27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator (he Hon. Sir Alister McMuilin) took the chair at 10.55 a.m., and read prayers.
– Does the Minister for Civil Aviation recall the many complaints about the conditions at the Mascot international air terminal? I refer to the poor conditions for those working there and for the passengers coming through owing to the oppressive atmosphere in the building. Is he aware also of complaints about the lack of other elementary facilities al the airport such as little trolleys so that people can manage their luggage? Is he aware of other complaints about the lack of facilities for those people seeing off passengers and especially for those waiting for incoming passengers? Has he investigated these complaints and can he tell us what is proposed to be done about them?
– Yes, I am aware of these complaints and I am aware of the circumstances. I have been to the Kingsford-Smith international airport on a great number of occasions by myself checking on these various things, lt is perfectly true, in my experience, that in the middle of summer, on a humid day particularly, the arrival area is hot. When the airport terminal was designed it was a recommendation of the Public Works Committee of the Parliament - I think honourable senators will find that it seems to be a general recommendation - that air conditioning be not provided at terminals. As far as T can tell from my investigations the capital cost of installing air conditioning is at least $lm. I am still trying to ascertain the exact operating figure but it is said to be quite high. Principally it is a problem caused by Sydney’s humidity at a certain time of the year but I. would not beg the question. I have found it to be uncomfortably hot on certain days and certain evenings. I am looking into the matter and I will do what I can, keeping in mind the ability of the Government to spend money.
As far as trolleys are concerned and bringing luggage from the outer ends of the arrival fingers, I have talked to the Department of Civil Aviation people there and I am given to understand that the operating companies concerned are going to do something about this. I will get more information on that point for the honourable senator. 1 have also checked while there on the availability of taxis. 1 have found that this is a mixed bag. There are times when there are plenty of taxis and times when there are few. I have been in touch with the State Government about this because primarily it is part of its function and 1 have been told that the taxis will not go there unless the business is offering. Further work needs to be done on this point and that work is taking place. As for the facilities referred to, one complaint I received came from a lady who had to wait for 3 hours for someone coming in. She complained of nothing to do. I find it hard to know what I could do about this. 1 wonder whether 1 should have a moving picture show out there but 1 do not quite see how I could.
– That is not a reasonable approach, Mr Minister.
– J think it is quite reasonable. If the Leader of the Opposition were to go out there himself he would find that there are things to do if one has to wait. 1 have had to wait there. I will try’ to find out what else 1 can do. However,- the Leader of the Opposition should not accuse me of being unreasonable; I am certainly not being unreasonable.
– What about places for people to sit while they are waiting?
– it is full of sofas, benches and chairs.
– If the Leader of the Opposition does not believe me he should go out and have a look for himself.
– I refer again to facilities at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. If the Minister for Civil Aviation has been in the lower section of the terminal when hundreds of people are standing around waiting for incoming passengers, unable to see into the reception areas where the passengers are going through the various procedures, he will know that there is not proper seating accommodation, that the porters have to push through the crowds and that there is absolute chaos when a number of international aircraft arrive at the same time. Does the Minister for Civil Aviation consider that this common experience at Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport is reasonable?
– I have been at the airport and witnessed oh quite a number of occasions the situation to which the Leader of the Oppostion has referred. Seats are available, although perhaps there are not enough to cater for the occasional heavy crowd. However, it is necessary to have some open space. I have made inquiries about the inability of people to look through and see incoming passengers. It is a requirement of the Department of Customs and Excise that there be no visual contact. Some closed circuit television sets are being installed in order to try tq overcome this problem. 1 assure all honourable senators that 1 am conscious of some of the problems which exist and I am doing what I can to overtime them, but there are certain operational difficulties in regard to the handling of a total load which increases and decreases constantly. 1 ask honourable senators to be understanding about this matter. I am not lacking in sympathy or responsibility. 1 am trying to make things better.
– My question also is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In case somebody might get the impression that the new international terminal at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, which is said to be one of the best in the world, is the only airport in which Australians are interested, I wish to assure them that it is not. Can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the Senate whether he will continue his inspections of the airports of Australia? Will he, as soon as possible, include visits to the airports of Tasmania, particularly the Hobart, Devonport and Wynyard airports, with a view to ascertaining early the requirements - not luxurious requirements but necessary requirements - of those airports to meet the comfort of tourists and other travellers to and from Tasmania?
– I am trying as far as possible to see every airport in Australia and its Territories. I have inspected quite a lot of them. 1 am not far off concluding an inspection of practically all the principal ones. I welcome the invitation of the honourable senator to inspect airports in Tasmania. I should have done so before this. I would like to do so as soon as possible. My first chance will be during the recess week. I will seek to try and organise a programme to do exactly what the honourable senator has suggested. I would like to look at the airports he has mentioned. There are also one or two other airports on the west coast which are of importance, although they are not widely used. I welcome the honourable senator’s suggestion and he may rest assured that I will take it up.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. In view of the Prime Minister’s concern about inflation arid the cutting down of costs, I ask: Is the Minister in a position to advise what payment Australia is making to the United States of America for the parking and storage of Australia’s 24 Fill fighter bombers in that country? Ft has been reported to be up to $1,700 a day. Does the Minister recall his reply to my question of 30th October last when he said that noone knew the cost of storage as it had yet to be worked out? Has this cost been worked out and can the Minister now advise the Senate of the cost of parking or storing these aircraft? If not, when will he be in a position to do so?
– Senator Fitzgerald and Senator Bishop have, Over a period of time, shown interest in this matter. Senator Fitzgerald has already indicated that when he asked me this question during the last session I replied that it was something which still had to be worked out between the Royal Australian Air Force and the Department of Defence in the United States of America. At that time I also added the rider that it could not be worked out until we had taken deliver of the 24 Fill aircraft.’ At the moment the position is still the same.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry advise the Senate whether any research is presently being conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in regard to the control or utilisation of the noxious weed known as heliotrope? I am not too sure of the Latin name; I think it is heliotropium Europaeum Is it a fact that primary producers find this weed hard to eradicate, attractive to sheep and fatal over 2 seasons? Is it a fact that earlier research on this problem by the CSIRO has been unsuccessful? Is the Minister aware that a Mr Lester Mitchell of Hopetoun in Victoria has conducted extensive and successful research on this problem and that he has been able actually to pasture sheep safely upon the weed by administering a cobalt bullet and grinder, at a cost of about 15c per head? If the CSIRO has been unable to solve this problem, will the Minister direct its attention to the work of Mr Mitchell?
– The weed to which the honourable senator referred is, 1 think, generally called caterpillar weed or potato weed. It is fairly prevalent in New South Wales, particularly in the Riverina area, and in the western districts of Victoria. As the honourable senator said, it is a toxic weed. The poison has a rather slow effect on sheep. Sheep can be pastured on it for one year. If they are pastured on it for a second year, up to 50 per cent or 60 per cent of the flock, particularly if they are British breeds or of that cross, will die. The deaths generally take place after the weed has died. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has done some research on the effects of administering cobalt. I do not know how far that research has gone. I certainly shall draw the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry to what the honourable senator has said and try to obtain some information for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply as such and as the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. To what extent will the $1On cut in defence procurements in Australia announced by the Minister for Defence, and which apparently will include such items as spare parts and related equipment, affect the efficiency of Australian private and government factories and their ability to supply goods and services which might otherwise be expensive imports and thus create a demand, in special circumstances, for the importation of such articles? Will these reductions slow down any current or proposed works in Australian shipyards or in Australian motor vehicle plants which are now producing certain Army equipment? ls it anticipated that these cutbacks will in any way affect the production of the Australian prototype aircraft now being developed here? Will the project be slowed down because of the Government’s current policy?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI shall deal first with the last part of the honourable senator’s question because I have a more specialised knowledge of that matter. I do not envisage that the announced cuts in expenditure will have any effect on the Project N work, which is being carried out in phases, lt is not expected that there will be any variation in that programme. The balance of the honourable senator’s question was most comprehensive. I shall place it on notice and refer it to the Department of Defence. When the Department of Defence supplies information I will add a component dealing with the matters related to the Department of Supply, l will give the honourable senator and the Senate a comprehensive answer. To give a short answer at question time would not do justice to the magnitude of the question.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. By whom are the pilots who will ferry the ex-Jetair Australia Ltd DC3 aircraft to Cambodia employed? How did that firm obtain the contract?
– I shall have to seek that information for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, ls it a fact that State governments, acting on the recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council, are enforcing the secure installation of steel safes in pharmacies for the safekeeping of prescribed drugs? ls it also a fact that this procedure has been adopted as one means of combating the trafficking in addictive and dangerous drugs in the community? If so, will the Minister give serious consideration to exempting these safes from the imposition of sales tax?
The honourable senator asks a question in relation to sales tax exemption of special types of safes which will be required in pharmacies and, indeed, hospitals and like institutions for the security of prescribed and dangerous drugs. For as long as I can remember and, I am sure, for as long as anybody here can remember there has been a requirement for certain classified drugs to be put in a certain area. For instance, a pharmacist has to put them in a cupboard and a hospital has them in a drug cupboard and the key is the responsibility of the matron or of a designated officer such as a medical officer. With the advent of the drug problem there have been a good number of breaking and entering cases where the thieves have broken in for no other purpose than to obtain drugs which are readily saleable. The very fact that the drugs are in a particular area means that when the thieves break into a pharmacy they know where to go. They simply go to the drug cupboard to obtain the drugs. It has been put to me that a more simple and logical solution would be to store the dangerous drugs around the pharmacy area so that the thieves would not be able to go to a concentrated area. However, this is a matter of opinion.
I understand the requirement is now to put the drugs into special safes and the question is whether there should not be sales tax exemption for these safes. Matters of sales tax exemption are normally dealt with once a year when the Budget is being prepared. I shall refer the matter to the Treasurer. No doubt at the time the question of sales tax exemption is being looked at this matter will be given consideration along with other matters.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. By the way of preface I refer to my remarks during the adjournment debate last night claiming that double standards applied as regards seamen seeking political asylum in Australia. Is not the decision announced by the Minister today to grant sanctuary to Russian seamen - a decision with which I do hot dispute - completely inconsistent with the rejection by the Minister of a similar plea on behalf of 2 Lebanese seamen who were’ victims of Greek authoritarianism?
– It is correct that the honourable senator spoke last night on the deportation of seamen. He will recall that I replied to him from the contents of a letter which the Minister for Immigration had sent to him It is correct that as a general rule seamen who desert overseas ships arc deported. This policy is essential as a deterrent to this form of entry without permits. Desertions by Greek seamen in particular have been far too numerous. Nevertheless; as in every aspect of immigration administration, exceptional circumstances are carefully considered and the Minister can exercise his - discretion. This is what happened in relation to the 2 Russian nationals mentioned by the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. The Minister will recall that yesterday in reply to a question about Jetair Australia Limited he referred me to a statement made the previous day as containing the answer. I have examined the statement and it does not contain the answer. I now ask the Minister whether he is prepared to make a full statement to the Parliament on the conditions under which Jetair Australia Ltd carried passengers and freight in Australia and, in particular, why the company apparently had been granted special privileges not available to companies which have been established on similar lines? Will the Minister advise whether the apparent preferential treatment of Jetair Australia Ltd by the Government is a first step by the Government towards abandoning ils long stated support for the 2-airiine policy?
– I took the opportunity to go through Hansard of the Senate fairly carefully to see what further information might be of advantage to the Senate. I think the information I have here should cover the various factors raised by Senator Keeffe and perhaps by other honourable senators. However, it may not deal with the last part of - his question
Questions- regarding the 2-airline policy. The Government believes this policy has served Australia extremely well. At the present time we are examining the 2-airline policy fully. We are looking at it and its various operations and at aspects which may be worthy of change or modification later ou. Other than that we believe the 2-airline policy has been most effective and very efficient and has served Australia quite well, neither Senator Keeffe, nor anyone else, has cause for alarm about past or future operations. 1 will now give the information which I said I hope will help finish the matter off. The first point relates to civil airworthiness certificates. Ex-RAAF aircraft would require modification and other work to bring them up to civil airworthiness standards. We cannot give a precise cost as this depends upon the condition of the individual aircraft at the time. For example, one might be near the end of its overhaul life and another might not require the same amount of work. The seating configuration might need to be altered. Indeed, there may be no seating at all. This is a part of the problem. From inquiries made this morning it seems that an average of $50,000 an aircraft is reasonable, perhaps even conservative, sis a figure. Quotes from outside firms to convert RAAF DC3s from the normal service configuration to a civil standard similar to that met by the Jetair DC3s could have been as high as $85,000 per aircraft. That is as much as we are able to find” out at the moment.
I come now to aircraft prices. Of the 6 Jetair DC3s, 2- VH TAl and VH SBN - were sold by Trans Australia Airlines to a Sydney firm of brokers. The price paid was $37,500 for the 2 aircraft. Jetair subsequently took over the company and the 2 aircraft. A third aircraft- VH BUR - was bought by a Sydney pastoral company for $28,000 on J 5th January 1966.
– What was the name of that company?
– I do not have that information but 1 will ascertain it for the honourable senator. Subsequently Jetair bought the aircraft from this firm. We do not know the price. Senator Murphy would like to know the name of the Sydney pastoral company and I will endeavour to get that information for him. I assume that it refers to the aircraft of Airlines of New
South Wales. Then we have the question of the operational position of Jetair in flying aircraft. Jetair was treated in exactly the same way as every other commuter operator. It was authorised to provide air services on a number of country routes from which the airlines had withdrawn and which no-one else wanted. To enable the service to be provided to people in these centres the Department authorised Jetair to operate a number of commuter services as it did with other commuter services and companies in other areas throughout Australia. The only concession given to Jetair was that it was permitted to operate a commuter service with DC3s, whereas services of this character normally had been operated by aircraft of up to 12,500 lb all up weight. The alternative was to deprive country towns in many cases of air services altogether. No-one can suggest that this is any great favour or concession. As it transpires, the services were not patronised. Jetair was unable to carry on. Indeed, it claims to have lost money on the services. 1 hope to get any other information which honourable senators request.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Were 39 pilots employed by Jetair Australia Ltd, which would show considerable activity by this company in airline operations under a concession from the Department of Civil Aviation? Has any provision been made for the re-employment of the pilots who have been dismissed? How does a company of the size of Jetair, having so many staff employed, operate on such a scale within the 2-airline agreement?
– I think this question could properly go on the notice paper, although there are some comments 1 can make just from listening to it. 1 believe that the points I made about the 2-airlinc policy and commuter operations are valid and will be understood by those who can read them later. I do not think the Jetair problem is involved in that in any way. The question of surplus pilots being available because they are no longer employed by the Jetair company is related to the normal commercial opportunities for people wanting to take up employment and people wanting to leave employment. I 18 February 1971 have been trying to find out a little more about this matter. I had a newspaper cutting which did not add much to my knowledge. Therefore I do not propose to quote from it.
At the point of time at which these pilots were no longer being employed by the Jetair company I was being told that a recruiting programme for pilots was being conducted by Qantas Airways Ltd and other airlines, lt is not part of my proposal, my purpose or, indeed, my authority to direct companies to employ people or to direct people to work for companies; but it would seem to .me that if these people were competent pilots - skilled and capable - within the normal operations of employment in the community there ought to have been a place for them. However, I will be happy to prosecute this particular inquiry further.
– In directing a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, I refer to the flood that has occurred in the Orbost area of Victoria. Is the Minister aware that a communication was sent from the Prime Minister to the Victorian Premier, in which an offer of Commonwealth financial assistance was made to victims of the flood in personal hardship? Has a request for Commonwealth assistance been received from Victoria? Is the Minister aware of the extreme financial strain that is being imposed on the various shire administrations in the Gippsland area? Is he aware, for instance, that in the Avon Shire municipal installations suffered damage to the extent of approximately §70,000 and that the Avon River Improvement Trust faces the expenditure of approximately Si 10,000 on restoration work? Will he acknowledge that a rural shire is incapable, of standing such a financial loss? Can the Federal Government hasten the provision of assistance to these authorities?
– 1 am aware, as we all are, that there have been floods in Victoria. It is my understanding that the flood situation in that State, whilst serious and critical, has not been as bad as it was and is in certain parts of New South Wales. I am also aware that the Commonwealth has offered to join with the Victorian Government in the usual way in financing schemes for the relief of personal hardship and distress in the affected areas. I am further aware that the Premier of Victoria has made representations to the Prime Minister in which he has referred to damage to public structures and destruction of crops. As late as 15th February my information was that this request from the Premier of Victoria was being examined.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, refers to the $10Om assistance being provided over 4 years for rural reconstruction, ls the amount proposed for Western Australia approximately $15m? How much is to be made available to Western Australia this year? What proportion will be loaned at 7 per cent, and what proportion is a gift?
– 1 think the honourable senator will be aware that $10Om will be made available to the States over a period of 4 years, J75m being made available on loan and $25m being made available on grant. I understand that at the meeting of the States1 representatives with the Treasurer and the Minister for Primary Industry the States’ representatives got together and worked out their, view of a quota for each of the States concerned. I do not have at present the details of the breakup of the amount to be made available but I shall seek the information and give it to the honourable senator.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service make the necessary inquiries to ensure that copies of the National Service Act and Regulations are available in metropolitan and country areas for those who want to purchase such documents? Will the Minister ensure that his officers in the respective States make available private consulting rooms so that young men may discuss their individual problems in private with officers of the Department?
– 1 shall refer the suggestion to the Minister for his early consideration.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate any information on the Jetair transaction with the Foreign Affairs Department which may remove the necessity for further questions on this matter?
– 1 thought 1 had removed the necessity for further questions yesterday when I gave all of the facts known within my Department. The only fact which has not yet been revealed is the proposed purchase price and, as I said yesterday, when the transaction is completed that information wilt be made available. 1 understand that the Foreign Minister made a statement in another place this morning in response to a question on this matter. I have nothing to add to what I have said already.
– ls the Minsiter representing the Treasurer aware that consideration is being given by several State Governments to the elimination of State probate duty on rural estates? Will the Minister consider prompting a meeting between Slate authorities and the Commonwealth with a view to bringing about the elimination of both State and Federal probate duties on rural estates?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI would have thought that the honourable senator was stealing someone’s thunder because, as I understand it. there is a senator designate who will solve all of these problems soon after his arrival. Speaking in a more serious vein, the decision of any State government in relation to probate duty is a matter for the State concerned. As for the Commonwealth, it is a budgetary and fiscal matter which, I am sure, is examined at the appropriate time. On the basis of a question at question time T cannot see any merit or justification for the proposition that we should collaborate with the States to do something about the duty. What the Commonwealth may do is the responsibility of the Commonwealth. What the States choose to do is the responsibility of the States, acting within their own budgetary obligations and in accordance with their sovereign powers.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. By Appropriation Acts passed by this Parliament a few months ago the Government was granted money for the purposes and in the amounts specified in the Estimates. The Government has now announced that it proposes to make substantial departures from the amounts authorised and approved in those Estimates and Appropriation Acts. Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate inform the Senate of the Government’s justification for taking that course without an amending Appropriation Act of Parliament authorising the changes?
– I think the Leader of the Opposition has oversimplified the matter. I was about to say, in his innocence, but I am sure that it is not innocence. In any financial year a number of Appropriation Bills are introduced. 1 would hope that nobody would ever assume that in reality at the end of the year the appropriations are strictly in accordance with the estimates of expenditure at the beginning of the year. The budgetary documents demonstrate that. As we deal with the Estimates we see that an amount of S6in was appropriated the previous year but only $4.5m, say, was spent on that item. Questions are asked as to why the balance was not spent. This is very simple stuff. In respect of another issue concerning appropriations it should be remembered that before Parliament rises from these sitings we will be dealing with Appropriation Bills again. This is the normal procedure. I have no doubt that there will be significant alterations and variations under Appropriation Bills Nos 3 and 4. We will go through the processes just as we do during the Budget session.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is it true that the Government in the type of supplementary budget which is introduced each year in this sessional period-
– It is not a supplementary budget.
– Well, is it true that the Government will seek parliamentary authority for the substantial changes in the estimates of expenditure which have been announced? If so, can the Minister give us any reason why, at the same time that these changes in expenditure are proposed to be dealt with, the Government cannot deal with the question of the shockingly low pension rates and make the adjustment, which the whole community would like to see made in order to relieve pensioners, at least to some extent, from bearing the brunt of inflation?
Senator Murphy has provided another classic example of building up something completely within his own imagination and then addressing a question on that basis. Senator Murphy does it repeatedly. As proceedings are being broadcast, I suppose that it is not a bad sort of exercise. However, the fact of the matter is that ever since Federation Appropriation Bills have been introduced at budge! time and again during the autumn session.
– They are supplementary budgets.
They are not supplementary budgets at all. Senator Murphy is conducting a blatant political exercise. Nobody knows better than he that during the autumn session Appropriation Bills are introduced. The situation will not be different this year. 1 come back to what I said in the first place that during a budget session Appropriation Bills (Nos 1 and 2) are considered by the Parliament. Nobody, at any stage of political life, would believe that the figures at the end of the period would be the same as the estimates at the beginning of the period.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Has it been clearly and finally decided that this Parliament, when it permits the broadcasting of its proceedings, is not in contravention of an Act of the Parliament which prohibits the televising and broadcasting of political matter after midnight on the Wednesday preceding a Federal or State election to be held on a Saturday? If we are not in breach of this Act, does that not highlight the absurdity of the provisons in the Act to which I have referred?
– A useful discussion of these provisions can proceed only with their actual context before us. Generally we are aware that the provision is that during the currency of an election campaign political matters shall nol be broadcast after midnight on the Wednesday preceding a Saturday on which an election is held. The interpretation of that provision depends upon the election and what political matter is concerned. 1. see no conflict between a provision of that sort and the broadcasting of the proceedngs of this Parliament.
– I address a question to the Minister for Supply. Am 1 to take it from the Minister’s answer to Senator Georges yesterday and- again this morning that the arrangements being entered into between Jetair Australia Ltd and the Department of Foreign- Affairs by way of private treaty have not yet been formalised or completed by the Department of Supply? Because the Department of Supply apparently has now been notified that other DC3 aircraft held by the Royal Australian Air Force are available and are awaiting disposal, will the Minister ask his Department to consider seriously not formalising any tentative arrangements that are being negotiated at this stage between Jetair and the Department of Foreign Affairs and to acquire from the RAAF the DC3 aircraft which are awaiting disposal?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is no. The simple fact of the matter is that the decision to purchase these aircraft was taken in good faith. This is considered to be a good purchase. As Senator Cotton said yesterday, one has to consider the type of aircraft that one wants. This is a matter of buying and selling. When a person is buying something he buys what he wants to do a certain job. It was decided that these aircraft were ideal for the purpose for which the Department of Foreign Affairs wanted them, that is, to give as foreign aid. As to processing the purchase, I should have thought, although I have not been informed by the Department, that it was well and truly committed and that the transaction was almost complete. When the transaction has been completed the relevant information will be made available. To suggest that because other aircraft are available for purchase we should not buy the ones we chose-
– But the others are your own,- are they not?
– It is a question of buying what is suitable for the purpose. If 1 may over-simplify the matter for Senator Murphy’s benefit, if we wanted a DC3 aircraft we would not buy a Canberra bomber. The Department of. Foreign Affairs looked at these aircraft and was satisfied that they were of the type that it wanted, that they were a good purchase. So it set in motion the procedure of buying them. My Department is completing the transaction.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate who is also the Minister for Supply. I preface my question by reminding him that he informed the Senate, either yesterday or the day before, that the decision to purchase DC3 aircraft from Jetair Australia Ltd was implemented by way of a private deal. I now ask the Minister to inform the Parliament whether the Department of Supply has decided to abandon the tender and auction system for disposal of surplus stores in favour of private deals. If this method of selling has not been departed from, why was an exception made in the case of Jetair Australia Ltd?
As I said on. I think, the first day we discussed this matter, my Department has the responsibility of completing the transaction. When the Department of Supply disposes of aircraft it does so in accordance with a procedure. This purchase was the result of a decision made by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Having been made the matter comes to my Department for completion of the transaction. That is the process that is going on at the present time. 1 do not propose that we should alter our procedures at all.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary
Industry whether the Government is aware that, in addition to the grave problems of the pear industry in the Kyabram and Shepparton areas in Victoria due to the inability of canneries to accept a surplus of 20,000 tons of pears, the canning industry is threatened by low prices of peaches and apricots. Many growers are threatening to pull out their peach and apricot trees and turn to other forms of production. As buyers overseas and in Australia insist upon being offered a full range of fruits - pears, peaches and apricots - from canneries or there are small prospects of sales, what consideration is the Government giving to this matter which could leave even more pears than at present surplus and without buyers?
– This matter was drawn to my attention on Tuesday following a question asked by Senator Webster.
– This question relates to peaches and apricots. He referred to pears.
– The facts are as stated by the honourable senator. I notice that he did not offer an alternative so that these growers could diversify into another field if they pull up their trees. As I replied to Senator Webster, the former Minister for Primary Industry made a visit to this Goulburn Valley area and talked with, the growers. The Department and the Government are well aware of the situation and are endeavouring to do whatever is possible to assist the primary producers.
– I want to ask the Minister for Supply a question as a result of one of his answers in which he implied that an officer must have inspected the aircraft offered by Jetair and found that they were suitable. I want to know from which department this officer came. Did he inspect the Royal Australian Air Force aircraft? Did he inspect the TAA and Ansett Airlines DC3s and did he inspect the spare DC3 owned by the Department of the Interior which is still sitting on the tarmac?
The Department of Foreign Affairs chose to set about the purchase of these aircraft. I would assume, and I am sure everybody is entitled to assume, that the officers involved would be senior officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs. I am quite satisified that they would make a judgement and that it would be well founded. 1 almost get the impression that Senator Turnbull is suggesting that they did not know then* business. I am quite certain that the Jetair aircraft were of the type they were looking for.
– But did they look at the others?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI would not know what they looked at at all. I do not know and I do not propose to find out. The fact of the matter is that they made a judgment and a recommendation to their Department and they are satisfied that it was and is a good purchase. I think that is where it finishes.
– I ask the Leader of the Government whether, in view of the questions asked in this Senate concerning these transactions with Jetair and the obvious concern of honourable senators to be enlightened completely on the matters relating to them, he will, on behalf of his own Department and of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, table in the Senate all the documents relating to this transaction?
– 1 cannot say at the present time whether anything will be tabled. The transaction has to be completed first. I see no problems at all about this matter as far as the Department of Supply is concerned because it will just follow the normal procedure. I take on notice the part of the question relating to the activities of the Department of Foreign Affairs. As I pointed out 2 days ago, the sale is going through. I have given all the information which is within the province of my Department, with the exception of the price,- which I will be happy to disclose as soon as the sale is concluded.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry ls it a fact that the Australian Wool Board is considering proposals for the centralisation of the disposal of wool? Is it also a fact that if this centralisation takes place it will be a severe blow to decentralisation in many provincial and country towns throughout Australia? is the Minister also aware that widespread unemployment will occur in some centres if such a proposal is carried out? If so, will he use his good offices to ensure that such action is not taken lightly and without a full investigation into the possibility of centralising wool disposal- if this becomes absolutely essential - in a provincial centre which has adaquate port facilities?
– The honourable senator’s question is about a very contentious matter. I am well aware of this problem as it will affect some of the outports in my own State of Western Australia. I remind the honourable senator that the Australian Wool Board conducted over a period of time a study which indicated that this would mean big savings in the handling cost of wool. The honourable senator may recall that last June the Wool Industry Act was amended to empower the Australian Wool Board to erect and equip such complexes or to lend money for this purpose. Under the new proposal the Treasurer is authorised, to guarantee repayment of the principal and interest on Wool Board borrowings for these complexes. This has already been done. When that legislation was going through the Parliament the honourable senator offered no resistance to it. I am well aware of some of the problems that are going to be involved in the construction of these complexes. I think it is true to say that large savings can be made, lt is a matter that the wool industry will have to watch carefully to see whether it can obtain a balance between centralising these complexes and saving money in the handling of wool.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Is the Minister aware that car parking facilities in the vicinity of Parliament House are in a stale of chaos, apparently due to the siting of the new and permanent parliament house and additions to the present building? fs he also aware that staff members are in many instances forced to park their private vehicles in the unlighted and unattended cow paddocks on Camp Hill? Will the Minister advise the Senate whether he is prepared to undertake an immediate survey of parking facilities with a view to implementing urgent improvements?
