27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuilin) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will he give an assurance that an all out drive will be undertaken by federal agencies, including the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, to capture the ultra right wing Croatians who were responsible for yesterday’s Melbourne bombing incident, even if it means diverting these agencies from such secondary tasks as the surveillance of radical university groups? Does he not agree that the appeasement of another dynamiter named Lesic has encouraged the lawlessness from this quarter?
– 1 do not know of the appeasement to which the honourable senator has referred. All I can say to him is that if there has been, and obviously there has been, a breaking of the law of the Commonwealth, the law enforcement agencies of the Commonwealth will be called upon to take whatever action is necessary. However, I do not accept the honourable senator’s statement that there has been some appeasement of another lawbreaker.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. The Minister will recall that in answer to a question last week concerning the volume of traffic at various airports in Australia he said that the busiest airport in Australia is Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. I ask: Has the Minister noted recent reports which indicate that air traffic movements at Moorabbin amount to 300,000 a year? Has the Minister any further information on this aspect?
– I was referring to RFT - regular passenger transport - fields which cater for domestic and international passengers. General aviation is a separate exercise. As I mentioned yesterday, general aviation fields are provided in every capital city. In Brisbane one is at Archerfield; in Sydney one is at Bankstown; in Melbourne one is at Moorabbin; in Adelaide one is at Parafield; and in Perth one is at Jandakot. I am interested in the details which Senator Webster gave. These figures are not published in the annual report of the Department of Civil Aviation, although I think they could well be published. I have had figures taken out on the general aviation situation. These figures are interesting. They confirm the comments which the honourable senator made. The figures in relation to general aviation take into account charter flights, light aircraft flying, pilot training and exercises of this nature. These figures, which are the latest ones available, are for the year ended December 1969. The number of movements at Moorabbin totalled 242,167; at Bankstown, 217,566; at Jandakot, 138,292; at Parafield, 102,273; and at Archerfield, 95,150.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Civil Aviation. Why does a different procedure apply at Melbourne Airport to other airports in Australia for the embarkation of passengers? 1 instance this example, with your permission, Mr President, for the information of the Minister: When a person arrives at Melbourne Airport with his luggage he has to go and get his seat allocation and then he has to carry his luggage another 30 yards.
– That is only for TransAustralia Airlines flights.
– 1 am not arguing about who it is. If it is TAA I am more concerned about it because I am a shareholder. I know that I will not get any return on my investment, but I will have to pay if it goes bad. I ask the Minister whether he can look at this procedure because, I am informed, it does not operate in any other capital city in this nation.
– This is a most interesting question. It relates to a procedure which I have noticed at the Melbourne Airport. I directed inquiries through the Department to Trans-Australia Airlines to ascertain the reason for this when I was in Melbourne on the last occasion. Senator Kennelly also has spoken to me about it. I am still waiting for the full story, but as I understand it the story is roughly this: TAA believes that it would be convenient to have a separation between those who are passing luggage through and those who are travelling, in effect, from capital city to capital city on the one day. It thought that this would produce increased convenience for people who were travelling up and down from Melbourne to Sydney, against those who were checking luggage through. Therefore TAA separated the operation. It is true that no other company has done this and it is true also that no other capital city has this arrangement. It is equally true that I am trying to find out about it and to have it checked out to see whether it provides an overall convenience or whether it would be better to revert to the previous system.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to recent purchases by overseas interests of Australian wineries and a recent statement by the President of the Federal Wine and Brandy Producers Council expressing concern at this development, pointing out that the companies located outside Australia have unlimited resources and suggesting that this constituted a threat to the Australian industry? Will the Minister consider to what extent the Government can aid Australian industry in this regard and ensure that no further foreign ownership of Australian industries will be allowed?
– I did gee the report put out the other day by the President of the Federal Wine and Brandy Producers Council and T noted that he made some comments about what the tax on wine this year could do for the industry. I noted also that he pointed out that at present the industry has no figures to show how it will be affected. I shall take up with the Minister for Primary Industry the point made by the honourable senator and see what information I can obtain for bini.
– I ask the Minister for Housing a question. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the report of the South Australian Housing Trust in which there is reference to the sorry story of the housing crisis facing old people in South
Australia and pointing out that funds for the building of cottage flats were limited? Will the Federal Government provide more assistance so that more housing for age pensioners can be supplied, particularly for single elderly people?
– The honourable senator will probably recall that in last year’s Budget the Government made available $2Sm to be used over 5 years for this purpose because it appreciated the problem which faced many single aged persons who could not get accommodation at a rent that they could afford to pay and still have money left from their pension. Consequently, money is being made available for this purpose to the States. I think the honourable senator from South Australia will be interested to know of building schemes which have been approved for this purpose in South Australia. There have been approvals for 16 units at Sampson Road, Mitchell Park; 4 units at Waterman Terrace, Mitchell Park.; 20 units at Peachy Road-Marden Street, Elizabeth West: 8 units in Tucker Street, South Brighton: 20 units at Woodford Road-Morton Street, Elizabeth North; 16 units at Mawson Road-Orange Avenue, Salisbury: 4 units at Malcolm StreetDurham Terrace, Ferryden Park; and 12 units at Grant Road-Main North East Road, Gilles Plains. They add up to a total of 100 units. Those are the first ones which have been approved for construction in South Australia. It is, of course, only in relation to the first year, and they will continue during the next period the money is made available.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works and Minister-m-Charge of Tourist Activities. In view of everyone’s desire to avoid accidents by eliminating dangerous sections of roads, will the Minister through his Department look at the many narrow stretches of winding road on Highway 23 from the Hume Highway turnoff to within 10 miles of Canberra? This road is the gateway to our most popular tourist attractions - one being the national capital, Canberra, and the other being the Snowy Mountains resorts which are a winter* and summer attraction. In conjunction, if necessary, with the State of New South Wales, will the Government construct a road or highway which will assist tourism and be a credit to Australia? I am sure the Minister will find-
– Order! The honourable senator should ask his question and no give information.
– I ask the Minister: Will he look at the incidence of road accidents on this stretch of road? I am sure he will find that the number of accidents, in some cases resulting in death, which occur on this road is alarming.
– I shall certainly take an interest in the matter insofar as it affects tourism. However, I am bound to point out to the honourable senator that the highway in question is under the direct responsibility of the Government of New South Wales for which it receives a specific allocation under the Federal aid roads legislation which we passed last year. Insofar as the allocation of that money comes from this Government, it is within the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, whom Senator Cotton represents in this chamber.
– I will take up my part of this question and see that Senator Fitzgerald’s queries are directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport who, as the Minister for Works has said, has responsibility for road safety in a broad sense.
(Question No. 634)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In most of the cases it was apparent that the lack of the necessary documentation was due to oversight either on the part of the individuals concerned or of the carrying companies. Accordingly in all but 3 of the cases entry was permitted on arrival although in some instances short term permits only would have been granted initially to enable doubtful aspects to be checked.
In the other 3 cases the persons concerned were denied entry on arrival and the carrier companies were required to take them out of Australia.
(Question No. 642)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Minister for External Affairs has provided the following reply:
(Question No. 742)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Territories has provided the following answer tothe honourable senator’s question:
The matter referred to is one which falls within the authority o£ the Ministerial Member for Agriculture in the House of Assembly for Papua and New Guinea. The Administrator on the advice of the Ministerial ‘ Member for Agriculture has provided the following information:
The sale of locally produced tobacco leaf is very small and has been sold only for the last 2 years; in 1968 the average price was 20c per pound and in 1969 35c per pound.
V. and L. Matus of Goroka purchased 4,544 pounds in 1968. Pacific Tobacco and Development Ltd of Madang purchased 2,982 pounds in 1969. Sales in 1970 are not completed.
(Question No. 745)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (l)-(4). Subject only to certain specific exceptions which do not apply in the present circumstances, the Commissioner of Taxation is prohibited by law from disclosing information relating to the affairs of. individual taxpayers. For this reason, it is not possible to furnish answers to these questions.
(Question No. 836)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Navy has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 796)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
Can the Minister inform the Parliament of the number of deaths in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea from influenza, or complications resulting from influenza, during the periods -
How many anti-influenza vaccine injections have been administered to residents of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea during the combined periods mentioned.
– The Minister for External Territories has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The answer referred to is one which comes within the authority of the Ministerial Member for Public Health in the House of Assembly for Papua and New Guinea. The Administrator on the advice of the Ministerial Member has provided the following infonnation: 1. (a) In the period 12 months ending 30th June 1970 there was approximately 2,500 deaths due to influenza and complications,
In the period ending 22nd September 1970 216 deaths have been reported. Only in the Western District (91 deaths) and the Milne Bay District (60 deaths) are the deaths clearly associated with the epidemic.
Over 300,000 doses of influenza vaccine were given in 1969. In the Telefomin sub-district (population 12,000) 60% of the population had two vaccinations in 1969.
No more vaccination campaigns have been carried out this year and the Administrator’s Executive Council accepted that surveillance and mobile treatment teams would be the best approach.
(Question No. 735)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
President Nasser’s funeral took place on 1st October. Australia was represented by our Ambassador to the UAR, His Excellency, Mr B. C. Hill, who was given special credentials as the official representative of the Australian Government for that occasion.
My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, Has the Government noted today’s press report of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that it pledged continuing material support to North Vietnam and restated its faith that Communist forces would triumph throughout South East Asia? Did the Government note also that the statement was made on the twenty-fifth anniversary of North Viet-Nam as a republic Is it correct to regard this statement as clearly vindicating the view of the Government that the conflict in South Viet’nam, Cambodia and Laos is not a civil war but an avowed Communist offensive designed to secure the triumph of Communist forces?
I said that I had no doubt the Government of the USSR was actively associated with the circumstance of Vietnam. I agreed with the honourable senator that it has been quite definitely established that assistance has been given by the Communists to the North Vietnamese insurgents who are attempting to over-run the democratic government in South Vietnam. I said, however, that I had not seen the statement referred to by the honourable senator and that I would seek further information. The Minister for External Affairs has now supplied the following additional information:
The honourable senator was no doubt referring to a UPI report from Moscow of a message from the USSR to North Vietnam on 1st September, the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of the North Vietnam regime.
As reported by Moscow Radio, the message stated:’The Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the USSR Supreme Soviet, the Soviet Government and all Soviet people, true to the communist principle of proletarian internationalism, consider it their duty to render all-round assistance and support to the fraternal Vietnamese people in their patriotic struggle aimed at repulsing the aggression of the United States of America. . . We share and fully support the consistent position of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on the settlement of the Vietnamese problem, envisaging the unconditional withdrawal of the troops of the United States of America and its allies from Vietnam, so that the Vietnamese people themselves can decide their internal affairs. . . As the experience of the struggle of the Vietnamese people shows, the plans of the imperialists are doomed to failure. The just cause of the peoples of Indo-Chi’na will triumph.
The import of this message clearly justifies the conclusions drawn by Senator Greenwood.
– On 29th September 1970 Senator McClelland asked me the following question:
Has the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science seen a statement attributed to the New South Wales Minister for Health that whereas shortly after the second World War medical graduates from the University of Sydney were of the order of 300 a year, now, despite the increased population and increased expenditure on education, the number of graduates in medicine from the University has shrunk to about 200 a year? Is the Minister aware that outside the inner city of Sydney there is no major teaching hospital throughout the whole of New South Wales? Will the Minister agree that medical education is not only a State matter but also one of national importance? Therefore, will the Commonwealth take these matters into sympathetic consideration as far as New South Wales is concerned when an allocation is made of Australian Universities Commission grants for medical education?
The Minister for Education and Science has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
I have not seen the statement attributed to the New South Wales Minister for Health about the alleged decline in the number of medical graduates from the University of Sydney as mentioned by the honourable senator. Nevertheless I have examined the matters to which the honourable senator refers.
For the years 1946-1957 inclusive, the Commonwealth Statistician’s records count the M.B. and B.S. degrees awarded by the University of Sydney separately although normally graduates receive both degrees simultaneously. Thus, the total number of degrees awarded in those years does not represent the number of persons who obtained medical degrees. From 1958 onwards, the Commonwealth Statistician has treated the M.B., B.S. degrees as a combined degree and his figures do represent the number of persons who gained medcial degrees.
The following table shows the number of bachelor and higher degree graduates (persons) in medicine from the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales between 1946 and 1969:
I can best reply to (be honourable senator’s second question, by giving (he location of teaching hospitals in New South Wales. I might add that the Medical Schools are in Sydney and it is necessary for Teaching Hospitals to be reasonably near at hand.
My reply to the honourable senator’s third question is - Yes.
In answer to the honourable senator’s last question, the Australian Universities Commission will certainly give serious and sympathetic consideration to submissions made by universities in all States in relation to medical education.
– On 20th October Senator Drury asked me a question in relation to a new stabilisation scheme for the dried fruits industry.I gave him some information and said that I would check to see what the position was. I have been informed that following the referendum of the industry in March, when the growers voted against the renewal of the stabilisationscheme, the export market has become very competitive, and this is causing the industry a Jot of concern. It is for this reason that the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board has warned against the expansion of production. I understand that at the presenttimethe industry bag submitted proposals to the Government in the hope that a satisfactory future arrangement may be developed between the Government and the Industry. That is all the information I have.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table a statement by the Minister for the Interior, Hon. P. J. Nixon, on (and charges in Canberra.
– In the absence and at the request of Senator Gair and pursuant to contingent notice, I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent me moving a motion relating to the order of business on the notice paper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That Intervening General Business be postponed until after the consideration of order of the day No. 1
This motion is in accordance with the view expressed yesterday that the item on primary industry should be discussed under General Business. It will enable the motion moved by me and the amendment moved on behalf of the Government to be discussed and also will give the Australian Labor Party the opportunity to have a discussion on its proposed amendment which replaces its original one.
– 1 have one very brief and quick comment on this motion. We would support it on the presumption that the matter would come to a vote. As indicated on several occasions, what the Australian Labor Party wants is to bring the matter to a vote and to have a decision made on this whole complex rural question.
– We want a vote. too.
Senator- WILLESEE - Yes. I mentioned yesterday that Senator McManus had conveyed to me when we debated this matter some months ago that his Party wanted it to be voted on. I agreed with that. This is the way to bring up for discussion the 3 different approaches that have been suggested. So, the Labor Party would support the motion moved by Senator McManus.
– (New South Wales - Minister for Supply) (.10,54) - The Government does not disagree with the proposal to bring the matter on under General Business at 8 o’clock tonight. Equally, we are perfectly happy for the matter to come to some conclusion. Speaking now as the Leader. of the Government in the Senate and as one who is responsible for the whole of the Senate, including the Opposition, in this sense, let me say that it is not to be presumed from what I have said that T will be a party to any proposal that will deny any honourable senator on any side who wants to speak on the matter the opportunity to do so, if he has a genuine desire to do so. I am just as anxious as anybody that we should come to some conclusion on these matters. Because of my silence I do not want it to be thought that I am willingly agreeing in advance to a denial of any particular privilege that a senator has in relation to this matter.
– You have changed overnight.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am speaking in advance of the proposal. I am not talking about what happened in the past when, because of circumstances, it was necessary to push the matter along.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till Monday, 26th October, at 3 p.m.
– I think some words should be said about this motion. We know the purpose of it - business has to be undertaken by the Senate. Wie know the urgency to get through business and the necessity to sit additional hours. However, some arrangements were made as to the sittings of the Senate and now they seem to be upset. We get notification on the Friday that we are going to sit the following Monday.
– Today is Thursday.
– That is so. On the last day of this week’s sittings we are told that we are going to sit next Monday. This necessitates rearranging a lot of commitments that honourable senators have made. I protest at the late notification. We could get no information as to the future sittings of the Senate and were left up in the air until the last day of sitting this week. I also protest about motions being introduced into this Senate on the last day of the sittings without some consultation with the Opposition about them in order to try to get a measure of co-operation on sitting times to suit all honourable senators. I do not think we should be subject to the will of the Government from time to time as to whether the Senate will or will not meet.
We have heard rumours about the possibility of sitting on Saturday of next week. If there is any such proposal I think we should be. told and not find that on Friday of next week the Government moves a resolution for the Senate to sit the following day. Let us have a programme mapped out with the Opposition so that honourable senators can consider it and make arrangements accordingly and so that we may know where we are. going.
– I support the remarks of Senator Cavanagh but on a slightly different plane. I want to remind honourable senators of what happened on that last infamous day of the last session. There was a persistent campaign by Government supporters, and to a lesser degree by members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, about the Opposition unnecesssarily using the motion for the adjournment of the Senate in an attempt to redress grievances. The inference was that we did so just to prevent people going to bed at a reasonable hour. However, when the issue was big enough the Government ruthlessly steamrollered proposals through on that occasion. It kept us here all night.
The Government uses double standards. I do not mind this so long as the rules are consistent. It makes arrangements quite blandly when it suits its purpose. I heard Senator Greenwood interject and mention Friday. I 1 do not know whether he means tomorrow or the following Friday. I would like the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) to put his cards on the table and tell us whether either tomorrow or the following Friday we are to have another of those marathon sittings. It does not matter to the Opposition; we will be able to pace it with Government supporters. But what we resent is that you come into this chamber and in a backhanded manner hint to our leaders about co-operating and not speaking excessively. We do not want a toss with a double headed penny. We want to know where we are going. Government supporters talk about pettiness in this Parliament but this is the sort of thing that rankles with me. Everything is nice in the middle of the session but what happens towards the end? I repeat what I said: The Government’s action on the last day of the last session was one of the most infamous things ever done in this chamber. There is no question about it. It prostituted democracy.
