I think it is important that at some stage we should give a good deal of thought to the Russian objective of countering the influence of China. Fourthly - and this is a matter of concern - Russia desires to exploit local situations in order to replace pro-Western governments with ones more sympathetic to the Soviet Union. On this matter I make 2 comments. The very presence of a Russian force, however small, in any area would inhibit other countries from taking any action. We recall, for instance the American landing in Lebanon in 1958 and the British action in Kenya in 1965. A Russian force would have been an inhibiting factor. One may even speculate on what the situation in Indonesia might have been at the time of the overthrow of Sukarno had there been a few Russian ships patrolling off the Indonesian coast. Wavering forces might have been undecided on which way they should turn. So one can see that any Russian presence, however small, must be of considerable concern.
– It was a good thing for Indonesia that no Russian ships were in the area at the time Sukarno was overthrown.
– I agree with Senator Gair but I am afraid that some of those who sit on his right do not agree with him. Russia is also very interested in the Persian Gulf area where, as I mentioned before, she is trying to replace - and succeeding to a great extent - British influence in Iran and Iraq. This must be a matter of some concern to us because a considerable amount of our oil supplies come from this area. I do not believe that Russia would ever interfere with shipping except in the event of a global war so the threat of Russian naval intervention is a distant one rather than a present one.
I believe 1 should mention in this very brief review 2 factors influencing SinoSoviet relations, lt is very obvious that the Soviet Union has no wish to see China expand her influence in Africa or Asia. This is a fear shared with Russia by the Western powers. It is interesting to note what Mr Som Dutt, an Indian, wrote in an Indian publication entitled ‘Security and Defence of South and South East Asia’. He referred to the growing influence of China and Russia in South and South East Asia. He stated that a fear about security does exist and that it concerns an awakened and determined China, aspiring to achieve a super-power status. Doctor T. B. Millar of the Australian National University, writing in a publication of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre entitled Soviet Policies in the Indian Ocean area’, referred to Russia’s fear of China expanding her influence. He referred to the fact, which is often overlooked, that the Indian Ocean is a seaway between the western and eastern parts of Russia. He went on to state thai for the indefinite future the Indian Ocean will remain the major mari time thoroughfare between the eastern and western parts of the Soviet Union. He also stated:
The Soviet Union is aware of the strong fears of China held in South and South East Asia, and it is entirely logical that she should seek to exploit these in order to limit Chinese influence in the area, increase her own influence and with a minimum outlay strengthen the military capacity of the states on China’s southern boundary at a time when the Sino-Soviet border is under dangerous tension.
So we have from 2 authorities a recognition that Russia is concerned with China. It is also to be noted that at the time of the Chinese aggression against India Russia quickly began supplying India with arms to counter this aggression. Russia obviously has a fear of China expanding its influence into the Indian Ocean. One point I mention in passing is that the land communications between the 2 parts of Russia are very weak. The trans-Siberian railway passes within a few miles of the Chinese border and the road, which is a poor road, is for a great part of the year closed because of ice. Therefore Russia in the event of any conflict with China may well want to use the Indian Ocean as a thoroughfare for the movement of supplies to the eastern part of Russia.
Two points remain to be mentioned. The first point in connection with the Russian interest in the Indian Ocean is that a settlement in the Middle East would assist Russia because there is very little doubt that she is most anxious to see the Suez Canal opened. This would allow the free movement of Russian naval ships between the Mediterranean and Indian oceans. Russia’s presence may well become of some concern to us if and when the Suez Canal is opened. At the moment Russian naval ships have to make a long haul from the Baltic Sea down into the Indian Ocean or from Murmansk round to Vladivostok. That Russia’s interest in the Indian Ocean is real can be judged by her recent agreement with Mauritius. Although facilities on Mauritius are mainly for fishing fleets there has been a regular movement of Russian naval ships through Mauritius, an island which is situated in a very strategic position.
When looking at all these developments I think we have to keep our feet on the ground. The Russian presence in the Indian Ocean is not a large one and has no real naval capability. The number of Russian ships in the Indian Ocean is variously estimated between 12 and 18. Most of these are hydrographic ships, tankers and supply ships and it would appear that the number of Russian naval fighting vessels in the Indian Ocean at any one time is no more than one or two. But nevertheless there is a presence and a presence is something which we cannot ignore. That this interest is real and will continue we must accept. We must examine it calmly and without emotion. We must also consider how our policies should be devised to safeguard our own national interests and those of friendly powers. At all times we must consider providing a countervailing force to that of Russia. We would not do this alone but in conjunction wilh other powers such as the United Kingdom and France, which has some interest in the Indian Ocean area, and perhaps the United States, which is showing an interest in the area although not a very strong one.
I do not mean a large naval force but a force that is credible and which countries of the region will know exists and which therefore will lead them not to become completely impressed by a Russian presence, with a complete vacuum being left by countries which still have interests in this area. When I speak of a counterveiling force I am speaking not only of a military or naval force. We must consider how we can act diplomatically, economically and socially to counter Soviet influence and interests in areas vital to us and, indeed, vital to those countries with whom we have friendly relations.
Before I conclude I think it is worth my mentioning just 2 other points. The first is that history teaches us that a good proportion of British defence and diplomatic effort in India during the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century was devoted to containing Russian pressure southward when she, as a land power, was anxious to extend her influences by pressure from the land. This move of naval forces is a new development in the extension of Russian power.
Australia’s task is to produce policies which will influence countries in the area, either alone or preferably in conjunction with others, as a counter to Russian influence. We must always remember that our will to influence people must be based upon our capacity and resources, lt is useless for us to think of exercising a wide ranging influence such as that exercised by the United Kingdom. It must be related to what we can do and our job will be to determine policies which will provide that influence in areas most vital to us. This, as I see it, is the job of Australian foreign policy making in the near future. We must also be interested, as we indeed are at the moment, in strengthening our forces and our capacity on our western seaboard. Work is going ahead to establish a naval base at Cockburn Sound, the Learmonth air station is being improved, and at the moment an Army team is looking at the possibility of establishing an Army base in Western Australia. This must be a part of our rethinking because of the Russian move into this area.
– You must make the Russians shiver.
– It is not my objective to make the Russians shiver. No doubt Senator Hendrickson welcomes them. I am pointing out the facts of the situation; I. am not trying to make the Russians or anyone else shiver. I am trying to do this logically and without emotion and if the honourable senator wants to introduce a lot of erroneous remarks that is his responsibility and not mine. I do not want to make the Russians shiver. I conclude by saying that the Russian naval capacity at the moment does not represent a major capability but nonetheless it is one of which we must take account, and we must base our policies upon a continuing and perhaps larger naval presence in the Indian Ocean in the future.
– The Senate is dealing with a number of documents that I imagine are regarded as an evaluation of general conditions in South East Asia but it is necessary for me, like Senator Sim, to traverse beyond this particular region to develop certain points of view in regard to the present world situation. At times heat has been generated on this question of Vietnam, and also in relation to Cambodia with which I. will deal in due course, but I cannot help feeling that when one looks at a map and sees Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore adjacent to Australia one cannot do better than commence with our relations with those countries. Senator Wheeldon, in his own extremely lucid manner, dealt with the Vietnam situation; but if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Willesee) had been here he would have lead for the Opposition and would have made some comments on the future of Indonesia because he has a very keen interest in it.
The remarks of Senator Sim prompt me to make a number of observations. I think, first of all, as unpalatable as it may be to some Government supporters, I should mention that when it came to a change of political control Indonesia was able to do its own spring cleaning. I have before me a recent article by Dennis Bloodworth in the Melbourne ‘Age’ in which he referred to the titanic efforts by Indonesia to have its oil industry operating effectively. As a person who wants to see the living standards of the masses in Indonesia raised, I welcome this effort and I hope it will be successful. But the thing that worries me is that I never hear very much about Indonesia from the Government. I would be much happier if the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) were to say something regarding Indonesia, or if the Government were to say something about even our own territories in New Guinea. We never hear very much about the Government laying down the law to the big commercial interests as to the ethics they should uphold. I say that because in Indonesia there are 35 companies prospecting for oil and I hope they will not indulge in any little side shows which interfere with the internal stability of Indonesia. As a Socialist, I know there are some fears about military juntas and I think a lot of other people draw consolation from the fact that in the 70s, which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) has referred to today, in Latin America one does not have to be a left winger to demand that the big companies pay higher oil royalties. As Senator O’Byrne knows, there are in some of the Latin American countries military juntas which will not give the big commercial interests of the United States, Britain or any other country a chance to exploit them as they did 50 years ago. They are demanding sizeable royalties.
It does not matter when commercial interests look at these South East Asian countries and say: ‘What form of government are they going to have? Will it be a military junta or a left wing government? It does not matter who is in power; they will demand a little more economic justice. I would like to see the Minister for External Affairs occasionally get up and say that what is good for Broken Hill Proprietary Ltd or some other Australian or worldwide private concern is not necessarily good for all the community. That is not said often enough.
I return to our relations with these South East Asian countries. I think this is something that has to be watched, especially with Indonesia. 1 hope that our Department of External Affairs representatives in Djakarta will not be inclined to be mesmerised by some of these big commercial interests because while we are told that their heart bleeds for movements in Asia they are only after a profit, and a big one. I am not Utopian enough to imagine that these organisations have to go bankrupt but the difficulties will never be resolved until the government, no matter of what sort it is, lays down the rules. After all, this Government is taking on the airlines now, and rightly so. I hope it is remaining firm and is not allowing the overseas airline operators to squeal and squawk about navigation charges. I see the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Colton) nodding his head; so I have a convert on that point and I am very pleased about it. But to return again to what is germane to this debate, that is, our relations with various countries, I was very intrigued when Senator Sim developed a thesis about a possible world struggle between the Soviet Union and China.
– That was Senator Wright.
– I will deal with Senator McManus in a moment. On one occasion I developed a thesis about the fear that we could have a nuclear conflict with what one might call a Pacific Cuba. I referred to the Treaty on the NonProliferation of Nuclear Weapons and said that I would like to feel that when the chips were down we had an alliance of some sort between the nuclear powers - Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union.
Some honourable senators opposite say: Look, that will not happen. When the final crunch comes the Soviet Union will go along with China.’ Senator Sim is leaning a little that way. As a matter of fact, a more temperate attitude is being adopted. This is noticeable on page 2 -of one of these documents which deals with Cambodia. This is the Minister’s verbiage:
Our own Australian forces arenot engaged in this operation-
He is talking about Cambodia - andI see no prospect that they will be.
That is a very laudable sentiment because . I do not think one should have a 1970 General Pat:on, blood and guts concept in which everything is black or white and we must get in boots and all. When we become a little more sophisticated we find that sometimes it is wiser to hedge our bets a little and see what is happening. In advancing that point 1 am following the precedent outlined by Senator Sim.
The United States and the Soviet Union have had to exercise considerable restraint with Israel and the Arab nations because that conflict could balloon into another blood bath in the Middle East. I make no apology for my belief that the Arab powers would do a lot better if they tried to lift the standard of living of their people. Instead of having too many concubines and too many Cadillac cars some of their leaders should spread the oil royalties amongst the mass of their people. But I am not unmindful of the Palestinian refugee problem. By contrast, the State of Israel has made magnificent efforts to develop a country which is extremely arid. I acknowledge, as I think our present Minister does, that the United States and the Soviet Union realise that in this atomic age a big power battle is not worthwhile unless the 2 countries can be contained. It will be a difficult situation. The easing of tension there will have a chain reaction elsewhere As to the Syrian border, it is obvious that the United Nations will have to give protection by providing some force, as it did in the past in the Gaza Strip. Those are some of the points of conflict.
Senator Sim referred to some problems in Africa. I thought he overplayed his hand in making out that the question was one of the comparative strengths of Soviet and Chinese infiltration in virtually all of the new African countries. 1 drew a parallel earlier with Indonesia. It was able to change its style of government by internal operations. Kenya is another classic case. It certainly had rather turbulent relations with the then British Government but those tensions have eased. Kenya has already expelled some Chinese diplomats who were prostituting their own diplomatic roles.
After a quick summary of some of those situations I come back to 2 areas about which I think there is considerable conflict. First. I refer to Australia’s relations and its troop dealings with Singapore and Malaysia. One can read the lectures given at military seminars on the question of Australian troops on garrison duty. Maybe one accepts the thesis expounded by the Government that the troops are there in case there is some other external infiltration. One of the Communist Party tactics is that it is much better to have internal liberation armies. This is where we get into some difficulties.
How does one define who are the baddies and who are the goodies? In this article by Dennis Bloodworth one reads of the situation in Thailand. At the moment it is not looming largely in the cable news. We are more obsessed with other countries. But ultimately Thailand could become another Vietnam.It will depend only on the tempo of reform on the rural side and in the cities. Honourable senators opposite will say: ‘Thailand is a unique country. It is usually self-sufficient in rice. It is a little more independent.’ As honourable senators know. I stay at Brassey House. I give credit to the Government for the utilisation of educational facilities for Asian students. When I sit and talk to some of these students at breakfast time I often think:’Is this fellow going to be another Kenyatta or another Tom Mboya? In the process will he have to take up arms to achieve this?’ A person may be the most corrupt Asian merchant or the most corrupt feudal land owner but if he says:’I hate Corns,’ the Australian Government says: ‘We welcome you with open arms’. That is the futility of it. I do not completely indict the Australian Government. I link the United States Government on many occasions. 1 know that post-war history is studded with occasions when the United States has been generous with aid, but my point is that it has been conned too often. Sometimes I feel that our own Government falls into that category. Some people say that our fighting in Vietnam is a parallel to fighting Nazism in World War II. They say: ‘We have moral values and the others have not.’ The Catholic publication ‘Report’ of 14th August 1970 contains an article headed ‘Catholic Letter Rips Saigon Government’ which is a virtual endorsement of the exposure of conditions in some of the prisons in Saigon which was brought about by a United States congressional committee.