– One could not fail to be aware of the car parking problems which have been caused by the additions to the Senate side of this building. T think the honourable senator’s question is a reasonable one which I should communicate to the new Minister for the Interior as soon as possible, and I shall do so.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, follows upon the one about death duties asked by Senator Webster. Is it a fact that only 0.85 per cent of Federal revenue is derived from this source? As the States have succession duties as one of their means of raising revenue and as they have in recent times, in some instances, increased the incidence of this obnoxious form of tax, will the Minister seek from the Treasurer an assurance that the Commonwealth will give serious consideration to vacating this field of taxation, as it has the area of land tax, and thereby remove this most undesirable form of taxation from the cheap political football arena?
– 1 have some sympathy for the Treasurer because of his responsibilities. The Government has to raise revenue in certain ways. If it decides that it will vacate a taxation area, it has to have regard to the effect that will have on its revenue and from where it will replace that revenue. That is the first consideration to which one has to give some thought. By implication Senator Laucke’s question was linked with the sovereignty and revenue rights of the States. I do not think that at question time we should debate this proposition which predicates a Commonwealth-States arrangement by which the Commonwealth should vacate a particular taxing field in favour of the States. I do not think I should comment on that proposition. The best and only thing I can do is to refer the question to the Treasurer.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. How can a government department purchase by private treaty goods to the value of $250,000. for example, the 6 DC3 aircraft purchased by the Department of Foreign Affairs from Jetair Australia Ltd? Am I mistaken in my belief that such a purchase by a Government department should have been by tender? If I am not mistaken, what action will be taken to void the. contact and enable others, including the Department of Supply, to submit an offer?
I ask the honourable senator to put his question on notice. 1 do think there is any question of voiding the contract. I will have the details of the question examined.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration a question with regard to yesterday’s announcement by the Minister that Australia’s immigration intake, will be reduced by 10.000. What formula has been devised to effect the reduction? Will it be based on an ethnic percentage, such as that which has been followed by the United States of America from time to time?
– The only information that I can give the honourable senator at present is that the programme for 1970-71 was based on the expected arrival of 123.500 assisted migrants and 56.500 unassisted migrants. The revised programme provides for 120,500 assisted migrants - a reduction of 3,000 - and, on present estimates, approximately 50,000 unassisted migrants, giving a total of approximately 170,000 settlers for the year 1970-71. That provides for the decrease of 10,000 to which the honourable senator referred. Since unassisted migrants arranged their own transport, the numbers involved and their times of arrival in Australia are difficult to estimate. I gave the honourable senator that information about assisted and unassisted passages because I thought it might be helpful to him. However I think he wanted to know the areas from which the migrants might come. I cannot give him that information at the moment. If I can obtain it for him, 1 certainly shall do so.
– 1 direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the severity of the effects of drought being experienced by many property owners in country areas of Queensland, will he make representations for loans to be made available at low interest rates to those who desire to borrow money for the purposes of re-stocking, land clearing, water conservation and matters of this nature?
– I understand that talks have taken place between the Premier of Queensland and the Prime Minister in regard to the natural disaster area in the far west of Queensland. I do not know what those talks encompass but 1 shall draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the honourable senators question.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether any offer of financial assistance has been made to Queensland to cover the ravages of the cyclone currently moving up the north coast and the previous cyclone which caused up to Sim worth of damage in the tropical fruit growing areas?
– My information is that no request for financial assistance for flood damage has been received from Queensland. I presume it is basically the floods about which the honourable senator is speaking?
– I am speaking of the cyclones and the damage in the Redcliffe peninsula.
– the only information I have relates to requests for flood damage. No request has been received from the Queensland Government as yet If- a request were received it would be given consideration in the normal way under the criteria which apply to the States.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate who represents the Minister for Foreign Affairs in this chamber. I refer to the transaction involving Jetair Australia Ltd which other honourable senators have been interested in. Will the Minister tell the Senate what was done by the Department of Foreign Affairs in acquiring these aircraft in this manner? Was this the usual way of conducting such transactions? 1 ask the Minister whether he will request the Minister for Foreign Affairs to give consideration to making a full statement to the Senate dealing with all the circumstances, including the times, requests, amounts and so forth.
I indicated earlier that the Minister for Foreign Affairs spoke at some length in reply to a question about this matter this morning. 1 agree that in view of the interest being shown in the matter it may be necessary to have a completely consolidated, chronological statement of the circumstances. Personally I am in some difficulty because as honourable senators know 1 have been overseas and there was an acting Minister for Supply in my absence. Within 24 hours of my return somebody telephoned me - I think it was the Australian Broadcasting Commission - and asked me about the matter. I had to say that 1 was in the process of taking over my Department again and I would have to obtain the information. I think that before Tuesday I shall collaborate- wilh the Department of Foreign Affairs to obtain a complete chronological statement setting out what happened.
In response to a question asked by Senator Turnbull 1 pointed out that I had been told by an officer from my Department that al some stage - I do not as yet know the stage - officers of my Department were invited by the Department of Foreign Affairs to have a look at the aircraft. It is my understanding that the invitation was extended for the purpose of inspecting the aircraft in terms of quality and the requirements of the Department of Foreign Affairs, lt is also my understanding that when my officers had a look at the aircraft a decision had more or less been taken. It will probably take until the middle of next week to set out the procedure in sequence. It may well be that by that time I will be able to supply the prices at which the purchases were made. But my Department does assure me that, in view of the reason for which they were wanted and the purpose for which they will be sent overseas, and having regard to all the factors such as replacements and modifications, the purchases are satisfactory. That is all I can add at the present time. If 1 have not covered any point that has been raised I will be quite happy to set about getting this information into some sort of sequence. - Senator McClelland - Did they look’ at any aircraft other than those owned by Jetair?
Obviously 1 could not answer that. If my Department was invited to look at certain aircraft those are the ones it would look at.
– I was going to allow the matter to rest after the Minister made his statement, but he ended that statement by saying that the purchases were made.
They were in the process of being made.
– You said they were made. Even if they are being made the Minister must know the price.
Of course I do.
– Why can we not be told?
The answer to that question is pretty simple. I think in any area of business when a transaction of that nature is being carried on both the buyer and seller have obligations not to disclose prices. It amazed me that somebody suggested that we should bandy about the prices while the transaction is still proceeding. The Department of Supply never does that. I should imagine that no Government Department does that, nor would I imagine that it is done within the commercial community. But the Parliament has a right to know this information in due course, and I will be the first to see that it is given the information at the appropriate time.
– Perhaps the Minister for Supply could enlighten us a little further on this aspect. Either the contract has been agreed upon or it has not. Per haps the Minister will indicate whether the Government has commited itself. If it has and the contract price has been agreed upon morally, whether documents have been actually signed or not and even if there is no agreement as yet on the sale, why should the Senate not be told about it? If that point has not been reached, why should we not know that also? Why should not the whole matter be ventilated so that the Government might be given the opportunity to make purchases elsewhere on more advantageous terms or perhaps to use its own aircraft? Why should we not be told what the real position is?
In his private capacity as a lawyer. Senator Murphy would-
– That has nothing to do with it.
I am not being personal or difficult over this. I think Senator Murphy would appreciate that in any transaction a certain time may elapse between an agreement to purchase and the completion of a transaction. My understanding is that there is an agreement to purchase.
– Why can we not be told?
– 1 am sure that everybody would concede that an agreement to purchase is one thing and the completion of a transaction is another. No purchaser or seller in any transaction - I think Senator Murphy would agree with this - would have the right to disclose the terms and conditions of the transaction until it was completed. That is a normal procedure.
– If you are asking me my answer is that I would not agree with that.
If I asked the honourable senator at a different level perhaps he might agree with me. But my clear understanding of the matter is that an agreement has been entered into and the documentation is proceeding.
– I leave that subject. I am not quite sure whether my question should be directed to the Minister for
Air or the Minister for Supply. What is the total of Australia’s payments to date for the Fill and the very necessary spare parts? Are we still paying the United States of America at the rate of $7m to S9m each month?
– The total amount paid as at 31st December 1970 was $US225.7m, representing an increase of $US4m on the figure that I gave in reply to a question on notice in May 1970. They are the only payments that have been made.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. In today’s Press the Minister for Health is reported as stating that the banning of cigarette advertising on television has had no effect in diminishing the smoking habit in the United States of America or the United Kingdom. How was he able to assess this, in view of the fact that the cessation of cigarette advertising on television in the United States occurred only on 1st January 1971?
– I am not certain how the Minister for Health has assessed this; but I am quite sure that, because of his very real interest in this matter and the concern he has shown during (he period of time the honourable senator has been asking questions about it, he will be keeping in very close touch with those who assess these matters. I shall endeavour to obtain some further information and I will give it to the honourable senator at the first possible opportunity.
– Will the Minister for Supply advise whether, when his Department was invited by the Department of Foreign Affairs to inspect the Jetair aircraft with a view to purchase, it made inquiries elsewhere as to what other aircraft might be available? If it did, can he state whether it contacted the Royal Australian Air Force or any other companies with a view to seeing whether other aircraft, in fact, were available, and at a better price?
– 1 will obtain the relevant information.
– Earlier this morning Senator Wriedt asked me whether the ferrying of the gift aircraft to Cambodia would be carried out by Royal Australian Air Force pilots. 1 have made some inquiries from my Department, and I have been advised that the RAAF has received no request for its pilots to fly the gift aircraft to Cambodia and that at this stage it has no indication of how the aircraft will be sent to Asia.
(Question No. 763)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Mow many Australians (from all services) have bene killed in the Vietnam War to date:
in action, or as a result of wounds, and
The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The total number nf Australian servicemen killed in Vietnam as at 4 December. 1970 was:
Killed in action or as a result of wounds 390
Killed accidentally (including died of illness and injury) .. .. ..55
(Question No. 766)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
How many Australian.; have suffered wounds in the Vietnam War and of those wounded how many were conscripts.
The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The total number of Australian servicemen wounded in action in Vietnam as at 4th December. 1970 was 2,198 of whom 931 were national servicemen.
(Question No. 747)
ls it a fact that the Minister recently warned hospital and medical benefit organisations that, when re-applying for registration under the National Health Act by 1 October 1970, they must keep administration costs within prescribed limits.
In the Minister’s Press statement of 19 January 1970, in which he referred to the findings of both the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs and the Commonwealth Committee of Inquiry, did he state that the Government expected of health funds generally that they would reduce or contain overall management costs, and these would include commissions paid to agents.
Have any Funds, in the interests of their contributors, abandoned the system of paying agents’ commissions as a percentage of contributions collected and introduced (he system recommended by the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs of paying agents’ commissions on a periodically reviewed, uniformly applied, work-value basis.
Which Funds propose using the percentage system, which is clearly inflationary and inappropriate in that it provides for agents’ commissions to be increased whenever contributions are raised to meet fee increases or additional benefits.
In introducing the 1970 amendment to the National Health Act I stated ‘Approval for an open fund to operate in a particular Stale will not be continued unless it is shown that economic and efficient operations in that State can be expected’. I also stated that restricted membership organisations will be expected to operate efficiently and economically.
Yes. - The following registered organisations have adopted a method of calculating commission on the basis of the receipts issued by agents:
The Medical Benefits Fund of Australia.
The Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia.
- Grand United Order of Oddfellows, Friendly Society of New South Wales.
Coledale District Hospital Patients’ Contribution Fund.
Bulli District Hospital Contribution Fund.
- This organisation has adopted this system in respect of its chemist agents only. Lodge Secretaries are still paid commission on a percentage basis.
The medical and hospital funds registered as at 1 October 1970, as listed hereunder are at this stage still paying commission under the percentage system. This is the system that has been used by organisations for paying commission since the inception of the National Health Scheme.
In December 1969, the Department outlined to registered organisations an alternative, favoured method of paying commission to their agents, based on an amount for each receipt written by them. This method was recommended by the Commonwealth Health Insurance Council. A number of registered organisations are at present actively considering adopting this method.
New South Wales
Australasian Holy Catholic Guild of St Mary and St Joseph.
Hibernian-Australasian Catholic Benefit Society.
Independent Order of Oddfellows.
Mechanics’ Medical Assurance Scheme.
Northern District Miners.
Independent Order of Rechabites, District No. 85.
Wollongong District Hospital Contribution Fund.
Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows.
Hunter Medical Benefit Fund Ltd.
Kurri Kurri-Maitland Hospital Contribution Fund.
Protestant Alliance Friendly Society.
Western District Medical Benefits Fund.
Cessnock District Hospital Inpatient Fund.
South Coast Medical Benefits Fund.
Grand United Order of Oddfellows (in respect of Lodge Secretaries only).
Ancient Order of Foresters.
Australian Natives Association.
Geelong Medical and Hospital Benefits Association.
Grand United Order of Free Gardeners of Australasia.
Grand United Hospital Benefit Society.
Hibernian-Australasian Catholic Benefit Society.
The Hospital Benefits Association.
Independent Order of Oddfellows.
Irish National Foresters’ Benefit Society.
Latrobe Valley Hospitals and Health Services Association.
Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows
Mildura District Hospital and Medical Fund.
The Order of Sons of Temperance.
Protestant Alliance Friendly Society.
United Ancient Order of Druids.
Wonthaggi and District Hospital.
Independent Order of Rechabites, District No. 82.
Ancient Order of Foresters.
Grand United Order of Oddfellows.
Hibernian-Australasian Catholic Benefit Society.
Independent Order of Rechabites, District No. 87.
Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows.
Protestant Alliance Friendly Society.
Hibernian-Australasian Catholic Benefit Society.
Independent Order of Rechabites, District No. 81.
Independent Order of Rechabites, District No. 83.
Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows.
Mutual Hospital Association Ltd.
National Health Services Association of South Australia. Western Australia
Friendly Societies Health Services.
Government Employees’ Hospital and Medical Benefits Fund Inc.
The Hospital Benefit Fund of Western Australia Inc.
Norseman District Hospital and Medical Fund.
Warren Medical and Hospital Fund-.
Goldfields Medical Fund.
Pemberton Medical, Accident and Hospital Fund.
Western Australian Railway; and Metropolitan Transport Hospital Fund.
Yarloop District Medical and Ancillary Fund.
Friendly Health Services.
St. Lukes’ Medical and Hospital Benefit Association.
Tasmanian Government Insurance Office.
United Ancient Order of Druids.
In addition to the funds mentioned above there is a number of medical and hospital funds that do not pay any commission on contributions collected. These are generally restricted membership organisations.
(Question No. 798)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice: (I.) How credible is the statement in a letter received by myself from the Minister concerning medical benefits organisations, that’the maximum should be returned to the contributor by way of benefits’, andthat Tables have been set so that excess reserves will be reduced over a reasonable period’. when -
the only visible sign of specific projects to use up mammoth reserves is a vague proposal by the Hospitals Contribution Fund to aid its members when they reach 70 years or more and enter convalescent homes.
– The Minister for Health hasprovided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (l), (2) and (3) Firstly, I would like to point out that the medical and hospital benefits schemes are based on the insurance principles whereby the health risk of participants is spread over the whole of the membership of an organisation and conforms to the principle of the strong supporting the weak. Any proposal that ‘good risk’ members should pay a lower rate of contribution than other less fortunate members would tend to break down the community rating principles and would not be supported.
I re-iterate my statements to Parliament on 4 March 1970 and my second reading speech on the introduction of the 1970 amendments to the National Health Act, that it is the Government’s firm policy that contribution rates will be set at a level which takes into consideration the reserves held by the health insurance organisations. Already action has been taken in this direction in that the rates set for the new medical table are expected to achieve a reduction in the medical fund reserves. In relation to hospital funds, similar action will be undertaken immediately the current discussions with the States on the Nimmo recommendations relating to hospital benefitsare concluded.
Finally,I would add that the Government’s intention in the matter is reflected in section 73B (c) of the National Health Act introduced in 1970 which imposes a condition on all registered organisations requiring them to comply with any direction given by the Minister with regard to rates of contributions payable by contributors.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator
Bull) - The President has received the following letter from Senator Murphy:
In accordance with standing order 64 I intend to move on 18th February 1971, for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgency:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until Tuesday,23rd February, at 2.55 p.m.
STATEMENT OF MATTER OF URGENCY
The. unwise and panic measures of the Government in dealing with the economy which are likely to cause disruption, hardship and to damage the national interest.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the moving of the foregoing motion at 2.45 p.m. today.
– by leave - I make the following statement on behalf of the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz). Following a review by the Commonwealth of policy relating to the export of uranium the then Minister for National Development on 10th April 1967 announced a new policy designed to stimulate exploration for this mineral and at the same time ensure that Australia’s future requirements of uranium would be met from domestic resources. While retaining a system of export controls., the policy permitted limited exports from new discoveries, in amounts which were relatedto the size and location of these deposits.
In recent years the search for uranium has increased. Over eighty companies have been involved in exploration and very gratifying results have been obtained. Discoveries by Queensland Mines,. PekoWalksendElectrolytic Zinc and Noranda in the Northern Territory have been announed by the companies. Exoil-Transoil have announced discoveries in South Australia. None of: these discoveries is as yet fully delineated, and complete investigation will take a considerable time. It is clear, however, that these reserves will put Australia amongst the leading uranium producers in the world, and it is not over-optimistic to expect that further discoveries will continue to be made.
Uranium is not only a valuable mineral, and the probable future source of much of the world’s future industrial power, it is also a material of strategic importance. The Government has decided, in common with the governments of practically all other uranium exporting countries, to maintain a system of: export control. For the present this will not involve any quantitative restriction upon exports. However, a close watch will be maintained on proven reserves and the amount exported to ensure that adequate supplies are retained for our future requirements. As with previous policy, all contracts for the export of uranium will he subject to the approval of the Minister for National Development. This will ensure that the price negotiated for the sale of the uranium is satisfactory. Appropriate safeguards, to ensure that the materials exported are used for peaceful purposes only, will be mandatory.
– I move:
– That is subject to an urgency motion, so that it should be unless otherwise ordered’.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI wanted to let honourable senators know that we propose when we rise today not to reassemble until Tuesday at 3 p.m. Because an urgency motion is to be debated which suggests resumption at 2.55 p.m. on Tuesday next, perhaps the simple way would be to withdraw my motion, having made the point. We would resume automatically at 3 p.m. or 2.55 p.m. on Tuesday.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) Are you withdrawing the motion?
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a first time.
(12.17) - I move:
This Bill provides legislative basis for the comprehensive programme of migrant education which was announced in the House of Representatives on 23rd April 1970 by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch). The Bill, Mr Deputy President, relates to the total area of migrant education, which for purpose of simplicity may be dealt with under 3 main headings - the adult programme, intensive courses and child migrant education. As foreshadowed in the statement on 23rd April the Government has approved the detail of a major review of the adult education programme in source countries where pre-embarkation instruction is given, during the journey to Australia and in the community after arrival. Facilities for pre-embarkation instruction will be expanded, additional forms of instruction will be introduced and courses will be extended to new source areas such as Yugoslavia and the Scandinavian countries. The number of shipboard education officers will be increased, and with the growing emphasis upon air travel we will consider providing educational facilities in aircraft as circumstances permit.
In Australia, facilities for instruction in reception centres, in hostels and in the community generally will be expanded. There will be greater provision of parttime accelerated courses to meet the needs of migrants who for economic reasons cannot engage in full-time instruction. Greater use will be made of the medium of television and radio courses are under review. Emphasis will be placed upon encouraging industry to provide facilities for instruction at the work place so that migrant workers can have convenient access to courses of instruction. Special attention will be given to the needs of migrant women - the married woman and the housewife - for whom, if they are to become full members of the community and if they are to participate in the social life, a knowledge of English is essential. Advanced teaching techniques will be used to meet the needs of individual groups of migrants. Research surveys already undertaken and those planned will identify these individual needs and the most effective way of providing for them.
The full-time intensive course of instruction which was first introduced early in 1969 is designed specifically to meet the needs- of professional and other qualified migrants for whom an adequate knowledge of English is a pre-requisite to their being suitably employed. As a general rule only migrants who have reached a certain educational level are able to benefit effectively from this particular type of instruction. There is a considerable demand however for enrolment in the intensive courses and it is the Government’s intention to provide additional centres for intensive instruction in Sydney and Melbourne, and to extend these to other capital cities and to provincial areas of high migrant density.
The child migrant education programme represents a new area of Commonwealth participation. The Government intends to finance the salaries of special teachers in both existing Government and independent schools to teach migrant children who are handicapped in varying degrees by some type of English language difficulty and the cost of special training courses for these teachers. Tt will finance the purchase of approved capital equipment of the language laboratory type for use in the special classes which will be established, lt will provide suitable teaching and learning materials not only to schools where special classes are formed but also to schools where there are insufficient numbers of migrant children with language problems to justify the appointment of a special teacher. Because what is planned in the adult programme and with intensive courses is essentially an extension of existing programmes, the Bill is concerned largely with the area of the major new initiative in child migrant education^
The Bill, Mr Deputy President, is a relatively short one. The title includes the words ‘for immigrants and certain other persons’. The term ‘immigrants’ is intended to relate to persons who have been admitted to or allowed to remain in Australia indefinitely for residence. The qualification provided by the words ‘who are ordinarily resident’ in paragraph (b) of subclause 2 of clause 4 excludes from the intended meaning of the word ‘immigrants’ those persons who do not have resident status in Australia. The Bill therefore does not relate to persons admitted for a limited period of time under temporary entry permit, such as visitors and overseas students. The term ‘certain other persons’ is intended to include naturalised Australians and the Australian-born offspring of immigrants who require instruction in the English language, as well as those who are immigrants under the definition already described.
The short title - Immigration (Education) Act 1970 - indicates that the source of power for the Bill derives from the immigration provision in the Constitution. Clause 2 of the Bill provides that the date on which the Act will come into operation will be the first day of July 1970. The State education departments and the independent school authorities are being informed that the Commonwealth will meet from existing appropriation costs within the approved programme which are incurred in the special instruction of migrant children as from 1st April 1970. In the defintions clause, clause 3. the intention of the definition ‘capital equipment of an educational nature’ is where the need for special classes is established that State and independent schools will be provided with Commonwealth funds to purchase equipment of the language laboratory type. The definition of independent school’ is consistent with the similar definition used in Acts which provide financal assistance for independent schools under section 96 of the Constitution.
Clause 4 covers in a general way the type of courses which are to be provided and to whom. Non-English speaking immigrants are not specified because English speaking immigrants and their children as well as their non-English speaking counterparts are to be provided with courses in citizenship education which are referred to in paragraph (b) of sub-clause (I.) of clause 4. Paragraph (a) of sub-clause (2.) of clause 4 gives the Minister authority to make arrangements for the provision of courses of. instruction outside Australia, whether in the source country before embarkation or during the voyage to Australia and to adjust these as changing circumstances involving particularly international organisations or overseas governments may require. Clause 5 relates to the proposed new arrangements for the child migrant education programme as well as to existing arrangements for adult migrants and for full lime intensive courses of instruction.
The Department of Education and Science, which will be assisting in the development of the child migrant education programme in the States and will be responsible for producing appropriate teaching materials, will be establishing a committee to advise on the design and content and production of text books and other material for the child programme. The committee will include representatives from State Education Departments as well as the Department of Immigration and the Department of Education and Science. Full scale production of material designed specifically for child migrants will possibly take 2 to 3 years. In the meantime selected materials already used in the adult pro gramme will be made available for use by migrant children.
Clause 6 indicates that subject to regulation a living allowance will be paid to migrant students, other than school children, attending approved courses of instruction. With the introduction early in 1969 of the full time intensive courses, students already attending such courses have been paid a living allowance at the following rates: If in private accommodation, single students will now receive an allowance of S29.I5 per week of which $17.00 is for their accommodation expenses and $12.15 an allowance to meet normal living costs. For the married student, the rate of allowance is $37.00 of which $22.00 relates to accommodation and the balance of $15.00 to other living costs. For the migrant in Commonwealth hostels, the allowance has been such that the normal hostel tariff has been deducted leaving the migrant, if single, a living allowance of $12.15 per week and, if married with a dependent wife, $.15.00 per week with increases according to the number of dependent children in the family.
It has been considered advisable that the rates of living allowance paid to migrant students, other than school children, attending approved courses of instruction and the conditions under which the allowance may be paid should be provided by way of regulation so that the detail of the allowances to bc paid will be laid before the Parliament when the regulations are made. Some State Departments of Education have already taken steps to meet the problems encountered by migrant children in their schools and for this purpose are employing teachers in the special instruction of migrant children. Under the adult programme there are teachers also who would benefit from further training. Clause 7 of the Bill is therefore intended to provide for the training of teachers who may already be engaged in teaching migrant students as well as those who will be selected for training before being so employed. The payment of travelling allowance for teachers attending training courses which is referred to in sub-clause (3.) of clause 7 will be in accordance with the rate of travelling allowance normally payable to Government employees of the State concerned.
Reference was made in the House of Representatives on 23rd April to the need for research in the fields of both adult and child migrant education. Clauses 8 provides authority for the conduct of such research, which will be undertaken by the Department of Immigration and the Department of Education and Science in conjunction with the research units of the State Education Departments and of appropriate tertiary institutions. Clause 9 as a whole is intended to make it clear that the Minister in making arrangements may arrange for payments by the Commonwealth to the other party to the arrangements. Sub-clause (1 .) of clause 9 relates to the programme generally. Sub-clause (2.) of clause 9 relates to certain types of payments, which it was thought desirable to refer to specifically, with respect to arrangements entered into with the government of a State - under- both’ the adult programme and the child programme-as well as with an independent school -authority under the child programme.
It may be useful, Mr President, if 1 were to explain that schools which will qualify for financial assistance under the special programme for child migrants will be those where a special teacher is employed. The appointment of a special teacher will in turn require, as a general “rule, a minimum of 30 migrant children in the school in need of special instruction in the English language - though the children may be taught in smaller groups. Financial assistance may also be available where a special teacher is employed at several adjacent schools or pro rata where the special teacher may be required only on a casual or part time basis.
In the statement on 23rd April if was indicated that the Government would finance, in addition to the salary costs of special teachers, the salary costs of necessary supervisory staff. We have decided in paragraph (b) of sub-clause (2.) of clause 9 to adopt the term ‘administrative staff’ as we believe the former term was not sufficiently wide to cover the adult programme. Administrative staff in the case of the child migrant programme will be concerned essentially with policy formulation, the control, training and development of teaching staff and the inspection and supervision of the programme at the local level. Administrative costs will also include costs normally incidental to salaries of both teachers and administrative staff - payroll tax, workers’ compensation and workers’ insurance premiums, employer’s contribution to superannuation fund and entitlement to long service leave of permanent officers. Under the adult programme, the administrative costs will also include certain operating costs to which the Commonwealth has been committed since 1951 by agreement with the States.
Paragraph (d) of sub-clause (2.) of clause 9 is intended to provide for the situation where the State Education Department or independent school authority may wish to purchase teaching and learning materials which are not suitable for production under the arrangement referred to in clause S but which may be considered necessary to the effective implementation of the child programme. Clause 10 makes the normal provision for the administration of any part of the migrant education programme to be delegated by the Minister and is in accordance with the provision of such delegation used frequently in other Acts. Clause 11 indicates that the funds required from time to time will . be provided under the annual appropriations for the Department of Immigration. Clauses 12 and 13 contain normal legislative provisions for the making of reports and regulations. Thus Parliament will have the opportunity of receiving progress reports on the operation of the programme.
The Bill is intended to give legislative force to the programme of migrant education which the Government believes to be a matter of national importance. Some §1.5m has been provided in the current financial year for migrant education. The greater part, $l.2m, is on the adult programme, in which expenditure has been to the order of Sim annually over recent years. We expect to spend $150,000 on intensive courses during 1969-70 and $250,000 on the child programme during the final quarter of the financial year. It is expected, subject to budgetary considerations, that expenditure on the three programmes will rise to $4m in 1970-71 and that funds to the order of $16m will be required over the next 4 financial years. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Mulvihill) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to empower the Minister for National Development to authorise survey parties to enter upon land to carry out mapping surveys, to place or remove survey marks and where necessary to do limited clearing by trimming, lopping or cutting down trees or bushes so as to establish clear lines of sight. The Bill provides for due notice to be given to the landowner in advance of entry upon land and of any intention to trim, lop or cut down trees or bushes, lt requires the surveyors lo avoid as far as practicable causing damage to property, and where it is unavoidable as far as practicable to repair the damage.