We want to know what is going to happen in the next 10 days. It would not matter to me if we lathered it out with the Government and its supporters right up to polling day on 21st November. We can use this forum just as well as honourable senators on the Government side. Government supporters talk about decency but we know as well as they do that after members of the
Government confer with their colleagues in the other place they should be able to tell us whether we have to meet ail of next week or the week after. If the Government does not want it that way then it need not expect our leaders to try to cajole us into being good boys. You get respect only if you earn it, and the Government will not get it by the way it is operating this morning.
– I. object strongly to the proposed arrangement. I have a strong feeling that a farce is being made of this place. Some time ago the Senate caine to a decision that it would sit for 2 weeks and then rise for 1 week. That cycle was introduced for the convenience of this place and of honourable senators. Immediately that arrangement was agreed to, a complete change of arrangements came about. The Opposition does not. mind breaking the arrangement and coming back next week, but to impose an extra Monday sitting upon us is something that we ought not to tolerate and ought not to support. I do not think the Government has any conception of what happens to senators in their home towns and their home States, the amount of work which they have to do and the commitments which they have made for particular days; if it had it would not have put this proposition. These commitments have to be honoured. I think the Government ought to co-operate to ensure that we keep strictly to the arrangements which were made.
There needs to be forward planning in the arrangement of our sitting days and in the carrying out of our business, especially since the sittings of the Estimates Committees involve staff and public servants. There is need for forward planning. The Government has to plan well in advance and it has to keep to its arrangements. It should not break its arrangements. Every time it breaks an arrangement it throws the whole situation into confusion. For that reason, I think the Senate ought to determine that it shall not sit next Monday. We are prepared to come back next week, which was not arranged, so that the Government can carry out its business and so that we can go to the country for the election. I do not think we ought to try to impose upon ourselves extra sitting days, especially since lt has been indicated that we will try to match the other place, which will start that mad scramble in the last week of sitting, and sit each day until the early hours of the morning. We are expected to match it or to push legislation through here at what can be described only as a disgraceful rate.
– The Senate is at a critical stage of its proceedings because on the indications, indefinite though they may be, the Government wants to finish these sittings of the Senate some lime at the end of next week. The common sense way lo conduct our proceedings is to have some programme and some allotment of the work to be done, and to carry that out. That was done at the end of last year. Unfortunately, it was not done until the last 2 days, although we had invited the Government constantly to agree to some arrangement. I have again invited the Government to agree to some arrangement. I have suggested that the work he programmed. We are prepared lo agree to a reasonable timetable which would enable us to get through the work and to bring matters to a conclusion. Most of those matters would be Government matters. Some would- be matters raised by members of the Opposition, while some would be matters raised by members of the Democratic Labor Party. This is the common sense way to conduct our proceedings. Instead of adopting a common sense approach, from clay to day we will not be sure what items are to be debated.
Although some indication was given to me about the possibility of sitting on Monday, nothing definite was mentioned. I am nol complaining about that, but I am complaining about the failure of the Government to conduct the business of the Senate according to some plan, lt is quite stupid to continue in the manner in which we have been proceeding. We will continue in this way until Thursday and then we will start to plan the work. So many hours will be allotted for this and for that. A motion will be dealt with in an hour. Times will be allotted for matters raised by members of the parties. Why cannot that be done now? Times could be allotted for the matters on the business paper. We should act as sensible people would act. Why should we light across the chamber as to which motion will be heard when? We are an intelligent group of people. That is what we ought to do.
On behalf of the Opposition I now state publicly that we are prepared to agree to a timetable. Let us allot times for various matters. Let us do it in some sensible way. Lei us deal with the business with which we want to deal.
– Put the guillotine on.
– The honourable senator can call it a guillotine but the guillotine is the expression used when one authority imposes its will in the most extreme fashion on another. I am suggesting that by concensus we plan the programme so that it is not in the category of a guillotine and is not being imposed upon anyone; rather wc are all agreeing to it. Honourable senators bave said that they do not want to be messed about from day to day, not knowing what is happening because they have commitments outside, Everyone knows there are great political commitments outside. Despite the fact that no doubt the motion will be carried I think the way in which we can express our disapproval of the manner in which the business has been conducted - the indefiniteness of it and the irregularity of it in the way I have explained - is to vote against the motion.
– by leave - As 1 have indicated already to Senator Murphy at another level I am perfectly happy to work out a programme. But in truth one cannot work out a programme if one does not know what the work load is. We are a House of review and because of this we bave to wait until messages come here. It is very difficult to sit down and say that we are going to allocate certain times. This morning we have messages on the table and there are still a number to come. 1 am rather hoping that before the end of the day we will have a fair understanding of the anticipated workload. At that point of time I think it will be proper to work out some sort of loose arrangement - I accept that it has to be a loose arrangement - which will attempt to time our work in the expectation and desire to conclude our business at the end of next week. I have a series of times drafted ready for when we can face up to this matter. My proposal will certainly make some variation in times of sitting so that we can gain an extra number of hours as we have done in the past.
We have entered into arrangements previously to have certain sittings in good faith. But we are not the executive House. Our behaviour in terms of time is influenced by what happens in another place. Since we are the House of review we have to wait until we receive messages before we can review. That is the difficulty. Only at a later hour of the day will I be in some position to talk to the leaders of the parties and, in the context of that talk, to invite the Whips to try to work out some programme. When we have worked out that programme it will be reasonably secure for management. Provision has to be made for the rights of honourable senators opposite in relation to all matters which they may wish to raise.
-I suggest the honourable senator adjourn this matter until he works it out.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONNo. It is absolutely essential that we sit on Monday. Honourable senators have spoken about having to sit all hours and Senator Mulvihill talked about an infamous occasion. If, by common consent, we are going to finish next week and we do not want to legislate by exhaustion into the hours of the morning it is absolutely essential that we sit on Monday. I have suggested 3 o’clock on Monday because I recognise honourable senators may have difficulty in returning here from their homes. I will be putting down a motion that on the subsequent days we start at 10 o’clock in the morning. But I will come to that. In response to Senator Murphy I say: Yes, we will work out a loose arrangement at a time when we know what our work load factor is. Having worked it out with a degree of co-operation we have a reasonable prospect of working to it. Meanwhile the motion provides that we commence next Monday at 3 p.m.
– I rise on this matter not on the basis of a certain Government proposal having been proposed and naturally opposition coming forth from this side of the chamber, but to launch my protest as Senator Cavanagh and Senator Georges have done about the right of the back benchers in this place. Gradually our rights are being eroded and whittled away. We resumed our sittings some 2 weeks ago on the assumption that the Parliament would be sitting on 4 days a week for 2 weeks and then the sittings would be adjourned for 1 week. I think that all back benchers here worked on that assumption and made certain arrangements and commitments. Then we found that the week’s recess was to be cancelled and that we would be sitting in Canberra. We then were led to believe that the Parliament would not be sitting tomorrow and on Monday. Again we made certain arrangements and commitments. Now at this late stage the Government puts forward a proposal that the Parliament sit on Monday.
In addition to the Senate Estimates Committee which are in the course of transacting their business there are Senate Standing Committees. I am a member of the Standing Committee on Health, Welfare and Repatriation. At the inaugural meeting of that Committee some 3 weeks ago it was arranged that we would spend the first 2 days of next week, Monday and Tuesday, in Canberra in connection with the proceedings of that Committee. Now it appears, according to the proposition that has been put, that the arrangements of that Committee will have to be amended. We on the back benches of the Senate do not know when we will be here and when we will not be here. It is unfair of the Executive to keep us continuously in the dark.
Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), said the position was uncertain at this stage because we are not the initiating House and have no control over the amount of business that will be coming forward during the next week. We understood - I believe the impression is correct - that apart from one or two odd Bills no more business beyond that covered by item No. 25 on the House of Representatives notice paper would be coming forward between now and the time the Parliament adjourned. If that is so, I can see no reason why these arrangements could not have been mapped out much earlier- than they have been mapped out and the back benchers notified accordingly.
Again J offer my objection to the proposal because 1 believe that the rights of the back bench members pf this place are being ignored completely by the Government and are being eroded. It is the responsibility of the back bench members of this place to take very strong objection to what is being done.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party is always co-operative. We have shown that only this morning by our suggestion that the business be rearranged so that the matter which the Australian Labor Party wanted to discuss yesterday will be debated tonight, I have been here for some years and 1 have noticed that whenever the leaders of parties, with the approval of their members, get together and reach agreement it is always possible for business to be discussed expeditiously. It may be that certain members of this place have made arrangements which a meeting on Monday would hamper. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) has to consider his position from a number of angles and we have to await his decision, but, if the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) and the Acting Leader of our Party get together, our Party will be cooperative on the point of perhaps avoiding a meeting on Monday. However, as I have said, I suppose it really depends upon the Leader of the Government and his commitments.
– I have been listening for some time to a number of speeches by members of the Opposition who suggest that the Government in some way is treating them unfairly. I. have as much respect and thought for the rights of back benchers as members of the Australian Labor Party have protested that they have, lt is only fair, if one recognises the realities of the situation, that we should say that the Government is taking the only course available to -it. Surely what is most important- in the conduct of - the Senate’s affairs is to have certainty about the days on which the Senate is going to sit. There are occasions, as in the days preceding an elec tion, when that certainty cannot be as clear as it is on other occasions. I believe that a motion which states quite specifically that the Senate will sit on Monday of next week and continue through until its business is completed is a clear indication of what is proposed.
Recognising the amount of Government business which is before the Senate and the the pressure on the Senate to complete this business in time to conduct a Senate election campaign, my colleagues and I on the Government side of the chamber have worked on the basis that we will not speak in a debate unless there is a need to speak. We believe that there ought to be (he same cooperation from honourable senators on the Opposition side of the chamber. Bui what have we observed? We have observed a constant wasting of time by honourable senators opposite and a constant belittling of the efforts of honourable senators on die Government side of the chamber to speed up the process. Accusations have been levelled at my colleagues and I for not being prepared to speak in support of the Government. I appreciate that this may be politics. However, I believe that there are occasions when the facts ought to be stated. Yesterday was almost wasted simply because the members of the Opposition wanted to conduct a protracted debate on matters of procedure and to discuss something which, in ali fairness, would have been appreciated by them as being something which could not have been resolved because of the way in which it was presented by the Opposition. The Opposition senators should have recognised, as I think any reasonable person would bave recognised, that yesterday’s effort was a political gambit simply because the proceedings of the Senate were being broadcast.
– 1 rise on a point of order, Mr President. Senator Greenwood’s remarks are irrelevant. He is dealing with a matter which has already been discussed. If he persists in bis remarks along these lines honourable senators on this side will be forced to reply. He is referring to something which is quite irrelevant to this debate. In the interests of the Senate he should not be permitted to speak along these lines.
– The point oi order is upheld.
– All I desire 10 say in conclusion is that if the members of the Opposition persist in getting up and belittling honourable senators on this side of the chamber I for one, as a supporter of the Government and one who believes in the general policies which are being followed, am not going to remain silent. A one way traffic cannot be permitted. The Opposition consistently claims that there ought to be some co-operation from the Government. I believe that the Opposition owes it to the Senate and to the Government to show some co-operation itself. I believe it has been lacking in the past. I have risen to contribute to this debate because I believe that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) has clearly laid on the line what is involved. If co-operation is forthcoming from the Government I am hopeful, as one back bench supporter of the Government, that the Senate will be able to complete its business next week. However, if no co-operation is forthcoming from the Opposition I am prepared to match it with Opposition speakers throughout next week and, if it means that we will have to stop here until the following week, that will be all right too.
– I shall be quite brief. The great regret I have is that, after trying for many years to get new hours and days of sitting, the Senate was successful in doing so only to find the understanding being broken last week. The Opposition agreed to the Government’s proposal to sit for 2 weeks and then have 1 week off. Members of the Opposition discussed this matter amongst themselves in the Party rooms and finally accepted the proposal. I regret that the Government has broken the arrangement. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has said that one cannot foretell the work load. To a. degree one can foretell it. One has only to pick up the notice paper of the other place. It is not necessary to wait until legislation is introduced in this chamber to know what work is involved. It is true that we do not know which Bills will be introduced in the other place and what statements will be made in the next few days. However, the necessity to sit on a Monday or a Friday should be foreseen. It is true that unusual circumstances arose yesterday which prolonged the debate.
– Highly unusual.
– Senator Greenwood yells at Opposition senators and then wonders why they ask him to be quiet. The Opposition wanted a debate yesterday on the rural crisis. It was the Government which did not want to debate this matter. All it wanted to do was debate procedure. The Opposition would love to hear from Senator Greenwood. It might disagree with what he has to say, but the Opposition would love to hear from him. The only other thing that I say to my young friend Senator Greenwood is this: Do not set yourself up as God. Do not say that this is a waste of time. Surely the basis of parliamentary democracy is that the individual speaks about matters that are important to him and relevant to the things that have been put up to him. So do not sit back in judgment and say that this is a waste of time or that is not a waste of time.
I regret that we have to vote against this motion, but we do so because we want to bring home to the Government that we are serious about the new sitting times. We really think that overall the proposed sitting times would have been for the best. I think it would be a mistake to sit on Monday and to do so would reverse the earlier arrangement. As Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson knows, we have to wait on legislation coming from the other place. By sitting on Monday we could find ourselves waiting for business to come from the other place. It is better that we become the tail end Charlie in this and not try to step ahead of the other chamber. I think that in this the Government is making an error of judgment, but more importantly I regret that it is breaking the agreement that was made by all parties. That is why we will vote against the motion.
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Monday next at 3 p.m.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMuIlin)
Majority .. ..2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Supply) (11.25)- Mr President-
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIs that a threat?
Of course that is the character that we have to have regard to.
Sometimes 1 think it is a fowl house when I look around and see some parts of this place.
– 1 was only replying to the Minister.
– Order! Honourable senators will not take charge of the Senate while 1 am here. 1 will take charge. You will remain quiet while the Minister is on his feel.
Motion (by Senator. Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:
That the sitting of the Senate be suspended from 2. IS p.m. until 8 p.m. this day to enable Estimates Committees A, B and C to meet
– I move:
That consideration of order of the day No. 1 be postponed till this day week.
This matter is being considered by us in a wider context than merely these present circumstances.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill, and of the 5 Bills I shall subsequently introduce, is to enable the States to receive, in respect of business receipts during the period 18th November 1969 to 30lh September 1970, the amounts of duty they would have received had their own receipts duty laws been wholly valid. Business receipts during that period will be liable to duty under the Commonwealth legislation at the rate of 0.1 per cent, but this liability will not arise if the provisions of State laws - whether valid or invalid - are complied with. This means that receipts exempted or not dutiable under the provisions of State legislation will remain free of all receipts duties, lt also means that receipts in Queensland will remain liable to duty at the rate of 0.02 per cent provided for under Queensland legislation - provided Queensland duty is in. fact paid on the receipts or has already been paid.
Honourable senators will observe that some changes have been made to the legislation since it was introduced during thelast sittings and subsequently not passed by the Senate. Under clause 24(1.) of the States .Receipts Duties (Administration) Bill, provision is made to limit the duty to moneys received before a date to be fixed by proclamation. The Government undertakes that this proclaimed date will be 1st October 1970. The decision so to limit the scope of the legislation is based on legal considerations of a constitutional nature. The same Bill also now specifies 30th September 1970 as the terminating date for the period - described in the Bill as ‘The transitional period’ - during which receipts are to be exempt from liability under Commonwealth law if the provisions of State laws, whether valid or invalid, are complied with. ltwill also be noted that there is now a separate Bill - the States Receipts Duties (Exemption) Bill - to provide for exemption from dutyunder Commonwealth law for receipts during the transitional period where State duty was paid or was not payable. This provision was included as clause 88 in the previous States Receipts Duties (Administration) Bill. Honourable senators who wish to have more detailed explanations of the changes being made by the revised legislation can refer to the explanatory memorandum which is being circulated.
Honourable senators will be aware of the reasons why it is proposed that the legislation is to cease to have application to transactions after 30th September. They will also be aware that, after a special meeting with Premiers in Canberra on 8th October, the Prime Minister . (Mr Gorton) announced that, at the request of the premiers, the Commonwealth Government agreed to the State governments dropping the receipts duty completely, even in areas where it would be legal for them to impose it. This means that liability for receipts duty under either Commonwealth or State legislation will not apply to any transactions after 30th September 1970, other than wage and salary receipts in Western Australia which, it is understood, the State is to continue to tax until 1st January 1971.
The Government has agreed that the whole of the resultant loss of revenue to State Budgets in 1970-71 should be made good through the provision of additional Commonwealth grants to the States. The Government has also agreed that, in respect of 1971-72 and the 3 subsequent years, the amount of receipts duty which it is estimated would have been collected by the States in the ordinary course in 1970-71 should be added to the base to be used in determining the financial assistance grants payable under the grants formula in those years. These arrangements, which the Government regards as constituting eminently fair, and indeed generous, treatment for the States, were made subject to the proviso on the part of the Commonwealth that they depended- on the conditions governing the offers of the Commonwealth made at the June Premiers’ Conference. Legislation to give effect to the arrangements will be introduced in due course. I commend the legislation to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I wish to speak on the motion for the first reading of this Bill in relation to a question that I asked the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) about 3 weeks ago. The Senate will recall that 1 questioned the price of liquor sold in the Flight Bar at the Melbourne Airport and the Backbench Bar al the Canberra Airport. On that occasion the Minister undertook to examine the matter and to see what was happening in this field. In last Saturday morning’s Melbourne ‘Sun’ the following article appeared under the heading ‘Whisky Sour’:
Senator Poyser (Labor, Victoria), who complained last month about the price of Scotch whisky at the Canberra Airport cocktail bar, has paradoxically brought about a further price rise.