On many occasions I have argued that a government must govern. I have referred to the wartime government of Winston Churchill. I have referred particularly to a Socialist Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison. During the period 1939-42 when Britain was under siege, to Morrison’s credit he did not differentiate between different ideologies. He had Harry Pollitt of the Communist Party in one cell - Pollitt was espousing the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact - and other cells he had some of the cream of the British aristocracy, many of whom had laudable careers in the First World War, but they thought that Hitler represented an acceptable point of view; this was an organisation called the link. This is the point I argue. If you are consistent in your beliefs and you equate these various extremes people have respect for you. I have never heard anybody on the Government side of the House say: ‘This is inhuman police action against religious groups’. A statement ‘ by the United Buddhist Church of Vietnam headed: ‘Catholic priests make a declaration of 3 1st March’ supports my argument. How can we send Australians there, telling them: ‘You are going to build a better world.’ They are not building a better world.
I shall not repeat the quotations which Senator Wheeldon gave but I ask Senator Young to recall a very important American, Roger Hilsman. He was a former Secretary of State for the Far East. He was big time when President Johnson of the United States visited Australia. Hilsman came out here and at that time he was sold on the idea that something could be done with Vietnam. But this has been the difficulty about it. The Australian Labor Party has always said that there has been a weakness in the Government’s concept of foreign affairs. Whoever happened to be the British Prime Minister was accepted. I exclude Harold Wilson because the Government never accepted him in spite of the economic problems he faced. This was apparent in the 1930s till the Second World War. One can go through Hansard and see that until Neville Chamberlain received his walking ticket supporters of the Government said that he had all the answers. But the moment Churchill took over they shifted ground. In relation to Vietnam this Government is doing the same thing. Many prominent Americans who were Republicans or Democrats have been big enough men to realise that a basis for a successful Vietnam policy has not been established. Roger Hilsman in ‘The New Leader’ of 27th April 1970 said:
And here the primary fact is that the Thieu-Ky government does not command the support of even all the non-Communist elements in South Vietnam.
He goes on to say that even if every nonCommunist faction were mobilised the resulting alliance would prove no better than an equal match for the Vietcong alone and would be vastly overbalanced by the Vietcong and North Vietnamese. He argues whether terms should be accepted. I ask for leave to continue my remarks later
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 18th August (vide page 18), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1970-71.
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30th June 1971.
Particulars of proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30th June 1971.
Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30th June 1971.
Government Securities on’ Issue at 30th June 1970.
Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics for Income year 1967-68.
– Mr Deputy President, this Budget represents social injustice perpetrated by an unfeeling government against those already economically handicapped - the wage earners, the family man, the pensioner. To reduce the burden of income tax and impose heavier burdens of sales tax, excise, telephone and postal charges and receipts duties, means that those least able to afford it are injured the most. Australia was outraged by this clumsy confidence trick. This Budget is not a fair go. We will oppose it. We will vote against the measures which seek to impose unjust taxes on the people. We will oppose the receipts duty fax. We will oppose the sales tax.
– Will you oppose the postal charges as you did before?
– We will oppose the increased postal and telephone charges, if I may answer Senator Gair.
– You will not walk out this time?
– We trust that the Australian Democratic Labor Party will assist us in opposing the sales tax. Tn addition we will oppose (he other measures which bear unfairly on the people. If those whose policy is justice for the family man will support that policy with their votes there will be enough votes in the Senate to defeat these measures. My Party has decided to do whatever it can to drive this Government from office. Any government guilty of this Budget is not entitled to hold office.
This is a convenient time to have an election. An election now for the House of Representatives, even with only the normal half of the Senate due for election before July next, would bring the 2 Houses back into a gear and avoid the burden of so many Federal elections. If the Government is confident that the people approve its Budget policies and its performance in other fields it will not hesitate to accept this challenge by the Australian Labbor Party. The shock of this Budget was so great that its provisions have percolated through to our citizens more than any Budget of recent times. Everybody knows the raw deal given to the pensioners. The pensioners have become used to callous and contemptuous treatment, but this 50c per week handout was a sadistic lash at these old, poor but dignified citizens of our community. They are entitled to justice, but get none; they are entitled to security, but get none. The Government makes laws to increase their costs by indirect taxation on their frugal expenditures. It refuses to make up the loss already caused by erosion of the pension values. Inflation will continue to erode the value of the inadequate pension.
The Treasurer (Mr Bury) admits an inflation rate of 5%. The pension increase is only 3%. That is social injustice. Yet the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Sen,nor Sir Kenneth Anderson) last week in this place answered my question about pensions and social services by describing them as a dramatic continuance of assistance given in the field of social services. The tragedy is that he is sincere. Government supporters here believe that 50c per week is good enough for the pensioners. That is their philosophy. That is their genuine belief.
These people think it is good enough not to increase child endowment, lt was last increased in 1967, and then only by 50c per week for the third child. The endowment is still only 50c per week for the first child, $1.50 for the second child and $3 for the third child. That is social injustice for those with the heavy financial burden of rearing families. Child endowment has shown the worst erosion of real value by inflation. Even since 1967 the fall is 15%. Only a Government with the capitalist philosophy of this one could ignore the legitimate claims of this and other social services for restoration and improvement. Pensions should be automatically adjusted to increase with rises in the cost of living - for example, to be expressed as a percentage of the average weekly earnings.
The low and middle income earners, especially the family men, are hammered by this Government’s policies. Apart from the Budget the Government has over the last year tolerated and encouraged an increase in interest rates, lt has forced up the interest rates. It has forced up the interest on home loans and mortgages, and on hire purchase, which floods through to effect the commodities which our people use not as luxuries but as necessities in this age. How does it help the economy to force up the mortgage or hire purchase interest paid by a modest earner? I asked the Leader of the Government, who is the Minister representing the Treasurer in this place, but he could give no answer. He was visibly embarrassed. That is to his credit, but it does not relieve those forced to pay interest at rates which they never dreamed of when entering into a home loan or other commitment.
– It amounts to $1,000 a home.
– It is $1,000 or more a home. On top of this are the increases in land costs which could be affected. The Budget proposal, against this background of increasing interest rates, is now to increase the taxes on the commodities which comprise the standard of living of the average man and his family. I ask the Senate: If the Government’s professed aim is to curb inflation, how does it help if it increases taxes on household goods, on petrol and on postal and telephone charges, and imposes receipts duties on commercial transactions? 1 challenge the Government to explain that. I challenge it to show why the people’s standard of living should be reduced. lt is true that unemployment is very low. That means that virtually everyone capable of working is working. Wives are working. Workers in general are asking for more overtime to meet their commitments. As we know from a question in the Senate the other day even the drivers in the Commonwealth Departments’ own service are going on strike in order to work more overtime. Surely then, if the work force is operating at 100% capacity, now is the time when they are entitled to enjoy the rewards of improving standards of living. If not now, when? Yet all over the country workers oppressed by the increases in costs are in desperation, going on strike for increased wages. This Government opposes their legitimate claims for a proper share in the wealth being created.
The Government is anti-pensioner; it is anti-worker. It promised to reduce income tax and to restore justice to the taxation scales. Everyone knows that on our taxation scales inflation means that, for all hut the highest income earners, if costs are increased by, say, 5% and incomes are also increased by 5% taxation goes up by much more than 5%. So, every year that we have inflation at this rate of 5%, 6% or 7% the people are worse off. It would have been very easy to regrade the tax rates to correct this, but instead the Government reduced taxes in a most unfair way. A flat 10% reduction for those with taxable incomes of less than $10,000 per annum, with a tapering off upwards, meant unequal and unfair reductions.
– Pressurised by industrial unions.
– I do not think that interjection by the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party should go unnoticed. It ought to be noted that he says: ‘Pressurised by industrial unions’. In this community we have workers organised into trade unions which are trying to do their best to obtain justice for those workers. They should not be subjected to criticism by the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party without it being noted. If he wants to make criticisms, let him lift up his voice and say that, he is against the trade union movement, and let him be heard. lt is interesting to note that we do not hear from the Government and the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party attacks upon those leaders of the Liberal and Country Parties in the Stales who refuse to take action to pass complementary legislation in order to curb the inflation in this country. The leaders of the Federal Government have asked their colleagues in the States to do this. They have said: “It is necessary, in order to protect the people against unjust cost increases, that we have this State legislation to complement the Federal legislation’.
Here are laws which Sir Garfield Barwick, when he was Attorney-General, a royal commission in Tasmania and others showed beyond demonstration were necessary to protect the people. Yet we hear, along wilh Senator Gair, people such as Mr Askin attacking the leaders of the trade union movement because they are endeavouring to help their members to catch up with these cost increases which would not occur if the governments would carry out their duly and pass the laws to protect the people in the States. Senator Gair never addresses himself to the root of the problem. He never turns to those who are allowing the cost increases to go on.
Instead of doing that, it is much easier, because they are an easy chopping block, to turn around and attack the trade union leaders and to say that they are terrible men, when they are trying to obtain justice for their own members.
Let me return to what I was saying when Senator Gair interjected. A taxpayer on about $9,000 a year will receive a tax reduction of about $300. One on 83,000 a year will receive a reduction of less than $50. The Treasurer has performed temporary surgery, but the patient still suffers from the disease. The inequity must continue to grow like cancer because no attempt was made to adjust the tax scales to inflationary charges. The indirect taxes will come here to be dealt with. We will oppose them.
How should the finances be balanced, even in the context of this type of Budget which is so foreign to my Party’s thinking that it is not of the same order? Certain points are clear. If average incomes grow at the same rate as they did last year - that is 8% - instead of at the Treasury estimate of 7%, then the collections will be much higher than estimated. This will be aggravated by the income tax schedule inequities. Next, if the Government would abandon its futile, shameful and insane military adventure in Vietnam, we would save hundreds of millions of dollars. Despite Government attempts to minimise the cost, it is apparent from an examination of defence and war expenditure that the cost is extremely high.
A computer study of the national accounts of expenditure on defence and war over the last 12 years gives a trend line of expenditure up to the time of the Vietnam war which if projected represents hundreds of millions of dollars less than the expenditure shown on the actual trend line which swung upwards sharply when we put troops into the Vietnam war.
– Who carried out that computer operation?
– An experienced and impartial person.
– But who?
– If the honourable senator insists upon knowing, I will tell him. This was provided to me as a result of a simple application to me Legislative
Research Service of this Parliament. This was not done by any partial person; it was done by an independent person. It shows the probable estimated savings as S50m for the year ended June 1965, $2 10m for the year ended June 1966, $300m for the year ended June 1967, S420m for the year ended June 1968, $429m for the year ended June 1969 and $390m for the year just ended. I am advised that it can fairly be inferred that if Australia had not gone into the morass of Vietnam the Government could have saved about $ 1,800m in the past 6 years. Even if the Fill figure of about $250m is deducted, there is still more than $ 1,500m. Of course, arguments can be had on what should truly be assigned to the war. But there is no doubt that an extremely heavy financial burden has been added to the crushing shame and disgrace of our association with this evil war against the Vietnamese people.
This is also what is emerging in the United States. What is happening there is that, whilst the country may be divided on the question of the morality of the Vietnam war, the enormous burden of that war is being driven home to everyone. The estimates are that the American involvement in that war is costing about $3m an hour. This is the reason why the American people have not been able to implement the Great Society which was proposed by President Johnson. There is no hope of the American people being able to solve their urban problems and the problems of their education system and their schools while they are committed to this war. I suppose that the most dramatic events in legislative history have been occurring in that country in the last couple of months. About 2 months ago the Congress voted to increase the Budget by a tremendous sum - I think, something of the order of a billion dollars - to provide money to be spent on hospitals, so bad had the hospitals system in America become. The President vetoed that increase. Both Houses overrode his veto, by a two-third vote in each House. The procedure was repeated in respect of school aid about a week ago.
That is an indication of the feeling in the United States legislature of what is happening to the United States, and of the determination of its legislators to turn the country away from the paths of war in order to deal with the great social problems there. If the American economy, with all its built in wealth acquired over hundreds of years and its tremendous economic capacity cannot cope with being involved in war as well as attending to urban problems - the problems of poverty, health and education - how much less can Australia afford to engage in war as well as to attend to those problems? This will become more and more apparent to the people of this country. It is not simply a feeling of guilt or approval for the Vietnam war that will concern us. The tremendous economic cost of the war will be driven home to everyone in this country.
The cost of the war in Vietnam is the reason why we are not able to provide more money for schools and hospitals. It is the reason why the States continue to be starved of funds and there is not enough finance for local government authorities to carry out essential services, lt is one of the principal reasons why this small country cannot afford to be involved in Vietnam. The moneys thrown away in Vietnam could be used to achieve real security in military as well as civil terms. The emergence of Japan as a dominant power in the Pacific, with a rising standard of living and an extremely high military potential, is closely connected with its extremely low expenditure on war and military hardware.
The result of this Government’s financial policies is to be seen in the neglect of our cities, roads, railways, public services and hospitals and in the financial restrictions in respect of the provision of essential services by State and local government bodies. No attempt is made in the Budget to provide the finance necessary to give our children the opportunity for education to which they are entitled as a basic human right. Our children will continue to have fewer educational opportunities than those of other industrialised countries. In the United States and Japan a significantly higher percentage of children enter and complete secondary school courses, more receive a university education and more undergo technical training than in Australia. Our performance in the education of Aboriginal children is shameful. That shameful record is not confined to the States. It extends to the Northern Territory, which is the responsibility of the Federal Government.
Whichever way one turns the results of the negative policies of this Government can be seen. The ordinary wage earner has had imposed on him tremendous burdens in acquiring a home because of the creation of a credit squeeze. He is faced not only with unprecedented increases in interest rates but also high land costs and the failure of the Government to come to his aid. He has to face higher interest charges on his hire purchase transactions. He is faced with difficulties at every turn. These difficulties are illustrated by the dramatic changes in the building statistics of the last quarter ended in June. They show a heavy drop, of the order of 25%, in home and home unit construction. At the same time there has been an increase in commercial building. Is this what the country needs when there have been over 100,000 marriages in the last year and a tremendous intake of migrants, all of whom are looking for homes?