The Bill provides for compensation for loss or damage to property as a result of survey operations. The amount of compensation may be determined by agreement or. in the absence of agreement, by action against the Commonwealth in a court of competent jurisdiction. The Bill also prohibits, under penalty,, the unlawful damage, destruction or removal of Commonwealth survey marks, and provides for the Commonwealth to recover the cost of repair or re-establishment.
All countries have a need for maps and the more a country is developed so does the need increase for many different types of maps for a multitude of purposes. The Division of National Mapping of the Department of National Development already produces a wide variety of maps. With the increased activity in exploration for minerals there has been a strong demand by industry for various types of maps produced by the Commonwealth.
In 1968, for the first time in Australia’s history, this vast continent of almost 3 million square miles was covered by a uniform series of mapping at 1:250,000 scale, one inch on the map representing approximately 4 miles on the ground. For the past decade and longer these maps, as they have become available, have’ been used in assessing Australia’s resources in minerals, water and forests, for many administrative purposes and for the broad planning of beef roads, better alignment of highways and railways and for general development planning. Although extremely valuable for these purposes this series of 1:250,000 maps is as yet uncontoured and has been inadequate for detailed investigations. Only limited coverage at larger scales has existed, chiefly around the eastern seaboard and some in Western Australia, most of it being of World War II vintage.
For the forthcoming Census next year the Division of National Mapping is producing a very wide range of maps for the collection of statistics, ranging from maps of small areas for use by individual collectors to smaller scale maps of each State and to statistical maps covering the whole of Australia. For the first time the Bureau of Census and Statistics will be provided with an adequate variety of maps for . its many purposes. The Bureau of Mineral Resources procures and records geostatistical data in respect of geology, mineral resources, the earth’s gravity and magnetic fields all of which is recorded on base maps produced by the Division of National Mapping.
The Department of National Development’s Water. Power, and Geographic Branch arranges primarily through State, authorities for the recording of statistics on surface and underground water and produces maps showing the geographical location of this data, lt also produces an Atlas of Australian Resources and is active in the production of geographic maps showing the resources of particular regions.
The Forestry and Timber Bureau of the Department collects and collates information on forest statistics for timber inventory surveys and advises on forest management including the fire fighting. In all of these activities map positions are required ir. varying degrees of significance.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has a varied requirement for maps through the activities of its Divisions of Land Research, Soils and Wild Life research.
The Division of National Mapping prepares and produces aeronautical charts and special visual terminal charts for the Department of Civil Aviation.
Good topographic maps are of course essential for defence planning and defence operations. Close liaison exists between the Division of National Mapping and the Royal Australian Survey Corps. Maps are produced by both agencies to mutually agreed basic specifications and when each map is printed enough copies are provided for both civil and defence purposes. These topographic maps are of particular importance as they show the shape of the terrain, the location of all natural features, mountains, streams^ lakes, coastlines and all man-made features such as towns, homesteads, roads, railways, airfields, reservoirs and the like, all in their correct positions. These maps are the basic source from which all other maps for special purposes are produced.
In 1965 the Government, realising the basic importance of larger scale mapping, authorised a 10-year accelerated programme of topographic mapping of Australia at a scale of 1:100,000 - approximately 1.6 miles to 1 inch - with 20 metre contours. This programme is now well launched and already over 200,000 square miles of mapping in manuscript form has been accomplished. This work is the responsibility of the Division of National Mapping which undertakes part itself, arranges part to be carried out under contract and receives substantial contributions from the Royal Australian Survey Corps. All the 6 State Lands Departments have now converted to metric scale mapping to help achieve the 10-year programme.
Nevertheless this enormous task will require every modern aid and a very concentrated effort if it is to be completed within the allotted period. The Department of National Development accordingly has acquired and will continue to acquire much modern equipment. Special air survey cameras have been introduced which, from a height of 25,000 feet, can photograph an area of 140 square miles on a single photograph. Distances of up to 200 miles are measured with electronic equipment.
The whole country is being covered by a dense network of levelling surveys, and additional heights are being obtained by contractor operated airborne radar equipment in the large areas of very flat country in Australia.
In order to provide the accuracy necessary in country of greater relief the Weapons Research Establishment of the Department of Supply has developed special laser equipment that will provide the necessary elevation data from an aircraft flying at a constant height above the sea level. Laser equipment is also used to measure horizontal distances between ground stations to a very high order of accuracy. Electronic computing equipment is now used to process all field data into co-ordinate form.
Electronically operated stereo plotting machines have been obtained. When titled with a steroscopic pair of air photographs and set up to fit the ground survey data these will automatically extract contour data and produce an orthometric photograph showing all the ground detail in its correct map position with all the distortions of the original air photographs removed. This product is called an orthophotograph and successive orthophotographs can be joined together to form an orthophotomap, which is bound to appeal to many map users, especially in the lesser developed parts of Australia.
For many years now the officers of the Department of National Development have been engaged on various types of field surveys, including topographic, geological and geophysical surveys, undertaken in the course of preparing maps for Commonwealth purposes. To make maps it is essential, in the first instance, for surveyors to go out in the field. They must methodically cover the country with a pattern of geodetic control stations which is the basic framework for the production of a topographic map. Ground measurements must be made, geographical positions must be determined by astronomical observations, network of levels must be run to determine the relative heights of features and then the multitude of detail is plotted from the air photographs. Because of higher resolution cameras and improving geometric qualities of the photographs coupled with the ability to measure greater horizontal distances by electronic methods density of the pattern of ground control is gradually diminishing but there will always be a requirement for surveyors to move over the ground, establish marks and make measurements.
In the course of these surveys they need to enter on private land as well as on Crown land for the purpose of placing geodetic station marks, beacons and reference marks, making measurements and observations to other stations and carrying out various operations. The geographical positions of the stations are determined and their precise locations are identified on air photographs.
Usually these stations arc located on vantage points with a commanding view over the surrounding country. So that intervisibility between adjacent stations may be established it is frequently necessary to feil or lop trees and bushes and clear other obstacles. It is the practice for the party leader to contact the landowner or occupier in advance, to explain the purpose of the survey and to obtain his agreement for the emplacing of marks and for whatever clearing operations are necessary. The officers are always very careful to cause as little damage as possible and movement over the property is kept to a minimum. They are most mindful not to cause any disturbance to stock, particularly if lambing is in progress or there is stud Stock on the property.
Most owners are fully co-operative and in fact take active steps to prevent any damage or disturbance to the survey marks or destruction of the beacon by fire or vandalism. This happy situation is brought about by careful explanation to them of the importance of the marks in the mapping and general development of the district, and by the exercise of courtesy and reasonableness on the part of survey party leaders.
Occasionally however, a property owner objects to any entry on his land by a government employee and disputes the necessity for the survey. Wherever possible an alternative acceptable site for the geodetic station is chosen. However it sometimes happens that no other alternative is possible if the aims of the survey are to be achieved and statutory authority to enter upon the land would be desirable.
The provisions of the Bill are not intended to alter the existing practice whereby survey parties moving into a dis trict or on to particular properties take steps to advise representative persons by advance letter or personal contact of their intention to carry out the proposed operations. Where the possibility exists of clamage to trees or crops, the cutting of fences or interference with stock, the alternative possibilities of location of the operations are discussed. Where any damage requires making good, such as damage to roads, filling in of holes or repairing of fences, local arrangments satisfactory to the property owner or local authority are made.
However, the use of the powers set out in the Bill will prevent any hitches in what must, of necessity, be a tightly-scheduled and close-knit operation, if the 10-year mapping programme is to be completed on time. It will also serve to ensure that the rights and property of landholders are adequately protected. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poyser) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 17 February (vide page 119), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– With the exception of the amendment which has been proposed concerning the insertion of a new section 132a. in the Broadcasting and Television Act to permit the service by means of registered post of summonses for offences in relation to unlicenced broadcasting jnd television receivers, this Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives as long ago as 4th March 1970. It has therefore taken almost a year for the Parliament to deal with this matter. Whilst a number of the proposals encompassed in the Bill are only of a machinery nature, nonetheless broadcasting and television affect every home and every family throughout the Commonwealth. Therefore, I would sincerely trust that much more attention will be paid in the future to this vital area of communications and to this type of legislation by Parliament and its members than appears to have been paid to date. As I have already pointed out, the Bill was first introduced in the other place in March 1970. Further consideration of it was then adjourned until the Budget session last year. In the Budget -session further consideration was again adjourned. The Bill has now been resuscitated in this new sessional period of the Parliament. The control of broadcasting and television in this country is far too intricate, involved and important to be dealt with in such a loose and, if I may say so, haphazard manner.
The Labor movement does not intend opposing the Bill, although at the Committee stage it will be moving 2 amendments. One of its amendment’; will be in connection with sub section (2) of proposed section 90aa. The Opposition intends to seek to amend the date set out therein,, namely, 12th December 1969 to 22nd October 1969. The other amendment that it will move in Committee relates to the serving of summonses by registered post. The Opposition will propose thai the right should be given at any time - instead of the period being restricted to 2 years - for a person who is convicted of not holding or renewing a broadcasting and television licence to move to have the conviction set aside.
The Labor movement has always expressed its concern about the tendency of commercial licencees to attempt to grab more than a fair share of what appears from the financial figures that are published from time to time to be a very rich cake. I suppose it is correct to say that from time to time I have been perhaps more critical than anyone else of the Government, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the commercial licencees, but I certainly appreciate the enormity of the task of the members’ of the Broadcasting Control Board. They are cast in the role of policemen protecting the interests of the community against very powerful business interests. I wish to place on record the fact that I have the highest personal regard for the Chairman of the Board, Mr Wright, who I think has done an excellent job, having regard to the Government’s present policy, in controlling in some small way the grab by commercial licencees for more influence, I have a regard also for the other members of the
Board that I have met from time to time, namely, Mr McDonald and Mr Donovan. Of course, we now have with us Senator Hannan who, until his re-entry into the Parliament a couple of days ago, was a member of the Board. Whilst those whom I have mentioned may have from time to time agreed or disagreed with me on the points of view 1 have put forward, 1 certainly realise that they are charged with the very important job of administering this Act of Parliament. lt is not the Broadcasting Control Board which needs strengthening; it is the Act of Parliament. . There is a clear intention here on the part of the Government to do something to strengthen it, but there are other provisions that need tightening up. 1 do not think that 1 person should be able to control S broadcasting licences and 2 television licences in Australia, but that is the law as it now stands. We of the Labor movement want to see a greater spread of influence throughout the whole community on the matter in which these broadcasting and television licences are controlled and administered by the licencees.
The introduction of this legislation emphasises the necessity for a very keen watch to be maintained on what would appear to be a rapacious grab by some commercial licencees. I directed my remarks in the first instance to the proposed new sections 90aa and 9’Ia.b. In the course of her second reading speech the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) in this chamber, pointed out that a close connection exists between company employee benefit funds and the large companies with which such funds are associated. The Minister said that there is an increasing tendency for pension funds associated with companies already having extensive interests in broadcasting and television stations to invest in companies having interests in such stations. She said that if this type of situation were permitted to go unchecked it could have - indeed. I say it would have - a material influence on the control and operation of broadcasting and television stations.
The Postmaster-General referred in the other place just recently to a case in Western Australia where television interests were transferred to a staff pension fund. I “understand that two of the three trustees of the pension fund were in fact directors of the television company. If two of the three trustees were directors of the television company the pension fund over which they had control would also appear to be in the control of the company. The Postmaster-General said that this situation was brought to his notice on 22nd October 1969. What appeared to be a somewhat -analogous case was also brought to the notice of the Postmaster-General much earlier than that. In 1969, 2 pension funds associated with John Fairfax Ltd bought a 10 per cent interest in Canberra Television Ltd, the licencee of the only commercial station in the Australian Capital Territory. The 2 funds were the John Fairfax and Sons Staff Pension Fund and the Sydney Morning Herald Centenary Fund. Each of the funds had a 5 per cent interest in the Canberra licence and the shares were held by a company called Vident Pty Ltd. a nominee of the trustees of the 2 funds. -John Fairfax Ltd already owned a 30 per cent interest in Canberra Television Ltd through its wholly owned subsidiary. Federal Capital Press of Australia, which of course is the owner of the ‘Canberra Times’. I understand that John Fairfax Ltd also had and still has a controlling interest in ATN7 in Sydney and in QTQ9 in Brisbane. Bearing in mind the statutory provision in, T think, section 92 of the Broadcasting and Television Act that no-one shall have a control in more than 2 television stations, one can see the necessity for legislation of this kind.
The shares in Canberra Television Ltd were ‘ bought with the funds from Daniel Bros and Co. Pty Ltd, a company which published the ‘Evening Post’ in Goulburn. That publication was controlled by Mr R. A. G. Henderson, a director and formerly managing director of John Fairfax and Sons. Daniel Bros holding in Canberra Television Ltd was reduced in this manner from 15 per cent to 5 per cent. Through all these transactions one can see a kind of interlocking of associations and a desire to obtain control of the commercial mass media of communication. In 1969 I asked a question about the matter in the Senate. On 25th February of that year I received an answer to my question. I asked:
Did the Postmaster-General, on 1 6th April 1963, approve of the transfer of shares in Canberra Television Md as follows:
The Minister replied that an application had been made, that the transfers of the shares at that stage had not yet been effected, that a further proposal affecting the transaction was subsequently received and that examination of that had not been completed at the time of the answer. lt is interesting to note the details of the trustees of the Staff Pension Fund of John Fairfax and Sons Ltd. They were Sir Warwick Fairfax, who was a director of John Fairfax and Sons Ltd, a director of John Fairfax Ltd and a director of Fairfax Publications Pty Ltd; Mr J. O. Fairfax; Mr A. H. McLachlan, who was the- managing director of John Fairfax Ltd and also a director of a number of other companies; Mr P. H. Palmer, secretary and alternate director of John Fairfax Ltd; and Mr A. P. R. Drinkwater, an employee of John Fairfax Ltd. The trustees of the Sydney Morning Herald Centenary Fund were Sir Warwick Fairfax, Mr J. O. Fairfax, Mr A. H. McLachlan and Mr P. H. Palmer. That situation existed in April 1968. In May 1969, after I had asked the question, I wrote to the Minister about the mat er. The Minister replied, by letter dated 12th May 1969, that he had given his approval to the transfer of the 119,000 shares in. question lo Vident Pty Ltd as nominee on behalf of the trustees of the Sydney Morning Herald Centenary Fund and the trustees of the Staff Pension Fund of John Fairfax and Sons Ltd. The Minister went on to say: lt is the Government’s policy to prevent undue concentrations of ownership and control of television and broadcasting stations. To this end the adequacy of legislation is kept under constant review. If future developments indicate that any amendments to the Act are felt to be necessary in any direction at all. appropriate action will be taken.
J t appears to me that that transaction, which was approved by the Minister in May 1969, is the type of transaction which this legislation is now attempting to stop. I ask: Why has it taken the Government so long to introduce this type of legislation? The Postmaster-General approved a type of transfer relating to staff pension funds and then on 12th December 1969, after the events in Western Australia to which I referred earlier, made a statement to the effect that the Act had to be amended to prevent employees’ superannuation and provident funds from being used to evade the intentions of the ownership and control provisions. The Minister set out the basic provisions embodied in the amendments now before us. The Minister went on to say that he would introduce amending legislation as soon, as possible and that it would be effective as from 22nd October 1969. That date is set out in the Minister’s Press statement of 1 2th December 1 969.
Now, when the legislation is introduced, we find that it is made retrospective only to the date when the Minister made his Press announcement. Having read an article in the ‘Journalist’, the publication of the Australian Journalists Association, dealing with the statement attributed to the Postmaster-General - namely, that the backdating of the amendment to 22nd October had been decided on to prevent 2 instances of what the amendment would prevent occurring in the future - 1 ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether the 2 instances referred to in that publication were prevented and, if nor, why the legislation was not made retrospective to 22nd October 1969, the date to which the Minister, on 12th December 1969, said that he would apply retrospectivity
The Opposition agrees to the amendment in the legislation. We believe that it should have been made retrospective to 22nd October 1969. We believe that the Government should have taken action earlier. It appears to me that one transaction of this nature was approved by the Government, that other companies set out to follow suit, the precedent having been established, and therefore this legislation was introduced.
The amendment dealing with the administration of the Australian Broadcasting Commission relate to the delegation powers of the Commission, and new financial and banking provisions, and repeal a section which limited compensation to a member of the Commission or to an officer or employee of the Commission to a mere $500 unless ministerial approval for a higher amount was authorised. I think that the delegation powers regarding appointment of permanent officers could well be further extended than they have been by this legislation. Section 41 of the Act authorises the Commission to delegate to a commissioner or to an officer of the Commission all or any powers of the Commission except the power to appoint officers of the Commission and, of course, to delegate the power of delegation itself. Frankly, I find it incredible that the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission who has enormous responsibilities to the Australian community has to approve the appointment of every permanent officer of the Commission. That appears to be the situation under this legislation. It appears to me that the appointment of every junior clerk and every stenographer who is a permanent appointee to the Commission has to be approved by the general manager of the Commission. I strongly suggest to the Government that in framing future amendments to this legislation it should have a closer look at this matter to see whether the power of delegation can be extended further.
This aspect of the legislation affords me an opportunity to raise a matter which I intended raising at a later stage. It relates to the great concern being expressed by the Australian Writers’ Guild over the failure of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to use Australian writers in a television series which is about to be made in conjunction with the British Broadcasting Commission on the life of Ben Hall, the legendary bushranger. The script editor of the series, a Mr Coburn, who is employed by the British Broadcasting Commission and who was apparently in Australia last year to make arrangements for the filming of the series has gone on record as saying that his intention was to commission a considerable proportion of the script in Australia but that this depended on his obtaining assurances from people in the industry that a dependable number of writers existed in Australia on whom he could rely and who would be able to produce work which he considered was of international standard. He added that from a multitude of people in the business to whom he had spoken he was not able to receive such assurances and therefore, reluctantly, he was forced to commission the Ben Hall project from London.
The President of the Australian Writers’ Guild has emphasised to me that he made a number of attempts to contact Mr Coburn while he was in Australia bin without success. 1 think that if this sort of film is to be commissioned in London it will be disastrous for Australia, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and certainly for Australia’s image generally. The Writers’ Guild assures me that it has a great number of Australian writers who are ready, willing, anxious, competent and able to write scripts for this series. The Guild feels that the writers could make a great impact on the international scene. All the Writers* Guild seeks is that a mere 6 of the 13 episodes in the series be written by Australians. I think that is fair enough I take advantage of this Bill to draw the matter to the notice of the Minister and the Australian Broadcasting Commission and to urge the ABC to strongly press and’ demand from the NBC the right of indigenous Australian writers to write some of these scripts for this series.
The Opposition certainly does not oppose the extension of certain pensioner concessions covered by section 128 of the Bill. Indeed, it welcomes them. Proposed new section 132a is intended to permit the service of summonses by means of registered post for offences in relation to unlicensed broadcast and television receivers. The Minister has said that this will provide additional means for the service of these summonses in most of the States but it will not do away with the availability of personal service in appropriate cases. 1 would like some stronger definition or interpretation of what is meant by ‘appropriate cases’. I certainly have some misgivings about this sort of legislation. The Minister said that the new provisions had been drawn to ensure, firstly, that there will be a high degree of probability that the defendant will in fact receive the summons which is posted to him. I emphasise the Ministers words: A high degree of probability. Secondly, if a defendant does not receive a summons posted to him there will be a simple procedure by which the defendant or the prosecutor may proceed to have any conviction which was recorded set aside. As I have said, the defendant has only 2 years in which to take advantage of this procedure. This type of restrictive legislation seems to me to be a further incursion into the rights of the individual and reflects a tendency towards the growth of the bureaucracy over the rights of the Australian citizen.
– What rights of the Australian citizen does the honourable senator have in mind when he says that?
– I am speaking of certain people who could bc affected by this legislation which provides that a conviction which has been recorded in the, , absence can be taken off the slate it not more than a mere 2 years has elapsed. There could be many such instances. There could be itinerant workers or there could be matrimonial disturbances in a home
– The honourable senator’s point is that it is not the service by post that restricts the rights but it is the limit of the opportunity to appeal.
– Yes, it is the limit of the opportunity to appeal. We believe that it is completely unfair and unjust having regard to a number of circumstances which could arise in regard to individual Australian citizens. In my opinion most of the people who are dealt with in this connection certainly are not deliberate evaders of the law or law breakers In the committee stage we will be moving to extend the period of 2 years to any time so that if a person wants to have the conviction set aside he will always have the opportunity to do so and protect his name. Probably he is in this difficulty because he has had a lapse of memory, there has been an oversight on his part or because of the individual circumstances of a family. [ have outlined the amendments which the Opposition will be moving during the committee stages. I again urge the Government to have a close look at all sections of the Broadcasting and Television Act to ensure fair play in the presentation of all productions and comments in all programmes on all broadcast and television stations.
Debate (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) adjourned.
– I have received the following letter from Senator Murphy:
In accordance with Standing Order No. 64 I intend lo move on 18th February 1971, for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgency:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until
Tuesday, 23 February at255pm
STATEMENT OF MATTER OF URGENCY
The unwise and panic measures of the Government in dealing with the economy which are likely to cause disruption, hardship and to damage the national interest.
ls the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– At the request of and on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition I move:
Thai the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 23rd February, al 2.55 p.m. 1 do so for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely:
The unwise and panic measures of the Government in dealing with the economy which are likely lii ::m<>c disruption, hardship and to damage the national interest. 1 believe the motion we have moved today really raises a matter of urgency. Sometimes when urgency motions are moved I wonder just how urgent they are. The basis for this urgency motion has had some publicity. lt is that over the last 10 years in Australia there has been an inflation rate of about 21 per cent. However, if the rate of increase in the December quarter of last year - 1970 - were to apply for a full year, the annual rate would be 7i per cent. This I suggest is indeed an urgent matter. Of course, that increase occurred in the period before the 6 per cent wage rise was granted.
The worrying feature is that this will not be confined to one quarter or to 6 months. This rate of increase must be controlled. If it docs settle back it may not settle back to around the 2i or 3 per cent to which the economy has grown fairly inured but instead it may settle down somewhere between the old rate and 7± per cent. Some of the economists have forecast that the figure will be about 6 per cent. I suggest if it does settle down at 6 per cent it will be the old story of the weak being hit very hard, the smart boys in the community getting away, with it, and businesses that are tied up in certain contracts being badly dealt with, lt will be a very undesirable state of affairs, particularly for our export markets.
We have for a long time gone along on the very comfortable theory that a little bit of inflation is good. I cite the case of people who take out long term loans for houses. When their income is X they borrow a fixed amount of Y which is to be paid back over a long period of time. Though the X quantity improves, the Y quantity stays the same, lt is argued that this situation is good for those people. It creates a demand for labour and because of that businesses do well. The Government gets more tax because the bad aspects start to come in. Prices start to rise and, of course, wages follow the price rises. Because of all this it is said that those sort of people in our community are reasonably well looked after.
This leaves the people about whom we hear so much and about whom we are so worried. I am pleased to note that the conscience of the Australian community is being aroused and the community is becoming concerned about people on fixed incomes such as those receiving superannuation payments and pensions. Superannuants are affected eventually because, if they commit the sin of living too long after they retire, this inflationary rate starts to catch up with them. Ex-government employees get some relief because an examination of their position is made from time to time, although not nearly frequently enough. And I do not agree with the method of reviewing their position. However, that is the way it is done and they are retrieved in some way.
Those people in the private sector of the community who have not come under the modern system of superannuation obtain no relief. The modern system has something inbuilt against inflation to the tune of 3 per cent. The system is not very widely used yet but thank heaven it is starting to operate in the private sector. However people under that system receive only that amount of relief. Of course, as inflation goes on and on, governments are forced into such things as tapered means tests to bridge the gap between costs and the incomes of persons who receive only superannuation payments and pensions. Of course, the pensioners receive their increases by direct Government action.
The base problem, in my view, has been the complete lack of system. I do not believe it is good enough for the superannuants to have their situation looked at whenever the Government thinks fit. It is about 3 years since it last did so, and a lot of people can suffer in that time. The same situation applies to pensions, T believe they should be tied to the inflationary situation so that increases are automatic instead of the pensioners having to go to the Government which may be either looking towards an election, coping with a lime of depression or simply trying to avoid the problem for some other reason that is best known to itself.
Unfortunately the problem is masked fairly badly by 2 things, one of which is the 2 pay packet economy in our community and the other is hire purchase. Sometimes we might think that a person seems to be doing very well on a fairly low salary. Account is not taken of the fact that his wife is also working. So it is not only his effort that is going into the home at ali. Hire purchase also masks the situation at any given time. Sometimes the homes of these people who are on low incomes are not so much different from those of people who are getting 3 times the amount of money that they do’. Although the people on low incomes have all those accoutrements in their homes today - a television set and the rest of it - they have not yet paid for them. What they are doing is hiring them under this modern system known as hire purchase. So the socio-economic situation of families in Australia is masked by certain factors. This is nothing new. It has been occurring to an increasing extent since the end of the War.
When we experience a sudden economic spurt such as that which occurred in the last quarter of last year, this comfortable theory no longer applies. The bad side of it is accentuated and the whole theory is destroyed. Unfortunately, the people who are hit worst are the weak people, those who are least able to absorb the blow. The people on fixed incomes are the ones who feel that lag quickest. If the pensioner is anticipating a rise in the economy of about 2i per cent in a certain 12 months, he has to wait for that 12 months before he gets it and now he should get this H per cent rise in the economy. The same situation applies to superannuants. Those people on low wages particularly are feeling that lag. They are being hit over a shorter period much more drastically and viciously because the curve is not spread as it was before.
However, some benefits do accrue. The Government benefits from these things. Because of the sudden rise in incomes it receives more taxation. For instance, last year average weekly earnings rose by S per cent while revenue from taxation rose by 12 per cent. When people quote figures which indicate that the cost of living went up by X per cent, and wages went up by X plus something, they think that they are better off. Of course, they are not because consideration has to be given to our taxation system, which has been criticised enough in this place. The moment they receive an increase in wages some of it is taken off by increased taxation.
Some businesses do all right out of this situation. People engaged in the selling of commodities do very well. The smart boys who are operating on very fast turnovers with land and share deals do exceedingly well. But, of course, businesses which are trapped into fixed commitments and fixed contracts are faced with the-situation I was talking about a little while ago in reverse. Because they have a contract they have a responsibility and they have to live up to it. From what we have read from overseas it seems that that is precisely what happened in the world famous Rolls Royce case. A sudden spurt of inflation was carried on but the company had fixed contracts to live up to.
These are some of the dangers that will arise in Australia unless the Government does very much better than it is doing at the present time. The economy has been allowed to deteriorate now for a very long time. The Government has taken the attitude of sitting and hoping, and possibly praying, that it just will not happen By shutting its eyes it hopes that these sudden bursts of inflation will go away, but of course they will not. Although nobody on the Government side likes to say so, thu signs today are at least as bad as they were “in the 1930s. In the J 930s- the depression days - we had the phenomenon of exceedingly low rural incomes and high interest rates. I suppose that the difference today is that We have the great mining boom, which has been the saviour up till now. Whether and, if so, to what degree the boom is being generated by a war economy is one of the worries in what is otherwise a very happy boom.
During the depression we saw farmers walking off farms. Today the walk-off has just started, and it will accelerate. Let us look at the situation of the wool industry. Whenever one mentions wool to an Australian, he immediately knows what one is talking about, lt is not just woollen jumpers; it is the economy and our export earnings. Wool prices had already depreciated, and they depreciated a further 20 per cent last year. We have the worrying question whether we are overproducing not only in wool but in many of the other primary products, in the light of the markets that we have.