At the direction of the Department of Civil Aviation, the cocktail bar has raised its price for Scotch from 37c a nip to 38c. . . .
– You did not do much good.
– I did not do much good at all. The matter that I question is the parity that is claimed by the Department of Civil Aviation to exist between prices in the bars at the Melbourne and Canberra airports and prices in the cocktail bars in the hotels adjacent to those airports.
Purely as an academic exercise, on Monday evening 2 of my colleagues and I went to several of the bars in Canberra to examine this matter at first band. I am certain that one of my colleagues was very reluctant to go on this tour with me, and he became even more reluctant.. as honourable senators will find out in a few moments. In accordance with the customary Australian habit of shouting, I took the honour of shouting at the Backbench Bar at the airport and found that 38c was the price of whisky and 24c was the price of a 10 oz glass of beer in that bar. We then went to the Carlton Bar in the Ainslie Rex Hotel, where it happened to be one of my colleague’s shout. On that occasion the prices were 34c for a Scotch and again 24c for a beer. Then we went to the plush Washington Bar at the Canberra Rex Hotel. This is where my other colleague was very shocked indeed. On that occasion we paid 45c for a whisky , and 45c for a small can of beer. The sum total of that was that my colleague was 35c out of pocket. He accused me of planning it in advance.
The people in the Washington Bar were very nice about it, of course. They gave us receipts. Obviously the receipts are for persons who can claim in their taxation returns. I am quite certain that nobody drinks in that bar for the pleasure of drinking: people drink there for business purposes only. I know that no taxation assessor would reject this as a taxation deduction. Once he saw the prices that are charged he would say: ‘They must be drinking there of necessity*.
– Does it include full board?
– I think it includes much more than full board. 1 assure honourable senators that we could not afford to have more than I. drink at each bar. We took only 1 hour to do the course, and we did it in par. The reason why we did all this was to examine this so-called parity that is claimed to exist between the cocktail bars in Canberra and the Backbench Bar at the Canberra Airport. Of course, there is no comparison between the facilities provided in the 2 kinds of places. On the one hand, at the Canberra Airport the bar is without any table service and without any seating to speak of. lt has a few stools and, 1 think, 3 seats. While we were there about 50-odd persons were trying to get a drink in a bar in which 2 people were serving.
– That is at the airport, is it?
– Yes. The position in Melbourne is even worse because there is no comparison between the bar at the Melbourne Airport and the cocktail bar in any hotel I know of. I refer the Senate to an article written by John Sorell which appeared in the ‘Herald’ of 30th September. He wrote:
I bave often waited for more than five minutes to buy a drink at Essendon airport. The bar facilities downstairs-
That is the one to which I am referring - are poor. So is the service. The decor is shabby. And the drinks expensive. Buying a beer is a difficult, frustrating labour of love.
At peak times the crush in the tiny Flight Dar recalls the six o’clock swill at Young am) Jacksons.
The bar is understaffed. No-one tries to relax the traveller. The bar is frequently choked wilh airport workers. Airline passengers have to battle for a drink. Drinkers spill out into the terminal area. This is against the law.
The situation is that, in accordance with this report 1 have, the Department of Civil Aviation is directing the operators of airport bars to charge cocktail rates for service that is no better than that in the normal public bar in any hotel. Indeed, it is much worse because of the crushed conditions under which a person drinks if he so desires.
Mr Acting Deputy President, this very impressive looking document sets out the liquor prices for New South Wales endorsed by the Australian Hotels Association. The charges are based on zones and f understand thai the Canberra area comes under zone 4. On the cover of this document it states:
This schedule must always be available for customers’ inspection on request
On page 3 there appears the set prices for bars, lounges, saloon bars, parlours and dining rooms, lt also sets out the amount by which the management of such places is able to increase prices above the bar prices. I will quote the bar prices in a minute. For saloon bars and parlours the stated increase is lc above the ruling bar price. For dining rooms and lounges it is lc to 2c but not exceeding 2c. On page 6 of this document it is stated that Scotch whisky in zone 4 is 28c a nip and 15c for half a nip. If we accept the proposition that the bar I refer to is a lounge, which it is not in any circumstances, the most that could be added to the ruling price of 28c would be 3c, bringing the price to 31c and not 38c as has been directed by the DCA.
I am worried about the evidence I have. You will note, Mr Acting Deputy President, that I said that 15c is the price for a half nip. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Birrell) has indicated to me that I may use this example and that he is prepared to swear an affidavit that at the Back Bench he paid 27c for a half Scotch and water. When I made my original statement I said that the operators were charging almost double bar prices. That would make the price of a full Scotch and water 54c while the ruling rate at a normal bar is 28c. Therefore my figures were not far out on that occasion. One staff member of a member of this House as recently as last week bought a Scotch and water and a Scotch and soda there and she received 6c change from $1. It cost her 94c for 2 nips.
That is the situation. We know that if we go to the ‘Washington’ Bar at the Canberra Rex we are going to be fleeced, and we deserve to be. But the travelling public, many of them tourists who have saved for a long time to take a holiday at Canberra or Melbourne, should not be exploited in this way. I strongly suggest to the Minister for for Civil Aviation that if there is to be any added charge at these places it should be no more than the 3c allowed in a lounge. The best the Department could ask for would be the 2c allowed in respect of saloon bars because that is all that these places are. There are no tables and there is no table service. The conditions are very crowded. I believe it would be a fair thing if the increase was no more than the 3c above the present rate of 28c.
– I regret very much not being a member of Senator Poyser’s personally conducted tour. If he had invited me, I would have made a reasonable contribution to the fund and I would have joined him. It sounds like an interesting exercise. The honourable senator raised these matters with me on 29th September. As he would expect, I took them seriously. At that time they dealt specifically with Canberra and Essendon airports. I said that I would look into the matters. I have done that. At present on my desk is a letter to the honourable senator. It contains the requests he made and the information which I have to date.
I am quite pleased that he raised the matter again because I have one or two comments to make. I will not take up too much of the Senate’s time. The letter states:
In inviting public tenders under the Airports (Business Concessions) Act for airport liquor facilities, we expect concessionaires to invest considerable amounts of money in providing furniture, fittings and equipment of a high quality. Apart from providing prestige premises, we insist upon his providing high standards of staffing and service for the benefit of the travelling public. In so doing, we normally require the concessionaire to charge liquor prices which are not in excess of those chargedin premises of a similar standard in the city. Because of the very nature of our airport liquor facilities, prices charged are in excess of those charged in public bars in the city. The prices also take into account the high labour costs associated with providing service to air travellers over long hours.
In examining your question about the price of Scotch whisky at Canberra Airport . . .
If I remember correctly, at the time the honourable senator made his point, it was based on a half Scotch calculation. If he did not make that point then, he made it to me subsequently. The letter continues:
I find a recent survey by my Department established that this was comparable with the price charged for Scotch in similar premises in Canberra. Following this survey, however, the concessionaire has now specifically related his prices to those charged in comparable premises in the Hotel Civic in Canberra.
Similarly at the Flight Bar at Essendon, where you mentioned that Australian whisky is 30c a nip, a survey of prices charged for Australian whisky in comparable premises in Melbourne hotels indicated that the airport price is a little higher in some instances and lower in other instances than that charged in comparable premises in Melbourne.
Our airport liquor facilities endeavour to provide a high standard of decor and service.
Therefore, I would imagine that we could fairly expect prices to bear some comparison to prices in similar premises in the capital cities that the airport facilities adjoin. It is true that the bar facilities at Essendon leave something to be desired. This matter is under investigation by the Department at present. The letter continues:
While I do not exercise any jurisdiction over prices charged in airport concessional premises, my Department does nevertheless maintain a close surveillance of the prices charged and the standards observed by concessionaires.
I am indebted to Senator Poyser for raising the matter and for giving the additional details that he gave today.
I believe that the whole matter needs a total review. That may not produce a change, but I am quite happy to have the review. Some concessions expire on future dates. Therefore, one has’ some limitations on one’s ability to control the situation. One has to examine the situation and ask what is the standard required at airports where one can purchase a drink. Is the standard to be that of a cocktail bar, a saloon bar or a public bar? What is to be expected? In accordance with what one expects and believes ought to be provided, a price structure bearing some comparison ought to be applied. Nonetheless, if the honourable senator has reason to believe that people are being overcharged or are being given a bad service or the conditions are not tidy or do not meet the required standard, it is right and proper that these matters should be raised. The honourable senator has my assurance that we watch the situation all the time. It is not easy to do so. I cannot see all these things. Some of my colleagues might see them earlier than I do or perhaps I do not see them at all. My information is that, taking everything in balance, the prices charged are not unfair. They are thought to be reasonable. There would appear to be cases where prices have been reduced. There would appear to be cases where a price has been increased. The honourable senator’s question has helped me to keep a close watch on the operations. For that I thank him.
-I rise to take up this matter not because of an interchange earlier in the day, the terms of which I now regret and for which I apologise. It is a matter which I would have taken up on the adjournment debate in any case and refers to a question which I asked of the Treasurer (Mr Bury). The question is an important one. I feel I have to speak here because I believe the Treasurer has evaded answering the question. Since it involves the evasion by companies in Australia of company tax it is an important one. I asked:
What arrangements have been made by the Commissioner for Taxation for the payment of company tax by Queensland Alumina Ltd whose plant at Gladstone supplies products at cost to its parent companies.
I meant parent companies overseas. 1 asked further:
How much tax has Queensland Alumina Ltd paid each year since its incorporation.
The Treasurer could have answered this part of the question but he did not. He gave a reason for not answering the other part of the question which referred to taxation details of companies. But I will deal with that later. I asked:
What arrangements have been made by the Commissioner for Taxation for the payment of company tax by the Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation Lfd which sells bauxite to its parent companies at a price well below the open market price for bauxite.
I feel the Treasurer could have answered that because there are powers under which the Commissioner of Taxation can make an investigation and can charge company tax where he feels that company tax has been evaded by a company selling at below cost to its parent company overseas. To my mind this is a deliberate evasion of taxation in this country. There is provision to stop this evasion. I am seeking information from the Treasurer as to just how the Commissioner of Taxation dealt with this case. I think an answer could have been given to that part of the question. I went on and asked:
How much tax has Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation Ltd paid each year since its incorporation.
In other words I wanted the information to bear out what I have implied - that those companies were evading tax in this way. The answer was:
Subject only to certain specific exceptions which do not apply in the present circumstances, the Commissioner of Taxation is prohibited by law from disclosing information relating to the affairs of independent taxpayers.
I ask the Minister for Supply (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) who in this chamber represents the Treasurer: Does this terminology cover a company?
– Yes, surely.
– I would have thought that the disclosure of taxation paid by this company would have been in the public interest. Then we could ascertain whether there has been, as I am charging, evasion of taxation by companies in Australia. To my mind this is a deliberate practice carried out by many of the large overseas companies which straddle the exploitation of our mineral resources. When the mining wardens court in Queensland was investigating the leases that were to be granted at Cooloola it was revealed at the hearing that one of the mineral sand companies had paid no tax because it was selling to the parent company overseas at below cost. I believe this to be a vital question which affects the income capacity of this nation. If there is a widespread practice of this kind then the Commissioner of Taxation ought to report on it.
– Who said that they had paid no tax on that proposition?
– I referred to that in a previous speech. I do not want to give the name of the company because I cannot recollect it exactly. Two mining companies had applied for leases at Cooloola Sands. A struggle had developed between the people who wanted to conserve Cooloola in the national interest and the mining companies. In the case that was presented by the conservationists and in the questioning which took place it was revealed that the companies were not paying the tax. They were evading it by the simple means of selling their commodity at below the world market price.
– Who said that.
– That was revealed by the mining company concerned. That is my information.
– The mining company said that?
– Yes. It was revealed by the mining company itself. That can be verified. I have asked questions in relation to other companies and I would have thought that the information would have been made available. The Minister may say: ‘This information must be available elsewhere in the company returns’. If it is, then why should the Commissioner of Taxation be hesitant in providing the information to this place? It is information which should be revealed to the Senate for further investigation. I now ask Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, who represents the Treasurer, to ask his colleague to have another look at my question and perhaps come up with a more comprehensive answer.
– (New South Wales - Leader of the Government in the Senate) (11.56) - Before 1 repond to Senator George’s question may I say that he was gracious enough, at the commencement of his speech-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! I remind the Minister that by speaking now he will be closing the debate.
In that case-
– May I say that T intend to move that the debate be adjourned. I will not be speaking to the motion for the first reading of the Bill. If the Minister requires leave to speak we will grant it.
I do not follow the procedure but for the sake of peace and harmony I seek leave.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
At the commencement of his speech on the motion for the first reading of the Bill Senator Georges alluded briefly to what had gone before and expressed regret for an interjection he had made. In the spirit in which he expressed his regret I now express my regret for the retort I made. Now we will come to the matter of substance. Senator Georges is concerned about an answer that he received through me from the Treasurer (Mr Bury) in reply to a question that he had asked. The burden of his problem is that he considers that the Commissioner of Taxation should have been able to give information in relation to certain companies to which the honourable senator alluded. I thought that the Treasurer’s answer was categorical. It was to the effect that the Commissioner of Taxation must administer the law. The law was not made by the Commissioner of Taxation; it was made by the Parliament. The simplicity of that law is that the Commissioner may not give information in relation to the tax of an individual company except in certain prescribed and circumscribed areas. The word individual’ was not used in the sense of a person but in the sense of an individual assessment. Therefore the Commissioner does not have the right to give the responses which were sought.
Senator Georges said that he conceded the point as it affected the first part of his question but he did not concede it as it affected the second part of his question. However, he did say that the Commissioner should be able to comment on, as he described it, the arrangements made for the payment of tax and how that was dealt with. This is simply a refined way of obtaining information about the assessable income of an individual or company. I can well understand that the information which was supplied in the answer was completely accurate. It would in fact mean giving details about an individual case if information were to be supplied about the arrangements made for the payment of taxation. The Commisioner of Taxation has therefore said that it was not within his power to give this information.
Senator Georges made reference to the evasion of taxation. This is a matter which is outside of my sphere. I do not think that Senator Georges should make such loose allegations about taxation evasion. If he has any details of taxation evasion he should state them categorically. The honourable senator has to accept responsibility for what he says. Senator Georges is in effect relying on an answer by the Treasurer (Mr Bury) to the effect that the Commissioner of Taxation does not have power to supply such information. In the very same speech he alleges taxation evasion. I do not think that this is the proper way to go about the matter. If the honourable senator wishes to make allegations about the taxation evasion of a particular firm or individual he should stand up in his place and do so in a direct manner. He should not adopt a backhanded approach. The honourable senator should take into consideration the damage which he can do to the reputation of an individual or company.
– I am thinking of the national interest.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIf the honourable senator is thinking of the national interest, I would suggest to him with great respect that the way in which he has approached the matter is not in the national interests. It is a very serious matter to talk loosely in terms of taxation evasion by a company or individual.
– I am prepared to name the company.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI suggest to Senator Georges that he use the forms of the House if he wishes to do so. However, before doing so, he should think about what he is going to say and be very precise in what he says. I was trying to be co-operative to him by sitting here and patiently listening to what he had to say, but I felt concern about him using expressions of the type which he used.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Represenatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
– I move:
Perhaps at this stage I could indicate that the ordinance arose out of a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on 13th May last at Canberra during the course of an election campaign for a seat in the Australian Capital Territory. The statement was made, as I understand it, at an election meeting at which the Liberal Party candidate on that occasion was in attendance. It has been suggested in the Press and elsewhere that the statement which was made by the Prime Minister took the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) completely by surprise. He had no forewarning and no foreknowledge of it, as the story goes.
The intention of this ordinance is to provide that persons purchasing properties at land auctions which were held in September and which will be held in November of this year will not be required to pay a full year’s rent, as would normally be the case. They will be required to pay a rent proportionate to the balance of the year remaining to 31st December. That is quite clear so far as an understanding of the purpose of this ordinance is concerned. But I suggest that we are concerned not with the ordinance in itself but with what it purports to do and with the system of which it is the precursor. In fact, if the Senate does approve of this ordinance and passes it, the effect of that simple act will be to give the nod and the consent of the chamber to the institution of a new system of land usage in the Australian Capital Territory. Perhaps it would be appropriate for me at this stage to say that the general question of land use in the Territory has been a very sore point with the people of Canberra and the Territory generally over a number of years.
From time to time this discontent has broken out in many ways. Public statements have been made about it, meetings have been called about it, various organisations within the Territory have expressed their views on it, and yet it is a remarkable thing really that with such a background of public agitation about the general question of land use in the Territory the Minister for the Interior has not yet been persuaded to refer the matter to some competent committee of the Parliament to make an examination of the whole question, to endeavour to unravel the problems which are said to exist in the system and to come down with a worthwhile report and recommendation to the Parliament as to whether the allegations about the shortcomings of the system at the moment have validity. In the course of making that report the committee could indicate to the Parliament the basis of a new system, if in fact a better system is felt to be necessary in the circumstances. In relation to the manner in which the statement of the Government’s intention to change the system was made, one would have thought - I think it is quite proper to approach it in this way - that it was offering to the people of the Australian Capital Territory an opportunity to give a mandate for a change in the system. As we now know, and as history records, the candidate who would have been espousing that policy was not successful in the election. Therefore it cannot be claimed that the Government has a mandate to change the system. So much for that.