The problems are being heaped up for the future instead of being solved. That is the clear result of the Government’s policies. This Budget inflicts direct injustice on pensioners and wage earners. The Government is continuing policies which are exacerbating the problems which have been created. The Budget contains nothing to deal with the tremendous problems facing us. We know that we must face huge expenditure on pollution and in dealing with our social environment in the fields of housing, transportation and services. But the approach of the Budget to our problems is as if those of tomorrow will be exactly the same as tho.se of 10 years ago. Anyone with an appreciation of what is happening in this country and elsewhere in the world knows that a completely different approach is called for. This Budget is backward in every aspect, lt is hopeless. It is not a programme at all directed towards meeting the needs of Australia. I therefore move: at end of motion add - and the Senate condemns this deceptive and negative Budget because it fails to meet the real needs of the Australian people, especially with respect to (a) standards of social service and war pensioners, (b) assistance to schools, hospital and urban authorities and (c) restructuring of stricken primary industries and because it introduces and increases taxes and charges of a regressive and inequitable nature’.
– I second the amendment.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has moved an amendment in the first line of which he uses the words ‘deceptive and negative’. In his view those words apply to the Budget. I have heard a number of speeches on the Budget in my time but I have never heard a more negative reply to the Budget since 1 came here. What is more, I have never heard a more deceptive reply to the Budget. To illustrate the deceptive approach adopted by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate I remind honourable senators of the words he used when referring to the Vietnam war. Time and time again in criticising the Budget the honourable senator referred to Australia’s involvement in South East Asia and in Vietnam in terms of dollars saved. Those were his words. He said not a word about lives that might be lost in war or property that might be destroyed. Not a word was said about a constructive programme that Australia might undertake. If anybody is to be accused of being selfish, let me accuse the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. He has referred to a saving of dollars in order to save his own skin.
In leading for the Opposition in this debate tonight he had the audacity to move an amendment containing the expression deceptive and negative’, when he above all people produced statements that are both deceptive and negative. I reject his amendment, his argument and his speech. Now I turn to the Budget which is, after all, what we are discussing. This is the season of the Budget. The Budget in this country has to be prepared with special objectives in mind. One of the objectives is to be constantly on the alert concerning our total personal and national security. Another is to be constantly concerned to increase our economic strength and usefulness. Yet another is to furnish the best possible circumstance for the Australian people and to maintain environmental and educational opportunities which will enable the nation to grow.
Normally the Budget debate falls in simple terms into 2 areas of activity - the area of presentation and the area of reply. We have reached the area of reply. It is in the area of reply that the real debate and examination of the Budget takes place. As we proceed, matters of time, circumstance and comment all have an influence on the debate and on the study of the Budget. Industrial and political events also exert their influence. Statements and other developments have an effect on this most important exercise in a political year. But at this point of time in the Budget debate not all of these events and circumstances have taken place; not all of these events have had an opportunity to exert their influence on the debate. The one influence, the one event, the one occasion which has had an opportunity to exert its influence on the debate is the failure of what I call the Budget strike - this conspicuous waste of time and money, reflected by the impressive numbers of people who stayed away from the public gatherings yesterday. Union organisers have admitted publicly their disappointment at the response to the call which was made by the Australian Council of Trade Unions to hold nationwide stop work meetings. I read in the Press this morning that the organisers were expecting 900 people to arrive in Canberra, but fewer than 200 turned up. I therefore say that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) spoke very truly when he observed that the Australian people had triumphed over irresponsibility.
This event has already had its influence on the area of the debate on the Budget in 2 ways. It raises the question whether the Opposition’s reply to the Budget comes in confirmation of a completely unsuccessful demonstration, or whether the Opposition is picking up a few remnants of its divided response to the Government’s plan. I also suggest that it cast doubts on the validity of the Opposition’s parliamentary replies to the Budget. Are the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition in this place and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in another place speeches of people who are preparing for government? Are they the statements of leaders who see themselves as leading an alternative Government? If they are, those leaders must also see themselves as the framers of alternative budgets and the presenters of Labor budgets.
The moment of Budget reply must be for them surely the high moment of opportunity. I remind the Senate that both the Leader of the Opposition in this place and the Leader of the Opposition in another place have used the word ‘election’ very much in their replies to the Budget, and therefore the moment of Budget reply must be for them a high moment of opportunity. This is the opportunity, above all, for the Opposition to show to the Australian people that it can present a budget which will provide opportunity, on the one hand, and security on the other hand. But what happens? The Australian citizen may well ask what is happening? Who is replying to this Budget? ls it the ACTU or the demonstrators or the Leader of the Opposition in this place or the Leader of the Opposition in the other place who are caught between trying to trumpet a clarion call to the demonstrators and trying to sound some sort of postlude to the demonstration? If we are uncertain as to who is replying - and I am sure that the Australian people might be uncertain as to who is responding to the Budget, then we may well be uncertain who might be the alternative government, and the Australian people may well be uncertain who might frame an alternative Budget.
This Budget is the first of a new decade - the 70!s. In a sense, as is always the case with budgets, I suppose that its proposals are more accurately described as being for the current financial year. The proposals which the Government has put forward provide for large increases in essential expenditures, especially in payments to the States, improvement of welfare services, greater development and assistance to industry. Particularly important is the reduction of personal income tax on the lower and middle income earners. So in another sense, in my view, the Budget marks the beginning of a decade for which prospects are very good. Indeed comment in the Press as late as today has described the Budget as having a healthy long term effect and as being a responsible economic exercise. New resources have been opened up and are being developed, with an inevitable increase in output for both domestic use and for export. With the immigration of skilled workers, and with new developments to increase the work force by the greater use of married women, the Government is doing its best to cope with a work force situation which is, in the words of the Treasurer (Mr Bury) during the course of his Budget Speech becoming ‘very tight’. Australia’s capacity for attracting overseas capital has been and is continuing to be clearly dem onstrated. All of these matters should be borne in mind. They show that the Budget is presented against the background of many complex factors.
Australia’s gross national product, at constant prices, has increased by 5-1%, despite setbacks to the rural industry. The number of wage and salary earners in Australia has increased by quite a percentage - 4%. Even though wool prices have fallen sharply, there was, on the other hand, a remarkable increase of 24% in the total value of exports. So while output was increasing, demand was increasing faster. lt is not without relevance to refer to the report of the Vernon Committee of Economic Inquiry in 1965. In its report the Committee said: . . a rale of growth of 5% per annum will not be. easy to achieve. We therefore regard il as a “high’ rale of economic growth for Australia, but not too high a rate to be a reasonable goal for policies designed to achieve the slated economic objectives.
As I said, the gross national product increased by 5.5% during the last financial year. This is a good result, particularly when one considers the setbacks in the rural sector which bad a retarding effect on the overall growth of the economy. The non-farm sector continued a very vigorous expansion. Demand in money terms, however, ran well ahead of the growth in real gross national product during 1969-70. Consumer spending, which had gained momentum during 1968-69, accelerated even faster during 1969-70. reaching a figure of 9.6%. The private investment spending field led the way with an increase in expenditure of 9.8% over the previous year.
There have been some comments in recent times to the effect that the rale of growth in the economy had slowed down markedly in the final quarter of 1969-70. I want to bring to the attention of the Senate tonight some figures which were released last week by the Statistician and which give no support to this particular view. The figures for the June quarter, which is the quarter in question, show for example that there was a rise of 124% in the gross national product in the year to the June quarter compared with an increase of l(H% for the 1969-70 year as a whole. I refer to the continuation of the strong rise in average earnings, with the wages and salaries increasing by over 12i% for the June quarter as compared with 12.2% for the financial year 1969-70. I refer also to the sharp increase of 15% in the gross operating surplus of companies and to the 13% increase in the gross operating surplus of other trading enterprises. I also refer to the continuation of a very strong growth in consumer spending, which is up by more than 10% compared with the figure for the June quarter last year. It may also be compared with 9.6%, which is the figure for the year 1969-70 as a whole. Broadly, it is an undisputed fact that demand has risen strongly throughout 1969- 70 except in recent months, as I think all honourable senators are aware, in housing. In that sphere, approvals and commencements are beginning a rising trend.
So we get this situation: In looking at the Budget Speech we see that the growth in demand generally has been reflected in a number of pressures. Those pressures arise at a number of key points in our total community and total society. One of the obvious pressures is in the labour market. Another which has a particular influence is in the sphere of wages. A further pressure is reflected in prices. 1 claim that the Government and Australia are entering 1970- 71 wilh every reason to believe that this will be a year of strong economic growth ‘but also with demand continuing to run at a high level and with the economy pressing very close to the limits of available resources.
When we examine the Budget in total, we can see that the potential influence of the Budget on the economy has to be looked at most carefully. Under these circumstances -we should not yield to whatever whim any section of the community may like to air at any given time. Given the likely trend in economic activity, as far as they can be foreseen accurately by the Treasurer, it was judged by the Government that a Budget that gave additional impetus to demand would, without any doubt whatever, have in it elements that were highly irresponsible. I put the point of view that what was required was a Budget that would ensure that the demands of the public and the private sectors, taken together, did not over stretch the resources of the economy. To meet this objective the Government has avoided, as honourable senators know, a significant acceleration of the increase in what is called ‘domestic outlays’ - the expenditure on goods and services, transfer payments and things of this kind.
Apart from the high priority increases in expenditure allowed for in the Budget, such as increased assistance to the States, which honourable senators will remember the Treasurer dealt with at length, increased expenditure on education, on social services, on repatriation and on health benefits, the Government was firmly of the resolve that something had to be done to provide taxation relief to the middle and lower income earners. In doing this, the Government’s intentions were very well known and the Prime Minister had indicated these intentions at an earlier stage.
If we look at the Budget from a personal point of view, apart from a national point of view for a moment, the central feature of the 1970-71 Budget will probably be regarded as the Government’s decision to assist in this taxation sphere by reducing taxation on the lower and middle income earners. Such a reduction has, therefore, more than made good the Government’s election promise to deal promptly and effectively with this matter. Taxation reductions are estimated to have a value to the taxpayers of $290m in a full financial year and $228m for the year 1970-71. I. repeat what was in the Treasurer’s speech. The alterations in the taxation scale will mean that taxable incomes up to $10,000 will be reduced by some 10% of tax payable. Above that amount it tapers off, reaching 4.4% at $20,000.
Side by side with this reduction there is a reference - albeit an inadequate reference by the Leader of the Opposition - to indirect taxation. Nobody likes or welcomes indirect taxation, but if we want to establish a widespread and involved Government programme, revenue must be found somewhere. If we want to undergird the demands made upon Government this year, revenue must be found somewhere. Undoubtedly the demands next year will be greater than they are today. Today all sections in the community make more and increasing demands upon Government for assistance, for subsidies, for endowments and for grants.
Indirect taxation is used much more overseas than it is here. A small committee that has been studying this subject has affirmed that. 1 read that that committee described Australia as trailing other countries in the use of indirect taxation. Anyone who has been to the United States of America or to Europe will be very well aware of the indirect taxation that is levied in those countries. In the United States there is quite a considerable amount of Slate tax. Indirect taxation has the value of permitting choice, compared with income tax which is a matter of compulsion. Rising incomes inevitable catch up with direct tax relief measures, whereas indirect taxation, allows us a judgment and a decision.
I make the claim that the comment ‘give and take’ as applied to the Budget is an inaccurate comment. The indirect taxation is on items over which some control may be exercised, a judgment exercised, and a degree of decision made. While indirect taxation may be subject to criticism at various levels, it has the effect of achieving for any Federal Treasurer a restraint on demand and an influence which is a deterrent to inflationary trends.
While people may criticise indirect taxation in Australia, it is interesting to note that indirect taxes, as a ratio of the Commonwealth Government’s taxation revenue, has fallen in recent years from 40% in 1961-62 to 35% in 1969-70. lt will remain at some 35% during the coming financial year. This matter of indirect taxation is not only an Australian situation but it is also very much a world wide situation. Economists and taxation experts everywhere are looking at the total taxation structure, particularly as it applies to indirect taxation. lt may be interesting, while we are discussing this, for the Senate to compare Australia’s figures with those of other countries. From the figures that I have been able to obtain, the 1697 indirect tax as a percentage of the gross national product, described as factor cost, in Australia was 8.3%; in Sweden it was 46%; in Germany it was 40%; in Denmark it was 36%; in the United .States it was over 30%; in the Netherlands it was 39.5%; in the United Kingdom it was 36.7% and in France it was over 45% and nearly 46%. The source of this information is the
National Economic Development office of the United Kingdom in a booklet entitled Value Added Tax’.
When the Government, in an endeavour to keep a situation in which it could have a reasonable degree of satisfaction at the financial condition of the community, adds this indirect taxation it provides an opportunity for people to make a judgment upon it and also provides an opportunity for those who so desire to exercise their principle of thrift. All this overflows into a good economic responsibility throughout the country. I think I should add here with some emphasis - and repeat with some emphasis - because this was not acknowledged by the Leader of the Opposition in any terms whatever, that this reduction is simply the first step in the Government’s review of the entire taxation system. I quote from the Treasurer’s Speech. He said:
For some time past, we have had the whole of our taxation system under close review, lt became quite apparent at an early stage of that review that we should give first priority to relieving the burden of income tax on the lower and middle income groups. Now that we have honoured our promise to do this, we shall be looking in more detail at other aspects of our taxation system.
The Leader of the Opposition in another place was quite wrong last night when he said that there had been no inquiry, no attempt to look at, to investigate or to have any regard to a review of the taxation system. The Treasurer’s own words in the Budget Speech set out quite plainly and clearly that that had been done. One of the problems within the Australian community today is the problem of the rural economy. Any one of us who has been involved in politics, public life or rural affairs is more than well aware of this. Comments made in debates in this chamber in the last few days have referred to this problem. The rural economy has been subject to changing circumstances. Some of the problems of the rural economy have always been with agriculture, but they have become very much aggravated over recent years. The relationship between costs and returns of producers is likely to continue for the present as a difficult problem and we must all be realistic in our approach to it. It has various aspects and is receiving from the Government a considerable amount of examination. The fundamental need is probably for adjustment to changed circumstances. This may be brought about by the provision of cheap finance or adjustment of production levels to meet disposal opportunities.