If this is the situation and if all the inquiries and all the talks that have gone on have led to this situation, it is time a plan came down from the Government for making some sort of an orderly withdrawal from the rural industries. But so far we have waited in vain. I suppose that the debate is never ending as to whether the rapidly diminishing world demand for wool will fall to a point where wool will almost not be demanded at all. All of us in our lifetimes have seen many commodities, many forms of transport and many ways of life that we knew disappear and no longer be in demand. If that happens in the case of wool, it will only accentuate the validity of the few points I am putting before the Senate.
During the depression we had high interest rates. Today we have the same feature. Interest rates should never have been pushed to the level to which they have been pushed by the Government. This was one of the policies which the Government, in its very confused thinking of last year, evidently thought would have some effect. The Government finds itself in a very difficult situation today in view of tha expansion of mining and the very undesirable tendency for the building of city office blocks to attract far more capital than housing. This demand for capital would appear lo me to create at least a tendency to keep the high interest rates where they are. 1 believe that we can lull ourselves into a false sense of security by thinking that mining will be a panacea for all our ills, because there is a tremendously heavy overseas investment in mining. The illfated Vernon Committee made a survey of the situation 5 years ahead and made a prediction on overseas company profits. The Committee made one mistake. It said that we would reach a certain situation in 5 years, but we reached it in 4 and a bit years. The figures show that in the year ended June 1965, 20.8 per cent of company profits went overseas. In the year ended June 1969 - only 4 years later - the proportion of company profits that went overseas was 29.7 per cent. That represented just about a 10 per cent increase.
In addition, mines are particularly vulnerable to the cost squeeze. Although to a lesser degree, they can experience the same difficulties as those 1 mentioned in the case of the Rolls Royce company. They contract to do a certain job at a certain price, and they are pegged to that. Also, contracts do noi last forever. The mining contracts will have to be rewritten in the future. I suggest that when these contracts are being rewritten and the Japanese and other people are buying our raw materials the scene will be vastly different from what it was when they first entered into these contracts a few years ago, in view of the tremendous expansion in the countries concerned.
Merely in passing, let me say that this rate of interest should never be related in any way to the rate of interest for housing. The Government tried to dismiss this argument some time ago, when the increases in housing interest rates were made, by saying: ‘After all, this means only another SI a week’. That is the sort of thinking that has brought the Government to the situation in which it is today in the economic field. That sort of thinking is just not good enough. That sort of thinking says that as long as building is going on, whether it is of office blocks or anything else, it is all right. That sort of thinking, if it is projected even 12 months ahead, will obviously bring about social difficulties which in turn will create more difficulties for whoever is in power at that time.
The Government ought to ask itself one question, namely: Whose inflation is it dealing with? It is not much good trying to blame Labor governments. It is not much good trying to say that these are Socialist theories on which we are now foundering. The Government has been in office for 21 years and in that period we have been in somewhat similar circumstances, lt made tremendous mistakes in the early 1950s. It also made the awful mistakes of the credit squeeze in the early 1960s. There has been no sustained effort. Recently we read that the prices of about 2,000 grocery items had been reduced. The very first thought I had was: How did the prices get up there in the first place?
Then we have the Public Service cuts. As I see it, what the Government is saying to the Public Service is this: ‘No overtime will be worked until after 30th June: travel has to be stopped; and there will not be replacements of staff’. If - I underline that word - the Government has been administering the Public Service at the optimum level of efficiency, these things should never have occurred in the first place. The Government should never have been putting on more staff than it needed. Public servants should not have been working more overtime than they needed to. The Government should not have had people running around the country if it was not absolutely necessary.
On the other hand, if the Public Service was operating at the optimum level of efficiency, all the Government is doing now is delaying things until a time when they will cost more money. If certain work has to be done, it is not very much good saying: ‘Let us put it off until after 30th June’. If a conference must be held, it is not very much good saying to people: ‘Let us put it off until after 30th June and then you can travel to Perth, Hobart or wherever the conference is to be held’. This reminds me of an old saying that I used to hear when I was a child. I would say: ‘I am sorry I did it’, and my mother would always say: ‘If you had not done it in the first place you would not have to be sorry now’. If the Public Service had been operating as efficiently as we had been led to believe, the Government would not have to do these things now. Similarly, if the vendors of the 2,000 grocery items had kept to what was a reasonable rate of profit, they would not now be in the situation of saying - and making a great gimmick out of it - that they will reduce their prices.
Inflation is always a worry in a modern community; let me concede that, immediately. At a Press conference on 25th March last year - not quite 12 months ago - Mr Gorton finished up by saying that his desire was to have balanced growth and the avoidance of significant inflation for the foreseeable future. A point of interest is that even at that time the Treasurer (Mr Bury) was warning that an inflationary trend was developing. He pointed out all the various reasons.- He said that there would be a tremendous increase in interest rates. He mentioned one or two other things. So there seemed to be a divergence not of economic thought but of political thought between 2 senior men in the Government. In spile of what Mr Gorton said, the Budget brought down last August was obviously inflationary.
What always happens in these cases - it happened very markedly in the Budget - is that the weak become worse off. This is an inexorable law. This is the inexorable way things work when an inflationary situation is created and there are these sudden spurts. It is bad enough when inflation is controlled, although whether you ever control inflation I do not know. Again, it is bad enough when you can assess what the rate of inflation will be. It is worse when that cannot be done. Even at that stage the Government was not short of advice.
– O’d I hear you say that you cannot control inflation?
– No, I said that I did not know that the Government had ever really controlled inflation; but I do not want to be too specific about the word control’. I suppose that one can say that inflation is controlled if it is kept down to 2 or 3 per cent. I think that is acceptable rather than controlled. Doctor Hall of tha Australian National University wrote an article dealing with the Budget in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 25th August. The heading was : ‘Slowdown at First; More Inflation Later. That is pretty definite. There are no doubts about it. In the final paragraph of the article Dr Hall said: ti is probable that in terms of current economic diagnosis it contains “a serious error of judgment. Because it refuses to face up to the difficult problem of controlling inflation as an issue in its own right, it will contribute to an intensification of the structural distortions which are beginning to plague the economy. The reader is invited to draw his own conclusions about the quality Of the Government which has, produced this set of results.
That was the immediate reaction. It was the reaction of the Treasurer before the Budget was brought down. It was in Mr Gorton’s mind when he talked about this in March of that year. In 1964 - that reminds me of my age, incidentally - in this chamber 1 moved an urgency motion on behalf of the Australian Labor Party relating to inflation existing at that time. Although those were not such worrying times, we were pointing out that inflation was too consistent and that the Government would face troubles sooner or later. lt is interesting to read some of the things that we said on that occasion. I want to mention them because I hope that the honourable senators opposite who reply in the debate do nol revert to the argument that was used on that occasion. Mr Menzies - 1 am sure all honourable senators remember him - was doing a broadcast on one occasion and with his usual modesty he headed a paper: ‘Rising Prices - The Answer’. One of the things he said was:
We propose to present to Parliament a Bill to impose an excess profits tax.
Then he added:
This is a novelty in time of peace.
The novelty of the situation must have overcome the urgency of the situation because we still do not have an excess profits tax.
– What was the date of the debate?
– It was 23rd September 1964. Although this is somewhat out of context let me mention that I dealt with several suggestions that the Govern ment might adopt. This is what [ said regarding price control:
I am not suggesting that it is necessary or desirable to introduce price control as we knew it during the war. At that time full rate price control was justified. There could be no objection to the Commonwealth Government saying then that the people who were not in uniform had to make sacrifices. But for the Commonwealth Government., standing as it does on the edge of inflation, it is complete foolishness not to arm itself with the power lo impose price control to the extent considered necessary from time to time. Even the fact that the Government had armed itself, wilh this power would aci as a deterrent to the business community.
In his reply the then Leader of the Government in the Senate said:
The proposition before us clearly indicates to the people of Australia that the Opposition is still immersed in the financial policies and doctrines of the past. The Opposition has learned nothing from its years of defeat, lt clings with almost pathetic allegiance to the Socialist dogma of price control.
I leave honourable senators to judge whether I. said that. That is why I say that if this debate is not serious then all of the utterances of the Prime Minister over the past few weeks are absolute nonsense.
– 1 am seeking information and your opinion. To what would you ascribe the failure of the Prices and. Income Board in the United Kingdom to hold down the cost- demand inflation?
– I do not know enough about the whole situation to answer that. 1 am not claiming, nor have L ever claimed, that price control is a panacea but I think that some of the things that I hope to mention - I do not think I will have time to do so if I continue to answer interjections - could make a contribution. We have often heard it said that inflation in other countries of the world is worse than it is here. That is not the answer. I am not worried about other countries of the world.
– I am not talking about other countries.
-No. I am not referring to the honourable senator. This is what happened in the debate in 1964. We are told about other countries but we do not know the whole story of other countries. The Government has berated the trade union movement and has said that price control is an indirect kind of suggestion to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that it should do this, that or something else about wages. The Government has done something about the public sector only in the part of the Public Service with which I have dealt already.
What are the things that the Government not only can do now but could have done over the years? In 1964, Mr Menzies suggested that there should be an excess profits tax - I am not suggesting that he made the suggestion lightheartedly - and at that time the basic wage was £7.2.0, or S 14.20 in the present currency. Surely to goodness there is some argument for it now. I suggest that it would be better to have an excess profits tax than a flat rate of tax on high incomes. Surely there would be then a finer tuning of the economy to take off excess profits rather than allow the high profits to which we have become accustomed. On the matter of the wage freeze, the Government’s pleas to business will not mean anything because the business community, by and large, has an inbuilt regard for and some benefits to get from increased prices.
The Government already has passed a law in relation to restrictive trade practices. We mentioned that aspect in the previous debate. All I can say to the Government is this: ‘Stop the shamming. Get moving into the field of collusive tendering by close combines because that is keeping up artificially the prices of all sorts of things in Australia.’ I noticed the other day that Mr Bannerman, the Commissioner of Trade Practices, said that collusive tendering - I think it is called a ‘trade arrangement’ - is registered in private. These arrangements are supposed to be for the public good. If they are for the public good what are the companies worried about? Why do they not bring the arrangements into the open?
I turn now to tax avoidance. There is a certain section of the community which gets tax cuts because the Government has written into the Act deductions for such things as advertising and has permitted the splitting and spreading of income - the old swindle sheet that we all know so well. The control of all of these things is within the Government’s power. Surely the whole question of advertising could be looked at under the powers of the Commissioner of Taxation. The Government has no control over the amount of profit that can be made on internal trading on the Stock Exchange. Then there is the ipso facto system, as I mentioned the other night, by which we say: ‘Wages have gone up by $X; prices will go up by $X.’ There is no reason for that in a technological age. The Commonwealth Government should take a stand and try to break that nexus and the automatic acceptance of the situation. It has been done in other countries of the world. It should be done here. There could be encouragement in the way of research or perhaps by granting taxation concessions in certain areas - that would have to be examined - in an attempt to dispose of the psychology by which it is accepted that when wages go up prices must go up immediately.
Hire purchase has sunk out of sight. If the Government took the power to control credit and sent those people, who at present are lining up at hire purchase offices for loans on which they pay exorbitant rates of interest and hidden charges, and suffer the heartbreak of losing the goods if they get into trouble, back to the legitimate banking system it would be attacking high costs in Australia with no detriment to the legitimate business community. As to price control, I merely repeat today that it is not something which can be done without taking additional action, but the other things that I have mentioned can be done without the necessity for additional action. The Government should arm itself with the necessary power to use as a threat - to have the power within its control. If the Government does not believe in price control but believes in laissez faire and believes that there should not be any restrictions, it does not have to use the power but the fact is that it would be a tremendous deterrent to those people who are doing the things which are pushing up prices in Australia.
We have said in our statement of the matter of urgency that the measures which the Government has taken are unwise, that they will cause disruption and that the last position could easily be much worse than the first. In the fast moving economy of today I issue the warning that that could happen very much sooner than the Government expects. Because we have grown up over the past few years in a period of full employment I do not believe that a sudden twist of the wheel could not take us back to the situation of unemployment which was the classic remedy of the Liberals in the 1950s. They used to say that unemployment was a good thing, but even the Liberals have learned that although it would cure inflation for a short period they would not be in office to administer it. Neither would any other Government that allowed the situation to drift to that extent.
The present sectional attack of the Government merely cuts down spending in the public sector whilst Government supporters aim their shafts and arrows at the trade union movement. That is a sectional attack. As Senator Murphy pointed out, finally the Government will damage the national economy. This must not happen. The Government could best control the situation by abandoning its past shiboleths and using the weapons I have mentioned. They are available at the Government’s command. It is completely useless to attack one section of the community. I invite Government supporters to consider how much stronger the position of the Government would be in claiming that wages need to be controlled because they are the cause of all our troubles - which I completely deny - if it attacked the rest of the community and, for example, cleaned up the Stock Exchange. The Government would be in a much stronger position if it directed its attention to the excessive profits of companies and removed the anomalies in the present taxation system. I recommend to the Government that it at least try some of the moves I have outlined.
– We are dealing with an urgency motion which states:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until Tuesday, 23rd February, at 2.55 p.m.
The statement of the matter of urgency is as follows:
The unwise and panic measures of the Government in dealing with the economy which are likely to cause disruption, hardship and to damage the national interest.
The urgency motion is to the effect that the Senate adjourn until Tuesday next at 2.55 p.m. I refer honourable senators to page 112 of yesterday’s Hansard where this passage occurs:
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. I ask you to indicate whether the statement of the matter of urgency is any part of the question upon which the Senate is about to vote or whether it is merely restricted to the question of whether the Senate at its rising adjourn until tomorrow at 10.55 a.m.
– That is so. So far as I know there is only one motion before the Senate and that is:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until Thursday the eighteenth day of February at 10.55 a.m.
Recognising that the Senate in common sense has rules for all its members and not just for one of its members, that can be taken as a clear indication that we are really here to debate the statement of urgency and not 5 minutes of time next Tuesday. That would be a fair assumption. The urgency motion purports to deal with unwise and panic measures of the Government, potential disruption and hardship and damage to the national interest. I do not approach this matter in an attempt to ridicule anybody or to be clever. Certainly not. I believe that the Australian economy belongs to everybody and should not be used for political capital.
– You have the biggest share.
– That is not what I hear about the honourable senator. I am dealing with the question of alleged unwise and panic measures, disruption and the placing of the national interest in jeopardy. Those allegations completely reverse the real situation. The measures are neither unwise nor taken in panic. They are responsible and sensible measures and are in the national interest. In view of alarming price rises in recent months and the last national wage case decision the Government would be irresponsible and culpable, and senators would hold it to be so, if it did not act. It has acted wisely, courageously and promptly. It has taken the proper course of action to set its own house in order first. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has properly, fairly and sensibly reported to the Australian people. After all, they are our masters and we are their servants, and he has confirmed his intentions to the Parliament.
– You could have fooled me most of the time.
– That would not be hard. I listened with great interest and attention to Senator Willesee’s speech. He dealt with many matters which were extremely useful. Very wisely, I thought, he paid little attention to the purported matter of urgency. The Prime Minister has made certain comments which I will paraphrase now for the purpose of my speech. The situation reached a point of crisis, danger, attention, or whatever it may be called - a bench mark of great national consideration - with the decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to increase the national wage by 6 per cent
At that time the Government sought to discover the areas in which demands seemed to be growing most strongly. One of those areas in the public sector - spending by governments. We believe that one of the first methods of attack on rising costs and prices should be to restrict properly what is being spent in that area. Payments to the States in this sense are expected to exceed Budget estimates by S83m. The Treasury has estimated since the Budget was prepared that the increase in the cost of materials used by governments would be about $242m if all departments were given all they requested. That is the background.
– Will that increase to the States meet their costs in paying wage increases?
– I am not aware of that. It is a fair question but it would require an examination by State Treasurers to determine the answer. The Commonwealth, having made a complete and detailed study of Commonwealth expenditures, has proposed to reduce them by S75m in the remaining part of this year, made across the whole range of Government departments and not involving any reduction in payments to the States. The cuts are not to be achieved at the expense of the States. The area in which the most substantial savings are to be made is defence. Having regard to comments made by honourable senators opposite in the 5 years that I have been here, they ought to be loudly cheering us and awarding us medals for that move.
Capital works, capital advances and departmental running expenses are the next area to receive attention. We have tried to avoid reducing expenditure on essential development. In general terms we have sought to curb expansion in Commonwealth government departments with a consequent demand on an already somewhat strained labour market. Honourable senators interested in this subject will find appended to the Prime Minister’s speech, and I imagine that it is incorporated in Hansard, a .table of reductions in Commonwealth expenditures. It shows a very slender change in the National Welfare Fund. At a quick calculation it appears to be about 3 per cent of the total reductions.
I will now quote, some remarks that have been made since the proposals were announced. Mr Askin, Premier of New South Wales, said of the planned reduction in Commonwealth expenditure:
Nobody is going to be hurt by the cuts.
That was said by the Premier and Treasurer of New South Wales.
– It was said just before an election. What did Mr Dunstan say?
- Mr Askin. thought that the Prime Minister had made a good start in his move to halt the inflationary trend. I hasten to inform Senator Georges that Mr Askin, and not Mr Dunstan, speaking on a radio programme on 2GB said:
It would be possible to make administrative cuts without disturbing anybody or causing anyone to work longer hours because there is duplication in the government services.
Perhaps it might be helpful to quote also the remarks of Mr Steele Hall, the Leader of the Opposition in. South Australia. I leave it to Senator Georges to quote Mr Dunstan because I like to quote the people for whom I have some regard and whose opinions I value. Senator Georges can quote the people whose opinions he prefers. Mr Steele Hall said:
Australia needs a strong government possibly more now than at any other time in its history, yet I sense we may never get the strength we need from that leadership if we continue to put it in a position of second best in the public mind-
I commend that thought to the Opposition - and a national identity -while we deny the right of the Commonwealth Government to develop its leadership potential in the electorate’s mind.
I suggest that this motion we are debating does nothing to help the national interest or identity. It goes against what should be expected of a responsible government, in a fiscal sense, in any part of Australia. What are the facts with which we deal? Senator Willesee has highlighted these in his speech. He concentrated upon inflation, because that is where it all comes to. Inflation hurts everybody in the community and control of inflation helps everybody. I should have thought, that a Labor party, purporting to speak for some part of the Australian people, would think that it should join in the exercise of controlling inflation rather than condemn the attempt to bring about some control.
-The time fo do that was at the time of the Budget,
– Control of inflation calls for discipline^ and discipline of his tongue could be commended to Senator Georges. Control of inflation is essential to living standards and to the prosperity of this country and all its people - yourself and myself. There is no difference politically. Everyone has a tremendous stake in the control of inflation to the best of our ability. Someone has said, in regard to a comment that a little inflation does npt hurt, that a little inflation was like a little pregnancy - you just cannot have little things; they grow. One is astonished very often– happily, not here today, because Senator Willesee has highlighted the problem of inflation - at the lack of understanding of the fact that inflation is harmful to the whole community.
If one considers inflation one can say that all sorts of people are hurt immensely by it, but of all the people who are hurt by inflation the rural and retired people are the ones for whom I perhaps have the most sympathy. The Government has been criticised outside the Senate, and no doubt it will be criticised again within the Senate, for its own record in handling inflation Compared with the most favourable overseas economies, Australia’s record in constraining inflationary trends in recent years has been a good one. The annual rate of increase in consumer prices in selected countries in the first half of 1970 was as follows: Japan, 7.9 per cent; United States of America, 6.1 per cent; France, 5.7 per cent; United Kingdom, 5.4 per cent; Italy, 4.9 per cent; Belgium, 4.2 per cent; and Canada, 4.2 per cent. Compared with those increases the rise of 3.9 per cent in average consumer prices in Australia was reasonable. Let us keep it that way. In about the middle of December, because of factors outside Government control, things began to gallop at a fairly fast rate.
The Government recognises that the tendency for consumer prices to accelerate is a dangerous one and one which it must properly resist if it is to lead the people as it believes it is entitled to do. If is for this reason that it has acted now, and has acted quickly, to try to prevent inflationary pressures from gaining momentum. One could make the comment, with which I think all would agree, that for Australia as a country and a body of people to achieve a more favourable rate of price increase against our competitors in world trade is to improve the overall living standard and the real wealth of people in Australia. When we have regard to that and also to the state of our overseas reserves, which as recently announced showed a rise of $107. 8m in January compared with a decline in the previous December - our reserves were at their highest level - we have demonstrated to us a marked level of world confidence in Australia. One of the reasons why Australia has confidence expressed in it by other people is that it has tried to handle its monetary affairs properly and rationally.
There was a good article by Colin Clark, whose articles I do read as I have some regard for his opinions, in the Sydney Morning Herald’ of 17th February 1971. Under the heading ‘Stopping Inflation Where it Starts’ he wrote a small paragraph to which I propose to refer. Probably people would prefer him as an economic consultant to some of the people who are making a noise on the other side of the chamber just now. At least I would prefer him. Colin Clark wrote:
The trouble begins with excessive Government spending. This leads indirectly to rises in private spending and in business investment. When aggregate demand exceeds the productive capacity pf the country the first consequence is a rise in profits. This is followed by a rise in wages. These 2 factors added together cause the rise in prices.
Recently representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions came with a body of other people to talk to the Government about their ideas on what should be done in the community to keep economic conditions under control. They submitted that inadequate demand management, not excessive wage increases, was primarily responsible for inflation. I think the truth would be that inflation has stemmed predominantly from the cost side, but that care must now be taken to ensure that demand pressures do not accelerate this condition. Once again one has to say that this is a community responsibility, a responsibility of a total Senate and not a divided Senate, and one in relation to which governments must lead and in which we all must make contributions rather than condemnations.
I propose to cite further figures showing wage costs and prices which disclose that in 1970 the consumer price index rose by 4.9 per cent whereas wages rose by 8.8 per cent. In 1969 the consumer price index rose by 2.8 per cent and average wages rose by 8.7 per cent. In the previous year the consumer price index rose by 2.6 per cent and average wages rose by 7.7 per cent. Those figures illustrate the very strong increase in this country in real earnings and in real wealth per head of population. They flow from stability and from keeping things under control. Since 1966 real earnings have been increasing by more than 4 per cent per annum. This disposes of the argument that claims for wage increases, etc., have not been adequately met and that people are not really better off today than they were 5 years ago. Some people in this debate today will make, and some outside in the community already have made, the comment that we have mistaken the nature of the problem, that we have seen this as a cost-push inflation and blame everything on wage increases - I have tried to be fair and not do that - whereas in truth it is a demand inflation. We recognise that there are elements of both factors in the situation.
We believe that fundamentally it has been a cost inflation passing progressively to a demand inflation in which we all are involved and for which we all should take a measure of responsibility. But if average wage costs per worker are rising by 8 per cent per annum, as they have been lately, and productivity has been rising by about 2.5 per cent to 3 per cent, how can we avoid a situation in which prices will rise for everybody, costs will rise and the real wealth per head will tend to diminish?
What the Cabinet has sought to do is to discover where demand has been growing most strongly. It has felt that at this stage consumer spending is not an area to be overmuch concerned about compared with other areas. The Cabinet has concluded that demand has been growing most strongly in the public sector, and in private investment in new plant and machinery, and it has taken measures to try to come to grips with the situation. I think we can all fairly say that wage earners would be deluded if their wage rises were continually overtaken by greater rises in costs. What we are concerned about is real wealth per head of population.
People outside this place, and Senator Willesee in the course of his remarks, have advanced the proposition that price control could perhaps produce some solution. All the experience of the war years, in which at one stage I was involved, and of the post-war years went to show that the price levels could be held down by fixing prices only if all the elements in costs and wages, in particular, were held down by controls. Having had some experience in this and having little belief in the efficacy of price control, again I turn my mind to an article by Colin Clark in which he referred to an Irish village where a congregation was coming out of church after a young priest had preached a sermon on matrimony. Ah’, said one old Irishman to another, ‘I wish that I knew as little about it as he does.’ Those who now advocate price control as a solution for our economic problems provoke the same reaction on the part of Colin Clark and, indeed, in me. A little later in his article he stated:
Stalin’s Government in Russia was probably ‘the most powerful and determined ever known in the history of the world. Stalin accepted no constitutional or legal restraints, and had every instrument of despotism in his hands. But Stalin himself could not enforce wage and price control. During his ‘plan period’-
We hear a lot about this plan period - prices were planned to go down, and wages to rise only in proportion to productivity.
– What about economic Darwinism?
– That was about 1804, was it not? What happened in Stalin’s Russia in fact was that both wages and prices rose more rapidly than they did anywhere else in the world at that time. Stalin had imposed plan after plan after plan upon his industrial managers and they were quite beyond the possibility of fulfilment however drastic the penalties with which they were threatened if they failed. The country’s resources of skilled and even unskilled labour were soon exhausted, causing the unfortunate managers to bid up wages rapidly in an attempt to attract labour away from each other. Colin Clark comments that on a lesser scale we are doing just the same thing in Australia. We are creating demands by private consumption, by business investment, and by Government spending which in the aggregate is quite beyond the country’s productive capacity’. So long as we go on doing this prices and wages will rise. If Stalin, with his totalitarian methods of government, could not control this, what chance have we of controlling wages and prices under the circumstances?
I come back to the fact that this is a community responsibility; We have to join together and recognise a community evil which affects everybody. Some comments were made by Senator Willesee about the Budget. People have stated that inflation has flowed from the previous Budget and the Budgets before. This is just not so. Those honourable senators who care to study this matter ought to go back to the earlier years.
– The Prime Minister said that.
– I do not have what the Prime Minister said. Honourable senators can turn back to the earlier years. It appears, Mr Acting Deputy President, that there is quite a difference of opinion on the Labor side and I am quite happy to listen to what is being said if .my time permits. What we on the Government side say on this subject is that the Budgets in 1969 and 1970 were framed in the context of an economy likely to move on an expansionary course in the years ahead. We tried hard in the 1970-71 Budget to avoid acceleration in domestic outlays. We budgeted for a surplus and I recognise that that was a most desirable thing to do. The Treasurer (Mr Bury) recognised in his Budget speech, as those who care to read it will see, that excessive demands for wages and salary increases in the current full employment climate could make the Budget targets difficult to achieve.
– Who wrote that for you?
– I wrote it myself.
– It is easy to see that you have never been a worker.
– I will match my hands and record of hard work against yours any day, thank you.
– Not for the same salary.
– From what I hear, Senator, I think lower. In fact I am on record as being on 10 bob a week. How about you?
– You were overpaid.
– The Treasurer said that no budget framed with a full employment policy can do the whole job and the problem of containing inflationary pressures is a problem for the community at large. So we. end up with a situation in which what we are looking at is a well run community, involving the whole country. People are trying to bring about financial stability and everyone has a part to play. There is a total pool of resources which comes out of the peoples’ savings and out of the capital that comes into the country because people overseas believe in this country. This gives us a position from which we can do something to help our people. One goes with the other; one does not go without the other.
For Senator Hendrickson^ benefit I would like to point out that unlike him I have some regard for what Mr Clark has to say. Equally I have some regard for myself and I write my own speeches. I commend the same course of action to him. It is quite essential to control inflation. To do so safeguards the national interest. The action must be taken in time and it has been. This is done to avoid disruption and hardship. I commend the action of the Prime Minister and the Government. I should think that the Labor Party, if it had any sense for the welfare of the Australian people, would do the same.
– I was very interested in the way in which the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) approached the question of the Australian economy by making such a short and concise statement to the House of Representatives on Tuesday evening. I want to commence my remarks by referring to his opening words. He said:
I recently spoke to the nation on the state of the economy and on the likely inflationary effects of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission’s award of a 6 per cent increase in wages and salaries.
It seemed to me that the Prime Minister approached this situation on the basis of concern at what was going to happen to the economy and not the present position of the economy. He quite unequivocally stated that he felt the inflationary situation existed because of the Commission’s determination. When we go further into the statement we find that the Prime Minister, having accepted that point of view, decides that the way to cure the situation flows from that premise. Therefore we find that he is going to endeavour to set an example to industry generally by applying reductions in expenditure on all Commonwealth departments. I think that this is the fallacy in the approach by the Prime Minister to the situation. I am not saying that there is not an inflationary situation existing at the present time. I would be foolish to do so. What I am concerned about is that the indicator of an inflationary situation has been stated by the Prime Minister to be the Commission’s decision.