On this point, I would like to indicate to honourable senators that about 10 minutes before the commencement of the proceedings this morning the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), who represents the Minister for the Interior, indicated that he would be tabling in the chamber this morning a statement which concerned the question which was to be debated and which in fact we have now commenced to debate.
– I would like to take a point of order in the sense of explanation. I know that Senator Devitt does not intend to imply that I have been discourteous to him, but I point out that this document was given to me this morning at 8.45. At 9 o’clock we commenced to ring Senator Devitt’s office and could not locate him. Finally we were able to get the document to him as we came into the chamber. In the circumstances, I think he will understand my position.
– I accept that explanation. I am not suggesting any impropriety at all. Since the matter has been raised, I want to establish that this morning I was at a meeting of a parliamentary committee, the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. In serving on committees one is placed in situations where one is not easily contacted. I did not know until I had left the committee room that a statement was to be made by the Minister today. This was indicated to me by a member of the Minister’s staff. The point I wish to make is that I have had no opportunity whatever to study the contents of the statement or to learn whether it indicates that there has been a change in the Government’s thinking - that there has been an alteration to the original outlook as to the removal of land rents.
When the ordinance was tabled the Minister said in his speech that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) announced on 13 th May 1970 that land rents would not be levied in the Australian Capital Territory from 1st January 1971. I wish to direct the remainder of my remarks to that observation that a system upon which this city has grown since its inception is to be discarded, and a new system instituted the details of which have not been announced. I suggest that the system of land usage in the A.C.T. as it has been applied from the inception of this city has been very good. I would have to be convinced that any system to take its place would confer more benefits to the community than the present system has done.
I very strongly question whether a system designed on the lines which have been indicated since the statement made on 13 th May can be introduced into the A.C.T. to replace the present system and to confer greater benefits on the Canberra community than the present system has done. A great many authorities on town planning and the controlled development of cities have expressed opinions on this matter. I have yet to hear of one such authority who has expressed himself in favour of discarding the present system as it applies to Canberra. As the present system is administered it is not a good system. By that I do not mean that there are any shortcomings in the general administration by the Department, but that the policy approach to the implementation of the system of ground rent, as I think it is commonly called here, is not a good one because re-assessments of valuations are carried out only at 20-year intervals.
As I understand the system, when a person purchases a block of land in Canberra and a valuation is placed on it, that valuation applies for 20 years. No re-assessment of that valuation is undertaken in a period shorter than 20 years. Surely in this day and age, in a society like ours which is growing so rapidly, re-assessments of valuations undertaken only once in a generation - that is what it amounts to - must have very serious shortcomings indeed. Problems which have arisen regarding land use and land tenure in the A.C.T. have not arisen as a consequence of the basic concept of the use of land in the Territory, but from the policy which has been pursued of having revaluations only once in 20 years.
I understand that the decision to make a new judgment on the system to be applied in the A.C.T. arose principally from a High Court judgment in the case of Esmonds Motors Pty Ltd v. Nixon. In that case a challenge,, was made to the quite dramatic increase In the valuation of a block of land and consequently in the rental to be paid for it. It might be termed an astronomical rise. It highlighted not the inadequacies of the system itself but the inadequacies of the policy being pursued in respect of the system. Quite naturally, in a city that is growing at the rate at which Canberra is there must be quite dramatic increases in valuations of properties. After all, property values are based on preponderance of population, so I am assured. In fact, that is the general approach to the subject. So, the growth of any community that grows as dramatically as Canberra has grown in recent times will naturally bring in its train a substantial increase in the value of property. lt is quite natural that there should be the reaction that these dramatic increases - I do not want to refer to them; they are or will be in the record - highlight and tend to throw into relief something which may appear at first sight to be a bad policy or a bad practice. But that is not so. Basically, the practice of levying charges for making available land for home building and other purposes that are necessary in a city is a good one. In fact, it has been acclaimed by authorities all round the world. Let me quote from a recent publication which came into my hands statements on some of the attitudes of the planning authorities. This document was reprinted from the August 1970 issue of the journal ‘Progress’ for the Henry George League. It states:
A meeting of 6) members of the Royal Australian Planning Institute in Canberra unanimously agreed yesterday that no change should be made in current policies and practices of leasehold administration in the ACT without a public inquiry by a Parliamentary Committee.
The matter was raised at a meeting which had been called mainly to discuss internal matters
Mr George Clarke, principal of the Sydney firm, Urbsearch Pty Ltd, moved, ‘That this meeting views with concern the announcement by the Prime Minister that it is the intention of the Government to allow the leasehold lands of Canberra to be occupied by the lessees without payment of a rental for the use of the land’.
The leasehold lands of the ACT represent a substantial and increasing Commonwealth asset created by public action and investment which should continue to yield an income for the public benefit.
I interpolate that this is one of the greatest virtues of the present system. The document continues:
The abolition of land rentals appears to be a reversal of the policies -which the Commonwealth Government, with remarkable foresight, adopted in 1910 as the basis for land tenure in the ACT.
The benefits of these policies are self-evident and should not be departed from without searching inquiry.
– Do you think that it is valid in this day and age when we have all sorts of controls on the use of land?
– Yes, 1 belive that it still has the same validity. As a matter of fact, perhaps it has greater validity now than it had in times gone by. Let me quote from the same document another statement by persons concerned with planning, lt says:
Hie council of the Town and Country Planning Association of Victoria has written the following letter to the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) urging retention of the existing land rental system in the Australian Capital Territory: “The attention of the council of the association has been drawn to press reports in which the Prime Minister is reported to have staled that the sysem of land rent and reappraisements would be ended.
The whole purport of the letter is to protest against any destruction of the present system. Of course, in the planning of a city there always needs to be long term planning if any proper concept of the control and layout of the city is to be adopted. If any criticism is to be made of the system in Canberra, I think this is a criticism that would be valid: In past years no proper strategy or plan has been laid down for the development of Canberra and its environs. I. would hope and expect - I believe it is the case - that a system of strategy planning, long term planning, is now being undertaken. It would be pretty evident to anybody coming to this city and seeing its beauty that a tremendous amount of work has gone into its development. It is evident that there has been controlled expansion and that the necesary finance has been available to provide the amenities and facilities that are evident as well as the other things which will make this city, if it is not so already, one of the finest in the world. I believe it is the only really planned city in Australia. Surely, if we are impressed by what we see here and if we want it to continue, it would be folly, absolute madness, to dismantle the system on which such an edifice has grown. I think we have to take this very much into account.
There are suggestions that the system should be altered and that we should adopt the practices which exist in some other Australian cities. I wonder what other city in Australia could be taken as any sort of model when one considers thenmany problems. No-one -knows at present the real reason why there has been a suggestion for changing this system except, as I say, in the case of the infrequency of reassessment of land values. In no other respect have I heard any condemnation or criticism of the system. On the other hand, there have been a great many criticisms of the suggestion that the present system in Canberra should be dismantled. I think it would be disastrous to undertake anything of that kind without the whole question being thoroughly and properly examined.
Over the past several years there were a number of inquiries into certain aspects of things that go on in the Australian Capital Territory. One of the first inquiries I was involved in here was into the question of freehold land in the Territory and what should be done with it. The Minister for Civil Aviation was, I think, a member of that Committee.
– We were colleagues on that Committee.
– That is correct. We undertook an examination of the whole system. We were not concerned about the system that then obtained. I think that at that time 19 per cent of the available land in the ACT was freehold land. The purpose of the inquiry was not to upset that system but to consider the future requirements of the ACT in the light of the tremendous population expansion that is occurring here. The Committee ultimately recommended that the Government acquire the land necessary for the future planning and control of the development. The Committee reported that the freehold lands suitable for urban development should be acquired and come under the control of the Government. It is good planning practice for the land in this area to have a residual interest in the control of the public authority, the Government.’ This is always a good principle. It is one of the fundamental principles of controller^ of city planning.
One reason is that if land comes under the control of the authority, the Government and thus the people, it can be made available for development at a very much lower price than would be the case if it got into the hands of speculators. The situation is that a public inquiry already has found that it is necessary to acquire land for the future planning of Canberra. If this is not done I wonder what sort of shape the Canberra of the future will take. The people charged with the responsibility for developing Canberra will find it absolutely necessary to have the land in the ACT under their control. All the authorities with any sort of responsibility for or knowledge of the subject realise that it is necessary to have this residual control over the land so that proper development can take place. Where the situation arises that it is necessary to acquire land, this can be done at a very much higher cost.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Order! Two hours having elapsed from the time of the meeting of the Senate, Orders of the Day will be called on pursuant to standing order 127.
Motion (by Senator Cotton) agreed to:
That intervening business be postponed to allow the debate to continue until 12.45 p.m.
– Another very bad feature of any departure from the present system is the growing problem that will face young people trying to acquire land. If there is any departure from the present system of land rental, I cannot see any alternative to a move into a freehold system. The speculators will come in and the price of land will rise. The problems of the government in relation to development, expansion, planning and so on will rise at the same time, there will be problems with acquisition and similar matters.
It has been suggested that in place of this land rental system a type of rating system will apply. In the Australian Capital Territory at the moment there is a rating system. I have not checked it out, but on a number of occasions it has been put to me that the extent of the system is comparable with the rating system that applies in other Australian cities. If the present system is to be abandoned and if a system of rating is to be instituted, I can very well imagine that the people of Canberra will pay substantially more than do the people in other Australian cities to continue to have the level of services that they are getting now. Let us have no doubt about this. The people in the Australian Capital Territory are being provided with services and facilities of outstanding quality. That ought to be so.
– Will the lavatory tax continue?
– This is the whole point. We do not know what the new system is to be. It has not been spelt out. There is doubt and uncertainty in the minds of every person in Canberra as to what the new system will be. I understand that, after the Parliament rises, the Minister for the Interior will address the Canberra Chamber of Commerce on the details of this new system. 1 understand that he has indicated that. Surely the Parliament is entitled to the details of this new system. 1 understand also, as some backing for my belief that the total concept of the scheme has not been worked out, that people in the Urban Administration Section of the Department of the Interior are attending a course at the Canberra College of Advanced Education to work out the details of some new system. How can the Department dismantle one system without having details of the. system to take its place worked out so that the people concerned know? So long as the Government continues to neglect the wishes of the people of the Australian Capital Territory there will be problems of this kind. While there have been inquiries into freehold land use, fruit and vegetable marketing, the milk industry, breathalyser tests and Sunday observance, the great problem affecting the Canberra community - that is, the problem of land tenure - has not been subjected to examination by a parliamentary committee.
– Did not the Joint Parliamentary Committee recommend some years ago a departmental inquiry into this and is not the new scheme a result of the departmental inquiry?
– That has not been stated in any publication that I have read, nor has the Minister said it.
– Is it so in fact?
– This has never been stated, to my knowledge. That is the reason why people are saying that before any new scheme is implemented all the ramifications of the present land tenure system should be examined completely and thoroughly so that they know where they are going and what will replace the system upon which this city has grown into such a splendid city. The present basis of land tenure is the 99 year lease system. A payment is made, over and above the assessed value of land at the time of auction. We do not know the basis of assessment of that value. But on the basis of that valuation an annual 5 per cent rental is charged which comes back into the coffers of the Government and upon which the development of Canberra is continued.
I know something about the system of rating because it was my profession for about 20 years. Rates are collected on the basis of budgeting on an annual system. Each year budgets are prepared to cover the estimated cost of the provision of various services. But it is calculated on an annual basis. Under the present system there is a continuing income to the Government. The impact of this is very light because the Government is able to sell land at a price which would not be available to home builders if the land were in the hands of developers and speculators. So the valuation of the land is relatively light and the impact of the rental of 5 per cent of that valuation each year is not great.
I am speaking now particularly of young home builders and home seekers who have to pay a substantial price for land in the Australian Capital Territory. They have to obtain this rooney by loan at a high interest rate. Because of the prices of homes nowadays very often home seekers have to pay a second mortgage which they carry for the rest of their days at a crippling burden of interest rated on the capital cost. Under the system which applies at the moment this would not be necessary. I think it is the best form of development to have the system which is being applied - the system upon which Canberra has grown up and which could be continued into the future so that there is a continuing income to the Government and a continuing ability to find funds with which to proceed with the future development of the city.
I have mentioned that a great number of town planners have spoken in favour of this ground rent system which applies here. They have been horrified at the though that it is going to change. Recently 1 was interested to read an observation made at the Sydney Luker Memorial Lecture of 1966 which was delivered by His Honour Mr Justice Else-Mitchell. He proposed that a time limit should be set to change the whole of Australia from the freehold to the leasehold system. In Canberra in this year 1970 we are proposing to dismantle a system which has been acclaimed by all those people I know of and all I have been able to read who have been prepared to make some observations on it as wanting to see the retention of the leasehold system.
– Does the honourable senator think it would weaken the policy of maintaining national parkland?
– I do not think it weakens that. As a matter of fact the leasehold system is held to be the best system for the reasons I have given and also because it provides opportunities to planners to do those things which they want to do. I understand that the National Capital Development Commission is against this proposal because it will diminish the Commission’s ability to plan and control the development of the city.
At the present time provisions are in the law in relation to purpose clauses. Purpose clauses are written into agreements at the time of the sale of land defining what the land shall be used for. It is possible for persons to apply to the court for a variation of those purpose clauses. I believe that on 6 or 7 occasions in recent years the courts have agreed to an alteration in those purpose clauses. The speculator would want to see a rating system applied instead of the leasehold system because it enables him to get hold of the land and obtain a freehold title to it and therefore obtain the prices which invariably occur in situations of this kind.
– Is the honourable senator suggesting that a rating system is incompatible with a leasehold tenure? Is the honourable senator suggesting that the only alternative is a rating system plus freehold and not a rating system plus leasehold at minimal rent?
– What I am trying to say is that the present system is working and has worked very well. We do not know the details of any system that is to follow.
– You seem to me to say that the alternative would be a freehold system with rates, but that is not the necessary alternative, is it?
– In Darwin the leasehold system operated but there was a move away from that system and a gradual erosion of it progressing, as I understand it, towards the freehold system. That is an example of what happens when there is a departure from the leasehold system. There are very many arguments in favour of the present system remaining unchanged until the whole question of land tenure in this city of Canberra has been investigated. As I have said, the present system seems to have been a very good one except that I believe that re-assessment should be made on a 3-yearly basis or, at the most, a 5-yearly basis. In some States the unimproved capital value of properties is reassessed at 5-yearly intervals. I see no harm in a 5-year interval but I think it would be preferable to have a 3-year interval in Canberra because in a city growing as fast as Canberra is growing - I suggest that it is the fastest growing city in Australia - there is a need for this matter to be looked at continuously so that the rate of income of the relevant authority can keep pace with the rate of development.
I do not know where the funds will come from if we abandon this system with its guaranteed source of revenue for the future planning of the Australian Capital Territory. What will happen? Will loans be made available as they are to municipal authorities to provide the facilities and amenities that a community needs? What basis will be used for the provision of funds with which to carry on the development of this city? I would hate to see anything happen which would retard or damage in any way the orderly growth and development of Canberra as it is proceeding at present. I think all of us - this certainly includes the people of the Australian Capital Territory - must have hopes that this will continue to be one of the finest cities in Australia, a city which is planned now and will continue to be planned. If we abandon the substance for the shadow we may very well do substantial damage to the future development of what promises to be one of the finest cities in the world.
For the reasons that I have spelled out we have seen fit to acquire land. Now the system upon which this city has grown is threatened. As far back as 1901 Sir Edmund Barton described it as the ideal system. In that view he has been supported by various authorities, parliamentary authorities, town planners, controllers and people of that kind who surely have some knowledge and understanding of the system, who have been able to weigh and judge the merits of the various systems, who have been able to see the problems, which are substantial, in the development of the city of Melbourne and the city of Canberra. At meetings of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Capital Territory I have heard mention of the disjointed development of the city of Sydney, for instance, where there are still more unsewered homes than there are homes in the whole of Tasmania. Do we want to abandon a system which has provided the facilities and amenities of the quality that have been provided in the city of Canberra. Do we want to abandon that system for some hotch potch system such as seems to apply in the major cities of Australia which are faced with great problems? The rating system of itself will not meet this situation. I do not know what the Government has in mind. A document came to me early today spelling out some details of what the Government had in hand but neither I nor anyone else in my Party concerned with this problem has had an opportunity to look at it. I do not know what is in the offing, but in view of the opinions which have been expressed by authorities all over Australia on the merits of the present system, I would want to be convinced by a great deal of evidence that to abandon that system and to put something in its place would not be injurious to the interests of this city.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking Precedence of Government Business
I ask leave to move the following motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent General Business Order of the Day No. 11 being considered concurrently with Order of the Day No. 2 and a vote on Order of the Day No. 1 1 being taken immediately following the taking of a vote on Order of the Day No. 2. 1 propose to deal with this matter expeditiously.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Is leave granted?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Senator Murphy, you have already asked for leave to put the motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent General Business Order of the Day No. 11 being considered concurrently with Order of the Day No. 2 and a vote on Order of the Day No. 11 being taken immediately following the taking of a vote ofl Order of the Day No. 2. 1 do not propose to speak to the motion because I think the Senate is familiar with the matter. I think it would be better vo have a decision on it
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The question is: ‘That the motion be agreed to.
– Mr Deputy President. I suggest that it should be put to a vote.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Ring the bells.