Production adjustment has already taken place in one or two of our rural industries. Adjustment is taking place in the wheat industry and has started in the dairy industry. But adjustment is not the whole answer to the problem. It goes deeper than that. There is also a need to rebuild rural industries and take into account their part in the total economic environment. Consideration must be given to market prospects for industry products and to every other relevant factor related to rural industries, including the kinds of returns that an individual in the rural economy can expect to receive and the capital that he should invest in his enterprise. The Treasurer in his Budget Speech said that not only is short term emergency assistance being given in this instance to the wool growing industry but the Government is also examining growers’ indebtedness and the need for reconstruct-on. AH this is only scratching the surface of a very large problem which the Government is facing up to. In the past the farmers’ traditional way of coping with rising costs and low returns was to increase production. They can no longer do this. The rural problems are not only problems of economics or marketing; they are also sociological problems involving movement of communities and the wellbeing of growing generations.
The Budget contains a wide range of references on which one would like to comment. Some are related to one’s own State; some are related to the activities in which one happens to be involved. These must be left for inquiry, comment and debate when another opportunity occurs. I believe that the principal aims of the Budget, which I set out at the beginning of my speech tonight, are being fulfilled. They are to maintain our national and personal security, increase our economic strength and stability and provide the best possible environment for our people. I believe that the Budget has realistically dealt with these factors. The Opposition has replied to the Budget, I repeat again, with what I called at the beginning a futile and unsuccessful attempt to arouse Australia wide demonstrations. It has replied that it will go to the polls on the Budget. Perhaps the Opposition is prepared to do this; perhaps the Australian Council of Trade Unions is prepared to do this. But if the Budget is so bad why does the Opposition not come up with an alternative Budget? Why does it not come up with positive suggestions instead of putting on the table of the Senate a negative amendment which uses the word ‘negative’ and which has produced nothing but a series of negative arguments. The Opposition has not replied in factual terms to the Budget and I reject its arguments and its amendment.
– The most important document that a government places before a parliament in any one year is the Budget. The basic function of a budget is to redistribute income. Senator Davidson tonight prefaced a lot of his remarks by saying: ‘This may be of interest to the Senate’. But the one thing he did not deal with - and I am prepared to prohesy that no other member on the Government side will deal with it in this debate - is the basic reason for ali budgets, that is, to redistribute income. Neither Senator Davidson nor anyone else on the Government side would defend a budget which increased taxation for people with an annual income below $4,500 and, less importantly, for those few people at the top of the taxation scale. Senator Davidson did not say anything of interest about the gravamen of this Budget. All budgets redistribute income. This one will distribute it on a most vicious scale dispite what the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) promised. I prophesy again that no-one on the Government side will deal with the redistribution of income as it will be affected by the Budget for 1970-71.
All budgets are preceded by a lot of rumours. Some of them are leaks to the Press; some are guesses by the Press. There is always a lot of speculation during the 6 months before a budget is introduced. I submit to you, Mr Deputy President, that what should be exercising the minds of senators in their consideration of this Budget is, firstly, the credit squeeze, with which Senator Murphy dealt, and which was brought about by a vicious increase in interest rates. The Prime Minister a year or two ago thrilled the whole of Australia by saying that he was in favour of doing something for the underprivileged. At least 98% of the underprivileged in Australia today fall into one of 3 categories - pensioners, people with very large families and Aboriginals.
The Government promised at the last election that it would reduce the burden of income tax on the middle and lower income groups. 1 have said many times in this place that the Australian public should never start to put pressures on this Government at election time, because when the Government makes election promises in the heat and the atmosphere of an election they invariably have tragic results. The decision to purchase the Fill aircraft was not a defence proposal but an election gimmick. At the last ejection the Government wanted something new so it made a promise to reduce taxation on what it euphemistically called the middle and lower income groups.
As the Treasurer (Mr Bury) pointed out a budget is not the only thing that affects the economy. It gives expression to the fiscal policy that is laid down by the Government, but monetary policy also has its effect on the economy. This is evidenced by the increasing interest rates during the last 12 months. When the Government was asked to comment on this increase the Prime Minister said: ‘This is not actually increasing the indebtedness of people; it just makes the time for them to have to pay it back longer’. To me that is the equivalent of a judge saying to someone who is in gaol: ‘I am going to double your gaol sentence. It will not make any difference. You will not have to work any harder in gaol. You will’ just be there a little longer.’ If the period for repayment is lengthened enough the person making the repayments may die and his debt will fall on his widow and children. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annbelle Rankin) dealt with the increase in interest rates in a different way. She said: ‘What is SI a week? Anyone can afford that.’ I wish she would go into the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and say that occasionally.
The Treasurer in his Budget Speech dealt with fiscal and monetary policy. As Senator Davidson mentioned, the Treasurer pointed out it is not only what is brought down in this Budget that will affect the economy over the next 12 months. Monetary policies will also have an effect on the economy. There seems to be no good reason for basing budgets solely on the financial year. The 30th June seems to be a magical day in the lives of Australians. I do not think it is different to any other day. The sun comes up in the morning and sets again that night. The financial year is only an accounting period and we do not have to be wedded to that accounting period. Fiscal policy and monetary policy may, over a period of 12 months, come into conflict with each other. I suggest that it is time we had a look at the way we draw up our budgets. I will deal with the question of taxation a little later. There is no reason why a Budget should cover a period of 12 months. The Government may propose something now and the Budget may have the reverse effect, and unless the Government does some fine tuning of the monetary policy over the 12 months these things will come into conflict. We have a phenomenon in Australian finance in that in the third term of the year we get an amount of liquidity and spending in the community which does not reflect conditions in the rest of the year. It is at about this time that the Government starts to look at its Budget proposals. Seeing that we are looking at parliamentary reform in many other ways, I suggest that it is time the Government ceased to make certain statements when presenting its Budget, to sweep the problems under the mat and then be forced into adopting some form of monetary policy such as a credit squeeze or an increase in interest rates, and instead did something positive. This should be quite possible in these days of computers.
The taxation problem is the gravamen of the present situation. I repeat that the Government will not deal with it, simply because it cannot. The taxation proposals are vicious and unfair and are a reversal of what the Prime Minister promised. His promise first saw the light of day in his policy speech in an election atmosphere. It was mentioned again in the Speech of the Governor-General, who said the matter would be dealt with in the Budget. But it then became pretty obvious that the Prime Minister was going to hedge. He said: Look, we have said we are going to improve taxation for the middle and lower income groups but we will do so when it is possible.’ Then tremendous pressure began to be exerted on the Government, because the Australian people are just about sick of Prime Ministers going before them, making promises and then hedging on them. This pressure came from various parts of the community. It came from the Australian Council of Trade Unions. On 2nd July the ACTU dealt with the Prime Ministers backing out. from his promise. If anybody, even those people who are so busy yelling at the ACTU wants to read a very well prepared economic document he should read the ACTU’s paper.
It is of no good for the Prime Minister or anybody else to say that he did not know what the effects might be when the Budget was introduced, because it was very clearly documented by the ACTU. Why should the ACTU nol do this? It is the body which represents those people in the community who have nothing but their labour to sell, those people who are on the lower rung of the taxation ladder. What the Government has done on this occasion has been to knock any future awards that might be given for people on the lower income range, lt has knocked any benefit out of their hands before they get it. The white collar unions also put advertisements in the Press and brought out some very good documentation.
I am wondering whether this did not bring about a perverse reaction from the Government, because it obviously adopts the attitude that these people ought not have these views. It feels that they are the slaves in the community. It feels that it is not here to govern for the ordinary common man and it is cheek on the part of the unions to come forward and put documents before the Government. T say this because the Government has done exactly the reverse of what these documents say ought to be done. It has reversed what ought to be the principle of Budgets and of all taxation policy, that is, that the burden of income tax should fall on the broadest shoulders and not on the weakest backs. There seems to have been a perversity on the part of the Government. It seems to have said: ‘We will show them. We will show these little puppies that they are not going to suggest to the Government how things ought to be done.’
The Treasurer (Mr Bury) himself has pointed out 2 things. The first is that by not amending the taxation laws for 15 years the people in the lower income bracket have been disadvantaged more than any other section of the community. He points out that overall the proportion of incomes that is being paid in taxation has moved from 20% to 29%. Although the Government talked about lowering taxation for the middle and lower income bracket it has reversed the position. Anybody who receives less than about $4,500 a year will not be better off as a result of this Budget but immeasurably worse off. One does not measure the position by indirect taxation but by direct, taxation. These people have received a mere pittance. The people in receipt of $4,500 a year and upwards have had some real benefit. In other words, to those who have has been given and to those who have not has been taken away.
This action has been referred to by certain people as sleight of hand. 1 am not giving honourable senators any new term when I say that, but I would add that it has been done with a cynicism which 1 have not previously seen in the 20 years I have been in this place and I have seen some pretty cynical things done to the working class people by this Government. But the Government has thrown that phrase completely away; it has been a catch cry. What has amazed me is that so few of the Press have picked the result of the Governments taxation proposals. This is not a decrease in taxation on the middle and lower income groups; it is a decrease on the upper middle and upper income groups. If one looks at the figures - I will quote them in a moment or two - one sees that very few people will be affected by this reduction. The family man has not even been considered. The Government has not even looked at the position of people who have 4 or 5 children. If it had it would have looked at child endowment.
The Government has not looked at the curve of taxation as it affects these people. There has been no mention at all of a family man who would be paying no taxation. It is possible for a person on a low wage who has had some unemployment during the year to be in the position of not having to pay tax. HU family still has to eai and be clothed. The only thing the
Government has done for these people has been to reduce their standard of living through the indirect taxation it has levelled against them.
I do not want to say a lot about pensioners but a little later I do want to quote something that was said by an independent authority rather than get my blood pressure up now by talking about this miserable increase of 50c in pensions. For the present I shall quote some figures relating to the lower and middle income racket - I was going to say ‘bracket’ - supplied by Mr Brown of the Australian National University. He is a reader in statistics there. I do not know what his politics are. If I had quoted something from the ACTU, a union journal or a Labor Party journal it would have been said that 1 was being biased; so I have deliberately stepped outside. I do not want to confuse anyone with a lot of figures so 1 will only quote one. Mr Brown estimates that there is 1 person in 80 who has a taxable income of over $10,000 a year. Rather than fix a mythical income, he talks of a middle income of $2,600 a year and an average income of $3,000 a year. When the Government talks about taxable incomes it makes it very easy for the smart operator to get his taxable income down into a bracket where he will receive some benefit. Surely everybody is aware of the tax dodging and tax scrabbling that goes on in Australia today.
As I said earlier, it has been estimated that anyone receiving less than $4,500 a year - this is a bit above the $3,000 which is taken as the average income - will receive no benefit. Only when we go above that figure do we come to the people who will receive any benefit. Anybody receiving less than that will be very badly inconvenienced. If we take an income of $3,000 a year, which is approximately $60 a week, we find that a single person will be 90c a week better off. A married man with 4 children will be 40c a week better off. I sincerely hope that they are very pure people who do not do such sinful things as smoke, because if both husband and wife smoke 1 packet of cigarettes a day that will cost them another 42c a week. So that family will start 2c a week behind the 8-ball. Of course. If they do that they would not be driving a car. If they were sinful enough, to do that, they would be affected by this indirect taxation.
– What if the wife uses cosmetics?
– They will be affected if she uses cosmetics and all those other things on which the extra 2i% tax is to be charged. Even if she does not use cosmetics, nearly every commodity that that family uses will be transported in a vehicle that uses petrol. It is a cynical Budget. The Government has deliberately set out to help its supporters, the wealthy people in the community. It has not had a look at the taxation of lower income as it promised. Senator Davidson made great play of the fact that Mr Bury had said that this was only the beginning; it was only the first instalment from Father Christmas. From now on he was going to look at the position month by month. Fifteen years is the hiatus we are trying to overcome. Over the last 10 years, taxation has risen from 20% to 29%. If the Government is going to stick to yearly budgets how will it redistribute the income if it does not look at the position every 12 months? It has been the policy of this Government that when one section squeals loudly enough it fixes that section and then forgets about it until the squeals become loud enough again. This is not proper governing. It is governing at the instance of pressure groups, something which no Australian government ought to be doing. Unless the Government reviews the position every year to see where it is hitting hardest people on the lower incomes will be disadvantaged more and more. People on what might be termed middle incomes receive little benefit but unless there is constant readjustment as inflation takes wages higher and as taxation moves from 29% to 35% more will be taken away in taxation.
Working people are finding that they have to work just so much extra every year for the Department of Taxation. The genius of the Liberal Party - if one looks back over nearly 21 years of this - is that it can go out on the election platform and talk about great prosperity and the affluent society in which we live, but it can also intervene in the national wage case every year and keep wages down to a shameful level. If this is a great affluent society as the Government says the minimum wage rate today should be a great deal higher than it is. Just sit back and try to analyse the minimum wage of $43. Let honourable senators opposite compare it with I day’s expenses of their own families if they are game, and then say that this is a great affluent society. Intervention in arbitration cases has reacted against the small wage earners every time. Some fantastically interesting figures are available but they are not suited for a debate such as this. Consider people who receive less than the average weekly earnings, and there are many of them. Matching their rise against the rise in taxation and cost of living one finds they are about 1% better off over a period of approximately 15 years. One cannot take the figures which Senator Davidson cited tonight to show, the increase in wage rates and leave it at that. Figures cannot be juggled around in that fashion.
Small wage earners have been kept pegged down by deliberate Government policy on wages and direct and indirect taxation policy over a long period, lt is a shame on this community that a Budget like this should be brought down. Built into the whole taxation schedule is regression. Until something is done about this taxes are being dishonestly raised in the community. Surely it is unarguable that higher taxes should be taken from those with the broadest shoulders and the financial sinew to bear them. Let us consider a person on the highest rate of taxation and one on the minimum wage and what the Government gives back to them in respect of their wives. To the wealthiest man in the community, the man who is earning so much that he has to pay the maximum rate, the Government, says: ‘We will remit to you $213 because you have the responsibility of looking after a wife’. To the man on the minimum wage of $43 a week it says: ‘We wiM remit to you $65 because you have the responsibility of supporting a wife’. This applies through the whole taxation schedule. The Senate dealt with this principle when discussing the question of payments for health insurance. Take the example of 2 people living beside one another who pay $100 a year to their medical benefit society to protect their families. If one person is paying 50c tax in the $1 the Government says: ‘At the end of the year we will remit to you half of what you pay so that protection for the health of your family will cost you S50 this year’.