There are a number of indicators which show us whether the economy is in an inflationary condition. I think that the decision by the Commission is one of the minor indicators. I say that advisedly because the decision was based on facts presented to the Commission and they could not have been available later than last October, just prior to its determination. That determination was based on the cost of living index and the ability of industry to pay. It had nothing to do with a situation which might arise later. I consider that the Prime Minister used the wrong premise as the base for his statement.
What are the indicators to be used in determining the position of the economy? In the simplest terms - this appeals to me because I am no economist - if there is more money in existence than there are goods to buy, we have an inflationary situation. The proof that this is occurring is found by observing the rate of increase in the prices of ordinary commodities. When the rate increases more than normally it is an indication of an inflationary situation. This has occurred at the present time. We have this and I am not saying that there is not an inflationary situation. Another indicator of inflation is when prices are rising faster than productivity, which means that fewer goods are available to meet the rising demand. Another very reliable indicator is when a number of vacant positions are being advertised in the Press and there are insufficient people to fill these positions. In other words there is an over employment problem. The Prime Minister did not mention any of these indicators. Another indicator which is not generally appreciated but which is very valid and important is when the money available for speculation is greater than normal.
– Money and credit.
– Money and credit, yes; credit in particular. I thank Senator Little for correcting me. I did not mean to leave it out. This is very important. I am now entering into the sphere of fringe banking. Credit is being made available by finance houses which are not part of the banking system but which are able to make money available at high rates of interest. This is another very important indicator that is not generally noticed.
I am interested in what the Government proposes to do. The present proposal to reduce spending by some $75.5m is, in my opinion a very poor approach to the problem. I do not think that it is an approach which will result in considerable success. I am reminded of the depression years when the government of the day - it was not a Labor government - was trying to meet a situation which had many elements similar to the present one. It was not an inflationary situation, but the government was not sure what it ought to be doing. I can remember quite clearly seeing on the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s building in Forrest Place, Perth, in the late 1930s a notice which read: ‘Spend more’. The next week, after the Government had had a few more thoughts about the matter and had decided that this was the wrong sort of approach, the sign on this building was changed to read: ‘Spend less’, which was just the opposite advice. The following week the government had another re-think about the matter and a. big banner was emblazoned across this building with the words ‘Spend wisely’. So there was a change of front over 3 weeks in which the government’s policy went from spend more to spend less and then to spend wisely. I have no doubt that all these slogans would have had some advocates, but- the only one that appealed to me was the one advocating wise spending, which is what I endeavoured to do with the small amount I had at that time. But this is the sort of thing I am concerned about. I am concerned about whether the Prime Minister is approaching the present inflationary situation in the correct way.
What aggravates the situation when there are- inflationary tendencies? I said earlier that one phase of inflation is that there is more money in the hands of the public and there are fewer goods to buy. There are a number of ways in which money can come into the hands of the public without being offset by a corresponding increase in the. production of goods. Capital works programmes is one way. With the construction of railways, rebuilding programmes and so on we get a lot of money coming into the community from things which the community cannot buy. The community cannot buy the large multi-storeyed buildings which are being erected at a tremendous cost in all the capital cities of Australia. Money is being poured into the pockets of the people from these construction programmes without an equal quantity of goods being produced for them to purchase. This creates an inflationary situation.
The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) mentioned a few moments ago in his contribution to the debate the inflow of foreign capital. I consider that an excessive inflow of foreign capital is one of the things which help to bring about an inflationary situation. I am not advocating that we should cut out the inflow of all foreign capital into Australia as I think this capital is necessary in many instances, but I am concerned about the fact that in the present inflationary situation no brakes or controls are being applied on the inflow of foreign capital. By Way of a news release this morning the Reserve Bank of Australia issued figures showing that Australia’s international reserves increased in
January by almost $108m to $l,619m. The finance correspondent of the Australian Broadcasting Commission said that this indicated that the not apparent inflow of foreign capital into Australia during January was $121m. This matter was referred to by the Minister for Civil Aviation. The finance correspondent said that capital inflow had previously been running at a rate of around $100m a month for H years. In other words the normal rate of capital inflow into Australia increased in one month by $21m.
– What would be the reason for that?
– It is not my job to provide the reason for it. All I am saying is that there is no control of the overseas capital which is coming into Australia at a time when we. are facing an inflationary situation of which the Government is aware. Continuation of the rate of inflow for January - $21m more than normal - would mean that there will be a total tff $240m or $250m this year. I know that all df this money will not be going into capital works. 1 know that a lot of it will be in the form of equipment that comes into Australia. But some of it - quite a considerable proportion - will go into capital works. The $75. 5m which the Government will have saved by its reductions will be swamped by the extra amount which comes into Australia this year in this small sector of the financial economy.
I believe that this is one of the angles that the Government should be looking ar. Another one is the operations of fringe banking organisations, which was mentioned a moment ago by way of interjection by Senator Little. This is something which also should be very closely watched. Industry is able to obtain money in this way for developmental purposes but there will not be any returns on the capital in the way of goods produced for purchase. I think that the only way we can remedy a lot of the present problems is by some adjustment of the tariff. This is important. I am not saying that we should engage in free trade and I am not saying that we should be fully protectionist; I am saying that there should be some adjustment on the tariff so that we are able to control production in this country and the number of people who are in employment. Tha
Government is not tackling this important problem in the proper fashion. I believe that the problem could be solved by a more careful analysis of it. Therefore, I support the motion.
– I do not think anyone would dispute that the country’s economy - for that matter, any nation’s economy - is the most important subject with which the Parliament could concern itself and which it could discuss. Today we are discussing as a matter of urgency the recent statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) about the reduction of governmental expenditure necessitated by the inflationary trend that is in evidence. I feel that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has done a disservice to the Senate by proposing his motion because he has limited the debate on this most important matter to 3 hours and has limited to 15 minutes the speaking time of each honourable senator, with the exception of himself and of the Minister who is in charge of the debate each of whom has half an hour in which to speak. We are expected to survey and to examine, if at all possible in a constructive way, this evil of inflation and the solution to the problem. I repeat that the Leader of the Opposition has done a disservice to the Senate because already on the business sheet there is provision for a debate on the Prime Minister’s statement. A motion that the statement be noted has been moved. Senator Murphy moved for the adjournment of that debate. If that matter were before the Senate, more time would have been allotted for discussion and individual senators would have had more than 15 minutes to discuss the subject.
Everyone agrees that inflation is an evil which befalls our economy periodically. If left unbridled, it could destroy the stability of our economy and bring about the worst thing that could befall us, that is, a depression. There is not very much difference between a depression and unbridled inflation. In a depression workers have no work; hence they receieve no wages. In an extreme inflationary period workers have jobs for which they are paid wages which have little or no purchasing power; so they are not that much better off. Inflation is
Australian Economy 169 one of the most pressing issues in our times; it .underlines many of our social problems. This inflationary trend means that elderly people see the value of their savings eroded by price increases. They become increasingly dependent upon the taxpayer and upon the goodwill of governments. Social services become overstrained and inadequate. Wage earners feel that they are being cheated because their increased earnings are absorbed largely by higher prices. Increased taxation renders them very little advantage. Young people are deterred from saving because the rate of interest paid on accounts does not cover the rise in the cost of housing and of the items that they are saving to buy. The permissive consumer oriented philosophy of live it up now, forget tomorrow, worry later’ is fostered among the young. Who can blame them? This happens. We have seen it happen.
Businessmen do not like inflation because of the unpredictability of future costs and because of the difficulty that it generates, in relation to vigorous financial planning. Throughout the community a premium is placed on superficial activities such as land speculation and dabbling in speculative shares on the stock market, to the detriment of productive investment. Investors are disadvantaged because they are caught up in a cost-price squeeze. Their prices are determined on world markets and their costs are determined on the domestic scene.
Farmers are the worst hit by the phenomenon of inflation, although it is worth remarking that Australian export manufacturers and mining concerns would be in a far healthier position if their domestic costs were not rising as fast as they are. The major social problem lies with the 500,000 farmers, their dependants and the country towns which make their living by servicing primary industries. They are already faced with the terrible collapse of markets due to increased competition from synthetic fibres, to the glut of wheat following the green revolution in Asia, and to the protectionist move of Great Britain in joining the European Common Market. It is too much to expect farmers to cope with the nagging pressures of inflation in addition to what they are bearing at present. In the community there is general agreement 18 February 1971 on the evil of inflation, even though there are differences as to the priorities that should be given for the treatment of it.
I have not risen to adopt a critical attitude towards the Government’s early attempts to correct the inflationary trend; rather have I risen to appeal to the Government to approach this evil in a constructive way and to formulate some national plan that could be carried out and given effect without destruction, without hurting more than can be helped, or without hurting to a greater degree than is necessary. In 1960 the Government was under the leadership of the then Mr Menzies. Recognising that inflation was upon us and without any great haste he gave effect to an economic policy which at the time I likened to an inexperienced motorist who found himself in a skid and put on his brakes. The motorist inevitably capsizes the vehicle. That was the effect of a precipitous antidote to inflation employed by the Menzies Government.
We witnessed a lot of young people and :new business people who had not been established very long and who were still depending on overdraft to carry on having their overdrafts called in. Those small “businessmen went to the wall. I hope there will not be any precipitous ill-considered action taken by the Government in its own area or in the field of private enterprise which will have effects similar to those of 1960-61. That is why I say we. should be ;patient, at least to the extent of giving the Government time to examine and consider every possible process in rectifying, arresting and correcting this inflationary trend. The statement presented on behalf of the Prime Minister in this place on the other day shows a reduction in governmental spending. That is good. That is a field in which some saving can be effected without any great injury to people as a whole.
If we examine the figures in the last Budget and the estimated expenditure for the ensuing year we find that already we have exceeded that expenditure by a considerable sum. Now the Government is merely trying to wipe out the additional expenditure which has occurred since the passing of the Budget in August last year. It might be necessary for the Government to go further in this connection. But whatever it does let it give mature consideration to every aspect with a view to finding a successful solution to the inflationary trend. Once inflation is analysed it is seen as a complex phenomena requiring a complex set of policies in response. One action is not going to correct inflation. To obtain any permanent or near permanent solution we have to correct it in many fields. Economists have done more work on inflation than almost any other topic so there should not be any lack of advice. The problem tends to be that often there is a lack of up to date information available in time to assess just which factor is most significant in causing inflation at a time when government response is needed. The classic cause of inflation is summed up in a short phrase: Too much money chasing too few goods.
In a situation of excess demand in an economy the prices of things will tend to rise. Often this will be concealed in a labour shortage. There is no doubt that excess demand for wage and salary increases is a contributing factor. I am not opposed to the worker obtaining a just return for his labour. Not at all. But today the worker should be wise enough to know that under the present wage structure we have a system of a dog chasing its tail. Recently there was a 6 per cent increase in wages.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– Some of the comments which Senator Gair made are in line with Government thinking. I congratulate him for the comments so made. One important point he indicated was that in this urgency motion we find the Opposition attempting to gag the Government in a debate on a most important matter. Honourable senators are tied to 15 minutes in which to discuss this subject. One wonders why the Opposition has taken that course. Surely we are dealing with one of the most important matters which could come before our Parliament. One can imagine only that the socialist attitude in times such as we have is completely incapable of any worthwhile action. Indeed, our attention would probably be drawn to the attitude of the recent Labour Government in the United Kingdom which demonstrated its complete inability to control inflation.
– It destroyed itself correcting Conservative Government errors.
– As Senator O’Byrne has indicated, undoubtedly it was this complete inability which was responsible, to some extent, for its being removed from government. The Opposition rightly introduces this matter of the state of the Australian economy for discussion but it introduces it in a most unusual way. In the speeches of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Willesee) and of Senator Wilkinson, I do not think either of those honourable senators referred to the text of the urgency motion. I put to Senator Wilkinson who is with us in the chamber and to his Party that the honourable senator did not discuss at any point the unwise and panic measures of the Government in dealing with the economy’. Nor did the honourable senator discuss the actions which were likely to cause disruption and hardship and he did not discuss on one occasion the damage which was likely to occur to the national interest. I would have thought there was a basis for argument on each of those points if honourable senators had been genuine in their desire to discuss the matter of urgency. It is the problem of inflation within this community which honourable senators wish to draw to the attention of the Senate. This is the important matter to be brought forward at this time. But I believe that loud words from the Opposition and its unreasoned arguments indicate its degree of consistency at this time. I disagree with the motion and I oppose it.
Certainly at the present time there is within the community an inflationary tendency. We have a situation where the cost price of most goods and services is increasing at what appears to the community to be an unreasonable rate. It is a situation in which the value of the Australian dollar is decreasing in its worth each year. This is not a new occurrence. In this changing society most people look forward to and expect a higher standard of living in the sense of the acquisition of material items and this certainly brings an inflationary tendency. Increased funds in hand and a demand for consumer items leads to a higher standard of living. I suggest it is this situation, backed by most significant demands for higher wages and salaries, which is the main component in the inflationary spiral in this country. But the situation is not unique to Australia. Indeed in the world today we have a position which should be worrying to each individual who is concerned with economics in the community. The 1970 report of the International Monetary Fund commenced by stating:
The performance of the world economy during 1969 and early 1970 was marked by severe inflationary pressures. . . .
I believe that highlighted the problem being faced on a world basis. The Opposition would do well to congratulate the Australian Government for its achievements to date. Whatever its action, the level of the inflationary problem is lower in this country than in any other country.
– There is no consolation in that.
– The honourable senator says that there is no consolation in that. There is no consolation whatsoever for his Party in any situation. It may be that commendation is due not solely to the Government of this country but to the people who reside within the borders of Australia. They are the people who are responsible for this basic position of a lesser inflationary rate to that applying in other countries. My concern is about the international situation and I find it breathtaking today. The reason I am concerned is because many of the pressures placed on Australia are entirely beyond our control and they will have an effect on Australia in future years. In the future this instability throughout the world will have a marked impact on our inflationary rate.
But let us look at the situation outlined by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) when opening for the Government. He indicated the actual movements in consumer prices in Australia and a variety of countries. I seek the approval of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard a chart which shows the annual movement in consumer prices in. Australia and selected overseas countries from 1960 to 1970. The source of this document is the National Institute of Economic Review. I think it is a very interesting one. It demonstrates the figures that the Minister indicated but in greater detail. Over a period of 10 years it demonstrates a basic stability in the movement of consumer prices in Australia whilst nearly every other country in the world has experienced a much greater escalation in costs. There is some satisfaction in that position, and with the concurrence of honourable senators, I now incorporate the document in Hansard.
The document reveals the underlying problem facing our community. I also suggest to honourable senators that one of the documents which was of great benefit to members of the Parliament was the 1970 White Paper on the Australian economy, and I would like to refer to it. It was before members of the Parliament last July. Under the heading ‘Cost and Prices’, the document at page 12 reads:
Wages are the largest element in costs, but by no means the only one. Profit margins, interest rates, taxes and charges all have a direct part, in determining the cost levels within the economy and, proportionately, can do as much to raise costs as wage movements. At times, also, external factors, such as export and import prices and exchange rate movements, can have considerable influence, in one direction or the other, on the domestic price structure.
Mr Deputy President, this pinpoints the problem of inflation in our community, and I indicate that this is the view which I hold very strongly. The document continues:
Nevertheless, it is a major fact of experience that average wage and salary earnings have for long been rising faster than productivity and that, in the past year or so, the gap between the two has widened. Over the 10 years to 1968-69 weekly earnings rose at an annual average rate of 5.4 per cent. Productivity in that decade rose by about 2.5 per cent per year. There was thus an average gap of something just under 3 per cent. The average annual rate of increase in consumer prices in that period was 2.4 per cent.
In 1968-69, however, average weekly earnings rose by 7.2 per cent - considerably faster, that is, than the average of the proceeding 10 years. Meanwhile productivity increased at the good rate of 3½ per cent. Thus the gap widened in that year. In 1969-70 it looks as though average earnings increased by about 8 per cent. Unless it can be supposed that productivity similarly accelerated, which is very unlikely, the gap will have widened further.
I believe there is authority for saying that in 1971 there is a likelihood that the rate of increase in average earnings will be somewhere about9½ per cent. If that position follows on from the recent national wage case decision, I believe that we will face a fairly extreme position in the ensuing year. Indeed, though we are concerned about the Australian inflationary situation for the quarter to December 1970, I believe the first 3 months of this year will show a greater rate of escalation.
I impress upon honourable senators also that the community has at the present time built up an inflationary psychology. This outlook is very important because it is having an enormous effect in many areas of the community. As a member of the Australian Country Party, I have continuing discussions with those engaged in primary production. If I had time I could deal’ with a great variety of the problems facing primary industries at the present time. The problems of inflation are extreme for primary producers. The inflationary psychology within the community has led to a 2-level economy in this country. On the one hand we have the very bouyant conditions which could be said to apply to the metropolitan areas and on the other hand we have the very depressed economy which applies in many rural areas. This is somewhat of a reflection of the inflationary psychology.
From the experience of inflation occurring in the community over some 10 or 20 years, one can be assured that governments are not opposed to inflation, but they are opposed to an unreasonable escalation of inflation. There appears to have been an accepted 3 per cent rise in the cost of goods and services during past years. Pri-vale industries are saying: ‘We must do the job now and not wait for another year because both wages and costs will be at a higher level at that time’. Australia today is known as a country with an extremely high standard of living, but the very core of the problem which creates that position is related to this inflationary psychology. I believe that the demand which has been created for money, for men and for materials in recent years is the main accelerator of this problem.
Honourable senators may recall, as will each Minister in this place, that at Budget time in the last 2 years I have expressed my great disappointment at the fact that the Budget figures and the departmental requirements reveal that 10 per cent more staff was required by the Public Service - and I am pleased to see the Minister nodding his head in acceptance of this fact - and at least a 10 per cent increase of expenditure by the departments. 1 remember that the Ministers who are present now gave me the answers that they thought appropriate. But the action that is being taken at the present time is one which, with hindsight may not have been necessary if the demand for more labour and more departmental funds had been resisted and so lessened the competition between private industries and governments.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I rise to support the motion sponsored by my Leader, Senator Murphy. Let me preface my remarks by replying to some of the criticism of the limitation of speeches in this debate. I have been reminded by my very able colleague Senator Cant that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) took only 7 minutes to give us an outline of the economic ills of the country. If it was good enough for the Prime Minister to limit himself to 7 minutes, surely a senator cannot cavil at having only 15 minutes in which to make his speech. In any case, if we avoid repetition of arguments, I think we can do justice to the subject in the time at our disposal.
I was particularly intrigued by some of the points Senator Webster advanced. Actually, I do not disagree with some of his points. When he was putting forward certain shortcomings in our society, the thought went through my mind that the natural corollary is some form of government control. But so often the Government baulks at taking such action. I wish to refer to the last few remarks Senator Gair made before he was forced to resume his seat. He was developing a thesis about the 6 per cent wage increase. I assume that he intended to produce figures on a higher prices increase.
All the criticism of the wage fixing system amazes me. Senator Buttfield hinted at this the other day. Nobody has been able to show me how, after a lengthy wages inquiry in which learned judges decide that industry is able to absorb a 6 per cent wage increase, the confidence of the mass of the people can be maintained if this amazing spiral of prices occurs within a period of 12 months. We have never said that price control of itself is sufficient. If we want people to have confidence in our wage fixing system, under which the trade unions have to present a mass of statistics and various witnesses, when they make a wage gain it must be something positive and must not be eroded within 3 months. That is 1 of the challenges that we put to the Government in relation to effective methods that it should use.
Another fear that we have was exemplified in a question Senator McManus asked Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson yesterday and in the reply. It might be defined as precision deflation. Senator McManus said that things have to be kept within a certain ambit. Senator Sir
Kenneth Anderson nodded his head and said: ‘Yes, I agree’. We can go through the list of sins of omission admitted in what the Prime Minister said about government economies. It is no use blaming the trade union movement. It is no use blaming the Labor Party for not co-operating. We had no say in the way this so-called businessmen’s government was out-generalled and out-gunned by the United States on the contract for the Fill. As a matter of fact. the only case in which this Government’s effort there could be bettered would be the Rolls Royce catastrophe in Britain. Anyone else would have made a better, deal than the Government did. Now it has this albatross around its neck.
Another point is one which I commend particularly to Senator Sim - that alleged champion of the rural producers. The Australian National Line received the co-operation of the trade union movement in regard to roll-on roll-off techniques. But now that it has made a success of the operation it finds that it has to refund almost $1.5m to the other shipowners because it has taken some of their share of the market. It is a travesty of the private enterprise system when a shipping line is modernised and this sort of thing happens. It is a crying shame, bearing in mind that the Country Party always provides the Minister for Shipping and Transport in the Government. For some reason, it lacks the intestinal fortitude to go it alone.
Recently I was a member of a parliamentary delegation to Europe. I had discussions with officials of several countries about their shipping lines. They seem to be able to show much more initiative in not worrying about shipping conferences and going out and getting all the trade they can. If this Government would emulate Norway, Sweden and other countries of a comparable size in regard to our mercantile marine, we would find that our rural industries would not be in bondage to overseas shipping companies. There is no question of squealing about these things. These are the people who always put the hooks into our rural industries. We achieved unanimity on the waterfront in regard to containerisation. There has been a considerable shuffling of the waterfront work force. The waterfront work force in Mackay was reduced from 400 to 4Q. That must have produced a saving in sugar costs. But it has not been manifest in subsequent developments in that primary industry.
It is no use blaming people on this side of politics for the situations that have occurred. Let me go a little further into the hidden problems that we have. Today I received from the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) an answer to a question on hospital and medical benefits funds. He has now come up, in a very guarded fashion, with an answer on the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee in regard to hospitals. I Venture to state that within the next 6 months most people will find that they will have to contribute on a higher scale for hospital benefits. These are the things that provide the degree of uncertainty that exists. I could refer to some of the employer feather-bedding that is going on. I am trying to suggest ways in which the Government could save a considerable amount of money.
There is one other classic illustration. It relates to the portfolio of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt). People talk about the mining bonanza in the Northern Territory; but let us consider the case of a worker who is injured and has a compensation claim. Through the good graces of the Commonwealth he is flown from Darwin to Melbourne or Sydney. I am not opposing his right to receive better health facilities. The air fare is $300* but it is not the employer - in this instance it is an overseas employer - or the insurance company that foots the bill. The Commonwealth pays about $260 or the $300. There is a flat figure of $40 that has to be paid by the contractor. This information was revealed in the discussion of the Estimates last year. If the Government wants to reduce unnecessary expenditure, these are the sorts of things it should consider.
Reference was made by another speaker to the 6-year term of office of the Wilson Government in Britain. First of all, I point out that it inherited an unholy mess from its predecessor. There was a lot of duckshoving. Senator Sim, who is trying to interject, knows that. Deliberate lies were told by the previous Conservative Government. Senator O’Byrne said that the Wilson Government endeavoured to follow a capitalist policy in order to get out of that situation. One of the problems today is that national sovereignty has been more or less surrendered to some of the overseas bankers who operate from Switzerland. There is no question about that. I do not intend to breach certain secrecies, but that viewpoint was put to me by 2 Ministers in the Heath Government as late as 1 week ago. Senator Sim knows it, and I know it.
On this question of governments coming and going and all the talk about keeping wage increases under 6 per cent, I have here an article that appeared in the London ‘Times’ on 11th February. It refers to one of the points of irritation. The Wilberforce report gave increases of from 10 to 12 per cent to workers in the power industry in Britain. The members of this tribunal were in the ratio of 2:1 as between employers and employees in their attitude on the British economy. Among other things, it was pointed out that the wages of electricians in the power industry were anything from £2 to £4 a week inferior to those paid hi manufacturing industries.
The lesson to be learnt from that was exemplified here one evening by Senator Cavanagh. The Government allows the big emporiums to continue their high falutin advertising. It allows people to get into the toils of hire purchase companies. Propaganda makes people feel that they have to be with it. Whether it be a ball-point pen or a vacuum cleaner, if a person has not a certain snazzy brand he is not with it. The Government creates this psychology. If we suggest any alternative, the Government uses the bogy of Socialism. I would have no illusion whatever about governments moving into this field. If, over the last 10 years the Government had ruthlessly used Treasury control, we would have had more hospitals, more schools and fewer palatial office blocks in our capital cities. But it has never been game to do that. Now it is reaping the results of its failure to do it. It is a question of basic priorities, about which the Government has always been resentful.
I notice that Senator Wright is sitting opposite me. I will give him some advice. I know that the Australian Tourist Commission has meant a lot to Australia but I still believe that we could levy some of the bus lines a small percentage of their earn ings and thus bring more money into the exchequer. It is surprising what you can get from small levies. Senator McClelland has been an advocate of the system of imposing small levies in specified fields. Only a very small sum is involved. The result can be seen in Great Britain where a very resourceful film industry has imposed a small levy on every cinema patron. The money is being fed into a direct purpose fund.
I noticed recently that the oil producing nations took on the oil companies and have forced them to increase royalties considerably. I have a question on the notice paper asking where we stand in this regard. I know that we are in the lower echelon of oil producers but the Government has another opportunity to put the screws on the oil companies in relation to our own oil production. If second rate countries likeLibya and certain Middle East countries can stand up to the big industrial giants, we can do the same. Senator Greenwood is always telling us that he and his colleagues are the respository of Australian nationalism and that members of the Labour Party are suffering from some inferiority complex. However, the boot is on the other foot.
The Government is fawning too much on overseas interests. It is doing the same thing in negotiations with American and British mining interests. Irrespective of the agreements that the Government has at present, I have no doubt that if a new government took office tomorrow and these big business interests were called in and told that they would have to come up with higher royalties, they would come to heel. We should do the same as Chile is doing. No government in Australia would go so far as the Chilean and Brazilian governments have gone but big business would soon come to heel. I have talked to American company directors and have gigged them on this. They say: ‘But the Australian Government never suggests those things’. I am sure that big business would come to heel if the Australian Government did make such suggestions. In South America where a lot of British and American capital is invested the governments which range from military juntas to governments of the far left are all unanimous on one thing - they have no inhibitions about making sure that the mining companies pay a bit more.
The Department of Labour and National Service has been very laggardly in relation to the long range effects of automation on the work force. The Labor Party already has co-operated with the Government on the matter of containerisation. By attempting to save $Xm on this Budget between now and August the Prime Minister is only putting off the eVil day. Obviously in August there will be provision for additional expenditure. There is talk of giving some, minor concessions in medical and hospital benefit fund contributions to the lower income group but the present position will be compounded when fees are increased. There is a host of other ways in which our objectives could be achieved, Controls have to be used in a big way - not in a doctrinaire way - because the Government will not get co-operation unless it uses the controls that I have suggested.
– In rising to speak and to oppose the motion that we adjourn and sit 5 minutes earlier than usual next Tuesday so that we can discuss now a matter of urgency, I want to correct an error which I believe Senator Mulvihill made in his haste to get through his well prepared speech. The saving of $7Sm by the Commonwealth in the public sector will be made, according to my understanding, between now and 30th June next, -not between now and next August when a budget may or may not be introduced.