– I think the necessity for a division would be avoided if it were simply recorded that the members of the Australian Labor Party voted for the motion and the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party of Australia voted against it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Does the Leader of the Opposition want a division to be held?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Stop the bells. I declare the question resolved in the negative on the voices.
Debate resumed from 14 May (vide page 1530), on motion by Senator McManus:
That the Senate fs of opinion that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into the present condition and future prospects of primary industry in Australia.
Upon which Senator Drake-Brockman had moved by way of amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘that’, insert ‘the Senate, being aware of the economic position of primary producers and the problems associated therewith, knowing of the immediate need for analysis of industry problems to determine requirements of policy as affecting the different industries and believing that a Royal Commission would not meet such an immediate need, as it would involve too lengthy a period for investigation and report, is of the opinion that -
the most appropriate way of investigating the present problems of the primary industries would be to establish industrysponsored committees of inquiry, backed by the available resources of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, to establish lines of action in the light of a world-wide situation; and
these committees should be required to analyse the factors affecting the individual industries and report to the Government upon short-term policies to alleviate present difficulties and long-term policies for the guidance of both primary producers and the Government.’
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! Senator Prowse had the call when the debate was adjourned. He is away on leave. I call Senator Douglas Scott.
– I rise to oppose the motion seeking a royal commission into the present conditions and future prospects of primary industry in Australia: I do so not because 1 do not believe that there is every need for an intensive investigation into the circumstances of these important industries. It seems to me that a royal commission at this point over such a vast area as the primary industries of Australia, which include not one industry but probably 10, 15 or 20 industries, would take such an incredibly long time that we would lose the real significance of an investigation, the real purpose of which would be to find some methods quickly to meet the desperate situations about which we have heard so much from the Australian Labor Party in recent days, the desperate situations which confront many of Australia’s primary industries. Therefore, I support the amendment which was moved on the occasion when the debate was discontinued on 14th May. The amendment is quite long and I should imagine that most honourable senators are fully aware of it. It states:
The Senate, being aware ot the economic position of primary producers and the problems associated therewith, knowing of the immediate need for analysis of industry problems to determine requirements of policy as affecting the different industries and believing that a Royal Commission would not meet such an immediate need, as it would involve too lengthy a period for investigation and report, is of the opinion that:
the most appropriate way of investigating the present problems of the primary industries would be to establish industrysponsored committees of inquiry, backed by the available resources of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, to establish lines of action in the light of a world-wide situation; and
these committees should be required to analyse the factors affecting the individual industries and report to the Government upon short-term policies to alleviate present difficulties and long-term policies for the guidance of both primary producers and the Government.
This is the sort of solution that, in all probability, could bring a more immediate answer to the tremendous problems that confront our industries today. We could become bogged down with a royal commission. I would assume that the Government would be able to take little or no action during the tenure of the commission to attack the problems which are so common and, indeed, which are causing such desperation in this area of Australia’s economy.
I have watched and listened to members of the Australian Labor Party with much interest in recent days and I have been quite worried about their almost tearful concern for the primary industries of this country. I must say that this sort of concern appears to me somewhat incongruous when 1 look a little deeper into the real attitude of the Opposition to primary industries in Australia. I wonder even whether the sudden concern could be of a somewhat fleeting character and perhaps could be prompted by concern with the forthcoming Senate election. This is just a view that has occurred to me. lt does appear to be quite an incongruous situation, because I remind myself of several features of the policy of the Australian Labor Party with regard to primary industry that I have read and heard in recent days and weeks. I must remind honourable senators that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in another place, when speaking in the Budget debate, devoted a mere 69 words to the mighty wool industry of Australia.
– They were words of wisdom.
– They must have been of extreme wisdom. If he hoped to solve the problems of the Australian wool industry in 69 words they would have to be words of wisdom indeed. But then the Leader of the Opposition in the other place went on to say that it would be possible in rural industries to achieve much better results for the community and for individuals without an increase in our present financial outlay. This to me seems a strange conclusion, and it certainly is not the conclusion at which the Government has arrived since it has already increased the outlay involved in attempting to withhold the position of primary industry until it can be settled in stronger and more definite avenues. The Government has increased its outlay in this current year by some 55 per cent. This does seem a considerable change from its attitude in the past to which I referred. I am also reminded that not long ago in this very chamber - perhaps 3 weeks ago - a
Labor senator was talking about the Australian farmers. I believe our farmers happen to be among the most efficient in the world, and many other people in many places believe they are the most efficient farmers in the world. But this honourable senator referred to them as a ‘dissentient and scruffy minority’. I cannot seem to tie up these sentiments.
– Who said that?
– A Labor senator. It is in Hansard.
– You must name him.
- Senator Poke used those words when he asked this question:
What action does the Government intend to prevent this dissentient and scruffy minority disrupting proper processes of law and order?
These are Senator Poke’s words, andI do not find them congruous with the suggestion that the Australian Labor Party now shares such deep and tearful concern for this so-called scruffy minority. Only 2 or 3 days ago Senator O’Byrne. after describing the terrors and the problems of this industry, went on to say that the Opposition did not have to put up the solutions to those problems.
– We do not have to put up the solutions to your problems.
– Maybe honourable senators opposite do not have to put up the solutions and maybe indeed they cannot solve the problems; I am not sure which. I suggest that this is a somewhat irresponsible and mischievous attitude. Surely it is something of a sham that members of the Labor Party, owing such a tremendous allegiance to metropolitan Australia, should suddenly find such great concern for the primary producers of this country.
Yesterday Senator Kennelly in the debate on this matter gave a description of the diesel fuel tax. I thought his description was superb, as were his statements and his capacity for drama. But the fact is that he referred to a diesel fuel tax that does not apply to rural tractors and machinery. Senator Kennelly attacked the Government on this point, and in particular attacked the Australian Country Party. But the tax does not apply to rural machinery. I have noticed a constant attack on the Government, particularly on those of us in this corner of the chamber who belong to the Country Party. I find the attention almost complimentary. It seems to me that we must indeed represent-
– Dad and Dave.
– The honourable senator may be right. I do not know exactly how Dad and Dave behaved. The fact that honourable senators opposite direct such a bitter attack to the Country Party is surely a compliment to those of us who belong to it. Surely honourable senators opposite recognise that we have a tremendous concern for the people of rural Australia - the farmers and the people who live in the towns, villages and provincial cities. This is our business. From the attack on us by honourable senators opposite it can be assumed that we do our business reasonably well.
I have said that a genuine investigation into the problems of the primary industries is certainly worthwhile. However, I believe that considerable action is already in train. Action is being taken and has been taken to resolve many problems of (he primary industries in many different areas. The. primary industries are very diverse and complex, and far beyond the capacity of any form of investigation suddenly to produce a series of real answers. The problems of primary industries are discussed here day after day, and in many other places. It is necessary to find solutions that are not only politically attractive but are also capable of being implemented. I think honourable senators will agree with me that that is the crucial point. An apparent solution is completely useless if it cannot in fact be implemented.
I suggest that in the present sitution there is constant organisation of. and investigation into, the problems of the rural industries. Much greater unanimity has been achieved amongst primary producers’ organisations than has been seen before. We must at least in part be lead by the solutions that these great and diverse industries find themselves. We do not believe that solutions must be imposed from above. I am aware of the philosophy behind that attitude. I recall that recently Mr Hawke, in answering a question, said that he believed that in time of war the
Government should take over and that that is how it should always be. That is not our view of controlling and solving the massive troubles of rural Australia.
We have in constant operation the Bureau of Agricultural Economics - a most effective and efficient body. We have the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which is world renowned for its capacity in research in many fields. Tn the areas of rural production it is constantly chasing the problems and from day to day solving many of them. The Country Party had its own committee which inquired at length, over a number of months, into the problems of rural Australia. The committee came down with 34 recommendations. A number of them have been implemented already and a number of the others are in the process of being implemented. So, here is an area of investigation. The Department of Primary Industry is referring constantly lo the various areas of research within the industry organisations, the CSIRO, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and so on. In fact, there is a continuing and efficient source of investigation of the problems and, more importantly, a consistent search for answers to those problems.
I do not intend to spend a great deal of time on (he problems themselves. I am sure that all of us in this chamber - certainly we members of the Country Party - understand them quite clearly. We have different views as to their causes. Some of them are inherent in the very nature of primary industry in Australia. We are a strange country in that we are a developed economic society, yet we have something of the nature of an undeveloped country’s economy because we are always searching for markets for the export of raw materials. So. these problems of primary industry, to a large degree, are inherent in the very nature of this land and this land’s economy.
– And overseas as well.
– That also applies overseas. We are a Western country, highly developed yet constantly searching for overseas markets. This search for overseas markets is at least as important - perhaps it is more important - to the whole Australian scene as it is to the Australian countryside. Slowly, the entire Australian population is realising that basic to our survival not only as an industry but as a country is our capacity to keep overseas credit, and that our capacity to find something to effectively take the place of primary industry in this field is probably nil.
Let me look for just one moment at the great Australian wool industry. It is at a tragically low level at the moment. The price level today is the lowest for about 23 years. It is at this level for many reasons. I do not believe that they are Government contrived reasons. There is a tremendous slump in world prices of textile fibres, particularly wool, but of synthetics too. There is a general tragic world-wide slump in the prices of raw fibres. This is basic to the problem of the Australian wool industry but equally basic is the fact that its cost structure is dictated by an affluent and protected society. I am not arguing against an affluent and protected society but I am pointing out the great difficulty that this industry faces, the tremendous difficulty of finding solutions to a problem iri a structure over which we have little or no control and a price over which, because we are exporting to world markets, again we have little or no control.
I suggest, Mr Acting Deputy President, that the survival of Australia’s rural industries and the final solution to our problems in this field basically lie more with solving the problem of the wool industry than that of any other single industry. I say this because we produce the most wool and the best wool in the world. In wool we are significant. In this field we have a comparative significance far in excess of any significance we may have in any other field of primary production. Solving the problems of the wool industry would go a long way towards balancing the entire rural scene in the primary producing areas of Australia.
– Superfine wool brought 61c a lb in Tasmania this week.
– That is right. I am fully aware of the problems of this industry and I am fully aware of the necessity to find a solution because I believe it is basic to the ultimate solution of providing balance in the Australian rural scene. Until we succeed in solving our wool problems the problems of diversification are indeed troublesome, for by diverting to other areas, of primary pro duction surely we will create the very problems in those industries that exist already in the wool industry and we may shortly be faced, as we are in the wheat industry, with quotas in many other areas due to the fact that we cannot control prices when we start to export.
– Is that all you have to offer for the wool growers?
– No, it is not all. I want to draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that the formation of the Wool Industry Commission has been developing over an intensive period of a few months. Activity has reached the stage where legislation shortly will be introduced into this Parliament. This will bring about the most searching and far reaching changes that this industry has yet known.
– Yes, but will they be beneficial?
– We hope that these things will be beneficial and the beauty of this is that for the first time the industries themselves have got right behind this sort of scheme. There is a unanimity and a determination to change the entire process of marketing and selling wool. This has happened for many reasons. One of them is the unanimity that exists for the first time. The Government has accepted the instructions and solutions put to it and has developed a system which will introduce this radical new approach to marketing. It is also possible, in fairness, we must admit, for the first time because the wool industry, through research, can now hope to present a scientific analysis of its product. The day is very close when we can offer wool for sale by accurate scientific description.
Before 1 finish dealing with the problems of rural industries. I think I should very briefly refer to the reasons for the problems that face these industries. There has been a world slump in textile prices. This is basic to the entire situation. There has been over-production or mal-distribution of wheat. An attack has been made on the wheat situation. The Government and the industry are in agreement. They have shaped up to the problems in a practical sense. They are reaching some kind of solidarity and some kind of basic strength on which they can operate. The tariff walls which surround the Western European countries make the problems of an exporting country such as Australia, which exports a large quantity of raw materials, extremely difficult. The ravages of drought have played a fantastically important and terrible part in bringing to a head the problems that beset our rural industries today. The countries which only 2 years ago imported grains have become exporters. These are problems that no government and no country can easily or accurately foresee. But these problems that are basic to the situation of our rural industries today.
We lack the capacity of the densely populated countries of the Western and the Western-type world to subsidise our primary producers to the extent that primary producers are subsidised in those countries. We do not have the internal market that can stand this kind of economic approach. This is another basic problem to our rural industries. It is a problem which, I suggest, we must recognise and solve. 1 believe that we can solve it. We can solve it only if we use as our yardstick the capacity to implement the solutions that we put forward. I believe that we should not be hysterical about this situation. I believe that government action has been and is being taken in a realistic sense with a view to satisfying the dictates of the industries and organisations. Reconstruction is a real concern of this Government and is a long term solution to many of the problems of our rural industries. In the dairy industry $25m will be spent, by the time the current 5-year period has expired, on the reconstruction of low income dairy farms.
– You have to get big or get out.
– I do not believe that the Party to which 1 belong or the Government agrees with that statement. I do not believe that it is even a sensible statement. A big farm is not necessarily economic. A small farm is not necessarily uneconomic. So I do not have any regard for that kind of statement. Debts, reconstruction and drought are problems. The Government and the industry have been faced with tremendous problems as a result of a drought not in one year but in about 3 of the last 6 or 7 years - in 2 of the last 5 years. The Government has taken considerable action to relieve some of the tragedy of droughts. It is beyond any Government to solve these sort of tragedies quickly. The Government has spent more than $4m in New South Wales, $2m in Queensland and $Hm in South Australia. It has entered into the field of drought relief by grants to Queensland amounting to Slim this year, $14m last year and since 1965-66 over $30m has been spent on drought relief in that State. On the Commonwealth scene since 1965 over $>30m has been spent in this area alone. It is not fair to say that the problems are not recognised and, equally, it is not fair to say that nothing is being done.
– The Government is trying to patch up the primary industries.
– This is the best thing to do. If one is suffering from any complaint which one cannot cure then, indeed, one tries to patch it up while looking for a cure. This is a perfectly sensible thing to do.
– The honourable senator has said that it cannot be cured.
– I did not say that it could not be cured. Relief measures exist and have been implemented in primary industry in the form of loans to restockers, transport rebates on stock and fodder - particularly the supplies to drought areas - and grants for unemployment relief. Again this is only a temporary measure. It is a patch, I agree. But I suggest that it is a very necessary patch. Special revenue for drought grants and a rebate of 50 per cent in shire rates has been announced for drought-affected producers in need of assistance where they have had 2 years of drought in 5. A consultative committee on drought has been drawn up. Drought bonds have been instigated. Indeed Si. 7m has been invested in drought bonds and $925,000 has been redeemed for the purchase of fodder in the fight against drought and its consequences. The conservation of fodder which is a defence against any drought has been encouraged by tax concessions and freight subsidies. Tax concessions allow the establishment of sheds, storage spaces, silos and the like for the holding of supplies which are an essential defence if we are to meet a drought when and where it occurs in this country.
A wool marketing corporation is to be established at the request of the industry and in consultation with the Government. Some $34m have been invested by the Government. The Budget provided $30m for wool growers, mostly in Queensland and northern New South Wales, as a partial aid towards the ravages of drought. The proposed Australian Wool Commission is in the process of being established. For the first payment for wheat $407m has been made available. Surely these are real efforts to meet the problems of primary industries in this country. In this year the dairying industry is receiving some $46m. Arrangements have been made whereby the price of skim milk powder has been raised from $150 to $181 a ton. Funds are constantly available for research in the dairying industry as in other primary industries. Interest rates, probate, water and development are all areas in which this Government has taken and is taking an active part in recognising and solving some of the basic problems of primary producers in Australia. Indeed it is solving problems which go far beyond the farms and the properties of rural Australia. They are the problems that affect the provincial cities, the country towns, the villages and ultimately the entire Australian scene.
It is probably not so well known that because of the bounty that is paid this country has the cheapest superphosphate in the world. Superphosphate at the works is almost half the price of the cheapest superphosphate in overseas countries. The chemicals commonly used in agriculture in Australia have been kept at a price which, in 60 cases out of 74, is lower than it was 10 years ago. Those are some of the things that have been done by the institutions which have been set up by this Government because of its concern for primary industry. We are faced with many problems of which we all are aware we have the determination, the capacity and the knowledge to meet the challenge that they present. I believe that they are being met now.
I oppose the proposition for a royal commission simply because I feel that an investigation of that kind in such a vast atea would be too slow and too expensive to meet the tremendous demands of today. I have pleasure in supporting the amend ment to the proposition before us relating to primary industry in Australia.
– The Australian Labor Party will oppose the motion and the amendment. On behalf of the Party I intend to move at the appropriate stage - I understand that it is necessary to foreshadow an amendment, if that can be done, or else seek leave to move an amendment later, as I have been invited to do on all hands - an amendment to the proposition in order to have determined whether the Senate’s view should go forward in the terms proposed by the Government, the Australian Labor Part) or the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
– Will this come before or after the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Wilkinson, or is he withdrawing that?
-I will indicate what we will do. As the Senate might be aware, I intend to move in terms of a proposal which was aired yesterday and on which a good deal of discussion took place. I refer to the proposal put forward by Senator O’Byrne on behalf of myself in the following terms:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade the following matter - The problems of the rural industries of Australia now and in the foreseeable future. In particular the Committee is requested to recommend, as soon as possible, what immediate action should be taken to meet the existing crises in the rural industry; and recommend what long-term measures should be taken to re-structure and achieve the utmost efficiency in the rural industry and to ensure as far as can be, the prosperity of the rural industry and of the communities based on it. 1 do not know what procedural steps need to be taken in order to put that proposal before the Senate on this occasion for its consideration. However, I expect that the leave of the Senate will be granted to me to put this proposal. I hope that there will not be any difficulties.