To the man next door who is a low wage earner and is paying only 10c tax in the $1 it says: ‘We will give you back SIO, so you have to pay $90’. We charge the poor man in the community nearly double the charge on the wealthy man who is best able to afford it. How the Government has been able to get away with this over the years without an outcry completely beats me.
Indirect taxation has been taken a step further. This is only another step in the long, vicious line of indirect taxation. Over a period of years because this Government has been starving the States of funds it has pushed them into a situation where they have had to press every tax at their disposal such as land rates, water rates, bus fares and amusement taxes. Also because the Government has been starving the States of funds, they in turn have had to press local government, which has had to press the same taxpayers. Whether the taxpayer is voting for a council or for the Senate or House of Representatives he is still the same body. The Government has pressed him down under this vicious, flat rate of indirect taxation. There is no defending indirect taxation because it may be doubled over the course of a few years. The Government does not ask a person what sort of an income he has. lt taxes the millionaire on his piece of land the same as it taxes the widow down the street on her piece of land. This is a deliberate system which the Government has been pushing along the line, lt is just another twist of the screw.
I have referred to cigarettes. I do not smoke cigarettes but people have told me that, one pack a day would not be a lot. For a start, this increase would put a person receiving $60 a week 2c behind for himself and his wife. The impact of the increased petrol tax is not only a direct one. Probably there will be an increase in petrol price because the industry is clamouring for it. As Senator Murphy pointed out the other day the rise may be not 3c but 6c. Everything one buys has to be transported by somebody using a petrol driven vehicle. The Government is applying indirect taxation by the increase in telephone rentals, lt did not say: ‘We will increase the cost of calls.’ lt said: ‘We will increase in rent’. Business people make the most calls. Most people in the community do not need a telephone for business purposes but have it installed because they have elderly mothers or married children living in another suburb or another town. The calls they make are very few indeed. If honourable senators look at their neighbour’s telephone bill - we probably use the phone more than the normal person in the community - they will find that the big slug is the rental and not the cost of calls. If the Government increased the cost of calls it would be taxing people at the point at which they spend. It is not doing that. It has increased the rental on telephones by S7 whether people are using them or not.
The Government has gone on with this iniquity of the telephone transfer fee. I disagreed with this charge when it was introduced many years ago. I can understand a new customer having to pay a joining fee, but the Government says to people who have had a telephone for the whole of their lives but who. when their family grows up, move into a smaller house: ‘We are going to charge you §40 to transfer that phone down the line.’ The Government talks about the efficiency of private industry. If it calls that a sound business principle it is just completely beyond me.
Honourable senators may have noticed recently that Mr Justice Nimmo, who did a very important job for the Government recently, said he was shocked and appalled because he had come to the opinion that there were 1 million people on the poverty line in Australia today. This figure has been supported by other people. The effect of this Budget will be to drive more people under the poverty line and, from the time that the Budget starts to take effect, more than 1 million people will be below the poverty line because the Government has driven them below it. By its Budget the Government could have cured the situation. It could have brought out a Budget in which it said that it would not reduce taxation for anybody else but would increase social services. Overnight it would have lifted nearly 1 million people above the poverty line. Instead of dealing generally with social services, let me quote from a letter to the Press by Professor Downing of the University of Melbourne. This letter was written before the Budget was brought down. It states:
The poor of Australia who are, in the main, simply the aged, invalid and widowed pensioners, the sick and the large families will indeed be in a sad plight if the Budget provisions for pensioners are as anticipated in your report.
The minimum programme needed to relieve only stark poverty is now clear from the finding of the Melbourne poverty survey. Single-rate pensioners need an extra S2 a week, married couple pensioners need an extra St. SO. Unemployment and sick benefits should be raised to the same level as pensions.
The supplementary (rent) allowance should be raised to $4 and extended to married couples as well as single pensioners. Child endowment should bc increased to $3.50 a week for the third child and $4.50 a week for a fourth and subsequent children, and tax deductions for dependent children should be dropped.
The cost of these proposals is a mere SI 00m. This expenditure would raise the proportion of gross national product going into social service benefits from its 5.3% in 1968-69 to 5.7%. At the beginning of this decade we were spending 5.9% and not labouring under the burden.
Australia is one of the 4 or 5 richest countries in the world. It is shameful that we are not willing to spend the little extra needed to lift our few poor people up to minimum subsistence standards.
I say no more because in this letter Professor Downing says the lot. Senator Davidson was asking who is replying to this Budget. He said that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate was being negative and nobody was replying to it. But we are giving everybody a chance to reply. The Australian Labor Party has taken the unprecedented step of asking this Parliament to reject the Budget completely and to go to those people about whom Senator Davidson is worrying and to let them reply. This is the challenge that we throw down. In this place, above all, we have a motley group of people. We have an Independent. Let us see how independent he is. We have a Democratic Labor Party. Let us see how democratic its members are. We have dissidents on the Liberal side of the chamber. They are well known to everybody and from time to time vote against the Government on minor matters. Let these senators come forward now on a major issue and say what they believe in their hearts - that they are supporting a Government that has no right to govern, a Government which time and again, day after day, is proving its arrogance and cynicism towards the ordinary person in the community. Let those honourable senators come forward and give Senator Davidson his answer to see who shall reply to the Budget.
We challenge this Government. We have challenged it through Mr Whitlam, our leader, and we shall challenge it with every person who sits on this side of the Senate or on the Opposition side of the House of Representatives. If honourable senators believe that the Budget expresses the right fiscal policy, if they believe that the Government can cynically break the promise made in the Prime Minister’s policy speech and the Governor-General’s Speech by not reducing taxation on the lower incomes but increasing it - the reverse of what was promised - and if they believe that the Government can get away with this, their answer is very clear. If honourable senators opposite are democrats they will accept our challenge, grasp the nettle and go to the Australian people whom they are supposed to represent and whom we are supposed to represent. Let the people give the reply. I look forward to their decision with a great deal of confidence.
– I should like to say a few words on the Budget, but first I propose to comment on the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). I believe that this is a very weak amendment. It refers to a deceptive and” negative Budget and mentions that it introduces increased taxes and charges of a regressive and inequitable nature. In opposing the Budget the Opposition has taken the unprecedented step of taking industrial action as a political protest.. Honourable senators opposite have called it a ‘rally’, but really it was a strike. It has been referred to as a peaceful demonstration’, but peaceful demonstrations can get out of hand. Despite much publicity the Budget protest cum strike - call it what you like - as a demonstration was a damp squib and fell far short of the promoters expectations. As evidence of this I refer to the leader in the Sydney Morning Herald’ of today’s date which states:
Yesterday’s national 3 hour Budget strike - a conspicuous waste of time and money, as the impressive number of trade-unionists who stayed away from public gatherings must have sourly reflected. . . .
A little further down it quotes from Mr Whitlam’s speech and states that he blamed the Government for practically everything, except the weather. That must have been an oversight. Some members of the Opposition have claimed the right to use the streets for demonstrations.
– Do you deny workers the right to strike?
– Others have rights too. Nobody has a licence to disrupt the lawful business of others by blocking the streets. The once great Labor Party for so long stood for arbitration. Its members believed in it and made it a major plank of their platform. But what happens now? They stand by while there is resort to industrial action and strikes. The Australian Council of Trade Unions is systematically extracting greater and greater rates of pay, allowances, overtime and overaward payments from employers. The ACTU systematically holds sections of business to ransom. There is a remarkable concentration on the transport industries. It is believed that they are very vulnerable as they are a means of inconveniencing large numbers of people.
We now have the Opposition lending itself to activities and taking an active part in things which flout the laws. We are fast arriving at the position in Australia where we as a nation will have to make up our mind whether we want, to maintain law and order in the country or to have anarchy and the rules of the jungle. I should like to quote a couple of extracts from the ‘Canberra Times’ of today’s date. I refer to an article by Rohan Rivett who refers to Melbourne, a city of fear. The report states:
Violence and the threat of violence, quite outside the activities of criminals, is flourishing in Melbourne this winter.
Police and courts observers believe that a number of young people, who have never fallen foul of police or courts before, now accept the thesis that the only way to attract attention to abuses and inconsistencies is through violence and threats.
Action is not restricted to links with anticonscription drives and opposition to the Vietnam war. Federal, State and municipal premises and individual officers have been the targets of attack or have received threats by phone or letter. Mining companies, banks, and officialdom in several walks of life - including sport - have had a taste of the jungle law approach.
What has alarmed educationists and other authorities is that a variety of Melbourne groups, not obviously connected, have all resorted to tactics which defy the law and bring a physical threat and mental anxiety to innocent citizens.
It goes on to mention an organisation called the People’s Liberation Army. In another place it says:
Violence on trains and on unmanned station platforms has caused thousands of commuters, men and women to abandon rail travel after dark once the peak period if over.
I also mention the spectacle of what have been called treason rooms. I believe that these are set up in the capital cities - in trades halls and other places - to advise young men how to evade their national service obligations; in effect, how to break the law.
Senator Willesee referred at great length to the effect that he says the reduction in income tax will have. He said that we should have a look at the submissions of the Australian Council of Trade Unions on this matter. I have a copy of them here. It seems that now when the Government has conceded pretty well all that the ACTU asked for in those submissions, it is still not satisfied. In regard to social service payments, I believe that they should have a loading attached to them in taxation zones A and B, where the cost of living is greater. This would compensate pensioners who elect to live in those areas in their retirement rather than retire to the coastal areas or other places.
I refer now to the plight of the wool growers in Queensland who have suffered from drought for so long and now find that the market for wool has collapsed. A major rescue operation in this industry has become necessary. I am pleased to see an allocation of $30m in the Budget as a 1-year scheme of emergency relief. I quote the following extract from the Budget speech:
The scheme is regarded as an interim measure pending consideration of other possible action appropriate to the longer-term problems of the woolgrowing industry. In particular, the Government is examining the need for reconstruction in the wool industry, including as one aspect of reconstruction the question of growers’ indebtedness, and of ways in which the Commonwealth can most effectively assist. The Minister for Primary lndutry will submit a report to the Government on these matters. The Government will also examine all aspects of the setting up and operation of the proposed statutory wool marketing authority. These investigations will be pursued as matters of urgency.
It is interesting to note that despite all the crocodile tears of the Opposition Mr Whitlam, in his speech on the Budget, covered the whole rural industry sector in 39 words. I wish to emphasise that. I ask this question: Is this all the interest the Australian Labor Party has in this major sector of the economy?
– What were the words?
– The . honourable senator may read them on page 474 of Hansard for the House of Representatives of yesterday’s date. With the combination of drought, low wool prices and wheat problems, we now have a section of our people who, through no fault of their own are almost on the bread line-
– lt is the Government’s fault.
– I do not think the Government could make it rain. The honourable senator should be a bit reasonable. At the same time the rest of our people are enjoying over-full employment and unprecedented prosperity. The continued strikes and industrial blackmail in the more prosperous sections of industry are not winning any friends in the rural areas. As well as there being problems in the rural sector, residents of country towns whose wellbeing or otherwise is so closely related to primary production are suffering and people are leaving the country towns. The Federal Government has agreed to continue Federal assistance to Queensland for drought relief measures on the same basis as last year. I do not think the plight of the people in the worst drought areas of western Queensland is fully appreciated in much of the rest of Australia. In addition to our wool problems, the wheat industry in my State is in a very bad way.
The great rural industries have contributed much to the present prosperity of Australia and the earning of our overseas income over a very long period. The rural industries still earn a large section of our overseas income. With our industrial development and the high tariff protection that goes with it, there has to be a sharing of this prosperity between industrial and rural areas. There has been such a sharing up until now in the form of subsidies, bounties and organised marketing schemes. It is a principle already well established. In order to preserve a large section of our rural industries, an extension of this principle will probably be necessary. I hope that a long range plan of reconstruction will be drawn up soon. The Treasurer (Mr Bury) mentioned that expenditure in relation to rural industries is estimated at $215m in this financial year - an increase of $77m on the expenditure last year.
I mention now the matter of country telephone lines. I propose to quote a statement made by the Postmaster-General’s Department which is of great importance to country telephone users. The statement is as follows:
Under a revised policy the Post office will, at its own expense, provide and maintain lines for telephone exchange services up to a radial distance of IS miles from the appropriate exchange. lt will also provide and maintain lines extending beyond the 15 miles radial distance but, in these cases, the subscribers concerned will be required to pay a flat rale once-only charge of $40 for each radial quarter-mile beyond IS miles.
These arrangements will apply retrospectively from 1st. January 1969 in that suitable adjustments will be made with subscribers who have had their lines constructed or upgraded to Post Office specifications since then. These new arrangements will also be applied by the Post Office when the work of upgrading or reconstructing private sections of other existing subscribers’ exchange lines is undertaken.
This is a major breakthrough in policy regarding rural telephone users. They are put on the same basis as their city counterparts. The action of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) in this matter is much appreciated. This will replace the points system which acted so unfavourably towards the person furthest away from the exchange. We concede that there is a necessity for the re-building and upgrading of country subscribers’ telephone lines to keep pace with the transfer of the telephone system throughout Australia to automatic working. The aim is to have the system fully automatic in the next few years. The cost to country telephone subscribers of upgrading their lines was becoming prohibitive. Had action not been taken in this Budget to assist them, many would have had to give up their telephones.
I now wish to refer to the call charges In some rural areas. When new, small automatic exchanges are installed and subscribers are re-grouped, quite often the ordinary local call rate of 4c is eliminated for calls to the big centre of production where those people do business. I believe that where a subscriber on the existing set-up has the right to the local call rate for calls to the big centre of production, his right to that rate should be allowed to continue even if to do that it is necessary to connect his line to a new exchange a little further away. My Party asks that where a local call rate was payable before a new exchange was built, that rate should be continued.
We believe that as a long range policy only 2 rates should be charged for telephone calls throughout Australia. The first of these would be calculated on the ELSA system - the extended local service area system - under which the untimed local call method could be extended to take in all centres of big business where all the common business services are available. The other charge would be on the basis of a timed 3-minute call to anywhere in Australia at a flat rate. We believe that this could be done for as little as 30c. To some people that might seem a small amount to pay to ring, for instance, Western Australia, but the principle of the application of a maximum rate has already been established. [ refer to the charge of $1.80 for calls, irrespective of distance, to anywhere in Australia. Where microwave links and coaxial cables are used there is no problem with trunk lines. Hundreds of them are available in many areas. However, if the first system of charging I have proposed is to work, many more feeder trunk lines will be necessary.