I refer, as Senator Gair did, to the fact that because of the form of the motion before the Chair we have been forced into a debate on the economy of the nation in which back benchers are allowed only a quarter of an hour in which to make their contribution. It has been stated, in reply to that complaint, that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) took only 10 minutes to speak to the House of Representatives on the economy. But let us be fair. The Prime Minister had previously addressed the nation on the economy on television and then, when the Parliament met, he made a statement on the action that the Cabinet had decided to take in the public sector of the economy to fight inflation. It Was never suggested that his statement to the Parliament on that evening would be a state of the nation message or a discourse on the nation’s economy. It was simply a spelling out of the action; which Cabinet had decided to take and an estimation of the money which would be saved in the public sector between now and the end of the financial year:
Either by a slip of the tongue or by being too impetuous Senator Murphy took the adjournment of the debate on the Prime Minister’s statement by moving that the Senate take note of the paper. By doing so he automatically put the Prime Minister’s statement on the notice paper under General Business where it now stands as No. 13 on the list. If he had not been so quick I am given to understand on good authority that the Minister would have moved that the paper be noted, Senator Murphy could have taken the adjournment of the debate and the statement then would have gone on the notice paper under Government Business and would have been called on. We then could have had a full debate with more time to prepare our remarks and more time to present them. So let no-one turn his criticism to the Prime Minister or to the Government in that regard. I do not approach this subject as an economist or as one who understands much about the intricacies of international finance. However I approach it with a feeling of absolute confidence. The question we are being asked today is: ‘Do we attempt to stem the tide of inflation?’ The Government has said: ‘Yes, we will*. The Prime Minister has pointed out that the Government is taking action in this regard and that it is the responsibility of other elements in the Australian community - that includes the State governments - also to take action. The problem is what to do to stop or reduce inflation’. It has been accepted that in a developing country a little inflation is healthy but how to steady it is the problem. In his opening remarks the Prime Minister laid the blame, at least partly, on the action of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in increasing wages by 6 per cent. I have moved about Tasmania and parts of the Commonwealth on committee work since that decision was handed down and from talking to business people, housewives and others who have been hurt by inflation I have got the idea that the people of Australia feel that the across the board increase of 6 per cent was the great spur to inflation. I pose this question: Would it not be fairer to grant a wage increase of $X a week rather than a percentage increase across the board? Surely wage increases are designed to help meet the increased cost of living and this could best have been done by granting to the blue collar worker, the white collar worker, the professional man and the academic a flat increase of $X a week.
– Are you advocating a return to cost of living adjustments?
– To that I give the direct answer, yes. One of the greatest problems facing this country is created by our system of wage fixation. If the LiberalCountry Party governments of the past 21 years have failed in any important regard I believe it has been in not getting the best brains in this country to work to introduce a new system of wage fixation. As I understand the situation our judges, legal men of high reputation, sit in judgment and hear legal advocacy for and against this and that. After the decisions are announced it is stated that wage tribunals will sit and it is anticipated that on a certain date they will agree to the flow-on for the wage groups that they administer, whether Federal or State. Then it is said that within the State and Commonwealth public services the appropriate wage fixing bodies have met and have come to a decision to support the wage or salary increase, which in this case is 6 per cent. Once the judges of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission have given their decision - not a suggestion or recommendation to the Government or the Parliament - that wages will rise as from a certain date, the increase flows on. I know of no power in Australia to stop that flow-on.
If the ordinary wage earners who are governed by the Arbitration Commission receive increases, I see no reason why the salaries and wages of other workers should not also be examined. If we had the time to examine the present salary of a top Commonwealth or State public servant as compared with his salary 2 years ago we would discover one reason for inflation in this country. I believe a better wage fixing system is necessary, but my memory is not so short that I do not recall as a youth seeing the Bruce-Page Government swept out of office because it planned to abolish the Arbitration Court.
It has been said today, and for the purpose of my speech I repeat it now, that in Australia too much is chasing too little. That is my view. Our work force is fully employed. I have checked today on employment figures. In the last 2 years, except in December, seldom have more than between 10,000 and 12,000 people been registered for employment This situation has caused private enterprise in this country, so rapidly developing and rich in resources, to pay over-award wages. When private enterprise pays over-award wages governments must try to match those payments in order to retain their employees. Otherwise they will be criticised on the ground that they are making their public servants slaves while in private enterprise higher wages could be earned.
AH honourable senators have had letters from associations of professional engineers and salaried and professional officers throughout the Commonwealth. Great pressure has been applied for wage and salary increases because there is a shortage of specialists in the work force today for all forms of specialised employment. I am glad to see that the Prime Minister has placed restraint on overtime in the Public Service. It has been said that Australia has a 2 pay packet economy. I believe something has to be done to try to alter that as an accepted fact of life. I think it is wrong for the health and betterment of the country and I will be saying more on that point in connection with another subject in which I am vitally interested. It is wrong that 2 pay packets should be needed in every house for our people to achieve a decent standard of living. It is a problem that governments and private enterprise must face. We parliamentarians should direct our thoughts towards finding a cure, instead of merely being critical of that situation.
The Commonwealth Government is to save $75m. It has not ruled that the States are to receive and to spend less. It has set an example and already several State Premiers have said that they are joining in this part of the crusade. I hope that private enterprise also will play its part. We are an affluent nation but there are too many poor people amongst us. In our affluence we have become an extravagant nation. I will give 2 examples of what I term extravagance which have partly contributed to inflation. Back benchers like myself sometimes must travel in airways buses. I will guarantee that one never sees more than 10 or 15 people travelling in those buses, at 50c a ticket. But on the aircraft one finds more than 100 passengers, which means that about eighty of them have travelled to the airport by private cars or taxis.
I remind honourable senators that when one stands on a street corner to catch public transport in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne or Hobart - the only cities I have visited recently - at peak periods when people are travelling to work the buses are half full while about 200 cars pass, each containing one or two people. This is extravagance and has partly contributed towards inflation in this country. There is waste in Parliament House. These are little things, but I believe we must start with little things in this crusade to cut out waste and to cut down expenses, particularly in the government sector. Government spending is never productive, other than in making laws and restrictions and collecting taxation. Public servants in authority must see that as much waste as possible is eliminated. The time should be gone of spending to match the estimates. Senator Gair as a State Premier is familiar with the situation in which a department has asked for $X thousand and finds at the end of May that it has spent $2,000 less than its estimate. It immediately gets busy finding ways to spend that sum of $2,000 before 30th June because it fears that its appropriation will be cut next year and its empire will not be so wealthy. There is a shocking waste of money in May and June of each year in State and Federal government departments. No-one can properly deny that that is true of government instrumentalities. I do not want to attack any particular body but I ask one question about the Reserve Bank of Australia: How many thousands of dollars is it spending on buildings that are completely unproductive?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to repeat what was said by Senator
Gair, the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, about the circumstances of this debate. I deprecate the political stupidity that we should be gagged, even those of us who are privileged to speak for 15 minutes, when debating a subject to develop one aspect of which would take about an hour. Senator Marriott has introduced the subject of the wage fixing tribunals of this country. He has questioned the wisdom of their methods. I have to dismiss that argument completely, because of the pressure of time, by reminding him that the system adopted in this country is far less inflationary and hazardous to the national economy than the application of the law of .the jungle to the industrial world. Without wage fixing tribunals the system would go haywire and there would be a shortage or an over supply of labour. We do not want to return to that system with all its ramifications. As I am limited to a speech of 15 minutes I dare not canvass that topic any further.
When the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) was putting the Government’s case he said that the Commonwealth Government was making further allocations to the States because of an agreement to cover the 6 per cent wage increase. I interjected to ask him whether those allocations would be adequate to meet the costs of the States in increased wages for public servants but he had no knowledge of that matter. The Government of the Commonwealth ought to know and it should be able to tell us this when it is talking about the economy of the nation. This is one of the key factors. It relates to the liquidity of the States and how much they will have to borrow at the rates of interest over which the Commonwealth has control. In this place, about 6 months ago. we were told that rates of interest had to be increased to keep prices down. But prices have not stayed down. There are economic circumstances in which increased rates of interest will help to slow down the circulation of money and restrict the credit structure that is built upon those money resources to a degree that it will reduce prices; but when the general rates of interest in nations throughout the world are already lower than that in our own country and we increase our interest rates as a deterrent to inflation, we create a wrong situation. 1 tried to tell the Government this at the time.
At the beginning of this crisis the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) went before the nation and threatened the people that if inflation did not cease interest rates would be increased again. He did not say then how he would tackle the problem of inflation. Today the interest rate in Australia is 8 per cent; yet the American banks, not the United States Government, have just reduced the interest rate in that country to Si per cent.
– lt was much higher.
– Yes. The United States started to lower its interest rates when we began to increase ours, as I have tried to point out. A means of controlling inflation might bc sound economically in one set of circumstances but crazy in other circumstances. At the moment all that we are doing by having a rate of interest 2 per cent or more higher than that prevailing in the United States is to create the situation such as that outlined by Senator Wilkinson. Although the honourable senator did not know the reason, he said that the flow of foreign capital into Australia had increased by $20m in a month. There is no shortage of lenders. Immediately our interest rate becomes higher than that of other countries it attracts a flow of overseas capital to gain the advantage of the higher rate. There has never been a lender who was deterred by high interest rates; nor has a borrower ever been deterred by high rates. A borrower is in the market to borrow only because he must have the money, and he will pay whatever interest rate the Government will permit lenders to charge him.
If proof is needed of what I have said, I refer honourable senators to last night’s edition of the Melbourne ‘Herald’ which states that United States banks have cut rates to Si per cent. In the next column of the same newspaper is the headline ‘Now a Rush for Sterling’. The article explains that the ‘dollar sterling’ ‘has suddenly become more valuable on international markets because the American dollar is now worth less in terms of interest for investments than the British equivalent. The result is that international capital is flowing into Great Britain, as it is into Australia. We are not of sufficient importance in the international scheme to merit a mention. Because our economy is so much smaller it is so much more sensitive. I deprecate the political stupidity of the Opposition, which is not sufficiently interested in this subject to have more than 3 members in the Senate chamber to listen to thus discussion and perhaps to enable those who are not aware of the situation to learn a little about the cause of inflation. Instead it suggests that big business is causing inflation by increasing prices.
Big business is hurt by inflation as much as anyone in the community. The insecurity which can develop in this situation can cause businesses to be placed in circumstances similar to those that operated in the 1930s when ultimately many finished in the bankruptcy court. Any instability of the economy disrupts the whole business life of the community. We cannot dismiss the problem as lightly as the Opposition would suggest. We have to know and understand all the ramifications of inflation. If I seem to direct my remarks too much to financial liquidity and the interest rates applicable in Australia it is only because I have not the time to deal with more than that one aspect of the problem.
– We have been gagged.
– We have been gagged by the very nature of this debate. In circumstances where we gain no extra productivity from an increase in wages an inflationary tendency results. Let us consider what the Government has suggested with regard to economies in Public Service spending. To suggest that because the Government is saving much it will be doing something about inflation is so much poppycock. If ultimately it is able to create a source of labour which can be engaged in more productive enterprises and so increase the volume of production in this country to absorb the surplus money and credit that is available for the purchase of goods within our economy, it will achieve some small measure of control over inflation. But that cannot happen now, and if will do nothing to affect the inflation which will flow from the 6 per cent wage increase. The increased wages will be paid. If by virtue of the economies made in the Public Service we are able to create a pool of labour which can go into productive industry, that labour will have to be paid at the increased rates and ultimately this will have the effect of forcing up the price of goods when they reach the market. Whatever happens as a result of the Government’s savings in the Public Service, it is certain that prices will be higher in 12 months time than they are now. But that is not the only factor to be considered.
If interest rates in Australia begin to come down and cause a flight of overseas capital away from this country another factor will be introduced; it may offset the amount of capital that is available in Australia for the purchase of goods. Recent publicity about Mineral Securities Australia Ltd leads me to another point about the stupidity that we have allowed to develop in this country. All honourable senators will receive today a copy of the ‘Australian Handbook’ which illustrates that, under a gentleman’s agreement, if the States wish to borrow more than $300,000 they may do so on the loan market only, and then only if they have permission of the Commonwealth. Yet speculative companies which are in business for no purpose other than the buying and selling of shares may borrow $9m without restraint from the Government, which is supposed to be managing the economy of the country. All these factors have to be fitted into a general economic picture.
When the Prime Minister announced that he would make a television appearance and tell the nation about the economy I thought we would all learn something, but we did not learn anything. AH we discovered was that the Prime Minister was going to try to save something of the Public Service wage bill by instituting economies in government expenditure. It is not true to say that none of this expenditure is productive, because much of it is for buildings and other things which are productive. Although these things in themselves do not produce goods, they are a product and as such must be recognised as being productive. So it is foolish to dismiss this expenditure. What information did we get from the Prime Minister?
I cast my mind back to the last debate when we were talking about Commonwealth and State finances. When, at that time, I challenged the Government about the fact that interest rates not only were being allowed but also were being prompted by the Government to rise by a further i per cent, Senator Greenwood asked whether I would dare to place my opinion against that of the Federal Treasurer and the Federal Treasury officials. None of these people has explained to us the fundamental causes of the inflation that is rampant in our community today. Do they think we are not sufficiently intelligent to understand, or do they not know? If they believed that when the rate of interest in America, which is one of the greatest international investing nations, was going down from 8 per cent ours should go up to 8 per cent and that this would place a restraint upon inflation, I am prepared to place my knowledge of international finance against that of the Federal Treasurer. It is plain common sense that increased interest rates here will cause a run of overseas capital into Australia. The saving that will be achieved by the action taken by the Government so far will not equal the increased flow of capital in one month which was referred by Senator Wilkinson. What we are inclined to say at the moment is: ‘Isn’t it wonderful “for Australia to have all this money coming in’. But it is going to circulate in this- country and create a credit edifice upon itself, and it will enter into the market for the goods available from our industries.
The whole pattern, as it develops, shows the absolute insanity of what is going on in the community and yet we cannot seem to get anybody to take the lead in the proper areas and do something about it. One of the first possible steps to control this rampant inflation is to reduce .the interest rate. The Government cannot turn back the clock and take back the 6 per cent wage increase but it can reduce the interest rate. That should have been the first step taken by the Government. What happened when the interest rate was increased by the Government by even .5 per cent?- 1 spoke to a young fellow who was organising a committee in a suburb because the local council had increased the rates by $10 a year or because the valuations had gone up. I said to him: ‘Did you organise a committee when the rate of interest on your loan for your house rose by .5 per cent?’ He said: No’. I said: ‘How much do you owe?’ He said: ‘$12,000.’ I said: ‘Well, that increase in the rate of interest will cost you more than $60 a year and you will have to pay it every year. The increased interest rate did not control inflation in your case because you had already built your house. The increase in interest rate did not lessen demand by the tremendous number of borrowers throughout our community. They had already borrowed the money and built their houses. There was no restriction on spending. There was only an inflated income for the financial houses in Australia.’
Senator Marriott said that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission was not very wise to put wages up. The point is that the Commission had heard all the evidence and knew that the Government had put up the interest rate because this was such an affluent society and so on and could afford to pay the increase. Senator Marriott condemned the Commission but did not condemn the Government. The Government has made no attempt to adopt one of the most sensible methods of controlling inflation. When the rates of interest abroad are tending downwards, it should prevent the inflow of too much overseas capital into this country. That capital aggravates the inflation that already . exists. The Government should .lower the interest rate and give back a bit- of justice to the people it robbed 6 months ago when it increased the interest rate. The Government should get the interest rate down to about 54 per cent or 6 per cent. This is another economic peculiarity, if you .like to call it that. I am not suggesting to the Government that it rush ahead and reduce the interest rale tomorrow by 1 per cent or 2 per cent.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie)- -Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– This is proving to be an amazing debute, lt was initiated us a matter of urgency by the Opposition over the signature of the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Murphy. Yet for a considerable part of this afternoon there have been only about 4 Opposition members in the chamber and a couple of them have been showing complete disinterest in proceedings, This indicates the degree of urgency they place on this matter and their interest in it. The motion moved by Senator
Murphy as a matter of great urgency is couched in very strong terms but it must be noted that the proposer of the debate, Senator Murphy, was not even in the chamber when the debate commenced. He has graced us with his presence only for 2 or 3 minutes during the afternoon. Apparently he does not regard the matter as being of any importance. 1 would have thought that the Opposition was better served-
– Where is your leader?
– Senator Milliner should talk to his leader. He is letting him down. I am trying to draw the attention of Opposition senators to the facts of life. Senator Willesee led for the Opposition and whether we agree with what he said or not he always speaks sensibly and rationally. I have no doubt that the Opposition was better served by the absence of its leader.
I note that the statement of the matter of urgency uses the phrase ‘the unwise and panic measures of the Government’. I would have thought that the Opposition attack would have been based on that phrase but we have heard nothing about unwise measures. No member of the Opposition has raised this question.
– lt is obvious.
– Nothing is obvious. If the action taken is unwise you should prove it. lt is no use saying that the matter is obvious because a lot of people do not accept mere words from the Opposition. We have heard too many of those. If the action taken was unwise, obviously the Opposition has a. responsibility to prove lo the Senate why it was unwise. The Opposition has made no attempt to do so. Nor has it made any attempt to show that the measures taken were panic measures. Indeed, I noticed that the major criticism in the financial Press of the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was not that the measures taken were panic measures’ but that perhaps they did not go far enough. There has been no accusation of panic; rather that the Government was taking things a little too easily and not treating the matter seriously enough. But again the Opposition has a clear responsibility, if wc are to fake this matter seriously and treat it as one of urgency,’ to prove for the benefit of the Senate and the country that a matter of urgency- was involved, that the action taken by the Government was unwise and was taken with a degree of panic.
The Opposition has proved neither of those things. Indeed, Opposition senators have debated neither of those things. In his contribution Senator Mulvihill took lis for a trip round the world. He hardly dwelt at any stage with the stated matter of urgency. He fell into the trap, as the Labor Party always does when attention is drawn to the weaknesses of its administration in other countries. The Labor Party is always quick to blame others for its incompetence. He tried to blame the previous government for the mess that the United Kingdom was in. He said that the people in that country were fed lies. One of the reasons for the defeat of the Labor Government in Great Britain was the complete lack of credibility of its Prime Minister. The people no longer believed him.
Inflation, this matter of great importance and seriousness, is not a peculiar problem to Australia. It is a world-wide problem. I think my colleague Senator Webster referred to this as well as to the fact that Australia has a much better record for controlling inflation than has any other developed country. I am not saying that this necessarily is good enough but the facts of life are that no other country has contained inflation with the same degree of success as has Australia. I have a few figures with me which were produced not by the Treasury but by the Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research at the University of Melbourne. They were published in the ‘Australian Economic Review’ of 3rd October 1970. These figures tend to prove that retail prices in Australia have risen over a large number of years - indeed, from 1962 to 1968 and 1969, and the June quarter of 1970 - at a much lower rate than those in any other developed country. The only country with a comparable figure is West Germany. I do not have time to quote these figures but they are here and are available to any honourable senator who wishes to read them. They prove the truth of my contention.
Regardless of the domestic policies of Australia we cannot hope to escape completely from pressures induced everywhere else in the world. We cannot live in economic or financial isolation. Therefore so long as there are inflationary tendencies in other countries we will have to face pressures upon our own economy. But a. good deal can be done to slow down the rate of inflation. In the Australian Economic Review to which I have just referred it is argued by some economists, including Professor Neville, that sp long as a low rate of unemployment is maintained, as we have done so successfully in Australia, it is inevitable that there will be pressures upon wages and it is inevitable that cost increases will occur. Indeed, Professor Neville said that as long as we maintained a level of unemployment of 1 .5 per cent prices could be expected to rise by about 3 per cent each year. He. went on to say that prices might remain stable only if unemployment was as high as 5 per cent. Nobody would advocate ‘ this level of unemployment. It is clearly unacceptable. But, as Professor Neville has pointed out and given his reasons in this article, the very low rate of unepmloyment in Australia makes it very difficult to contain prices.
Public spending has been rising at a rate faster than consumer spending and it is believed that many, of the pressures which are at present evident in the community are the result of public spending. Therefore, the Prime Minister has decided that cuts in public spending should be given first priority. This decision was not a panic measure. The cut was not a large one, but it was a start. Indeed, one hears throughout the community constant complaints about increases in public* spending, despite the fact that the community is putting great pressures on government for increased spending in every area.
The Prime Minister announced cuts in not only public spending’ but also the taxation deduction for expenditure on new plant in order to cut down business investment. A Bill will be introduced in the Senate shortly to give effect to this measure. The Prime Minister also referred to the restrictive trade practices problem and the Government’s determination to act in this field. At the moment there are some constitutional problems,, but the Prime Minister has stated clearly that if the Commonwealth is found not to have the constitutional power he is prepared to seek that power. I make no apologies for restrictive trade practices. Undoubtedly they are having an effect upon our cost structure. Restrictive trade practices should not bc supported; indeed, they should be condemned. I will support any measures which will bring greater competition into industry.
Another matter which I wish to mention briefly is the pressures placed on the economy by immigration. ( am delighted that the Government is to have a review of our immigration policy. I believe - indeed, many thoughtful people now believe - that the constant pressure for public spending and capital expenditure upon schools, hospitals, roads, education and so forth has been caused by the very rapid increase in our population. We have had one of the highest population increases in the world. This has been brought about to a great extent by our very successful immigration policy, in saying this I am not being critical of our past immigration policy. 1 believe that it has served this country magnificently. However, I think that the time has come when we should have a good look at it to see whether-
– The primary producers need greater home consumption.
– I do not think that the home markets come into it. After all, the Australian population has increased at a high rate but there has. not been a great increase in our home markets. What 1 am saying is that I support the idea of a review of our immigration policy because 1 believe that the time has come for us to decide whether it is in the interests of the economic welfare of Australia to continue the rate of immigration at the same high level as it has been in the past. In other words, 1 believe that we should determine whether the policies of the past are going to serve us as well in the future. 1 believe also that it is important to look for quality and not just quantity. Because of improved economic and living standards in many countries it is becoming more and more difficult for us to obtain the type of migrant that we have obtained in the past.
Before my time is up I want to deal briefly with the panacea that the Australian Labor Party always trots out as the be all and end all - price control. It has been trotted out again today. I do not think that there is a more discredited policy than that of price control. A non-Labor government introduced price and wage controls in New Zealand a year or two ago. Despite this prices rose last year by Hi per cent. Price and wage control has been abandoned in the United Kingdom. A Labour government in the United Kingdom - I am not criticising it - was faced with the complete failure of its policy because of rapid price increases. Productivity rose only 11 per cent per annum but price increases were at the rate of around 1H per cent to 13 per cent. Despite the experiences of modern countries in recent times the Australian Labor Party still trots out its policy of price control, lt is a sterile policy and one which has been completely discredited.
I have in front of me an article which appeared in the ‘West Australian’ newspaper on Monday, 15th February 1971. It is by Mr Colin Clark, to whom I think the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) referred earlier. Mr Colin Clark has had, as the Minister pointed out, wide experience in the administration of price control. For example, he helped to draft the Queensland price fixing legislation in the 1920s.
– Is he not Dr Colin Clark?
– I apologise if I have given the wrong title. He started off his article with a little story about an Irish j village which I think is worth quoting. He wrote:
In an Irish village, the congregation was coming out of church. A young priest has just preached a sermon on matrimony.
Ah said one old Irishman lo another, ‘I wish that I knew as little about it as he does’.
Dr Colin Clark went on to say:
Those who now advocate price control as a solution for our economic problems provoke the same reaction on my part.
– We heard that this afternoon.
– Did we? Who quoted it?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation.
– I am sorry. I must have missed it. I must have been absent from the chamber for a brief period when he quoted it. 1 apologise to the Senate. However, I think that the story was worth repeating because it was told by an authority on price control who believes that price control is not the solution. 1 do not know whether the Minister for Civil Aviation
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I suppose that this would be one of the most important debates in which one could participate. It should give those honourable senators who take part in it some idea about what is going to happen to the majority of the people of this country. It is true that Australia is facing an inflationary period. The first thing that is always attacked by anti-Labor forces during a period of inflation is, of course, wages increases. If I remember correctly, the last 6 per cent increase in wages was given because the members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission whom this Government appointed to fix wage standards in Australia fixed them on the basis of the capacity of industry to pay.
The Government of this country has told us over a number of years that we should always abide by the umpire’s decision and that we should never criticise what the umpire says, but it would appear as though that rule applies only to those who are in the position of having to accept what the umpire says. To my mind it is remarkable that the Government should be going out of its way to criticise the recent wage decision because of its effect on the nation’s economy. I do not intend to say that an increase in wages, granted by the Commission because it could be borne by industry, should bring in its wake increases in the price structure. Senator Sim has belittled price control, but I want to know how else the status quo can bc maintained.
The Commission has said that the wages it has laid down can be paid because it believes that industry can pay those wages. As soon as wage increases are granted to one sector, people in all walks of life look for a flow-on of the increase, whether it amounts to 6 per cent or not. How can people be satisfied with their lot if, on the one hand, the Commission says that they are entitled to a 6 per cent increase because industry can affort to pay it and, on the other hand, hardly before the ink is dry on the paper - to use a hackneyed phrase - we have the spectacle of State instrumentalities increasing their charges, housing commissions increasing rents, etc.? Senator Sim said that the proposal before us is more or less a catch cry employed by the Australian Labor Party. I believe that the worst election result was that of the 1 948 prices referendum. I could never understand why the people who, in the main, had their wages fixed were not prepared to carry on with the idea of fixing the price of what they bought with those wages. I know that the glorious words ‘people want freedom to buy’ sound nice.
With successive years of inflation - in some years the inflation has been greater than in others-we now find ourselves in a position which does not help our exporting secondary industries. How can we expect to be a great exporting- nation if our cost structure is not placing us in a favourable position compared with that of other nations? I do not deny that one element of the cost structure is wages; but I do not say that that alone - bearing in mind the added productivity in industry over the years. - has placed us in a less favourable position than that which we enjoyed prior to the arrival on the scene of this tremendous scourge called inflation. Today people in the ..rural sector have tremendous worries. The Government is providing $27m to; keep dairy farmers on the land. Sooner; or later whoever is ruling the country has. to face up to the problem. I have no desire, to see farmers or average wage earners not get the necessary amount of wage, or profit, if we could call it such, that would, give them a proper standard of living. Some years ago Mr McCarthy, who was Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, conducted an investigation into this industry. He was respected by people of all shades of political opinion because he was one of the big men of -.the administrative staff. Whether or not we liked what he said or whether it was good or. bad politics, he made certain findings. Everyone walked away from them. His findings were not popular. - >
Now I deal with wheat. We are overproducing, whether we like it or not. Some people say that we will be able to get out of our plight if there is a drought in Russia or if we are able to sell more wheat to China if that country has a bad year of production. We are worried also about the wheat crops in the United States of America and Canada. If providence provides us with a bountiful year, or even an ordinary year, there is still this phenomenon of wheat in the granaries of the producing countries and millions in the world, according to what we read, on a starvation diet. It is not a matter of our not being able in recent years to find a method of increasing production; it seems to me that we need to find a method of getting the product to the people who want it. I was never in favour of increasing the acreage of wheat. [ always thought wheat was a gamble. We have had . a big market in China. While we seem to be keen to sell our wheat to these people, in the world councils, we are never keen to recognise China. Today . we do not seem to be in a fortunate position in regard to the sale of our wheat to China. Some say that because Canada has recognised China it has sold a very large parcel of what to China. At present we are ‘hoping. I do not know whether the wheat farmers can live on hope.
I deal now with- the wool industry. The Government has- stated that it will give assistance amounting to S ! 00m to the wool industry. Surely no-one thinks that ‘ that will rectify the -position i of the wool growers. We should combine with South Africa and New Zealand, as we did towards the end of the war years. That action proved to be successful. That would be a combination of the 3 largest merino wool producing countries in the world. Why do we not say: ‘Fix the price at which that wool is to be sold.’? It could be done, 1 believe I am correct in what I. say. I have yet to know of any large carry over of the wool clip in Australia. I think the same situation applies to the other wool producing countries. The Government of this country says that it will make available $l.00m to the wool growers because it believes that may alleviate some of the problems they are facing today. I read where someone has worked out that that will mean around $160 to the average wool grower. I am repeating what I have heard. I do not know whether it is true but I have never seen it contradicted. I have yet to find out how we can patch up an industry which over the long years has been the backbone of this country as far as our exports are concerned by giving out money. Doing this has not improved the position in the dairy industry and I believe it will not do it in the wool industry. Today we have to get the best brains which this country can produce to work in order to find out what is wrong with the position. Let us have the courage to do this otherwise the problem will mount up year after year and season after season. Honourable senators will find that the industries of which I have spoken - particularly the rural industries - will not cure themselves. It it tremendously heart rending. I can understand the feelings of that poor unfortunate fruit grower in Shepparton. I suppose he broke down because he had so many tons of pears to sell and the Shepparton cannery would take only a certain amount. He is faced with financial disaster.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– This afternoon one of the criticisms which have been directed at the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) has arisen from the fact that in debating an urgency motion we are allowed only 15 minutes in which to develop our views. As I have some 8 minutes it can hardly be expected that I. shall delve very deeply into the subject matter of the motion before the Senate. I cannot say that I. agree with the ‘ criticism that a speech limited to 1.5 minutes is necessarily a bad thing. I think if we had more 15 minute . speeches in the Senate we would have a better debate on some subjects. I think the Senate debate on this subject -has been conducted on a high standard. 1 congratulate the speakers who have taken part in- it. They have attempted to deal factually and in an objective manner with the subject instead of making a series of purely political speeches. I think that Senator Willesee gave a good example by setting the tone. He was followed admirably by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton). I think this subject is too serious in its consequences to be used as a means of trying to gain political advantage.