The rural industries of Australia are entitled to a decision on these matters. The Australian Labor Party is concerned about the future of Australia’s rural industries because they have a great effect upon our economy. They have been the backbone of
Australia for many years. It is appropriate that the Senate, as one of the co-ordinating legislative chambers, should make a decision on this matter, perhaps I should indicate at this stage that the Australian Labor Party is opposed to the proposal which has been put forward by the Australian Democratic Labor Party. The Democratic Labor Party spokesman said that he attended a meeting of a large number of farmers at Jerilderie at which it was resolved that a royal commission should be held to inquire into the position of our rural industries. He asked why the Australian Labor Party took the view that the Senate should not act on the resolution of these farmers. The answer is purely and simply that, first of all, the Australian Labor Party takes the view that the proposal put forward by the Democratic Labor Party which would give effect to the resolution of the farmers is not a wise proposal because it would not be practicable for such a royal commission to operate in this way.
There is an overwhelming reason why the members of the Australian Labor Party in this chamber will not vote in favour of the proposal and that is that it would be of no use whatever because a royal commission would be an instrument of the Government and not of the Parliament. A royal commission is something which needs to be set up by a government, which is set up by a government and which reports to a government and not to the parliament. The Government of this country has said that it will not set up such a royal commission. The Government has said that a royal commission is not an effective means of handling this problem. The Government has indicated in the curious terms of its amendment to the motion of Senator McManus that it will not set up a royal commission. Therefore, what is the use of the Senate trying to dispose of the problem in this way if the Government will not co-operate? The best thing to do would be for the Democratic Labor Party to withdraw its proposal because, no matter how much it might be said that such a thing ought to be done, it is no use if the Government will not agree to it. The Democratic Labor Party is in effect asking the Government to bring into effect an instrument - I amusing the word ‘instrument’ in the proper sense - of the Government to advise it. Although it would be a very important advisory agency it would be nevertheless as instrument of the Government. The Governmenthas said that it is not prepared to do this. There is no point in pursuing this proposal if the Government, with all its powers, will not cooperate. What is the point of the Senate pursuing the matter if this is what will happen? For these reasons we must look elsewhere if we cannot have the type of inquiry the farmers want.
Let us have a look at the terms of the amendment which was moved by the Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman) on behalf of the Government. It states:
I emphasise the wordsimmediate need - for analysis of industry problems to determine requirements of policy as affecting the different industries and believing that a royal commission would not meet such an immediate need, as it would involve too lengthy a period for investigation and report . . .
So the Government, in effect, says not to have a royal commission as there is need for an immediate analysis. What else did the Government say in its amendment? It says: . . the most appropriate way of investigating the present problems of the primary industries would bc to establish industry sponsored committees of inquiry, backed by the available resources of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, to establish lines of action in the light of a world wide situation.
In other words, the Government wants an immediate analysis of these problems. The Government says that the way to do it is to establish industry sponsored committees. The Opposition agrees that there is a need for an immediate analysis. Let that be common ground. We all agree upon it. The Government goes on to say in ils amendment: . . these committees should be required to analyse the factors affecting the individual industries and report to the Government upon short term policies to alleviate present difficulties and long term policies for the guidance of both primary producers and the Government.
What do we need? The Opposition is in agreement with the Government that there should be an immediate analysis; that there should be short term recommendations and that there should be long term recommendations. The Senate cannot force the Government to set up a royal commission. If there is to be an immediate analysis - an inquiry into and report upon the short term needs of primary industry - and then a longer inquiry into the long term measures which are necessary, the way to do it is to refer the matter to a body which the Senate has set up and which can engage in an immediate analysis as well as a long term analysis. I refer to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade. That is why the Opposition has put forward its suggestion.
Let us examine what the Government has done. It has said that an immediate analysis is necessary, lt has also said that the most appropriate way to have one would be to establish industry sponsored committees. Where are the industry sponsored committees to which the Government has referred? What have they clone? These committees would have to be set up. The Government is not talking about committees which are already in existence. Is there an industry sponsored committee in the dried vine fruits industry? Are there such committees in the dairying, sugar, canned fruits, apple and pear, fisheries and meat industries, to mention just a few?
I turn to the wool industry. I understand that legislation will come before the Senate shortly in relation to the wool industry. On behalf of the Opposition I wish to indicate that this legislation should be dealt with and passed by the Senate, with whatever amendments may be carried, before the Senate rises. I . hope that, despite the waffling of the Government, there is not going to be any delay. I assure the Government that the attitude of the Opposition is that it will stay here until this matter is dealt with and passed with whatever amendments may be carried. This is going to be the Opposition’s approach to the matter.
I call upon the Minister for Air to inform the Senate which industry sponsored committees have been set up in the field of primary industry. On 16th April he said that such committees should inquire into the problems of rural industries. Where is the evidence of the existence of the industry sponsored committees to which he referred? Fancy the Government coming in here and saying: ‘Do not do so and so. This is what should be done’, when the remedy is in its own hands. If this is the most appropriate way of dealing with the matter why does the Government not go ahead? Does the Minister for Air suggest that committees of this nature have been set up in all of these industries to deal with their problems? The Minister is very silent.
– If I interjected you would be crying about it.
– I ask the Minister: Do you say that you have set up this committee?
– I am not saying anything.
– He is not saying anything. I did not hear the last speaker talk about committees which have been set up. Where are they?
– There is the Wool Committee.
– It might say that that is one which the Minister obviously did not have in mind because he was talking about committees which would be established. I knew that would come forth. That is why 1 did not refer to it. I suppose Government supporters might be able to say with some justification that there has been such a committee. But tell us of some more.
– There is the Wheat Board with advisory committees, investigating markets and everything else.
– Where is the one for sugar? ls there one for that industry? ls there one for dairying? ls there one for canned fruits?
– Yes, in that case there is.
– ls there one for dried vine fruits, for apples and pears or for fisheries and meat?
– There are boards for all those industries.
– Have they been established since the Minister spoke on 16th April?
– The committees that the Minister had in mind to be established were industry sponsored committees. Tell us what action has been taken since 16th April along these tines. No action has been taken since then. The Senate and the farmers are entitled to know what action has been taken since 16th April to do what the Minister said would be the most appropriate thing to do. and that is to establish committees and to do something about primary industries. Let it be said, if it can be said, what inquiry has been conducted by the Government into the effect of inflation on the costs of industries, and especially export industries. I invite honourable senators opposite to tell us what is being done about the revelations from the Tariff Board which showed that the aid, which is the equivalent of a subsidy to secondary industries is worth about $2,700m. Can Government supporters tell us what has been done to ascertain what effect this has had on rural industries? Let them tell us what has been done to show what the effect would have been on the cost structure of, say, the wool industry if the goods which are an input to the wool industry could have been imported at import parity. These are the kinds of things that are affecting rural industries, but they have not been investigated as they should have been.
If the wool industry and other primary industries could have their inputs at import parity - in other words, if they were free of what in effect has been a subsidy to secondary industry - what effect would this have had on these primary industries? They are the types of problems which could be examined and dealt with, if the Government knows about these things, i’ certainly has done nothing about them.
– We do not use Australian cars; we use Japanese cars, Japanese tractors and Japanese washing machines!
– That is a very weak answer given by the honourable senator. It is obvious that there may be many other ways to meet the problem of the costs and burdens on rural industries which are known in this country. By his interjection the honourable senator indicates that his Party would ignore my suggestion and that in some way the problems of rural industries which are being affected in this way should be brushed aside. He would have us brush aside the factor of the primary industries having to pay higher prices than if they were buying equipment at import parity. He would brush that aside in this easy way because it would mean that everybody would be buying Japanese cars. If that is as far as his thinking has gone on the subject - no doubt it represents the view of his Party - it is a tragedy because it shows that members of his Party are prepared to neglect the problems of rural industry. That is why the Country Party has been deserted all over the country.
The Country Party is collapsing, and members of that Party know it. lt is collapsing because they will not face up to these problems and deal with them as they should. They are hooked into a coalition and the primary producers can go hang. All they are prepared to do is talk. The people of the country have seen through you and are giving you away. You deserve to be given away because you have given the country industries away. Has anyone heard these Country Party members getting up in this place and demanding anything or introducing motions to force the Government to establish Government industries in the depressed rural areas? That is something that would help the rural industries. The Government is the greatest employer of labour and the greatest spender of money in the community. If it wanted to do so it could establish Government industries in rural areas. This would be the best way to tackle the situation. This is done all over the United States of America. But what have honourable senators opposite tried to do in this way in country areas? They say that this would be too easy, that if they did this they would be destroying themselves. They say that they are not going to do what Playford did to himself, bring industries into rural areas. They know that if industry goes into their country areas they will have no hope. By continuing with this kind of policy they are injuring the interests of rural industries which they are supposed to represent, and it has caught up wim them. The people can see through them.
What has the Government really done? I suggest that it has done very little. Earlier this year Senator Wilkinson foreshadowed a proposal that there should he an urgent meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. The honourable senator’s notice of motion proposed leaving in some words of the Government amendment which indicated that it disapproved of a proposal for a royal commission, and then said that the immediate step ought to be for the Government to call an emergency meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council to review the present crisis in the countryside and give proper national leadership to end without delay the present uncertainty and current hardship. We are in the position where the Democratic Labor Party has suggested having a royal commission, but the Government will not accept the suggestion. What did the Government do about an emergency meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council? Since 16th April the Council has had three or four meetings. It did not hold an emergency meeting, but it has had meetings. What came out of those meetings? The Council may have reviewed the current crisis throughout the countryside. The worst feature of the situation for many honourable senators opposite is the crisis affecting their own Party. They have not given proper national leadership to end the present uncertainty and hardship.
The passage of events has shown that it is useless to have an emergency meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council and for that reason we do not intend to proceed with that proposal. The Council has had meetings and very little has come out of them. It has given no leadership. There has been no cure of the problems and so we will not proceed with that suggestion Instead we press the motion for an amendment which I have indicated. I do not intend to say very much more. The important thing tonight is to have these matters decided. We want to get this issue to a vote to have established whether or not honourable senators opposite are prepared to do something. It seems to me to be evident that the proposition advanced by the Democratic Labor Party will not be carried.
In those circumstances there should be a reference by the Senate of these problems to a committee which will have expert assistance available to it. The committee would have members from all sides of the Senate represented on it and at least it would provide a forum where those concerned in the industry could ventilate their views and suggest what immediate action should be taken, lt does not matter if something is go’ng on in other areas. It will not do any harm for one of the chambers in this Parliament to become aware, if it is not aware already, of what is wrong and what can be done about it. lt is time they were told. We ought to have a body here which can air the problems and to which people can come and say whether they are satisfied with what the Government has been doing, and propose solutions to these problems.
Why should it not be done by this Parliament? What is the Government afraid of in referring these matters to a standing committee which was set up to deal with primary and secondary industry? Is the Government so ashamed of its behaviour in these fields that it does not want its behaviour examined by the Committee? Does it not want the people from the rural industries to come before the committee and say what they think is wrong and what they think should be done, both as short term measures and long term measures? What is the fear of Government senators, in particular, and of others? Why are they afraid to have the standing committee look into these matters and let the people in the industries have a voice? It is good to see them hold meetings at Jerilderie, but they cannot do that too often. There is no reason why we should not have a forum here in the form of this committee to which people can come and speak and have their views broadcast to the nation through the news media. Let them say what they think and keep on demanding that something be done until it is done.
We in the Labor Party want the vote taken. I will not speak any longer because it is important that a decision be taken on these matters. For that reason no other honourable senators from my Party will speak on this subject. A lot more could be said - perhaps from other quarters - but we had some chance to discuss the matter yesterday in a regular manner and, after the various points of order were taken, perhaps in a manner that was a little irregular. But the viewpoints have been expressed, and that is why we now ask that the Senate adopt the proposal which will be made on behalf of the Opposition for a reference to a standing committee.
– 1 have listened with a great deal of interest to all of Senator Murphy’s remarks including the irrelevant remarks which comprised most of his speech. I was very interested in his final words when he said that no other Opposition senators would speak on this subject tonight because they spoke on it yesterday. It is very interesting when one reflects that yesterday the proceedings of the Senate were being broadcast; today they are not. What the Opposition thinks it will gain by trying to get its message over to the people by means of the radio, I would not know. It shows very clearly how little Opposition members know about primary industry and about the intelligence of the farming community. If they think for one moment that the waffling they were putting over the air yesterday, and wanted to put over the air yesterday, would convince the farming community, then they are not giving the farmers due credit because the farmers are intelligent people. To be frank, I only wish that Senator Murphy’s remarks were being broadcast. I would have loved Ihe farming community to hear his remarks tonight, so many of which were irrelevant.
Fortunately for primary industry one cannot delve very deeply into the history of Labor administration in this country, but there are some very interesting points in it. I used to be amazed that they made so many mistakes with regard to primary industry but having tonight heard Senator Murphy, the Leader of the Opposition in this place, I am no longer amazed. In reply to an interjection by Senator Maunsell he said: ‘Oh, yes, but this board was set up after July. Does the dairy industry have a board? Does the apple industry have a board? Does the dried fruits industry have a board?’ If he knew the slightest thing about primary industry he would be aware that all of those sections of the- industry have their boards, and have had them, not since July but for many years. In fact, most of those industries have had boards since the end of the 1939-45 war. This alone shows the complete ignorance of honourable senators on the Opposition side.
They have been saying that they are concerned about primary industry, yet their own Leader asks whether the various sections of the industry have their own board. I have never grown an apple in my life, nor have I grown any dried fruits, but I know that those industries have boards. I have worked very closely with other boards in primary industry and I know their responsibilities. I also know the per sonnel of many of those boards and I know how responsible they are, not only to their own industry but also the Government and to the nation. It appears, however, that the Opposition is not even conscious that a lot of those boards exist. As far as I am concerned, the Opposition exercise while the Senate proceedings were being broadcast yesterday was pure political hypocrisy. They wanted to get some kind of message over to the farming community in an endeavour to convince the farmers that the Labor Party is the farmers friend.
It is the misfortune of the Labor Party that so many people engaged in primary industry today can recall the time when the present Opposition was in government. In addition, very many of them have had a taste of Labor administration in their States. If Opposition senators think they can convince the farmers in my State that they would be better in Government than in Opposition they will have to do a jolly sight better than they have done because the present State government in South Australia did so much damage to primary industry when it was in office previously that it will take a jolly long time to recover. It is only because we have a bicameral system that they were saved by this Upper House from an iniquitous tax when one of the Labor Party’s famous economists said that §40,000 was a living area.
– Make it 40,000 acres and leave out-
– He made the statement; I did not. This is what I am getting at. The rest of the farmers would have been taxed out of the industry because of State succession duties. If I can carry this exercise further - no doubt Senator Maunsell will take this up - the Labor Party had the opportunity not many months ago to support an amendment which was moved by the Democratic Labor Party to give only an indication to the Government on the abolition of probate duty. Not one Labor senator crossed the chamber. But let me put it on record again that I did, and so did others. Not one Labor senator walked across the chamber, and yet we hear them expounding all the terrible things about taxation and giving all their sympathies to those engaged in primary industry. Here was a chance for them to abolish one of the iniquitous areas as far as the farmer and his dependants ure concerned, but the Labor Party chose to let the opportunity pass.
The suggestion was made yesterday - Senator Murphy has been speaking about it tonight - that the problem is so urgent, so immediate, that we should set up terms of reference and give them to a standing committee. I thought that Senator Murphy would be aware that at the present time that standing committee has a job on its plate. The Senate is overloaded with committees. It will be very difficult for this committee to function effectively for some time - this is my personal view - because most of the members who have been appointed to it are already sitting on other select committees and have obligations to them. Let us go further. If the other recommendation that has been put forward to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade could be dealt with in February or March, the terms of reference that have been laid down by the Opposition are so wide that they cover the whole ambit of the industry and, if it did its job effectively, the Committee would be lucky to finish within a period of years. I refer, for example, to the Tariff Board inquiry into the textiles industry. We were told today at a hearing of an Estimates Committee that the Board sat for about 7 years inquiring into the textiles industry. Let us compare the textiles industry with the broad scope of the primary industries which produce wheat, wool, dairy products, dried fruits, canned fruits, fresh fruits, fish, apples, pears, and other products. So many problems are involved, but the Opposition wants this Parliament to have an inquiry conducted by a Standing Committee. It says that the matter is. urgent and should be handled immediately. That is the greatest political waffle I have ever heard. I have no doubt that I will hear more political waffle if I stay here long enough and listen to members of the present Opposition.
– We are hearing it now.
– Half the trouble of honourable senators opposite is that they do not understand logic. If they would come back to earth and listen they would learn. They have not even learned that there are so many boards in primary industries. I suggest that they sit back now and listen. Senator Murphy tonight criticised and condemned the Australian Democratic Labor Party for proposing the establishment of a Royal Commission. I also do not support the establishment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the rural industries, but the honourable senator went on to say many times that the Government will not do this.
Let us work it out logically and arithmetically. This place can be an arena for the numbers game. 1 invite honourable senators opposite to tot up the numbers of the Opposition and the DLP. Do not come to us and say that the Government will not do k. I have seen honourable senators opposite beg for the supporting votes of the DLP to defy the Government or to block legislation, sometimes successfully. But on this matter Senator Murphy waffles out of it by saying that the Government will not do it. Do not pass the buck to the Government. Stand on your own feet and admit that you did not want it done. Do not pass it to us. If the Opposition had cared to support the DLP it could have carried the day in this chamber.