The argument that the number of calls under the flat rate plan could not be handled is unsound. I remind honourable senators of the introduction of penny postage in 1840. It was said then that the volume of letters would be too great to be handled. In fact, the volume of letters was far greater than was anticipated; but it was handled, and very profitably. The same principle would apply to flat rate trunk calls. The sheer volume of calls would make the enterprise workable and profitable for the Postal Department.
Recently I travelled in north western Queensland, in the Gulf country, and saw some of the development in that area. For example, I visited Mount Isa and found that a new town is being built 9 miles from Mount Isa, with a new mine and all the development that goes with it. The people there have decided that rather than try to extend Mount lsa. where insufficient housing is available, they will develop a new town at Hilton 9 miles away. Another fast developing mining area in that region is Gunpowder. We are told that Mary Kathleen, which has been in mothballs for 7 or 8 years, is to be re-opened. The rapid expansion of mining and exports of minerals are earning overseas income for Australia and are helping to compensate for the temporary loss of export income through the present state of primary industries.
– Do you think that endangers the position of primary industries as their contribution to the export balance becomes less significant?
– I do not think it does very much.
– Do von think it makes them vulnerable?
– I do not think so. The microwave link is to bc extended to Mount Isa and will become operational in about 3 months. Four or five new television transmitters will be able to start transmitting programmes to a new area of Australia. The microwave link is to be extended to Tennant Creek and Darwin and the national television relays will then be established in additional areas.
I would like now to mention the great expansion of transport development with money provided by the Commonwealth for beef roads. In the Peninsula area of Queensland big areas have been opened up and a remarkable transformation has occurred in the use of land there. It is remarkable to see what has been done in a few years through the construction of long stretches of bitumen road. These have made it possible to transport stock over long distances very quickly. T have referred to the Peninsula area of Queensland before. Some money has been allocated for beef roads in that area. A new province could be opened up in northern Queensland above Cairns if a good road were built to Weipa and beyond. I believe that the Budget is sound and provides for all sections of the community. It will mean the continuance of sound government, and continued development and expansion. I believe that it has the support of a large majority of our people.
– Senator Lawrie has no doubt resumed his seat with a big sigh of relief. One can well understand that reaction on the part of somebody who takes on such a tough brief as defending the Budget. I think Senator Lawrie’s speech was one of the most disappointing contributions 1 have heard since 1 came here. 1 suppose that is understandable as he had very little to offer as an excuse for this miserable Budget, the worst Budget I have seen in the time I have been here. Senator Webster is interjecting. I know that it hurts and I will give him cause to make a few more comments before I am finished.
One would have expected to hear from the spokesman for the Country Party some words of encouragement for our primary industries. In fact, Senator Lawrie launched himself into a field about which he obviously knows practically nothing. I refer to the industrial field. It was obvious to anyone who has had even a passing association with affairs of the industrial world that, he did not know what he was talking about. He glossed over those matters to which I would have expected the first spokesman for the Country Party in this debate to give a good deal of time.
The honourable senator’s speech was absolutely lacking in enthusiasm. He devoted a great deal of his attention to the fringe activities which may or may not assist people in the country. One certainly hopes that they will assist people in the country. However, after listening to Senator Lawrie speak about the installation of telephones for a fast dwindling section of the Australian community - the people in the outback areas - and his attempts to bolster the lamentably poor performance of the Government by referring to a microwave system or an improved telephone service, one can well understand the criticisms which have been levelled at this approach throughout the rest of the Australian community. I was disappointed in Senator Lawrie’s performance. I thought that he would’ have clone a great deal better, with the experience he has had in this Parliament. If one is to hear a repetition of this sort of performance during the course of the Budget debate, then it is very little wonder that people-
– His heart was not in it.
– His heart was not in it. As I say, he sat down with a great big sigh of relief. This is a remarkable Budget. lt was produced by a man who in his first sally into the area of the Ministry lasted a remarkably short time. He fell foul of the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr McEwen) and was quite promptly sacked by the then Leader of the Government, Sir Robert Menzies. He made a great comeback, and he made that comeback because this year the former Treasurer, Mr McMahon, could not get along with the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). The former Treasurer was not prepared to submit to the whims and vagaries of the Prime Minister, so he was posted to another ministerial position and somebody amenable to the whims of the Prime Minister was put in his place. So we have the situation where the Budget has been produced and is inflicted upon the Australian community with all its inequities, inequalities and injustices. If honourable senators want anything further on the question of injustices, I point out that in his Budget Speech the Treasurer said:
In 1969-70 the economy again achieved a high rate of growth. Gross national product at constant prices increased by about 5.5%. . .
Do honourable senators know what the pensioners’ increase was? It was about 3.6% . The Treasurer continued:
The surge in demand for labour reflected a quickening in demand generally. Consumer spending, which increased by 7.2% in 1968-69, moved up by 9.6% in 1969-70.
Pensioners received an increase of 3.6%. He continued:
Average weekly earnings rose by about 8% in 1969-70.
The pensioner increase represented 3.6%. Finally he said:
The consumer price index rose at an accelerating rate throughout the year-
He waxed eloquent -
Pensioners received an increase of 50c a week - an increase of 3.6%. This is the sort of performance that we are getting from this Government. Was the erosion in the value of money to which pensioners were subjected equal to a precise 50c per week, or was it greater or less? All estimates that I have obtained point to the fact that the erosion in the purchasing value of money was substantially greater than 50c per week. In other words, about $1 a week was the level of erosion in the value of pensioners’ purchasing power. Yet here we see that a niggardly, miserly increase of 50c a week is given to a section of the community which cannot any longer help itself. Are we as responsible citizens of this country, forming the Parliament of the nation, prepared to sit by idly and accept a situation in which we hand out to these people crumbs from the rich man’s table - a miserable 50c a week which does not restore the value of pensions to their former level? This is the sort of thing that we have come to expect from this Government. Not only have we got a run down in practically every sector of primary industry, but we are prepared so heartlessly to dismiss this section of the Australian community which has, very largely, built this community and which has made tremendous sacrifices for the nation over the years. We are prepared to fob these people off with a miserable 50c a week.
The Budget perpetuates the former injustices in the taxation system. Senator Willesee has dealt at some length with them, and I do not propose to recapitulate, beyond saying that I agree with all the observations which he made on this question. The Budget perpetuates the injustices. It adds further to the iniquitous situation regarding indirect taxation which hits hardest at the family man and imposes a greater percentage penalty on him than on people better able to look after themselves. Sales tax. which is an indirect tax, is a punitive tax. Representations have been made to members of this Parliament by groups of people throughout the country pointing out that it seemed hardly proper that people should have to pay tax on baby powder and not on dog powder, that they should pay tax on biscuits used to feed children and not on dog biscuits. This situation has obtained in Australia for a great many years. One would have thought that for appearance’s sake alone this iniquitous situation would have been corrected long before now.
Another point which arises from the Budget is that the penalties which it imposes apply immediately, whereas the benefits which it confers apply at some time in the future.- My colleague Senator Lacey quite properly raised in the Senate today the question why this miserable increase of 50c a week in pensions to those people who are unable to look after themselves cannot clare back. Senator Lacey suggested 18th August. Why have pensioners to wait until some time in October to receive an increase in pensions while in the interim the value of the increase ls eroded? This is a further example of the penalties which this Government inflicts upon the Australian community. As Senator Murphy said, we are prepared to go to the electors on this question. From the comments which one hears everywhere one turns, 1 think that the Government would learn a lesson from the people, from its masters, if it were to go to an election on this question. I challenge it to go to an election, but I bet that it will not do so.
The question of wages is very frequently raised. At the present time in Australia we have a system based upon the concept, that the only thing that ought to be controlled is wages, that is, the incomes of the people who by their labours: - the output of their minds or hands or bodies in industry - create prosperity for this country. Yet all these people are subject to wage determinations, restrictions, penalties and God knows what else, while these other factors which go into the composition of the gross national product - and there are many of them, including interest rates, profit margins and transport costs - are not subject to any sort of restriction or control at all. Interest rates continue to increase. The hire purchase companies continue their activities unabated and the interest rates which they themselves calculate are not subject to any sort of control by the banking system in this country. In total, about. 50% of the factors that go to make up the gross national product are subject to no restriction or control whatsoever. ls it not obvious that if wages are based upon the cost of goods and services, as they are undoubtedly are - these factors are taken into account in judgments made upon’ applications for increases in wages - and if the costs of goods and services rise, the wage levels must increase to meet this rise in order to maintain the pre-existing standard? But, of course, the Government does not recognise this fact. Some honourable senators at times - they approach heresy, one might almost say, so far as Government attitude is concerned - express the belief that there ought to be some sort of restraint on prices. We are told that we must not control costs at all, that they will reach their own level in due course. The situation which is facing Australia al the present time is that on every occasion when wages arc increased they are increased as a result of a proper industrial court decision; they are justified. But every time that this happens there is an increasing cost spiral and Australia’s position as a trading nation is placed further in jeopardy.
One day somebody will have to be bold enough and sensible enough to . tackle this problem so as to bring the situation into some semblance of order. Surely the workers must have a right to share in the national productivity; yet they have to fight every inch of the way to justify any increase in the returns paid for their labour. I know that sections of industry accept the proposition that those who work for them are entitled to a greater share of the profits. Many employers are prepared to accept this proposition. But in the main most employers, supported by this Government, make the great mass of workers fight every inch of the way to justify any increase in wages and any attempt to improve the living standards of the great mass of people in the country.
This kind of thing accentuates the problems faced by primary industries. I wondered why Senator Lawrie, whom 1 assumed spoke for the Country Party, glossed over the very important problems facing primary industries at present. I attempted to make some kind of assessment of the problems facing the apple and pear industry, which is one of the principal industries in Tasmania. I was able to learn quickly something of the very great problems which face this industry. These problems have been accentuated recently by the unprecedented rise in shipping freight rates. The rates were increased without the people of Tasmania being given an opportunity to offer reasons against this serious and heavy imposition of additional costs. About 69% of Tasmanian apple growers get less than §4,000 per year net farm income and 53% of those growers get incomes of less than $2,000 per year.
In the traditional apple and pear growing areas of the State, almost 93% of farm income from properties comes from apples and pears. About 95% of the crop is exported. So any problems which arise in clearing the Tasmanian crop year by year due to freight increases or matters of this kind represent tremendous imposts and are very damaging factors to the Tasmanian apple and pear industry. In fact, it has been suggested to me that, notwithstanding the problems of wool, wheat, dairying and other primary industries, the most vulnerable primary industry at present is the apple and pear industry, particularly because of the high export level. Any adverse affect on that industry has a very serious effect on the economy of Tasmania.
I come to another point. Again Senator Willesee briefly touched upon this in the course of his comments. I refer to the problems facing local government. On many occasions in the Senate I have spoken on this matter. Up to the present I have not been able to get through to the Government that the problem cannot be divorced from a consideration of the 3 levels of government and that the problem has regard to the financial position of the Federal Government. So bad has the position become that in my own State of Tasmania recently a special conference of the municipal associations of Tasmania was called to endeavour to find some solution to this very perplexing and very difficult problem. In due course endeavours will be made to persuade the authorities - Federal and otherwise - of the parlous financial situation of local government in Australia. I can understand that the problem is being met in other States. I would hope that, as a consequence of their endeavours which I sincerely believe will be maintained and strengthened the time may come when the role of local government will gain proper recognition.
Section 96 of the Constitution provides that the Federal Government may make grants for any purpose which it determines from time to time. When one looks at this section, one is conscious of the fact that the architects of the Australian Constitution understood, at the time, that there would be problems arising in relation to the financial relationships between the Commonwealth, the States and local government and in various other areas of governmental activity that could not be foreseen at the time of the making of the Constitution. Therefore, though they could not see this at the time, provision was made in the Constitution to allow for a contingency of this kind to be taken into consideration. If we were to argue, as I have heard it argued, that the Commonwealth has no responsibility in the field of local government, I suggest that is rather begging the question. One can very quickly see what happens. Is local government to go to the wall? Is it to be so seriously eroded in its performance that it is no longer able to serve the particular function which it has in the affairs of government? Is this to be brought about simply because the Government, in its interpretation of the Constitution, says: ‘We have no responsibility’? I put very seriously to honourable senators that section 96 of the Constitution was designed to meet a contingency of this kind.
The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) should not raise his eyebrows in an attempt to make light of this. The matter is a serious one. Local government is deeply concerned because it has to face the problem of having the Federal Government, time after time, in budgets levying more tax and taking more funds away from people while local government is scraping the bottom of the barrel to try to get sufficient funds to carry out its tremendously important function. I say quite seriously that the Government will not dodge this issue much longer. The Government has dodged it until now. I ask honourable senators to remember how the Government dodged the education problem for many years until ultimately it was forced by public opinion to make contributions to public education. I am happy to say that its contributions are extended from time to time. Ultimately the Government will come to recognise that there is a special place for local government in this country. Federal indebtedness is dropping while the debts of the States are increasing.
In the same period of time that Federal indebtedness has dropped, the indebtedness of the States has increased by 450% and the indebtedness of local government has increased by something like 700%. The situation has now reached breaking point.
I rise tonight as a spokesman for local government. A great part of my life has been involved in this area of local activity. I make my plea because unless some solution to the problem is found the performances of local government will drop away quite remarkably and quite lamentably. I believe that local government has an extremely important function in the affairs of government. I would very much regret any situation which brought about an erosion or a diminution of the effectiveness and the performance of local government.