– The honourable senator obviously did not hear the speech made by Senator Sim.
– I heard all the speeches. We are excellent in degrees, perhaps. I would not criticise Senator Sim. We are not all activated in the same way. Of all honourable senators opposite I think Senator Cavanagh could understand Senator Sim’s speech. I think that not only in thus Senate but as a nation we must examine this problem factually and dispassionately, trying to arrive at a solution which is for the benefit of all. We are not on our own. Other countries face this problem. Because I have a very short time in which to speak I propose to read an extract from an article which puts into much better language than T could, some aspects of the situation. Today 1 obtained from the Parliamentary Library an article culled from ‘Economies’. The article is headed ‘Bitter medicine for the West’s inflation’. It deals with the report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on this subject. I have time to read only the concluding paragraph which states:
Appropriately for a document that proved too hot for the OECD to handle in its original form, the report contained a dire prediction of the social and political consequences of continued inflation: ‘Because resentment against inflation is incoherent and diffused through the community, it provides favourable terrain for extremists at both ends of the political spectrum, lt gives ammunition to those who favour more authoritarian forms of government relying on extensive wage, price, and production controls, and to those who hark back to earlier times before governments had accepted their present responsibilities for growth, high employment, and social justice.’
The report highlights the fact that if we are going to depend solely on economic measures to deal with this problem we will find ourselves faced with some very unpleasant consequences. This attitude is borne out by another excellent article which I commend to the Senate. It is headed “The Australian Economy’ and is to be found in the publication ‘Australia’s Economic Review’, the fourth quarter 1970, No. 12. I. shall read this because it is very much to the point. It states:
It is not exaggerating to say that, here as in Western Europe and North America, the future of the economy and society we have been building over the last quarter century is at stake. Full employment and rising living standards, as the basis for a life of greater freedom and better quality, have been good and worthy aims and have been amply realised. They could go on bringing us continuingly better lives.
But they cannot go on if they bring us also accelerating inflation. Hie economists, ns economists, can defeat inflation only by cutting the level of employment and the pace of growth. The inflationary pressures now facing the Western world would be defeated only by quite drastic, and socially most damaging cuts.
The problem has moved into the social and moral field. Its handling requires far-sighted leadership. The whole community is responsible for what now threatens, and the whole community will be affected by the disastrous effects both of accelerating inflation and of the policies needed to control it if it persists.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie) - Order! The time allowed for this motion having expired the Senate will proceed to the business of the day.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
General Business Taking Precedence of Government Business After 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That intervening general business be postponed until after the consideration of notice of motion No. 2.
I move this motion on behalf of the Opposition because 1 believe it is time that the Senate asserted its rightful role in democracy. I have no intention of traversing all the history associated with the lifting of the ban on the export of merino rams but I would remind honourable senators that the matter has been before the Senate on 2 previous occasions. On both those occasions the majority of senators was in favour of proposals emanating from the Australian Labor Party. I strongly support the proposition presently before the Senate. I repeat that I have no intention whatsoever of traversing the rights or wrongs of the decision of the Senate. What 1 am concerned about, and I believe very senator should be equally concerned about, is the fact that the Executive has held the Senate in contempt by its actions in exporting merino rams in spite of a decision of honourable senators to the contrary.
I recall that this is not the first occasion on which this has happened. I recall that on an occasion when the Parliament made a decision in relation to the siting of the new and permanent Parliament House the Executive went against that decision. Honourable senators were most incensed at the decision of the Executive to the point that Government supporters were most critical of the action of the Executive. I submit, with respect, that a similar set of circumstances exists in Australia today. I propose to read some of the motions that have been debated in the Senate. The debates on these motions occupied approximately 6 hours, is it suggested that a decision which was arrived at after 6 hours debate is not the expressed will of the Senate? I remind honourable senators of the other occasion on which they believed the Executive had flouted the will of the Senate, and I suggest they should take a similar stand on this occasion. [ therefore invite those who feel that the Executive has overridden the decision of the Senate to vote in support of the provisions of this motion.
Let me repeat that the matter has been before the Senate on at least 2 previous occasions when it occupied at least 6 hours of the Senate’s time. First of all, I refer to the debate on 22nd April 1969 when Senator Poyser moved:
That the Senate is of opinion that the embargo on the export of merinos should not be removed at this time.
He then sought leave to add to that motion these words: and that the embargo should remain in force until a majority of those persons affected shall decide by referendum or other fair means in favour of removing or relaxing the embargo.
Some may say that that was a motion of persuasion, that there was no direction in it. But let me remind honourable senators that that motion was subsequently carried. Be it a persuasion or be it a direction it was nevertheless the expressed wish of the Senate. Let me take that a step further and refer to the debate that occurred on 21st April 1970, almost 12 months later. Again the Senate discussed the same topic. The motion moved on that occasion reads:
The desirability of maintaining an embargo on the export of merino rams until a majority of those persons affected shall decide by referendum or other fair means in favour of removing or relaxing the embargo.
It is a similar motion and it has the ingredient of asking the Government to conduct a plebicite of wool growers to ascertain whether it was their desire that the ban should be lifted.
Many people have different ideas as to whether the ban should be lifted. At this point of time I do not think we should concern ourselves with that aspect of it. We should concern ourselves with whether the Executive has overridden the decision of the Senate. No vote was taken on 21st April 1970. But let me remind honourable senators that a sufficient number of honourable senators indicated they were in support of the proposition to carry the resolution. Speaking on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party Senator McManus said:
The Democratic Labor Party supports the motion. We supported a similar motion when it was put forward about 12 months ago. Nothing has happened to alter our previous attitude since the decision of the Senate was arrived at on that occasion to oppose the lifting of the ban on the export of merino rams. In fact, earlier this year when the Government announced that it proposed to lift the ban the Democratic Labor Party, through its Leader Senator Gair, protested publicly and said that the ban should not be lifted.
It would be obvious to a!) that a motion expressing the wish of the Senate would be carried, and that was ultimately put to the test. I now refer honourable senators to a debate which took place on 29th April 1969. The President put the motion and the motion was carried. It is true that it was carried by a slight majority but nevertheless it was carried. It does not matter whether it was carried by one vote or by 51 votes; the fact remains that it became a decision of the Senate and should have been observed and not overridden by the Executive.
Just what will be the position if the Executive continues to override the wishes of the Senate? Are we to accept this or are we to stand and say: ‘This is a democratic institution. The will of the senators has been expressed after 6 hours debate; yet we find the Executive overriding such decisions.’? Everybody knows what has happened since the Government, by surreptitious methods, exported merino rams to other parts of the world. I do not have to tell honourable senators that the majority of people throughout Australia are horrified that the Executive should override a decision of Parliament in this way. If I were speaking politically I could refer to the fact that this Government, which accuses the Australian Labor Party of having an association with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, approved of our Royal Australian Air Force servicing planes so that merino rams could, be sent to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Just imagine the situation if we of the Australian Labor Party had been in government and had said: ‘We intend to export rams to the USSR’. We would have been accused of using every possible political trick. Members of- the present Government parties would have accused us of being traitors to this country.
I say to honourable senators opposite that that is the very position in which the Executive has placed them on this occasion. I submit that the will of the Parliament must prevail over that of the Executive. If it does not, we will have a situation in which the members , of the Executive will be the only ones running the country. I think Senator Greenwood interjected that the Senate is not the Parliament; but it is a unit of the Parliament. If he does not regard it as a strong unit” of the Parliament and will not stand up for its rights, I say to him with respect “that he is denying the role of the Senate in the government of Australia.
I nsk honourable^ senators in their own interests, if for no other reason, to carry this motion in order to show the Executive of this country that a decision of- the Senate is supreme over any decision the Executive may care to make. If honourable senators opposite do not help us to carry this motion, then woe .betide them, because on any occasion on which they carry a motion the Executive will be able to ride over them in complete disregard of their wishes, aDd consequently democracy will be at the crossroads. I commend the motion to honourable senators. I ask them to vote not on whether it is in the interests of Australia that merino rams should be exported but on whether they agree that the Executive has overridden the expressed wish of the Senate and therefore has been contemptuous of the parliamentary system of Australia.
– Senator Milliner has made just the one point in this debate, namely, that the Executive has overridden the wishes of the Parliament. Let me remind him of what happened in November 1929 when this embargo was introduced. Before question time one day a rumour was running around Parliament House that the Government - a Labour government was in power at that time - was likely to impose an embargo on the shipment of rams from Australia. At question time in the House of Representatives an Opposition member raised the matter with the Minister concerned, who said that there was no embargo at that time but the Government proposed to make a statement later in the day.
That afternoon a statement was issued by the Minister to the effect that an embargo had been placed on the export of. rams. This was done without any mention of it in the Parliament and without any debate. The next day Sir Earle Page, as he later became, raised the issue in the House, and the Minister said: T have been talking to the Farmers and Settlers Association in New South Wales and a group of sheep breeders has been here for some days talking to me. So I have decided to impose the ban.’ What happened to the Queensland, Victorian, South Australian and Western Australian growers? They were not consulted at that time; neither was the Parliament consulted. The Labor Party Executive imposed the embargo. Now Senator Milliner stands up here and talks the way he does.
Let me remind the Senate that the motion to which he refers was the subject of a debate here under General Business. There were about 10 speakers in the debate. An Opposition senator tried to close the debate, but was unsuccessful. Then the President interrupted the debate under the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, the debate was adjourned and no decision was made. The following week the debate was continued. Finally a vote was- taken and the motion was carried by one vote in a General Business session of the Senate. Senator Milliner says that the Government should have reacted to that.
Tonight we are dealing with a motion which was put on the notice paper by Senator O’Byrne and which reads:
That the Senate considers that the Government has shown a contemptuous disregard for Parliament in regard to its lifting the partial ban on the export of merino rams.
Let us have a look at the situation. The Government announced on 20th March 1969 that a partial lifting of the export embargo was to be implemented on a date to be announced later. The Government acted on the recommendation of the Australian Wool Industry Conference - a decision that had been taken after the Conference had deliberated for some considerable time - and after hearing a report by the experts. The voting of the Confernce was 37 to 16. The then Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Anthony, made an announcement in the House of Representatives on 20th March 1969. I would like to have what he said on the record. He said:
The Government has decided that the embargo on the export of merino breeding sheep from Australia, which was imposed some 40 years ago, should be partially relaxed. This decision was taken after considering a recommendation made to the Government on the subject by the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The Wool Industry Conference, as the national body of the Australian wool growers-
Not just a State body such as the one on whose recommendation the Labor Party made its decision-
– Is it superior to the Parliament?
– I am working up my argument. Mr Anthony said:
The Wool Industry Conference, as the national body of Australian wool growers, had been asked by the Government some time ago to examine the desirability or otherwise of continuing the embargo from the point of view of the wool industry.
Who better to decide this matter than the representatives of the wool, growing industry? He continued:
In seeking the opinion of the Conference the Government, acted at the suggestion df the Australian Agricultural Council.
That body is made up of the Minister for Primary Industry and the State Ministers for Agriculture. It is a body that should be concerned very vitally and connected very closely with the wool industry. Mr Anthony went on to say:
The decision taken by the Government is for a limited relaxation of the prohibition on the export of merino breeding sheep, subject to several stringent conditions, and it accords with the recommendation of the Wool Industry Conference. The terms of the decision are as follows:
The date on which the relaxation will become effective will be announced after the necessary administrative arrangements have . been settled. These arrangements will be worked out by my Department in consultation with the appropriate organisations of the industry.- .
Following that statement’ there was a debate in the House of Representatives on 26th and 27th March 1969 but time was talked out, as we say in parliamentary language. In other words, no vote was taken. On 22nd April 1969, following notice of motion given by Senator Murphy, Senator Poyser who led for the Opposition asked, at the commencement of his contribution, for leave to amend the terms’ of the motion as they appeared on the notice paper. That motion was in these terms:
That the Senate is of opinion that the embargo on the export of merinos should not be removed at this time.
Leave was granted and . Senator Poyser amended the motion by adding the following words: and that the embargo should remain in force until a majority of those persons affected’ shall decide by referendum or other fair orleans in favour of removing or relaxing the embargo.
That motion was in pretty “wide terms. Eight senators spoke to it before the President announced that the time allowed for the debate had expired, so again no decision was taken. Following, that debate the Minister for Primary -Industry, having regard to what had been said by Opposition senators and Opposition members in the House of Representatives, and having regard to the fact that sections of the industry were claiming that’ they did not think that the partial lifting of the ban
Should be implemented, referred the whole matter back to the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
– Why was it not referred back to the Parliament? That would have solved the problem.
– There had been a debate on it in the Senate and there had been a debate on it in the House of Representatives. No decision had been taken by either House. The Minister had a recommendation from the Wool Industry Conference for a partial lifting of the ban so he said: ‘1 will refer it back to the Wool Industry Conference. The Conference has had time to learn what was said in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. Certain sections of the industry are not happy with the decision of the Conference so the Conference can have another look at it.’ The Wool Industry Conference replied: ‘We will not reconsider our recommendation to the Government.’ The executive of the Wool Industry Conference advised the Government on 23rd December 1969 of its decision.. The Minister for Primary Industry, in a statement which I want to put on record, announced on 15th January 1970 that the. partial relaxation of the ban would operate from. 1st February 1970. The statement is in these terms:
The Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Anthony, announced today that - the recommendation by the Australian Wool Industry Conference for the limited relaxation, subject to stringent conditions, of the merino export embargo would now be implemented:
He said the Government’s earlier decision to adopt the Conference’s’ recommendation had not been put into effect pending the possibility of reconsideration of the matter by the Conference.
The Government .bad now been advised by the Executive of the Conference that it could see no reason tor the Conference to reconsider the issue.
Mr Anthony said the Government’s decision on the matter in March last year had been followed by opposition from a section of woolgrowers.
So that these growers could register their objections with the Conference and the Conference, if it found good reason to do so, could reconsider the matter, the Government had delayed the implementation of its decision.
Mr Anthony said the partial relaxation of the embargo would become effective as from 1st February, 1970.
Partial relaxation of the ban did not require any legislation or parliamentary sanction. Far from disregarding the Parliament, the Government had informed the Parliament of its intention to lift partially the embargo before implementing its intention. Contrast that with the action of the Labor Party in November 1929 when it was in office.
– You have a good memory.
– I did a bit of research.
– That is not quite right.
– It is right. After the Senate vote had been taken the implementation of the decision to relax the ban was deferred for 9 months to give the industry an opportunity to consider it. The Labor Party, if it felt that it was right, had every opportunity to use the forms of the Parliament to bring forward a motion in either House in an attempt to do something about the matter but it preferred not to do so. It preferred to go behind the door and have the unions come out on strike in an attempt to defer the implementation of the decision.
What will happen in the future? I said earlier that the organisations were given the opportunity through the Australian Wool Industry Conference to review the matter every 12 months. In my State the wool growers organisation, namely, the wool section of the Farmers Union, has held its annual conference and has stated that in its view the export ban should be re-imposed for the coming 12 months. The matter is to go to the federal organisation and its representatives have to be instructed to make their decision at a meeting of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. That decision was supposed to have been made in January of this year. The Australian Wool Industry Conference asked the then Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) for an extension of that decision, until the meeting to take place on 16th and 17th March, when the Conference will look at the whole matter and make a further recommendation to the Government. I believe that the Senate and the other place, and the wool industry itself, have had every opportunity to examine this matter and to make a decision.
The Labor Party’s previous motion sought a referendum of the growers affected. I would like someone to explain to me how a decision would be made as to which section of growers is . affected. Would a vote be taken of fat lamb breeders or the breeders of British breeds of sheep on a decision for the partial lifting of the embargo on the export of merino rams? The motion of the Labor Party included these words: ‘or by some other fair means’. I believe that the Government has adopted the alternative fair means by listening to the decision of this chamber and the other place and by listening to the small section of growers who were vitally opposed to the issue, and by then referring the matter back to the Australian Wool Industry Conference, giving that body 9 months to consider whether it should change its opinion. I think it is ludicrous for honourable senators opposite to say that (he Government has overridden the wishes of Parliament and the wool growers of Australia. If the industry decides on 16th March that it wants a total embargo reimposed, it has to say so to the Government.
– What would be the reason for the reimposition of the embargo?
– I said that when the Government made” the necessary decision it told the industry that in 12 months time it could re-examine the matter and decide whether we should continue with the partial lifting of the embargo or should return to a total embargo.
– I was referring to the decision of your Western Australian organisation to reimpose the embargo.
Western Australian body wants to reimpose the embargo. In Western Australia about 50 to 80 wool growers are concerned. I was leader of the wool section of the primary producers’ organisation in Western Australia for a long time. At every conference, year after year, a controversy arose because half the wool growers wanted the embargo lifted and half the wool growers did not. Breeders of fat lambs and of British sheep attended the annual conference and all had a say on whether the embargo should be imposed or lifted. The fairest way. is to have the voice of the wool industry speak…
– The merino wool growers.
– The merino wool growers. .
– That is what we want.
– But you will not get it by holding a referendum amongst wool growers.
– Merino growers.
– I would be pleased to. hear, how you would decide who is a merino wool grower and who is not. The Government has a responsibility because about 218 rams have been sold, a figure far below, the quota of 300. Some of the rams sold have not become eligible for export because they have not met health or quarantine requirementsOne or two of them have died and two or three have been injured since the sale. The number of merino rams leaving Australia to go out into the world will not make a terrific difference to ‘ the wool industry in other countries. I have always believed that Austrafia has become famous for its fine wool because of prevailing climatic conditions.
I know from experience, that fine wool breeds of sheep bought in Tasmania and taken to Western Australia will not produce the type of wool that they produce on Tasmanian properties. This is one of the problems of the wool industry. It has produced a division Within the industry. The Government can only continue to seek advice from the industry as to ils wishes and the recognised .mouthpiece of the industry is the Australian Wool Industry Conference. Some people claim that the AWIC is not democratic: We have heard those arguments before. ,tt is just as democratic as many other organisations in Australia. I believe that the Government has acted very fairly in this matter and has carried out the wishes of ‘ the majority of people connected with the wool industry.
– I think the speech of the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) illustrates the Government’s arrogant. . cynicism towards the Parliament, to which Senator Milliner referred. The Minister ..took the attitude that he has adopted on previous occasions.
However. 1 am sure that Mr Crawford, the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, would be shivering in his shoes in his wool growing electorate of Barwon if the Labor Party were to distribute there copies of Senator Drake-Brockman’s speech. The proposition put forward by the Minister for Air that the Australian Wool Industry Conference is superior to the Senate would not be accepted by 5 per cent of the Australian people-, yet the Minister made that a defence of his policy. The argument that the decision was taken by the Senate, which resolved- by -a majority that the ban on merino exports should not be lifted without a referendum of wool growers, and not by the Parliament, is specious. What is the function of the Senate if it. is not to act as a House of review of govern-: ment legislation and Executive action?
If the view is taken that a resolution of the Senate can be’ held in contempt and ignored, those who’ express that view strike a serious blow at the value of the Senate and the bicameral system. The Government has refused to conduct a referendum of wool growers. The Minister has said that if the industry wishes to change its previous decision on March 16th the matter will be reconsidered by the Government. That is exactly what we have been asking for. but the Minister has said that he wants the industry to express its’ view. We and the Australian Council of Trade Unions say that if the Parliament expresses its view and if the industry expresses its view through a referendum everyone will be satisfied and this matter will be resolved. Wc are now considering a motion which states that the Government has shown a contemptuous disregard for Parliament by partially lifting the ban on the export of merino rams.
This matter has been debated on a number of occasions. We consider that the former Minister for Primary Industry, who is now the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), over that period has taken a most undemocratic attitude. Although he is aware of the feelings of the Senate, having been reminded of them, and although there have been’ deputations and petitions from various sections of the Wool growing industry, he has insisted on a partial lifting of the ban on the export of merino rams. In my belief he has acted on the advice of a very small section- a rump - of the Aus tralian Wool Industry Conference which traditionally has been known as a lobby for the bigger wool growers and particularly for the stud breeders. In doing this the Minister has contemptuously ignored the resolution of the Senate. Action to lift the ban on the export of merino rams should not be permitted until there has been a referendum of the producers of merino wool within the industry.
Surely the debates that have taken place over the last 2 years have had some impact on honourable senators opposite who must be aware that many predictions that we made in those debates have come true. Why is there such a strong desire among Government supporters to avoid the true voice of the Parliament when it endorses our view or rejects Government policy? in the past we have heard from honourable senators opposite professions of their belief in the Senate as a Bouse of review and they have said that they uphold the arms of the Parliament. The Senate is an important arm of the Parliament and its voice should not bc ignored. It is a matter of wonderment to me that Government supporters continue to maintain face in their electorates when they have made such a complete turn about in their attitude to the Senate and the export of merino rams. I cannot understand how members of the Australian Country Party have the temerity to face their electors when every one of our primary industries, right across the board, has little or no prospect of improvement of its economic position in the foreseeable future. This is true particularly of the. wool industry. How can these members justify themselves to their electors?
– We listen to the farming groups. Tell us what the Tasmanian farmers say, or do you not know?
– I know that the Tasmanian farmers have a very strong influence on stud breeders of merino rams and I know that a lobby has been going on in Tasmania for a long time. Nevertheless, I do not intend to get away from the point that we are asking for a referendum of the people concerned - the wool growers - so that they may decide their destiny. I should- like to present my argument in my own way without the cockies crying from the fence. As an illustration of what has happened since this matter was last debated in the Senate, at the ram sales held recently in Sydney the worst prices experienced for decades were received. That is an indication of the parlous state of the stud industry in Australia.
– Why not let some of them get some money that otherwise they would not get?
– Now we have it. They want quick cash at the expense of other Australian wool growers. Therein lies the whole secret behind the Government’s action. This is a pay-off to a certain section of the wool industry to allow it to sell merino rams, in the same way as our great natural resources are being sold at a rock bottom price. 1 admit that the sale of the Australian strain of merino rams is not quite the same; there is a vast difference, as a matter of fact, lt illustrates that there are people who are prepared to cash in at the expense of the future of the industry.
– Who owns the sheep?
– The honourable senator asked the same question last time and I told him that the Australian people and particularly the Australian wool growers have a very deep and abiding interest in their industry. We are trying to protect their interests.
– Who owns the sheep?
– I propose to develop my own argument to show that what has happened’ is what we predicted would happen to the wool industry when this matter was last debated. At wool sales held recently the price of 60s quality wool was 19c per lb lower than it was a year ago, 64s quality was down 25c and 70s was 34- cheaper. The average price of greasy wool last week was 30.33c compared with 39.58c a year ago. Those prices illustrate that the whole of the Australian wool industry is in a critical situation.
– That is about the only true statement you have made.
– 1 can verify the statements that 1 made 12 months ago and 2 years ago by events that are happening at present. I should like to make the point that the Australian Wool Commission found it necessary over this period to buy in nearly all the medium and fine descrip tions - about 20 per cent of the total offering. Yet it is in this very area that the stud breeders of Australia want to supply our competitors with our unique Australian merino strain. We find that by hook or by crook the Government wants to export our medium to fine merino rams to breeders in other parts of the world who last year were prepared to pay $120,000 for 47 merino rams to enable them to breed this type of wool rather than buy it on the Australian market. There is no doubt that countries purchasing the rams have much to gain by introducing the Australian merino strain into their flocks. Just in the sheer weight factor alone, the cut per head of the Australian merino would exceed any other breed in the world. This genetic feature is predominant in the Australian merino ram and is desired by merino sheep breeders in other parts of the world. Then there is the quality of the wool - the length of the’ fibre and the elasticity of the product.
– Who wrote that for you?
– I wrote it myself. The brightness and the. relatively high clean scoured yield are. also features that are highly desirable in combing wools. On the other hand, our selected stud breeders who would be given a quota of rams to. sell would most certainly .like - to supply this avid world demand. -.As I have said already, the price of , rams slumped disastrously at the last sales. Do Government supporters expect overseas buyers to continue to pay the high prices paid last year and which were an incentive to stud breeders to supply this world market? Are they hopeful that these high prices will continue? With the depression that is now existing in ram sales we will find that overseas people will want to cash in on the state of the market. The action of the Government in this matter’ is just as reprehensible as are its actions’ in so many areas of rural industry. It has failed the primary producer in every way, right across the board.
The realisation that the rural crisis is real is evidenced by the report of the Bureau of Agricultural. Economics which states that the industry is facing a long term crisis. By supplying our competitors with the wherewithal to compete with our product we will prolong that crisis.
This report “plainly states that too many producers are attempting to earn a living in the sheep industry under the present situation. It is enevitable that many of them will be unable or unwilling to remain on their properties. Many of them will leave the industry with’ little capital remaining. There are strong economic as well as welfare reasons for assisting these people to new employment. To send out of this country the rams that produce some of the main features of our wool - the wool that provides the return to the wool growers, uneconomic though it is at the moment - is’ not the way to assist them. L Say again: The Government is strangely’ silent about equating this situation with the sale of our exclusive blood lines to the very competitors who wish to enter the market and who have the benefit of lower cost structures.
The wool growers, along with all primary producers, have to face, up to the highly significant dark cloud facing Australia - the entry of Britain into the European Economic Community. As we have found, duties are being imposed on Australian produce. They will continue to be imposed when the British arrangements are concluded, lt is estimated that $200m worth of Australian exports to” Europe and the United Kingdom are at risk following Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community. .
I would like to quote ‘from the report of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics which was sent to the State Premiers and State Ministers for Agriculture. Amongst many other interesting observations, according to this report, the Bureau said:
At least a third’ of the sheep industry is facing significant economic and/or financial pressures’ - even with a break in the drought and, the assumption of a ‘reasonable recovery’ in wool prices. In Queensland and Western Austrafia perhaps as many as 10 and 15 per cent of properties have nil or very limited chances of continued operation, and a further 20 lo 30 per cent have financial difficulties. In Victoria, and probably in the other remaining States, those with very little chance of continued operation could well constitute 5 per cent or even more, with a further 15 to 20 per cent having financial difficulties.-
A very detailed survey in Western Australia showed that of 14.200 sheep and wheat properties only 6,700 to 7,700 were in a reasonable financial situation.
This report goes on to say:
There is no way of determining just how long these people will hang on. It will probably be another .year or so before’ .the. majority of them realise the inevitability of their failure”. . .
The report continues:.
In Western Australia $120m ‘is required to salvage the ‘doubtfuls’, leaving aside completely the question of how the ‘hopeless’ are to be helped to reestablish themselves outside.
I am quoting from this’ report to show that the Government is dealing to the people involved in wool production a death blow at a time when sp many of them are struggling for viability and financial stability. We know very .well that the return on investment, in the land is lower than any other investment available throughout this Commonwealth, lt is a scandal that a body of responsible people will fake action such as that which is the subject of this debate for it will continue to undermine this traditionally great industry . upon which Australia has relied for so long. 1 would like to Conclude by quoting from an observation which I think is of some value. It relates to the policy recommended by the Australian Wool Industry Conference, by members of the Country Party and by the “‘new Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry. I refer to the ‘ decision to establish the Australian Wool - Commission. I will quote from an article.. by Peter Samuel which appeared in ‘The Bulletin’ of 13th February. Amongst other things he said:
But let’s have a look at what ‘economy’ could mean if it was accompanied by bold re-thinking.
One quick method would be to shelve the new Wool Commission, which looks a greater disaster every day it operates in the wool auctions. It is now shaping up as a ‘‘major’ political liability . . . Many analysts think that by the time Mr Gorton next goes .to the polls the Commission may have cost the taxpayers of Australia over $10Om while having done nothing whatever to help wool growers, out of their present plight. lt is stockpiling wool at a rapid rale, and for the moment it is probably true, as Sir William Gunn has claimed, that the Government has placed no limit on its funds.