– But you cannot-
– I suggest to Senator Wilkinson that he start adding up the numbers. I am getting very sick of watching crocodile tears being shed in the Senate. Tonight Senator Douglas Scott referred to a statement by Senator Poke. It is reported in Hansard of 22nd September at page 728. Senator Poke asked:
What action does the Government intend to prevent this dissentient and scruffy minority disrupting proper processes of taw and order?
The honourable senator is referring to a march by farmers.
– He was quoting the words of the Prime Minister.
– I am quoting Senator Poke, If Senator O’Byrne is not satisfied with that one we will turn our attention to what Mr Berinson, the honourable member for Perth, is reported to have said at page 618 of Hansard of 27th August. The report states:
In my brief experience In the Parliament 1 have found myself continuously impressed at the proportion of the Parliament’s time and concern which is devoted to matters of specific rural interest This occupation with rural problems is very marked, even considered In isolation, but it becomes quite remarkable when contrasted against the virtual absence of any Commonwealth interest in specifically urban matters.
Again the Government was being criticised for devoting too much time to the primary industries. I appreciate that the Opposition is divided, and it is not just a division between the House of Representatives and the Senate. But 1 thought members of the Opposition would have a little coordination when putting things on record. This is wonderful ammunition for the farmers to hear and to read. But we do not have to stop there. We can look to the words of Mr E. G. Whitlam, the Leader of the Opposition in the other place. I direct the attention of honourable senators to page 78 of the Senate Hansard of 19th August where the words of Mr Whitlam are reported. The report states:
Too much attention is being paid to the wishes and needs of rural areas and too little to the needs of cities, the Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition, Mr E. G. Whitlam, said last night. By derivation, civilised men are those who live in cities - pagans are those who live in the country
The rural dwellers will love that.
– Who said that?
– Mr E. G. Whitlam.
– You are quoting yourself.
– I quoted from Hansard. If Senator O’Byrne wants me to go right back I will find the paper for him. Let us not worry about that. Let us have a look at the various industries.
– What did you quote from?
– If 1 am challenged 1 will get a copy of the Press statement. Tonight we have heard Senator Murphy say that we will sit here in the Senate chamber until the Bill for the wool industry comes forward, lt was very pleasing to hear Senator Murphy say that. We have seen the Opposition change horses so often in regard to the wool industry that we wonder which way it will jump next. When the reserve price plan was proposed by the Australian Wool Industry Conference it had the full backing of the Australian Labor Party. The Australian Wool Indus fry Conference by another vote recommended the lifting of the embargo on the export of merino rams. The ALP refused to accept that decision. It went even further and questioned the responsibilities and representation within the AWIC. I was glad to hear Senator Murphy say that he will stay here and make sure that this time legislation is introduced for the proposed wool marketing scheme.
Honourable senators opposite may not be aware that these proposals have come forward from a committee that was set <ip by the wool industry and is comprised of representatives with expertise on the subject. After its recommendations were backed by the Australian Wool Industry Conference the Opposition did not object to them. 1 am very pleased that the Opposition does not object, but I am wondering how much politics is involved and how much responsibility. I cannot help but say that, because this is the third time that the Opposition has changed its mind about the AWIC.
I could spend a lot more time in discussing the wool industry, but I think I should turn now to consider the wheat industry. Today there is a great world wide surplus of wheat. Canada has a surplus of about 800 million bushels and the United States of America about 860 million bushels. Estimates made as late as 3 weeks ago are that the carry-over of the Australian crop this year and the expected harvest will create a surplus, after harvest receivals, of over 500 million bushels. At the same time, one of these boards of whose existence the Opposition evidently is not aware - the Australian Wheat Board - is doing a magnificent job. This year it will sell in the vicinity of 360 million bushels of wheat - the second greatest amount of wheat ever sold in the history of the Australian industry. This is happening in a year that started off as one of great gloom with regard to sales throughout the world. Yet the Wheat Board has been able to do this. I believe that what it has achieved this year shows clearly its responsibility, energy and drive. It also shows the problem that exists in the Australian wheat industry.
The Opposition is talking about what it would do for primary industry. Let us go back and look at the facts. Let us go back to when the Australian Labor Party was in government. We go back to the year 1945-46.
– Go back a little further than that.
– There is no need to. That is far enough. The Australian Labor Party may have set up the Australian Wheat Board on a majority vote of the wheat industry; but, having set it up, in 1945-46 the then Labor Government decided to do its own marketing behind the back of the Wheat Board - the board which had been set up by the wheat industry and which should have been given the responsibilities and respect that it deserved, I have certain papers in my office. 1 propose to refer now to the actual sales.
– Is that a committee of inquiry?
– If 1 am wrong, Senator Murphy can tell me what the figures were. In 1945-46 a forward sale was made to New Zealand, lt covered a 5-year period and involved 18 million bushels of wheat. At that stage we were producing only a small amount of wheat. Tn the first year of the 5-year period - 1945-46 - there was a quota of 4i million bushels. Another 13+ million bushels was to be sold over the next 4 years.
The interesting point is that for the first year the Australian Government accepted from New Zealand a price of 9s 6d a bushel; but for the next 4 years the price was dropped to 5s 9d. One might say: Perhaps the world price dropped and that was the reason why the price to New Zealand dropped’. But when we look at the world price of wheat during that period, what do we find? We find that the prices on the world markets rose to between 15s Id and 18s 5d. That is what the Australian wheat industry lost because of forward selling by the then Labor Government which did the selling instead of the Wheat Board.
– Is that a committee of inquiry?
– We are hearing interjections with regard to various matters. I want to quote what Mr McEwen, the present Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry, said, as reported in Hansard of 16th October 1947. He said that a few weeks before he asked the following question of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture:
In view of the suggestion that the Commonwealth Government may enter into a contract, perhaps a long term contract, for the sale of wheat to the United Kingdom, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give an undertaking that no commitments for the sale of wheat, which represents the livelihood of our wheat growers, will be made without first securing the fullest advice of the Australian Wheat Board on all aspects of the proposals, as the sale of substantial parcels of wheat without the full knowledge and advice of the Board would represent a complete negation of the purposes for which it was established and render utterly valueless the placing of a majority of growers on the Board?
The answer that came from the then
The submission made by the honourable member will be given consideration.
That was the only way the question was answered. Since that time, under Liberal governments the Australian Wheat Board has been as effective and efficient as any other marketing body in existence in Australia. lt has done its job as a responsible body with its own identity and not with Government interference. So, one wonders what the farmers will think when they hear these great words of wisdom coming from members of the Opposition as to what they would do if they gained the reins of government. History can repeat itself. The farmers are not fools. They will not take any chances of letting history repeat itself. So, there is no worry that that will happen.
Criticism has been levelled on the basis of what should be done for primary industry, what is not being done for primary industry and the claim that basically the Government is not even conscious of the fact that there is a problem in primary industry. I have said many times that we ail know that there are problems in primary industry. We all can name most of the reasons why there are problems in primary industry. They are easy to name. But it is jolly difficult to come up with constructive recommendations that will solve all the problems that exist in primary industry. I repeat that the farmers are not fools. They are not prepared to accept any immediate, short term, gimmicky sell. They know that in the long term there is a price to be paid for these things, and all they are looking for is a fair go and security.
What is the Government doing? In the dairy industry, as we know, it is providing $25m over 4 years for the reconstruction of dairy farms. The Treasurer (Mr Bury) announced in the Budget that the Department of Primary Industry was urgently examining the question of wool industry reconstruction and would report to the Government. That is being done. We know that at the present time, on the recommendation of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and the Government, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics is having a very close look at what can be done with regard to reconstruction within sections of primary industry, not just on the physical side in farm reconstruction but also in financial and debt reconstruction. These things are being done. So, when we hear that the Government should set to work and do something, all I can say is that I wish members of the Opposition would listen and take notice of what is being done. The Government is making every endeavour, in a constructive manner, to assist primary industry as much as it possibly can, according to the physical and financial ability of the country. (Quorum formed.)
I am still disappointed, Mr Acting Deputy President, that there are not many members of the Opposition in the chamber even though the bells have been rung for a quorum. I appreciate the point made by the Leader of the Opposition while the quorum was being formed that members of his Party are attending committee meetings and have other responsibilities at the present time. But all I can say to Senator Murphy, through you Mr Acting Deputy President, is that I still regret their absence because they cannot hear a few of the facts of life about rural industries.
– You addressed that remark to me and I will answer it. There are very few members of your Party present and there were even fewer before the quorum was formed.
– If that comment by Senator Murphy is recorded I reply that the wisdom is on this side of the chamber. We do not have to be told of the problems of primary industry or what the Government is trying to do. We are conscious of that. However, I wish members of the Opposition here tonight to hear it because I am afraid they will not bother to read it tomorrow. I was talking about what the
Government is doing. 1 will be brief because my time is running out. Let me refer to drought. Since 1965 the Government has given in excess of $106m for drought relief alone. It has gone further and has provided for a $30m scheme to help wool growers affected by drought and low prices. It did that on a single year short term basis. There is the immediate aid that the Opposition has been talking about. There is an example of what the Government is doing. The Government also is providing loans to carry on restocking. It has assisted in the transport of livestock and fodder, as well as assisting local government authorities to provide employment for farmers in areas affected by drought. This Government also has made grants to the States.
– That is beyond all those pagans.
– Yes, those pagans that certain people talk about.
– Mr Whitlam?
– That is right. We know that drought bonds have been introduced to assist the wool industry and growers frequently affected by drought. This will enable men on the land to have some security of tenure by taking out what is virtually an insurance policy. I could go on citing many things that this Government is doing and has done for primary industry. Another area of assistance is the superphosphate bounty, a bounty that comes on input. Last year it was increased by 50 per cent, and that was not a Senate election year. That assistance was given in time to help farmers with the current crop.
Finally, there were many concessions in the probate field. This was a great concession. My views on that matter are known in this chamber. Opposition members should not talk about helping farmers. They did not help me when I said that I was prepared to oppose probate. They sat and barked but they did not act. It is action that we want in this place but they would not do anything so they should not start talking about these things now. The farmers are aware of their attitude. I hope that the report of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics will include some sound constructive recommendations and that the Government will be able to do as much as it wants to do to assist primary industry.
As was mentioned by some other honourable senators, I hope that some day a rural advisory board will be set up to assist primary industry in the same way as the Tariff Board assists secondary industry.
– My remarks will be very brief, firstly, because I moved the original motion and therefore I can refer only to the amendment and the proposed amendment, and secondly, because I think there is fairly general agreement that we must have a vote on these matters tonight and I want to leave as much time as possible for any other honourable senator who may wish to speak.
The Australian Democratic Labor Party naturally is opposed to both amendments. The reason for our opposition is that our original proposition was moved at the request of large gatherings of farmers and we feel obliged, therefore, to stand by our proposition and to oppose the amendments. In order to show why it is necessary for us to stand by our proposition and to oppose the amendments I shall read the letter which was sent to us by the Australian Rural Action Council which sponsored a very big meeting held at Jerilderie. The writer of that letter said that the meeting carried the following resolution:
That was the short term policy that they sought. But this is the crux of the desires of the farmers: They called for a long term policy as follows:
That was the decision of that meeting of more than 1,000. fanners at Jerilderie in one of the most prosperous parts of Australia. The Democratic Labor Party, therefore, is reinforced in its determination to oppose the 2 amendments because that proposition carried by the Jerilderie meet ing was supported by farmers at other large meetings I attended at Edenhope, Ballarat and Hamilton. We feel we must oppose the 2 amendments because the ideas expressed in them are not what the farmers want. What they want is contained in the resolutions I have just read.
I want to make one further point. The proposition envisaged in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) calling for a kind of parliamentary inquiry was put to the meeting in Jerilderie. It was violently opposed by Mr Pat Hills, Leader of the New South Wales Labor Party, who advised farmers under no circumstances to have an inquiry conducted by politicians. He told them that the inquiry should be a royal commission conducted by experts. By an overwhelming majority the farmers agreed with that point of view put forward by Mr Hills and by myself. Therefore, we of the Democratic Labor Party must oppose the amendment moved by Senator Murphy simply because the fanners, by vote at big meetings, said that they did not trust such a form of inquiry and that they wanted an inquiry by experts.
I refer now to the amendment moved by the Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman) on behalf of -the Government. The Government has objected because it believes that royal commissions have a sinister sound to most people who regard them as inquiries which take years and which often do not result in any action.
– Too many lawyers are involved.
– Many honourable senators reckon that there is one too many in the Senate. The point I want to make is that the objection that royal commissions take a long time does not hold in this case because the farmers envisage that there would be remedial action on a short term basis while the royal commission was surveying the whole field and planning the broader guidelines of the primary industries. When one considers that the position of our primary industries is bound up to some degree with what happens overseas where there are primary production crises, one can see that there are very powerful reasons for having a royal commission which will survey the whole field. The Government says that it can have single inquiries in single industries by bodies which would take expert advice. But I have heard some of them say that they have those already and they do not seem to have been particularly successful if one considers the situation of primary industry.
What we need is a broad inquiry. The Committee of Economic Inquiry - the Vernon Committee - attempted to have a general inquiry as part of a bigger inquiry. What we want is a broad inquiry which would survey the field generally rather than a system in which each industry tries to get advantages, organisation, concessions or assistance from the Government without regard to what may be the position of other industries. Surely there is every need for an all-embracing inquiry to consider the whole field rather than to have single boards or bodies merely attending to the requirements of a particular industry. We all know that the degree to which a particular industry can get help often will depend upon the degree of organisation in that industry and upon the amount of political influence that it has.
Therefore, we believe that the farmers knew what they wanted when they said that they wanted a royal commission to survey the whole field. We will stand by what the farmers, in their correspondence, asked us to move in the Senate. We are opposed to Senator Murphy’s proposal to remit the matter to the Standing Committee because it will not be able to devote its time exclusively to this matter. If there is to be an inquiry into the whole field of primary industry, it would have to be done by a body which concentrated upon that huge task alone. The second thing that 1 want to say about that proposal is that no doubt some members of the Standing Committee have a knowledge of rural industries. For example, in my view, nobody in Australia would be a better representative of rural industries or a better member of the inquiry into the affairs of rural industries than the Chairman, Senator Bull. There are others who, in all modesty, would admit that their interests have been in another field. I believe that this inquiry is so important that it ought to be conducted by experts in the particular fields.
Therefore, I would have, thought that it would have been a better proposal for the
Australian Labor Party to have moved for a joint select committee of both Houses to inquire into the matter because experts in the rural field - members from both Houses, members from rural electorates and so on - could have been members of that select committee. There might have been something to be said for that proposal, but very little can be said for referring the matter to the Standing Committee, which has many other duties and which will find it almost impossible to cover the whole field. One member of that Committee has said to me already that if the decision is made to refer to that Committee an inquiry into the whole field of primary industry he felt he would have to resign because he did not feel that it would be competent for that Committee to investigate such an issue. I conclude by saying that my Party feels that it has a duty to oppose the 2 amendments and to stand firm by the proposition which we have been asked by a number of meetings of farmers almost unanimously to put in the Senate.
– Once again in the Senate primary industries are in the forefront. Obviously the heat is building up as we get closer to the election. Once again the farmers are being made a political football, particularly by members of the Opposition. The pot stirring that has taken place in the last few days is only another example of the Opposition’s attempt to make political gain, but it is only adding to the problems of our rural industries. If there is one time when farmers and members of the rural community should get behind their organisations and industry leaders to come to a common agreement on how to tackle these problems, now is the time. I am very pleased to see that the wool industry, which has been so divided over the years, on this occasion has come to an agreement on a marketing authority and has stated that it would agree to the Government introducing a marketing scheme which I have no doubt would help the industry through its present problems. When the Opposition speaks about primary industry it draws a red herring across the path.
– There goes the honourable senator, kicking the Communist can again. -<
– It is all right for Senator Poyser to interject. Yesterday we heard him speaking about the sugar industry. When speaking about the problems of the sugar industry, he really drew a red herring across the path.
– Has not the honourable senator read Mr McEwen’s speech?
– Of course I have read that speech. We know the problems that we will have to face when Great Britain enters the European Common Market. We know what will happen. That is why Mr McEwen, the Queensland Premier and leaders of the sugar industry went overseas last year and negotiated the International Sugar Agreement.
– They got nowhere.
– The honourable senator should talk to the leaders of the sugar industry to see whether they got nowhere. It was agreed by all of them that that was one of the greatest achievements Mr McEwen has ever made. When these problems arise, we are prepared for them. We do something about them. For instance, there was the problem with the devaluation of sterling. That will probably be a minor matter, compared with Britain’s entry into the Common Market, for industries such as the dairying and sugar industries. But were they helped? Of course they were helped. The losses sustained by those industries as a result of Britain’s devaluation were met by this Government to the tune of $29m last year. For this year $21m is set aside. Of course there are members of the Opposition who query this and wonder bow long this will continue. They do not want to see this money paid to the primary industries.
– What would it cost to pay for one-third of our sugar production? Can the honourable senator give a figure on that?
– We all know what the figures are. The Australian consumption of sugar is about 600,000 tons. The export figure is about 1,200,000 tons.
– One-third of our production goes to England-
– One-third of our sugar is exported to Great Britain. We are agreed on that, but why start preaching gloom to the industry, beating the drums and telling the industry that the Government has forgotten about it and has thrown it to the wolves.
– That is the Opposition’s philosophy.