There is another matter upon which I would like to touch so far as performance is concerned. For a period of time I have been quite concerned to note that there is a privileged section in the Australian community. I am not saying that I am against the kind of thing that is happening. In fact. I am very much in favour of it. I would like to see an extension of this privilege to cover other areas. This matter relates back to the Constitution. I refer to the quite peculiar situation which exists in the Australian Capital Territory. In the Australian Capital Territory, at the present rale of expenditure, about S50m of public funds is being expended on the provision of water, sewerage, streets, buildings, recreation reserves and all the other systems that are provided in the Canberra community such as magnificent schools and an excellent university. The services available to the people in Canberra are very much superior to the services available to the rest of the Australian community. Although I commend the excellent work that is being done in the development of Canberra as the national capital, I sometimes wonder whether the Constitution, in providing that the federal authorities should look after Territories, intended that such a high level of facilities should be provided to one area of Australia while the rest of Australia is languishing for the want of the sort of services that are so readily available to people in Canberra. I hope the time will come when representatives of local government will have a seat at the Premiers Conference and so have an opportunity to put their own special cases to the Commonwealth. Let me make the point that I have made on previous occasions: The State Premiers - and this is well recognised and well publicised - have a tremendous problem in trying to get the Commonwealth to provide sufficient money for them to carry out their State responsibilities. By the time they carry out these responsibilities they have very little left to pass on to local government authorities. I sincerely hope that some thought will be given io what I have had to say about the problem of local government and that there will be an awakening and a growing awareness by people in positions of responsibility here of the already very great and rapidly growing difficulties of local government authorities so that some endeavour can be made to cure this situation.
At the present time Tasmania is experiencing floods. I very much regret to have to inform the Senate that things are still quite serious in the flooded areas of the north west part of the State. ! heard a report earlier in the evening that there was a possibility that that magnificent structure, the Rowallan Dam, may be lost. In fact a radio broadcast by one of the stations in Launceston earlier in the evening mentioned that there was some apprehension about: the safety of this structure.
– For the last 12 months there has been considerable apprehension about the safely of the Rowallan Dam. This is not. something new.
– I am talking particularly about the situation now. If anything happened to that structure extensive areas of the north west coast which would receive the water released from the Dam would be in very great difficulty indeed. As a result of the Hood there has been loss of life, tremendous loss of property and tremendous damage clone to the road systems and bridges. The problems of local government in that State have in the last 48 hours been greatly accentuated. I do not know how local government bodies will meet these problems. Whole sections of roads as well as bridges and culverts have been either washed away or damaged. I recall asking the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) yesterday whether sympathetic consideration would be given to a request from Tasmania for some assistance to meet this situation, and I heard earlier in the day that the Premier of Tasmania was likely to make representations to the federal authorities for some help.
I want to deal quickly with the situation which has arisen in Tasmania since the quite unexpected decision made recently by the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, which operates as the Australian National Line, to increase by 124-% the freight rates on goods transported across Bass Strait in ANL ships. 1 remind the Senate that Tasmania is in the unique position of having no other system of transportation available to it. We are cut off from the mainland of Australia by Bass Strait. We rely almost entirely for our trade with the mainland on ANL ships. They have a virtual monopoly of the trade between Tasmania and the mainland. Anything the ANL does is fairly quickly followed by the other operators who operate on a much smaller scale. We find that because of the provisions of section 18 (1) of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act the ANL is required to make a return on capital to the Government. I put it to the Senate that this provision is in conflict with the provisions of section 92 of the Constitution in the circumstances of this case. I hope that a Constitution lawyer will have a look at this situation. The imposition of additional freight rates not only jeopardises existing industries in Tasmania but may have a serious inhibiting effect on the establishment of new industries. I believe that section 18 (1) of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act is ultra vires section 92 of the Constitution, which requires that trade, commerce and intercourse between the States shall be absolutely free.
Tasmania is not in a bargaining position in relation to transport. It is a case of take it or leave it. We have no opportunity for transporting our goods by any other system than the shipping system. I believe it is quite wrong to invoke section 18 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act and to require the Australian National Line to make a return on capital. This is quite unsupportable. That section of the Act ought to be amended as quickly as possible. The situation it creates in Tasmania is intolerable. The Australian
National Line is making a profit. I believe, although I may be corrected on this, that it is making a return of 24-% on capital over its whole range of operations notwithstanding that substantial losses are being made in some ANL services. It is wrong that it should make a profit on its service to Tasmania, where our industries are being hard hit; where, as I have demonstrated, the apple and pear industry is in an extremely vulnerable position; where new challenges are being faced and where possibly as a consequence of Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community other problems will arise. Therefore I hope that this requirement to make a profit will be discarded for the Tasmanian run.
We should bear in mind that the Commonwealth Government has made substantial contributions to the standard gauge railway from Perth to the eastern States and that it has made substantial contributions to beef roads. The time was when the Commonwealth Government made substantial contributions to the old conventional shipping service to Tasmania. Why should it suddenly change in this day and age from a situation where a subsidy was paid to a shipping company to provide a shipping service to Tasmania to a situation where the Government runs its own ships and requires them to make a profit on the service? T seriously suggest that there are many areas in the affairs of this country where there are very great problems and I would have expected that in a budget many of these problems would have been recognised and attempts made to cure them.
The Budget is intolerable to the Australian Labor Party. It contains many inequities and inequalities. Is it any wonder that the people of Australia, many of them not very closely associated with the problems of pensioners, are incensed beyond words at the callous disregard by this Government of the plight of the unfortunate members of our community who are pensioners because of age or as a consequence of invalidity and who have been handed out this insult of 50c a week? I strongly suggest there are many grounds on which this Government can be roundly condemned for lack of performance. I suppose anyone who is as closely associated with what is going on as are members of this Parliament would understand that there are a great many areas of difference between members of the Government. They are very busy trying to accommodate these problems, handling the affairs of government and laying down the laws. It is time that the people of Australia had an opportunity to express an opinion on these matters, and 1 have no doubt that if they were given an opportunity to express an opinion they would do so in no uncertain terms. Let us go to the people on this Budget. The Opposition is anxious to give an opportunity to the people of Australia to express an opinion on the performance of this Government. I have no doubt what their decision would be. 1 therefore support the amendment moved by Senator Murphy.
– To deal first with perhaps the least important of the matters with which we are concerned tonight, I will mention the rather incredible amendment which was moved by Senator Murphy and supported by Senator Devitt. Senator Devitt and the preceding speakers from his Party have said quite blithely: ‘Let the people have a chance to say what they think about this Budget.’ Senator Devitt entirely overlooked the fact that a lot less than 12 months ago we went through the very expensive procedure of an election. Regardless of the time that normally expires between elections, the cost of an election, and the disruption in the administration of the country which an election brings because of the engagement of people in election matters rather than in running the country, he blithely says: ‘Let us have an election.’ Perhaps we could have one the week after that if something else happens. I suppose that every time some little thing happens we are to have what is in effect a national referendum.
The absurdity of what is being suggested by the Australian Labor Party in relation to this Budget is so patently obvious that 1 do not think it is necessary to give it more time. I will deal more specifically with some of the things that were said; but first of all let me put this Budget into context. No-one has said that it was a hand-out Budget. It was never said by any Government supporter or by any Minister prior to the Budget that it was expected to be, nor was it indicated that it would be, what may be known as a hand-out Budget. Last year there were very substantial increases in welfare payments and in a number of the other programmes put forward by the Government. That Budget was criticised as being something which the country could not a/ford. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was criticised as being irresponsible in taking the steps which he took to bring up the degree to which he brought them up the various payments in the welfare field. I suggest that Senator Devitt, if he cares to follow the old tradition of remaining in the chamber after he has spoken, may like to hear what I wish to say about some of his statements. If he chooses to leave the chamber - he is now doing so - he will not hear them. It is a matter for him.
Last year’s Budget enabled the people who are in receipt of welfare benefits to receive a very substantial lift, one which I believe was well and truly the maximum that the nation could afford. They are provisions of which we are proud and I think justly so, but it would be unreal to suggest that we could have these sorts of increases every year. This year, with a financial climate which has not been disputed by any Opposition speaker, would it have been possible to produce other than a reasoned and balanced Budget? This is what has been produced and I think that in all the circumstances it has tried to equate the varying needs of the community in a way which serves as well as possible all those interests. I think this is what was intended and I think this is what was achieved.
Probably the most criticised matter in the Budget is the increased rate of pensions. We have heard a great deal of waffle and loose talk about it. We hu e seen displayed perhaps the most irresponsible action imaginable on the part of PlO.pIe whom we might think were responsible organisers of the trade union movement, people who are supposed to be leaders in the community, such as Mr Hawke. I suppose this is a good opportunity for me to go to town on the Opposition. I can say anything I like because there is not a single Opposition member in this chamber to hear a word that I say. The Government benches are well stocked, I might say, with senators taking an interest in the Budget and any criticism there may be but which so far has not been forthcoming from the other side. The Opposition is so absolutely disinterested in this matter that not one Opposition senator is here. I see that my remarks have brought forth some rabbits.
– I will draw attention to the state of the Senate and bring some of you people in here.
– The numbers on this side are quite substantial as was the increase in pensions. The increase has been said to be 50c. Well, it is 50c per person. If one looks at basic wages and at incomes, one normally looks at the family as being the average unit. If we look at the family unit, we note that the increase in pension was $1 a week. That is what is available to be shared by the married couple, who are the norm so far as pensioners are concerned. In other words, the majority of people in receipt of pensions are married couples. But let us look not just at what was done this year but also at what was done last year and what is still being put into effect as aresult of the programmes introduced last year. This included the tapered means test which was of great benefit to a large number of people. The estimate given - I have not seen the actual figures for last year - was that a quarter of a million people would benefit as a result of the tapered means test. That means that a quarter of a million people either receive a pension which they previously did not receive or, alternatively, received increases in the amount of pension to which they were entitled. There have been a variety of other benefits to widows and other pensioners. There have been the aged persons homes subsidy, the $1 for $1 subsidy for nursing homes for the aged, and the various amounts which have been made available to persons who are in need and who are now being said to have been unfairly treated by this Government.
When discussing this subject everyone tends to overlook entirely the fringe benefits which are available to persons in receipt of pensions, age pensions in particular. Perhaps it would be an interesting exercise to calculate the weekly value of the fringe benefits available to the average pensioner couple, add this to the actual cash payment, relate it to the basic wage after tax and see how much difference there is, if there is any difference at all. It may very well be seen that this country is getting to a stage where, by direct or indirect benefits to its retired people, it is able to provide an amount which is not very much below the basic wage. Any country which can afford to do that has, I think, something that it can be proud of. The emotional and hysterical screaming that has been indulged in by certain people in the unions and in the Australian Labor Party in relation to this subject is most unfortunate. I can well sympathise with the people in the pensioner movements who believe that they are not receiving as much as they would like to receive. Many of us think that in relation to the various things in which we are interested. (Quorum formed).
It has been interesting to see Senator Cavanagh come into this chamber, having not been here for most of the evening, immediately call for a quorum and find that he still has only 2 members of his party in the chamber. Obviously the disinterest of the Labor Party in this Budget remains as great as it has been all through the evening. The disinterest of the Labor Party in this Budget is best demonstrated by the way in which Senator Murphy, who is the Leader of the Labor Party in this chamber, dealt with the Budget. He had one hour in which to speak to it. He spoke for 27 minutes and in that time he did not say anything that was not either vulgar abuse or inane comment. Let us look at the Budget provisions. The provisions which relate to assistance to wool growers are well known and obviously necessary. The provisions in relation to education have been increased by 25%. Last year the increase was 38% in direct expenditure and 53% in the total expenditure, including direct expenditure and moneys given to the States for education purposes. In other words, there was an increase in expenditure by the Federal Governmentlast year of 53% and 25% this year in relation to education alone. If that is added to the 2 previous years” increases of about 19% and 30% to 35% honourable senators can see that this is a field in which expenditure has been vastly increased by the Federal Government in the past 4 years. We can all be proud, I believe, of these increases.
We have the substantial repatriation increases and the provisions in relation to postal services. Some of these may hurt people as some of them are increases in charges, but some give important and necessary relief to people who were being subjected to something which I believe was most inequitable. A provision which has meant a great deal to people in the rural areas is the increase in the distance of line maintenance, erection or reconstruction for which the Postmaster-General’s Department will pay from the post office or exchange. Many people I know faced bills of SI, 000 and $2,000 - some of them more, some of them less but that is an average figure - not to obtain a phone but just to keep one. That is an exorbitant amount to require any person to pay. The Government recognises the effect that policy would have and it has immediately compensated for it by introducing the provision which was mentioned in the Budget speech. I will not go into detail other than simply to say that the Department will now pay the cost of erection for 15 miles and thereafter the cost will be $40 per quarter-mile. Those are radial distances from the nearest exchange in a straight line. That means that very few people in my home State of Tasmania have to pay anything at all other than the normal instalment charge for the upgrading of rural phone lines, to change over to automatic exchanges or the installation of new telephones to rural properties.
Let us look for a moment at some of the things Senator Murphy and one or two other honourable senators said. As I mentioned a moment ago, Senator Murphy spoke for only 27 minutes when he was entitled to an hour. He did not get down to saying something. I do not know why. One wonders why he had to indulge in extravagant statements, exaggeration and abuse. His only attempt at being constructive was in relation to the expenditure on the Vietnam war. He said that if the expenditure on the Vietnam war had not taken place we would have had a certain amount in dollars over each year which we could have spent on other things. I do not think one could ever imagine that all the things which Labor Party speakers in this chamber and in the other chamber say should be done by the Government could ever come out of that amount. One imagines it would require another $2,000m or perhaps $3,000m a year to pay for all the things the Labor Party says it is going to do. What would happen to the economy if they ever had a chance to control it? One can only conjecture.
Let us have a look at some of the statements some of their members have made. We will obtain a fairly good idea of the way they would control expenditure. All honourable senators know that prior to 1963 there was a defence run-down as it was called. There was a reduced expenditure on defence. Since that time there has been an increased expenditure on defence not only as a result of the Vietnam war but also as a result of re-equipment which becomes necessary over a period of time when various equipment has to be replaced. Senator Murphy says that if the amount expended before the Vietnam war is related to the expenditure on defence since one can see a vastly increased defence expenditure since the Vietnam war started. Apparently that is the sort of logic he uses. Senator Murphy did not answer an interjection from Senator Sir Magnus Cormack as to who prepared these figures. He refused to say by way of answer to an interjection by me over what period the figures were prepared. I think honourable senators can draw their own conclusions when people refuse to give any of that information to support the basis of the figures they are quoting. I suggest to the honourable senator that the figures he quoted are unreal. They were unreal if for no other reason than that he used a period of well known low defence expenditure and compared it with a period of high defence expenditure. The 2 situations are quite unrelated to the Vietnam war.
What did Senator Murphy say about national development? He had 33 minutes in which to develop his argument but he did not say a word about national development. Did he discuss at length the problems of the rural sector? Not a word, not a mention. Did we hear anything about the drought, about the problems of the wool industry and the industrial demands for shorter hours and greater pay in the rural sector? Did we hear anything about the incomes of the rural sector generally? A leader making an attack to support a motion such as he moved would at least advert to these things which could be developed in greater detail by other speakers who follow. Senator Murphy had 33 minutes of his time left in which he could have spoken. Not a word did he mention about any of these important matters. Did he talk about transport and its related problems in this country? Did he talk about the increased grants to the States? Not a word. Did he talk about any of the important areas of the Budget and of Commonwealth responsibility and expenditure? Not a word. Did he say anything about repatriation? Not a word. Did he say anything about the other things that we hear from the opposite side of the chamber from time to time which are regarded as important by the Labor Party? Not a word. All he indulged in was a lot of extravagant abuse. He did not make a constructive statement.
Let us look at something Senator Devitt said. He gave what I believe to be a typical example of the misunderstanding which is evident in the words and the reasoning used by many of those who are criticising this Budget. He said that the gross national product rose by 5.5% and that the pensioners’ income rose by only 3%; that is 50c a week. He is trying to relate an increase in the gross national product with an increase per person on a pension. He is saying that 50c is a 3% increase in the individual pension and the gross national product increased by 5.5%, therefore the increase was inequitable. This is some of the extraordinary reasoning which is rather hard to follow because the two are just not comparable in any way. It is interesting to have some members of the Australian Labor Party present to take some interest in the debate of the Budget. Probably if some of them cease chirping and start listening we might get on better. Let us have a look at the increase in social service payments. They were increased by 6i%. Those social service payments are payments in respect of pensioners in various ways. The increase in pensions was 6i% so, if one uses Senator Devitt’s method of comparing things, as the increase in the gross national product was 5.5%, the pensioners received more than they were entitled to. Of course I hastily add that that comparison is not one which can be made. As I said, the increase in respect of social service payments was 6i%.
– The fact still is that the pensioner receives 7c a day.
– Senator Devitt also referred to local government.
– The honourable senator did not have to talk about the gross national product. He wanted an audience.
– Senator Georges, you were not here to listen to what Senator Devitt said. You would not know what Senator Devitt was talking about and, equally, you would not know what 1 am talking about.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Senator Georges, you will cease interjecting. You have disregarded the Chair and 1 will not stand for it. You will cease interjecting.
– Senator Devitt referred to local government problems and the extreme difficulties which local government has. He referred to the fact that in Tasmania recently a meeting had to be held to discuss these problems. I also attended the meeting and 1 can agree that local government has problems, lt has very real problems. ‘But 1 did not hear anything coming from Senator Devitt or from any other member of the Opposition as to how these problems can be overcome. I would be very interested to hear how these problems of local government are going to be overcome. We have a number of things to do before we can overcome them. Some of the things that occur to me are a basic review of the Constitution and a basic review of the set-up between Commonwealth Government, State governments and local government. All these sorts of things are necessary before one can say that the Commonwealth Government is responsible for the position in relation to local government because there just happens to be one factor that has been overlooked, that is, the position of State governments which are, after all, under the present set-up, the bodies responsible for local government.
What has the Federal Government done to help to overcome that problem? It has very substantially increased the amounts available to the States. Not one speaker from the other side of the chamber has referred to that. The increases made just a couple of months ago in the payments to the States were very substantial, and even increases which have been carried on from year to year during the last 2 years have been at a rate far greater than the growth in income of the Federal Government. If we look at the growth in income of the
Federal Government this year we find that it is about 11%, and if we look at the increase in the amount of specific purpose grants and general revenue grants payable to the States we find an increase at an average of 14.1%, the special purpose grants being increased by 21%.
We have also the question in relation to the Commonwealth aid roads grant which has been very substantially increased. Whether that will be of assistance to local government will be a matter within the responsibility of the State governments. It will not be the responsibility of this Government which has provided the money. It is unfair and unreal to say that the total responsibility for the position in which local government finds itself can be justly laid at the feet of the Federal Government. It cannot. However, personally, I would agree with any suggestion that there is a need for a reconsideration by the Federal Government, State governments and local government of the financing of local government ventures, but that is an entirely different question.
Senator Murphy referred to our starving the States but he did not have - the word I was going to use was ‘honesty’, but by that I do not mean to imply that he is dishonest in the normal sort of way.
– What sort of way do you mean?
– If the honourable senator will allow me to explain I shall do so.
– Is he dishonest or not?
– I mean that he did not have in his memory at the time the fact that there have been very substantial increases which it might have been thought by many people would overcome at least temporarily many of the problems of the States. It would be quite unfair to say that the States have been starved because there have been great increases in the contribution made by the Commonwealth by taking over their debts and helping in other ways. Can it be said that this is starving the States? Senator Murphy said so. Let us consider what Senator Willesee said. He said that the redistribution of income of those receiving less than S4.000 a year had been such that it increased the amount of tax that they would be paying. I presume that in order to arrive at that startling conclusion he was using the figures put forward last night by the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Whitlam). At page 465 of Hansard Mr Whitlam incorporated a table, called table 8, which is headed ‘Budget impact on Family Income and Spending’. This is one of the most remarkable documents we have ever seen. If anybody has not looked at it, may I recommend it for study as I think it will be found to be rewarding because of the paucity of real argument which is available as a basis for proper criticism of the Budget.
Among other things, in the column relating to the income group about which Senator Willesee was speaking most - the $3,000 to $4,000 a year income group - we see a number of items showing estimates of costs of indirect tax rises. Item 11 includes company tax passed on in higher prices. For this income group the amount is $15 a year. One can imagine that conceivably there will be some increases as a result of increased company tax, but the figure mentioned is hardly likely. There will be a reduction of profit, certainly, but it is not necessarily something handed on by companies. Experience will show generally that variations in the tax levels are not passed on directly by industry.
– You know it is handed on. It is always handed on.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! If the honourable senator continues to interject I shall have no option but to do something about it. The honourable senator is1 definitely attempting to prevent another honourable senator from making his speech in this chamber. I warn him to cease interjecting.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy President. We have in this table another item which is equally incredible. I refer to item 12, postal charges for which the estimated cost is $15.90 per annum for the person receiving an income of from $3,000 to $4,000. If we consider the increased postal charges which may apply to the ordinary family we find that there is an additional $7 a year in respect of rental charges for a telephone. If the rest of the cost is to be made up by any other charge that is likely to be applicable it would be brought about by the increased charge of lc per stamp. But a family would have to write 900 letters a year to make up that amount. I think that is rather unlikely. The only other increases are some relatively insignificant ones to the average family because I do not think many of them send a great number of money orders each year and 1 do not think the average family sends a great number of telegrams each year - certainly not enough to make up this difference. If we consider the relationship of the estimated benefit by way of tax reduction to the estimated increase as a result of indirect taxes we find that there is a benefit of $32.30 per annum and a detriment of just under $20 per annum. That, I suggest, is the position at its worst. That shows that Senator Willesee’s argument was not well founded.
I have not time to go into detail any further, but I do commend a study of this table to anybody who wants to realise the strength of the argument which has been put by the Opposition, as to the effect of these increases as opposed to the benefits obtained from tax relief. There was a basic inconsistency in the honourable senator’s argument when he said that indirect tax is iniquitous and claimed that the placing of an indirect tax on whatever you buy was wrong. Almost in the same breath he said that the increase in telephone charges should not have been made in relation to rental charges but should have been in telephone calls, that is, that people should pay as they use the telephone - pay as they go. There is a basic inconsistency between those 2 propositions. I do not know which way the charges should be imposed so far as his arguments are concerned. Obviously they are inconsistent.
To go on in the short time left to me, I propose to refer very briefly to the matter of external aid which is provided for in the Budget. Even Senator Georges might learn something if he would just keep quiet for a minute because this matter is non-controversial. In relation to increased external aid proposed in the Budget, may I suggest for the consideration of those concerned with the standing of Australia in relation to the countries nearest to it that there is an urgent need for joint venture projects in South East Asia. Every one of the countries there is calling out for Australian participation in the development of those countries by Australian industry or the Australian Government as it has been doing through the Department of Primary Industry in relation to the extension of the milk factories in various countries in South East Asia. Joint venture projects have been established to help those countries create employment, to give them know-how and the opportunity to develop their industries and to develop their economy. This is one of the things which I would regard as being most important. It could be undertaken by Australians with the assistance of the Australian Government.
Whilst we have insured the persons who engage in export in relation to the amounts which are given credit terms and we have provided special insurance plans for them, we have done nothing directly to encourage people to undertake the investment of capital in other countries and the development of industries in those countries. This is one of the most direct forms of international aid that we could give. Indonesia in particular is absolutely crying out for such assistance. There are many ways in which we could assist Indonesia. There are many industries which it would be appropriate to set up in that country, with Australian know-how, Australian capital and Indonesian labour. I believe that the success of those industries that Australians have established there is proof of the success that is available. The Naspro and IndoMilk companies are just 2 examples.
The suggestion that I make is that the Government could well consider underwriting all or a percentage of the capital investment required for a period of several years against loss by internal or external changes which could cause the loss of that capital either completely or indefinitely. The sort of thing that could happen is what happened in Indonesia under Sukarno, before the great change that came over that country recently, when the Australian industries that had been set up there were nationalised, taken over by the state of Indonesia and operated by the state. Naturally, some Australian industries may be somewhat wary of undertaking investment in those areas with that sort of risk. But many of us believe - I am sure that a proper assessment would show this - that the risk is not very real. However, industry requires some persuasion and perhaps a little encouragement. The encouragement that could well be given as a form of external aid is the same type of insurance scheme as at present relates to exports; that is, a safeguard against a loss of capital as a result of a change of government which could cause the expropriation of their assets in another country.
This is a matter that I should like to develop further at another stage. I simply mention it in relation to the Budget because I believe that the Australian Government has done a great deal in the field of external aid and a great deal to foster good relations with countries such as Indonesia. At the moment we stand extremely high in the minds of the Indonesians. I do not claim all the credit for that for the present Government. I admit that we had a Labor government in 1947 and 1948 when a very important move for Indonesians was made. I give credit to Dr Evatt for that, and I give credit to the Labor Party for that. But I say that it has been the Liberal-Country Party Government which has carried on what was started and which has carried it on extremely successfully. We have now reached the stage where I believe that Australia is the No. 1 guy so far as friendly relations with Indonesia are concerned. It is a country that we can help to develop. I believe that we have a duty to help it to develop. 1 hope that that development will take place in the very near future and will be encouraged by provisions such as that I have mentioned. As my time has expired, I cannot refer to any other matters at this stage.
– It has been interesting to note the course the Budget debate has taken this evening. We have heard criticism of the time taken by Senator Murphy and of the matters with which he dealt. But not one honourable senator opposite has done anything but, in his embarrassment, try to pass the blame for the public’s opinion of the Government from the Government to the Australian Council of Trade Unions because it has engaged in political demonstrations.
– I will deal with that to the satisfaction even of Senator Sim before the night is out. I believe that the demonstrations played a significant part in protecting the interests of those sections of the community which the ACTU exists for the sole purpose of protecting. But firstly let me say that the Government cannot justify its miserly contribution to pensioners and its reduction of the actual income of low margin workers simply by abusing someone on this side of the chamber. In the demonstrations which have taken place over the last few years and in which opposition to this Government has been expressed it is the Government that has been on trial, not the Opposition.
Tonight Senator Murphy complied with the requirement to cover what he thought were the most essential points in the Budget. One criticism which I endorse is that of the expenditure by Australia of $X - we do not know the actual amount - in the filthy and brutal war in Vietnam - a war in which we should never have been engaged. Senator Murphy made it the theme of his speech that we should not be engaged in that war and that the money that it is costing Australia could be better used in making some contribution to the social services programme of Australia or to developing this country and not some other country.
Senator Rae, who quite obviously is put up as the young boy from Tasmania who will revolutionise the whole of the Commonwealth political system, could offer nothing but criticism of the Opposition for not doing something. In seeking some publicity over the radio, on one occasion he said that no Opposition senators were in the chamber. That is admitted, and the reasons for it are known to the Opposition. I promptly came in and called for a quorum in order to draw the attention of the public to the fact that only 4 Government senators were in the chamber. I offer my sympathy to those 4 gallant individuals who suffered the torture of having to listen to Senator Rae. He was engaged in a publicity campaign and was endeavouring to benefit from something that happened in the Opposition Party. Two can play the same game.
Not just tonight but for some time now the Opposition has been pressing the matters which are important to Australia and for which the Budget should have provided. The Labor Party’s shadow Minister for rural industries raised a matter of urgency in another place last week for the purpose of drawing the attention of the Government and the people of Australia to the plight of rural industries and the failure of the Government to do anything about it. Despite the proposals in the Budget, insufficient has been done about the matter to date. The Government talked that debate out without a vote being taken. Last night Senator Murphy battled hard to get a Senate inquiry into drought relief and natural disasters. Again we received no support from the Government. It does not want an impartial inquiry designed to find out the best methods of rehabilitating the rural industries. It desires only to hand out some benefits which may gain it some support. On 3 occasions we have moved motions calling for rural industry matters to be referred to select committees. On each occasion the motion has been defeated by the Senate. On all occasions the Opposition has been aware of the situation and has been fighting for rural industries.
When we have a Budget that seeks to impose hardships upon low margin workers, middle margin workers and pensioners, if any organisation is more affected than is the ACTU, I would like to know what it is. Somebody may say that the pensioners are more affected than the
ACTU; but the present members of the ACTU are the pensioners of tomorrow. The fact that manual workers have to face existence on a government pension and under this Budget receive only 50c with which to meet the increases in the cost of commodities is of concern to the ACTU. The trade unions have been fighting for wage increases for their members, and only now, despite Federal Government opposition, have they established their right to have the profits of a company examined for the purpose of fixing wages. That right was denied to them on a previous occasion. They have fought to achieve a fair distribution of the wealth of this country or of the value of the production of a particular industry to their members, only to see it eroded by the taxation proposals presented in this Budget.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 August 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700826_senate_27_s45/>.