– That is correct. That is ils philosophy. Its philosophy is to preach doom and despair to people in the industry and to whip them up to such a state, for political purposes, that they oppose even their industry organisations. At this stage I refer to the motion before us, which seeks to set up a royal commission. Quite frankly, the idea is completely impracticable. I think that Senator Lawrie, when this matter was debated earlier this year, mentioned the different primary industries. There are hundreds of them. All have diverse problems. It would take years for a royal commission to inquire into all aspects of primary industries. I do not know where it would start or where it would finish. There are other factors associated with the problems of primary industries. Droughts and natura! disasters come into it. One year there is a shortage of certain commodities on the world market. Next year there is a glut. How does the royal commission forecast the future and decide what should be done about a particular industry?
Honourable senators opposite have forgotten that the main control of our primary industries is vested in the States. The States have complete control of land policies. They decide the living area standards and how much land an individual needs. They have complete control over the transport setup within their borders. They have the taxing authorities which charge rent and land tax. They also have control of local government which, of course, controls rates.
– What about interest rates?
– I am talking about the things that affect the cost price squeeze, lt is all very well for people to talk about the cost price squeeze. The cost of production in some areas, in some industries and of individuals in industries varies a great deal. Certain people in the wool industry say that they can produce wool for 25c or 26c a !b. Others cannot produce it for 40c a lb. This depends on the economic living areas and these sorts of things which are all decided by State authorities and not by the Federal Government at all. The biggest problem of the wool industry in Queensland today is a result of the wool boom when the Labor Government in that State cut up all the land into small sub-standard peasant areas. This is the big problem. All these people are in trouble today. The Federal Government cannot be blamed for that nor can any of its policies be blamed.
– What about BjelkePetersen?
– The Country Party did not get into office until 1957 and the honourable senator knows it. The damage had been done long before then. Because of the farmers’ problems today 1 know that the Labor Party thinks it may be able to pick up a few votes at the Senate election next month. But the farmers will read what Mr Hawke had to say, not only his contribution last February when he said that the country would be better off without the inefficient small producers, but his statement just recently about the 35-hour week which will really increase the farmers’ costs. Every farmer in the country realises this. As a matter of fact, in answer to a question yesterday the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) said that the 35-hour week could cost $2,000m. The amount from the collection of tariffs is only $1 ,800m and we know what effect the tariff policy can have on the cost of production of the rural industries. But the cost of the 35-hour week could wipe out the rural industries in 1 night. It is time that every farmer in this country realised this fact. I do not blame the Labor Party for its attitude. The bosses of the organisation, who are from outside, belong to city interests. The Labor Party is dominated by capital city interests and therefore it is only natural that it is going to look after the people it represents, and they are not the people in the country.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! There is too much interjection.
– I have slated what I believe are some of the dangers of a royal commission and why it would not solve the problems. I believe these problems have to. be resolved by negotiation between the industry, the States and the Commonwealth. A suggestion was made in the first amendment moved by the Opposition. Apparently they have since thrown that out the door and had another idea. But their first suggestion was that an emergency meeting of the Austalian Agricultural Council should be called.
– The honourable senator was not listening when that was explained.
– I was here and I have read about it in Hansard.
– The honourable senator cannot comprehend it.
– What did the honourable senator want to call it? Maybe 1 am wrong but as I understood it the Opposition wanted an emergency meeting of the Agricultural Council called to discuss the problem. Is that right?
– That was 5 months ugo.
– We are still on the same debate. But that is the Opposition amendment which was moved the same night as the amendment moved by Senator Drake-Brockman for the Government. If honourable senators opposite do not now accept their first amendment they do not accept the Government amendment. They have forgotten all about it just as they normally forget about the problems of the primary industries. 1 ask honourable senators to imagine what would happen at the meeting of the Agricultural Council. Of course the Agricultural Council is composed of the State Ministers concerned with agriculture, the Federal Minister for Primary Industry and their advisers. For 4 years, to my knowledge, the Council has been trying to solve the problems of the dairying industry. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has come forward with a reconstruction plan for the dairying industry to which the Federal Government is prepared to contribute $25m. What has happened? There has still been no agreement with the States. This shows how good the Agricultural Council is in solving this particular problem. At least Western Australia and Queensland have agreed but New South Wales has not. I am not sure whether Victoria has agreed within the last few days.
– ‘They do not agree with anybody.
– It does not look like it, anyway. It could be years before agreement is reached on this problem through the Agricultural Council or a State body. The dairying industry is just 1 industry. How the devil is the Council going to solve all the problems of the hundreds of different primary industries in this country if it cannot solve the problems of one industry in a period of some 4 years?
– It is like the Country Party.
– Well, as long as the farmers and the country people continue to put their confidence in this Government their problems will be looked after just as they have been looked after in this Budget. Despite all the cries from the Opposition, in this Budget some $70m more was given to primary industries to raise the amount to about $250m. The Labor Party is squealing about that but it made no mention about it at all in its speeches on the Budget. For the first time the wool industry has received assistance in this regard. But that is not all. If one takes into account all the indirect effects of this Budget one finds that primary industry has gained, something like $450m. I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) say that even if he has to stay here until Christmas he will be happy to pass the wool legislation.
– With some amendments, I hope.
– I can imagine the amendments which the honourable senator will be moving. Anyway, once the Wool Commission comes into being it will require Commonwealth funds to back it up and the amount will be well over $100m.
– It is the taxpayers’ money. It does not belong to the Government.
– All right. The Government, on behalf of the taxpayers, is looking after the primary industries, if that is the way the honourable senator would like me to put it. But that is what this Government is prepared to guarantee to primary industries. Time is getting on and another .honourable senator wishes to speak. I have a lot more I could say on this issue but after listening to the Opposition and noticing the silence of the Opposition after the Leader spoke on this subject
– Be fair. There have been arrangements on the matter. The honourable senator should not be saying that.
– I do not make arrangements here. All I know is that if the honourable senator wants to talk on these matters we are quite happy to debate the issues with him.
– Why did the honourable senator not speak yesterday when the farmers could hear him?
– That was a different issue. We are not debating that issue. I have my opportunity now. I support the amendment moved by Senator Drake-Brockman which is designed only to carry out the policy which this Government has been carrying out for 20 years. It is only continuing that policy. I believe that the best method of solving this problem is for the Government to consult with industry leaders and not to establish a whole host of commissions or select committees. The industry leaders know the problems. They live with the problems every day and they are more competent to deal with them.
– Let me assure honourable senators opposite that they will have the opportunity to vote.
– Tonight, as far as I am concerned. I listened in April, I listened in May, I listened yesterday and I listened tonight to more nonsense and more stupidity from the Opposition in relation to rural industries than one could ever imagine possible. None of the honourable senators opposite would know the difference between a hairy goat and a woolly sheep. Yet they stand up here tonight and they have stood up during the last couple of months-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! There are far too many interjections.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy President. If there is to be order the honourable senator should not be allowed to make what amounts to provocative remarks about the Opposition. It is only natural that there will be interjections if he is permitted to do this. If the honourable senator wishes to be heard in silence he should not make provocative remarks, lt has been the practice of this chamber to allow fair play. If the honourable senator wants to be heard in quietness he should not make provocative remarks.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Senator Sim, I suggest to you that you address your remarks to the Chair.
– I am wondering whether this is a kindergarten. In order to appreciate the true attitude of the Australian Labor Party towards rural industries let us examine some of the statements which have been made by its leaders. My colleague, Senator Young, quoted the remarks of Mr Berinson, who is a member of the other place. I wish to quote the remarks of a greater authority on the subject. I have quoted his remarks before and I will quote them again. I refer to Mr Whitlam, the Leader of the Opposition.
– In an article which appeared in the ‘Sydney Morning Herlad on 21st August 1965. The article is headed Concentrate on better cities, says Whitlam’. It states:
Too much attention is being paid to the wishes and needs of rural areas, and too little to the needs of the cities, the Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition, Mr Whitlam, said last night.
Cities and civilisation go hand in hand’, he told the Sydney division of the Australian Planning Institute in Sydney last night.
By derivation, civilised men are those who live in cities - pagans are those who live in the country’.
– There was not an election due then.
– As my colleague, Senator Drake-Brockman, has informed me, no election was to be held then. Those are Mr Whitlam’s thoughts on the people who live in country areas.
– When was that supposed to have been?
– On 21st August 1965. I am quoting from an article in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’. Because an election is to be held this year the Australian Labor Party is showing a new-found interest in the problems of the rural industries of Australia. In the ‘Australian Financial Review1 of 19fh February 1970, Mr Hawke, the President of the Austraiian Council of Trade Unions, is reported as having had something to say about this matter. Yesterday we heard Senator O’Byrne weeping crocodile tears - they were streaming down his face - about the cost price squeeze. What did Mr Hawke have to say about the matter? I am not smearing Mr Hawke, as Senator Milliner alleged some time ago. He said that whenever Mr Hawke is criticised he is smeared. The greatest smearers of ail sit on the Opposition side of the chamber. Mr Hawke is reported in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ as having said:
The cost price squeeze argument - and this is what we are here today about - amounted to little more than a pea for maintenance of a rural production structure which includes a substantial number of inefficient marginal producers without whom we would all be better off.
Let us hear the views of the Opposition on this matter. Have honourable senators opposite criticised Mr Whitlam or Mr Hawke? Not one of them has criticised these people. Not one of them has said that he disagrees with Mr Whitlam or Mr Hawke. I admit that there are problems facing our rural industries. Honourable senators on this side of the chamber appreciate these problems because many of us are engaged in rural industries and have spent a lifetime in them. Not one honourable senator opposite has spent any of his lifetime in a rural industry.
– That is not true.
– Not one honourable senator opposite has spent any of his lifetime in a rural industry. Many honourable senators on this side of the chamber have spent their whole lives in these industries. My colleagues and I know that problems exist. We know this because some of us arc victims of them. But it is not going to solve these problems merely to cry in this place and engage in cheap electoral propaganda.
Why have these problems occurred? We have heard from Senator Poyser from Geelong, a great authority on this subject about rural industries, about the European Economic Community and about the sugar industry, lt is a matter for the United Kingdom whether it enters the European Economic
Community. Let us understand one thing and understand it clearly: The historical basis for Australia’s rural industries was the production of cheap food for the United Kingdom and Europe. Our production has been orientated towards the needs of these markets. But the needs of these markets have changed dramatically and drastically, through no fault of the Australian Government. There is nothing any Australian Government, whether it be Liberal-Country Party or Labor Party, could do about this matter.
The countries of the European Economic Community have indulged themselves in what I believe is an unsound policy of agricultural self sufficiency. From being importers of wheat they have become exporters of wheat. From being importers of butter and other dairy products they have become exporters. Indeed, not only have they become exporters but they are also dumping those commodities on the world market at ruinous prices. The result is that markets which Australia formerly had no longer exist. The countries of the European Economic Community have built up tremendous surpluses of dairy products and they are increasing at an alarming rate from year to year. From being importers of sugar they have become self sufficient and will soon be exporters. What could any Australian Government do about this deliberate policy of the countries of the European Economic Community? If the United Kingdom enters the Common Market it will enter on the conditions laid down by the European Economic Community. There is nothing any Australian Government can do. If the United Kingdom enters it will have to take these products from the European Economic Community. Australia’s traditional market for its sugar, dairy products and wheat will decline. This is a fact of life which no Australian Government can do anything about. The Commonwealth Government has done all it can to point out to the United Kingdom and the countries of the European Economic Community the position which will be faced by the rural producers of Australia if the United Kingdom enters the European Economic Community.
I heard Senator Poyser ask what the Government has done to find other markets. This is the most stupid thing I have ever heard in my life. How could the Government find overnight other markets in the world to take our products?
– What about China?
– This is about the most stupid thing I have ever heard Senator O’Bryne say and, goodness me, I have heard him say many things in this chamber which defy description. Senator O’Byrne believes that all of our problems will be solved if we recognise China. Mao Tsetung has sucked him in, as I told him yesterday, and he has sucked him in in more ways than one. China does not want these products. If she wanted them she would buy them from Australia because China will buy where she can best. This is a policy which China is herself engaged in. She will buy from the best market, regardless of whether she is recognised. The Chinese are pragmatists. The fact is that these products cannot be sold on other markets because they are not wanted. This is not a problem which, as honourable senators opposite believe in their ignorance, involves only Australia.
– Why does the honourable senator not support the amendment?
– We have an interjection from another great authority on agriculture. Senator Murphy would not know a hairy goat from a woolly sheep. He would not know what end of a cow the milk comes out. The fact is that every agricultural country in the world is suffering from the same problems as Australia because the world no longer requires many of the products which Australia has produced for a market which is now being closed. The simple fact of the matter is that we have to re-orientate our thinking. We have to change our patterns of production. This is not something which is new. It has happened before in industry and it has happened before in agriculture. We have to change our pattern of production to meet the demands of the markets of the world. We can do nothing else.
– What are you doing to achieve this?
– Our friend from the industrial areas of Adelaide apparently has all the answers. He asks what we are doing to solve the problem. I have listened to the Opposition for months and months and months on this subject and it has never put forward one constructive suggestion. All it is trying to do is to appeal to the emotions of the primary producers of Australia who are in economic difficulties at present. They are in economic difficulties not only because of a cost price squeeze, which is only one factor; they are in economic difficulties also because of the change in the patterns of marketing throughout the world. If we look at the figures for rises in costs in Australia as shown in material published by the International Monetary Fund we find that Australia has had one of the lowest rates of inflation of any developed country over the last 1 2 years.
– But what are you doing about farmers?
– What are you doing about them, other than crying and crying in the hope that somebody will believe you? We have had one of the lowest rates of inflation of any developed country in the world over a period of 12 years. Only the United States of America and Canada have had lower rates of inflation, and the difference has been a matter of only I per cent, 2 per cent or 3 per cent over this period. The problem that we face arises not from inflation but from the fact that industrial countries have been able to sell on the world markets; they have not been able to sell at higher prices. The plain fact of life in that the world, for whatever reason, is not prepared to pay higher prices for agricultural products. This is the position in which we find ourselves. But having found ourselves in this position, what do we do about it?
The Australian Labor Party started off with some haywire plan that the problems of primary industries should be referred to the Australian Agricultural Council. That suggestion was made by Senator Wilkinson 5 months ago. Apparently honourable senators opposite have changed their minds now. They have realised the stupidity of that suggestion. The last thing we heard was that they wanted the matter referred to a Standing Committee. It would be completely out of order to discuss the stupidity of that proposal. If this matter is referred to a standing committee of the Senate, .which I suggest would be completely ill-equipped to examine a matter so complex and so widespread as this, it would be 5 years before the committee could come up with anything constructive, if it was able to come up with anything at all. It would be necessary to bring experts in the wool industry from overseas to appear before the committee because, according to Senator Poyser, there are some buyer problems in the wool industry. This shows complete ignorance.
The problem of the wool industry is. as much as anything, the falling price of synthetics, wool’s major competitor, and the fact that the world demand for woollen products is nol as great as it was some years ago. A problem is that synthetics have not maintained their price. The price has fallen from about 150 francs to 50 francs within a matter of a few years and the mills will not pay a higher price for wool, which is the competitive fibre. This is a fact of economic life which will not be solved by referring the matter to a Standing Committee of the Parliament. 1 have not time to develop all the arguments that I wished to develop, but if honourable senators opposite will listen to what I am saying - I realise that they cannot understand what I am talking about - I believe there is a strong case for the establishment in Australia of a rural industries board.
– That is not the Minister’s proposition.
– I. am stating my proposition. I am saying what I believe. I will say, for Senator Murphy’s edification, that what the Minister proposed is about 100 per cent better than anything we have heard from the Opposition. I believe that there must be an all-embracing inquiry into the problems of the rural industry and that one industry cannot be dealt with in isolation.
– Do you agree with his proposition?
– I do not agree with your proposition because it is based on ignorance. I am suggsting that there is a strong case for the establishment of a rural industries board which would, on references from the Government, examine the problems of the rural industries and relate them one to another, a board which in time would develop an expertise which would win the confidence of all sections of industry. 1 make this suggestion as a constructive proposal.
– Mr President, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Senator Sim claimed that there was no-one on this side of the chamber who had any knowledge of farming or who was a practical farmer. I should like to put on record that I was a farmer during the depression years. During that period I was able to operate successfully as a dairy farmer. A 5-gallon can of choice cream produced on my property won first prize at one of the larger agricultural shows. I was a practical dairy farmer and since1951 I have been a practical sheep farmer.
– In Western Australia. Would you like to come to my property?
– Yes. I would see hairy goats.
– The honourable senator was claiming that we on this side of the chamber would not know the difference between a hairy goat and a sheep and now he is admitting that he would not know the difference because on my property I have merinos only. I want it to be known that I am a practical farmer.
-I put the question:
That the words proposed to be left out be left out.
– Mr President, it is almost impossible to hear. Would you be kind enough to restate the situation?
– I have put the question that the words proposed to be left out be left out. This is the Minister’s amendment. I hope this is clear to the Senate.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Drake-Brockman’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority .. ..45
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Drake-Brockman’s amendment) be inserted.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– 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 negative.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
– The Government cannot support the proposed amendment for the reasons that I gave in my opening remarks in the debate on the amendment proposed by the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
That the words proposed to he inserted (Senator Murphy’s amendment) be inserted.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir . Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) - by leave - agreed to:
That Order of the Day No. 11, General Business, be discharged.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1970
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications)Bill 1970
Senate adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 October 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19701022_senate_27_s46/>.