Unless the price of. wool rises significantly - and no-one without an axe to grind’ thinks it will - the Government is going to be : seriously embarrassed by the Wool Commission.!’ J.T it simply goes on spending, lens of millions pf taxpayers’ dollars to buy up wool it will be starving the world textile industry of raw wool and accelerating the shift to synthetics, while at the same time creating an unprecedentedly huge stockpile overhanging the market and keeping traders in a bearish frame of mind. On the other hand., if the Government gets the Commission to sell off its stockpiled wool it will be depressing prices and almost certainly selling at a loss.
I quoted this to illustrate how wrong are the Government’s policies towards the woo] industry. There is not one section of our primary industry, right across the board-
– Are you supporting the abolition of the Wool Commission and its actions?
– I oppose the Government’s policy for rural industries, particularly that section of it which we are debating, the lifting of the embargo on the export of merino rams. I am showing how the Country Party has led the Government and the Executive up the path. The producers cannot take a trick.. The remnant of this wonderful sector of the Australian economy is in shreds. This Government ;has left the entire industry without any great confidence in any of its products. We
Gould speak of the pear growers in Victoria, or the sugar growers, the wheat growers, the wool growers or the fat lamb producers- in fact any of the others. In fact, there is very little hope for an improvement in the future for any of these industries. This is What the Country Party, advising the Government, has done.
The Country Party has brought this particular industry to its . knees. This is the worst of the grievous faults of the Country Party because the merino ram is so fundamental to this country. The Government is promoting the sale of this exclusive, strain, the merino, that is wanted in every other country. It also is wanted here in order to enable producers to keep improving the cut per head and the quality of our wool as it has done over the years.
– You want to abolish the Wool Commission so that wool prices will come down.
– We want to retain the rams so that they can continue to improve the quality of the Australian wool flock in order that it can hold its place proudly as it has done through the years. Because of the narrow mindedness, the short sightedness, the arrogance and the contempt that the Government holds towards the Parliament and the Senate, as well as the wool growers of Australia, we of the Opposition believe that this motion, which is virtually. a censure motion, should be carried.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party will support this motion. For a- period of 2 years now there has been confusion about the question of the export of merino rams because the Government failed to take the Senate’s advice that it should find out for sure what the industry really wanted to be done. This matter was first .raised when the proposition was put forward that the ban which had existed for a considerable time on the export of merino rams be lifted in part in the interests of the wool industry itself. Such a move was agreed to by many of the people and organisations associated with the wool industry, particularly some of the organisations which purport to speak on behalf of sections of the wool industry. Immediately the proposition was made there was a furore among the people in the industry itself and many deputations approached political parties in Canberra and the other capital, cities expressing a completely contrary point of view. It now became perfectly obvious that there was no unanimity in the industry and no clear opinion as to whether it was- wise from the point of view of the industry itself partially to lift the ban.
The first proposition to be discussed in this chamber was a motion, to the effect that a referendum be conducted of the people concerned so that the confused situation could be clarified. That motion was carried by the Senate.- Senator Byrne of the Democratic Labor Party then moved immediately that the resolution carried by the Senate be conveyed to the other place. His motion was agreed to unanimously by the Senate. Honourable senators opposite agreed that the resolution which had been carried by the Senate should be conveyed to the other place for’ it’s consideration. However, the other place did not see fit to consider this resolution and the confusion continued. In the meantime there was an election. Until the election was over nothing was done to meet the wishes of those in the industry who. wanted the ban lifted; nor was any security, given to those who wanted the ban to continue.
Immediately the election .. was over the Government took action by way of regulation. It has been argued that because the original ban was imposed by way of regulation it should be dispensed with by way of regulation. That point is debatable.-
However, as the interest of the people at large as well as that of a section of the Parliament had been aroused and an opinion on the matter had been expressed by the Senate, the Democratic Labor Party is of the opinion that the Government should not have moved for the removal of the ban without at least obtaining a much clearer opinion from the industry itself. The Government did not seek to obtain this opinion. As a result, a motion was moved in this chamber condemning the Government for its actions. This motion, too, was carried by the Senate. There was not very much fuss for a considerable time after that about the export of merino rams but an industrial dispute arose quite recently about whether some rams which had been bought quite legitimately at sales should be prevented by a union black ban from being exported to their new owners. This resulted in further confusion in the community. I want to make it perfectly clear that the Democratic Labor Party believes that regardless of the merits of the issue, any organisation that attempted to enter into a field that was not within its province did not do its cause any good. Quite apart from the principle involved, the Democratic Labor Party believes that this was a very foolish and stupid action to take.
I should say, as one who has had considerable experience in the industrial movement, that I have never seen a more futile nor ill considered attempt by the trade union movement to prove its strength. I am quite happy to make known my views not only as a member of this chamber but also as a member of an industrial union. If I were still taking advantage of my union membership to attend trade union congresses I would say to the trade union movement for its benefit the very thing that 1 propose to say to the Senate, which is: ‘If you want to prove your strength as an industrial .movement you should at least do it efficiently. Do not pick the weakest issues and the strongest opponent’. When a trade union picks the Government as an opponent it picks the strongest possible opponent. There is no point in maintaining a strike after the reason for it has been removed.
When a ban is placed on the export of something the Government has only to use its undoubted strength to export it. In the days when the coal industry was disrupted by political strikes a Labor Prime Minister used the strength of the government to ensure that the coal was won. if it is possible to do that with coal it most certainly must be possible to get an aircraft off the ground. Once the inoffensive rams, which had nothing to do with this dispute, were airborne and out of this country where was the strength of the industrial movement? Does any honourable senator imagine that the unionists would stay out on strike until the rams were brought back again. I am a trade unionist.
– The honourable senator is a ticket holder.
– If the trade union movement is unable to take criticism by its own members it is no longer the organisation I originally joined. When I joined the trade union movement it was in my experience one of the most democratic institutions ever formed. I am a member of two unions and I think I am entitled to be critical of the trade union movement if I think that the ACTU is embarking upon a completely futile and stupid action which will only prove not the strength but the weakness of the trade union movement. Anybody who runs away from an issue is an industrial coward. If Senator Cavanagh, who is interjecting, thinks that the ban on the export of merino rams was a good strike issue he should get up and say so. Senator Cavanagh and I and perhaps one or two other ‘ honourable - senators have probably had more experience in the industrial movement than anyone else in this chamber.
– But I am a trade unionist and you were. a ticket holder.
– I must have been a rather peculiar ticket holder because the trade union movement “of Victoria selected me - along with 1 other” delegate - to represent it at ACTU congresses. Only 2 of us represented the State’- of Victoria. If Senator Cavanagh regards me as having been only a ticket holder I suggest that he should put his record alongside mine and see who has the confidence of the unions. I repeat that the black ban was a stupid action on the part of the organised trade union movement of this, country which only added to the confusion: Indeed, the challenge to the authority of the Government itself cast a doubt in the minds of many people who originally supported the idea that the export of merino rams was not in the interests of the people of Australia and drove them over on to the other side. If any democrat were io allow such a challenge to succeed he would be helping to destroy the very basis of his democracy. Those honourable senators who do not believe me are, 1 would suggest, not democrats.
This is the situation in which we find ourselves at present. Confusion upon confusion has resulted in faults developing on all sides. The poor old rams were purists until the attempt recently to export them. Now in the minds of many people they are also suffering from the same blemishes as the Government, which had before it the clearly expressed opinion of the elected members of a House of the Parliament but was not prepared lo clarify the situation further before it acted. That is the situation in which members of the Democratic Labor Party find themselves.
We believe that the Government has erred. Making mistakes is a quality of government in which this Government indulges from time to time. We do noi support the challenge to the authority of the Government. We believe that to support that challenge would worsen the situation. We support the motion because we believe that even at this late stage the Government should re-think the situation and should obtain from the whole industry at least a more solid opinion than that upon which it has made its decisions to date. The Government can prove beyond doubt that it has the support of a considerable and authoritative section of the industry, but by the same token there is plenty of evidence to show that as big a section of the industry is opposed to the removal of the ban as the section that supports its removal. Until the matter is clarified we in the Democratic Labor Party will continue to oppose, within the law, the export of merino rams.
– I think , it would be helpful if I reminded the Senate of the terms of the motion moved by Senator Milliner approximately 1 hour ago. The motion is:
That the Senate considers that the Government has shown a contemptuous disregard for Parlia ment in regard to its lifting the partial ban on the export of merino rams.
Having regard to the limited time which each supporter of the motion has taken, it is surpising that no-one has been able to supply evidence as to why the Senate should be of that opinion. 1 suppose that is because they have difficulty in producing such evidence. I propose to confine my remarks to the issues involved in the motion. The Parliament does not consist of the Senate alone, notwithstanding that from time to time members of the Democratic Labor Party are inclined to adopt that erroneous view. The Parliament consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. No action taken by the Parliament is effective until it has been accepted by the House of Representatives and the Senate, and approved by the GovernorGeneral as the representative of the Queen. There is not a senator here tonight who does not accept that statement. Therefore, when it is suggested that there has been a contemptuous disregard of the Parliament and when reliance is placed upon a resolution of the Senate which has not been supported by the other House, that is a misuse of words. That, shows a total ignorance of what is involved in the concept of parliament.
Where is this contemptuous disregard? Honourable senators should remember that the Customs Act, under which this action was taken, was enacted in 1903. In 1910 the relevant section was amended by a Labor Government. Section 112 of the Customs Act ‘ provides the basis upon which the Government acted, lt states:
The Governor-General may, by proclamation, prohibit the exportation of any goods- and included in the goods which may be so proclaimed are these - the exportation of .which would, in his opinion, be harmful Lo the Commonwealth.
By and large each individual in this country has a right to live the life that he desires to live. If he chooses to export goods, whether they be rams or manufactured products, generally speaking there is no prohibition upon his ability to export.That was the position which existed in Australia prior to 1929. In 1929, under a Labor Government, Mp Parker Moloney, the Minister for Markets and Transport, introduced a proclamation made by the
Governor-General which prohibited the exportation of all stud sheep, lt was done by proclamation and without reference to Parliament, except that at that time there Was a provision that all proclamations made” should be notified to the Parliament. As the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) stated earlier, the Parliament was notified. The proclamation was made without the concurrence of either the House of Representatives or the- Senate. I think I can lump the Australian Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party together for this purpose, because’ in those days they were of the same mind.
– What about the Country Party in those days?
– All I am saying is that there was a Labor Government in office and that members of the DLP would owe allegiance to that government just as members of the Labor Party itself would. The Labor Government of the day did not think it necessary to have a vote of the Senate or the House of Representatives. I do not say that the Labor Government of the day was wrong in taking that view, lt was acting according to law. An Act of the Parliament stated that for an executive act of this description to be taken it was sufficient for the GovernorGeneral to make a proclamation. The Governor-General made the proclamation that the Labor Government wanted- and its wishes were achieved. In 1970 we have virtually the same Act with virtually the same provisions - the difference in these circumstances is inconsequential - and a Liberal-Country Party Government, by proclamation and acting in accordance with the law, relaxed the prohibition to return to individuals that essential right to sell their produce for whatever price they can get and to whatever buyer agrees to pay that price. Where is the contemptuous disregard of the Parliament in that?
I refer to what was said when Mr Parker Moloney referred the GovernorGeneral’s proclamation to the House of Representatives after action had been taken in 1929. I refer particularly to the words of Mr Latham who subsequently became a very distinguished Chief Justice of the High Court for about 17 years. He said:
That section, as I read it, requires a proclamation to be made by the Governor-General, and apparently every shipment would have to be con sidered on its merits. . . .. We must recognise that it is within the power’ of the Government to do this thine by executive ‘ action. It is unnecessary for the Government to invite the approval of the House.
That is the legal position. ‘I can appreciate that there. is weight in. the arguments which can be advanced in favour of and against any government prudently, .putting these matters before the. Parliament for consideration, .but it does not -have. to.. When there is a variety of executive: acts which the Parliament yields to . a::government, 1 think Government has an .obligation to use its power.
Senator Little said there’ was a great deal of dispute in the’ ‘ wool industry as to whether there was merit in the relaxation of this embargo. Undoubtedly there was a difference of opinion’. What did the Government do? It pondered long before it relaxed this embargo. It sought the advice of the most representative- ‘body which the wool industry has established - the Australian Wool Industry Conference. By an approximately 2 to’ 1 ‘vote of ils members the Conference indicated that it wanted this embargo relaxed; and’ the Government indicated that it was giving consideration to the relaxation of the- embargo. What happened? We had a debate in the Senate. What did the Senate resolve? It expressed the opinion that the embargo should not be relaxed until the opinion of the persons affected had been obtained by referendum or other fair means. What did the Government do? It took no action. It said it would refer the matter back to the Wool Industry Conference .for.. further consideration. lt did so. After a. period of 9 months it received from, the Australian Wool Industry Conference an. indication that that body saw no reason for further considering the matter. It. had expressed its opinion by an overwhelming majority and it adhered to it. This Government relaxed the ban. And in what, way did it relax the ban? lt said that for a period of 12 months it would be permissible to export up to 300 rams out of the many million merino sheep in this country. What has caused this great furore on 3 occasions in the Senate is the question of whether the Government has shown a contemptuous disregard for Parliament. . The Government has not shown a contemptuous’ disregard for Parliament because it has acted as it is entitled to act under an Act of Parliament, passed by both Houses of the Parliament, in which it was given power to -make decisions.
– Of course, legally. 1 am coming lo this further point. There is a tendency on the part of honourable senators opposite to prefer illegality of action rather than legality of action. Government has a paramount obligation to ensure that the actions it takes are consistent with the laws of the land which it is bound to uphold. It is a pity that cannot be said for more people in this country. When one considers the pros and cons of the Government’s decision as to whether this embargo should or should not have been relaxed one appreciates there would be a wide canvassing of ‘ many arguments. 1 for my part do not seek to claim any particular knowledge but- it does seem to me that in favour of the Government’s decision - this is just one argument out of many which have been raised - is the fact that there is a feeling in other wool producing countries that they should not contribute to the funds of the International Wool Secretariat and they should not contribute finance to the promotion of wool and the development -of all these activities which are designed to popularise wool on the world market. In supporting this view they say: ‘While we have poor wools why should we finance bodies which are simply designed to popularise the liner wools of which Australia has the greatest quantity?’
It seems to me that Australia would be served if we could instil into other countries the belief that the problems of the wool industry being world wide at the moment can be helped if there is a greater contribution from all the wool producing countries. That is one consideration which has not been advanced in the course of this debate and which appears to me to add some weight to the Government’s attitude. What have been the arguments advanced here tonight? Senator O’Byrne suggested that the embargo on the export of the merino rams should remain until there has been a referendum. He was not precise as to the persons who should participate in the referendum. But he talked about a referendum. The first problem is: Who are the people who are to participate in the referendum? There is a great difficulty in fixing the voting basis. Is it to be every merino breeder or is it to be a vote in respect of every merino which a breeder happens to possess? Is one to draw any distinction between the rams and the ewes for the purpose of determining how many votes a person is to have? And what of the prospective owners of merinos? Are they entitled to have a vote?
I suggest they are practical problems. They are not altogether problems of no consequence as every referendum which has been held amongst wool growers for any purpose has clearly demonstrated. As Senator O’Byrne suggested the referendum would enable the viewpoint of all persons concerned and affected to be ascertained. But the Australian Council of Trade Unions is suggesting that the people vitally concerned in this matter are the people in the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, the Transport Worker’s Union, and the Storemen and Packers Union. I dare say the view would be held by members of the Australian Labor Party that until they, too, had a vote in the referendum it would not be a fair referendum. I only make that statement because the point of view has been put that these people are affected and that is the justification which is offered as to why they have imposed a black ban on the export of these merinos. I suggest that there are really practical problems in determining whether there should be a referendum. Indeed, one can say that the Labor Party is not being consistent. At the time that the ban was imposed in 1929 when there was a dispute it was not thought necessary to have a referendum. Apparently the position changes when political capital is to be made and a different government is in office. Far from there being a contemptuous disregard for Parliament shown by the Government a contemptuous disregard has been shown for Parliament, Government and law and order by persons outside the Parliament who have sought to impose their will on the Parliament and to pose in this area as an alternative Government.
The real issue on this question of the merino rams is whether a Government elected by and responsible to the nation is to govern this country or whether it is to be a group of unionists with no greater responsibility than that which they assume in their own judgment they owe to their union members. Is it to be the rule of law or is it to be the rule of the lawless? I appreciate that Senator Little has a few difficulties in connection with this resolution. In his heart be would agree that it is the rule of law which should govern this country and not the rule of the lawless. But he goes along with this contemptuous disregard of Parliament which he supposes the Government is showing because it does not listen to the viewpoint of the Senate in which the Australian Democratic Labor Party alone, he would have us believe, representative of the people.
– Those senators are elected by the people and any responsible government listens to the voice of the people.
– I agree that the Senate is elected by the people and that is one of the virtues of the Senate. But equally the House of Representatives is elected by the people and Parliament consists of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. No matter how much the Democratic Labor Party would like to do so it cannot claim that the Senate alone constitutes Parliament. To support a resolution which claims that the Government is in contemptuous disregard of Parliament just because it does not follow the viewpoint of the Senate in which the Democratic Labor Party can determine - because it must always win a vote - which will be the point of view, is not in my opinion to the merit of the Democratic Labor Party nor does it aid any concept of responsible administration. By what warrant and with what justification in terms of law and democracy are Mr Hawke, the ACTU and the Australian Workers Union entitled to say whether 300 sheep should be exported? Since the Government decided to relax the embargo upon the export of merino rams we have observed actions of persons who are nothing more than petty dictators. Their actions involve the denial of individual rights; that is the rights of the persons who in an open market have purchased these rams and the rights of the persons who in open market have sold these rams to enjoy the fruits of their transactions. We have seen actions involving a complete contempt for law and a purported arrogant ability to determine what this Parliament shall and shall not do. Associated with that is the blackguardly intimidation which is imposed upon people who try to overcome the union’s black ban. Honourable senators may recall reading In the Press of the wife of the gentleman who was able to fly out approximately a fortnight ago some 200 rams which overseas purchasers had bought. She was compelled to leave her home because people were threatening her over the telephone and she’ was frightened.
– Hear, hear! So they should!
– From what Senator Cavanagh says I appreciate that to him this is nothing reprehensible at all. But to me it represents, as I’ said earlier, the intimidatory tactics which ought to be no part of the Australian scene and no part of what an honourable senator is prepared to countenance. What we have seen is the imposition of a black ban by a variety of unions. This black ban has been imposed for what reason? Is . it ‘ because the wool industry is in jeopardy? They have not said so but it would be surprising if these various unions were capable of expressing a more valid opinion than the Australian Wool Industry Conference or the Australian Government as to whether or not the wool industry was in’ jeopardy. Let me mention the names of the unions who consulted with the Australian : Council of Trade Unions to impose” this black ban. They were the Australian Railways Union, the Waterside Workers’ Federation, the Storemen and Packers Union, the Transport Workers’ Unions the Federated Clerks Union, the Wool and Basil Workers’ Federation and the” Australian Federated Union of- Locomotive Enginemen. I suppose they know a fair bit about rams but I doubt whether they know very much at all about the intricacies of the wool industry or whether they are entitled to assert their judgment, as to whether or not Australia is in jeopardy, in preference to that of the Austraiian Government.
– It .would be better than the judgment we have, heard tonight.
– lt may be a question of whose judgment we prefer. But on this issue I believe the people of Australia prefer the judgment of the Australian Government to the judgment of that group of unions. They have not said that the ban is because the wool industry is in jeopardy. They have virtually given no reason at all for imposing this black ban, except one to which I will refer later. Are they imposing the ban on the export of these merinos because the economy of the country is in some way jeopardised? lt may be the sort of situation that could require drastic action, but it is up to these unions to indicate the type of danger the economy is facing. I do not think that they are the reasons which have been advanced at all. The reasons why the ACTU and these unions have decided to impose a black ban is because they have been asked to do so by leading graziers. What has the Australian trade union movement come to when it will act at the bidding of leading graziers? lt would make the stalwarts of the union movement of 60 or 70 years ago turn in their graves. 1 am not suggesting anything which cannot be verified. I refer to the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 3rd February 1970, just before the ban was imposed. That newspaper reported:
The Transport Workers’ Union has put a black ban on the export of Australian Merino rams. The Federal Secretary (Mr Ted Harris) announced ihi, last night after a plea by leading Victorian and New South Wales graziers to unions to help slop the export. lt would appear that that was the motivation for the unions to act. Indeed, if one looks at the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 4th February, one finds a report that the ACTU had called a meeting which was to be held on Friday, 6lh February, to discuss the Australian Government’s decision to lift a 40-year old embargo on the export of Australian merino rams. The ACTU President, Mr Hawke, said that the meeting would decide what action to take to stop the lifting of the ban. Mr Hawke said it was ACTU policy to retain the embargo. The meeting was called following an’ appeal to the unions by the Victorian and New South Wales graziers.
– What’ was the final statement issued at the meeting?
– Subsequently the ACTU mel on 6th February 1970 and imposed a ban. Because Senator Bishop is interested to know what statement was issued at that meeting I. will read him a report from the ‘Australian’ of 7th February. It reads simply:
The Australian- Council of Trade Unions yesterday imposed a Rational black ban on the export of merino rams from Australia.
The ACTU President, Mr r. j. Hawke, said the ban would take effect immediately.
– Did the ACTU take a referendum on the imposition of the black ban?
– I appreciate the point made by Senator Prowse but I do feel that he cannot seriously expect the trade union movement to have a referendum on any issue, because this is one area in which referendums are absolutely abhorrent to what trade unions are prepared to adhere. In this report in the ‘Australian* the ACTU President is quoted as saying:
We will not wait and allow merinos to be sent out of the country.
The final part of the report is in these words:
The meeting condemned the Federal Government for having failed to consult properly and listen to the wide cross-section of the community opposed to the lifting of the embargo on the export of merinos.
What basis is that for a union or a group of unions of this country to say that they will take industrial action which could bring this country to a standstill in particular circumstances just because that union or that group of unions suggests that it believes the Government has not consulted or listened to a wide cross section of the community? What criterion of action is that? Once an outside body uses that as a criterion to take action and is able to enforce this action then we can say goodbye to any concept of democratic parliamentary procedure, which is the very basis of the liberties and freedoms and the national development of this country.
We have not heard a word from the Australian Labor Party as to what it thinks of that action of the ACTU. Indeed, if one accepts the newspaper reports, the initiating body in all these matters was the Executive of the Australian Labor Party iti New South Wales. The newspaper reports have said it was that body which called upon the Labor Council in New South Wales to take action and it was from that that individual unions imposed their bans and obtained the ACTU support. But it may be that some member of the Labor Party opposite will be able to confirm or deny that, if Labor has the courage to indicate where it stands on this issue of whether unions outside the Parliament should be in a position to dictate to the Government- and to the people of this country;
Mr Deputy President, we are debating a motion that there has been a contemptuous disregard by the “Government of the Parliament, and I have shown that it has no basis in law or in fact. There has been a contemptuous disregard of the Parliament but it is a contemptuous disregard by persons outside the Parliament who believe that they can impose their law, which is a field of no law, upon people in Australia. It is not only in the area of seeking to prevent merino rams being taken out of Australia; it is in the area of preventing supplies being sent to our troops in Vietnam; it is in the area of intimidating persons to go about their lawful vocation; it is in the area, irrespective of what the Government says, of imposing bans upon people who want to drill in waters off the coast of Queensland. If this Government ever allows the country to get to a stage where unions determine what policies are to take effect then it is a stage at which the Government is abnegating the task which it has been elected to perform. 1 hope that in the coming year we will see firm Government action to indicate that where laws are passed by the Parliament and where actions are taken pursuant to laws passed by the Parliament the Government will enforce those laws. It was highly encouraging to hear what was said by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on 4th February when the union ban on the export of the merinos was defeated. The ban was defeated notwithstanding the boasting of Mr Hawke and others that if the union said that sheep were not to go out they would not -go out. The Prime Minister said in his statement:
The Government cannot permit a situation in which Australian exporters are prevented from honouring their commitments in international trade.
To do so would be to allow industrial action, undertaken for political purposes, to interfere with overseas trade and damage Australia’s good name in the eyes of the world.
This we will not permit.
I can only say in conclusion that it would redound to the Senate’s greater prestige and to its sense of responsibility if, instead of supporting this motion which is so erroneously founded, it was to indicate that it stood behind the Prime Minister and that it will not accept the contemptuous disregard for Parliament which is involved in the industrial brigandage which Mr Hawke and members of the ACTU have shown on this issue.
– I have been very interested in the wide range over which Senator
Greenwood has wandered. It is surprising what he has been able to bring into the debate on this motion, which he read a couple of times and which I will read again. Incidentally, I am surprised that noone has noticed that there is a mistake in the printing. The motion should read:
That the Senate considers that the Government has shown a contemptuous disregard for Parliament in regard to its partial lifting of the ban- not ‘its lifting the partial ban’ - on the export of merino rams.
In that motion there is not one word about any question, debate, consideration or decision with regard to the action that was taken by the trade union movement. This is something quite different. I have drawn the attention of the Senate to the fact that we are considering the attitude of the Government to a decision that was reached by this section of the Parliament.
I did not propose to make a considerable contribution to this debate, and 1 still do not propose to do so. But I was involved in the previous debate in which we discussed the merits of whether there should be a partial lifting of the ban or whether it should remain as a total ban. I remind the Senate that on the previous occasion in April 1969 the motion was debated quite fully; it was not talked out. The motion was moved pursuant to notice on 22nd April. The debate continued until the end of that sitting when, under the relevant sessional order, the Senate adjourned. The debate was continued on 29th April until it reached a conclusion and a vote was taken. The motion was not talked out. A decision was reached without any limitation of debate at all. The motion then was:
That the Senate is of opinion that the embargo on the export of merinos should not be removed at this time and that the embargo should remain in force until a majority of those persons affected shall’ decide by referendum or other fair means in favour of removing or relaxing me embargo.
The Senate approved that motion. At the end of a full debate, the Senate voted in favour of it, although admittedly by only one vote. Although this matter was not debated in the House of Representatives and was not decided by the Parliament but was decided by the Minister for Primary Industry and a Cabinet decision, I believe that it is reasonable to assume that the Government was aware of the opinion expressed by this chamber.
The opinion expressed by this chamber is of value because it is the only opinion that has been expressed by the elected representatives. We consider that the Government’s decision is a contemptuous disregard of the decision of this chamber. 1 thought this debate would have been designed to establish whether it was or was not. I thought that was what Senator Greenwood would do in his contribution to the debate. But he got well away from the question. He is certainly entitled to his opinions, and he has spoken of them before. We on this side of the chamber are entitled to our opinions, and we have expressed them and have been successful. That is the important point.
I had not intended to go back into the history of this matter. I do not propose to go into it extensively. But I want to correct a couple of points that have been made. One of them was made very early in the debate by the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), representing the Minister for ‘ Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). He told us of the early history of the imposition of the ban. 1 will not go back to 1929 because that has been done. I will quote from a Press statement that was issued by no less a person than the former Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Anthony, on 20th February 1970. It is an extract from an address that he gave to a meeting of a branch of the Young Australian Country Party. He said:
Let’s look at the history of this whole matter without even discussing the rights or the wrongs of doing it.
That is fair enough. I think that is the approach that should be made. He continued:
Let’s look at the history of where we got to and where we are today.
This is important, and it is unfortunate that Senator Drake-Brockman is not in the chamber now,’ because he made a statement which I am endeavouring to correct by reference - to a speech made by the former Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister said:
During the twenties merinos were freely exported, especially to South Africa, but the numbers were not large. However, an election promise by Labor in 1929 lo stop these exports caused some panic buying.
That would be understandable. He went on to say:
And in 1929 wool prices slumped. There was quite an emotional reaction amongst the people. A Labor government had just come into office and people were saying that if we prevented the export of merinos we would have a monopoly of fine wools around the world and be able to demand our own price for them.
The conclusion to which the Minister came at that point was:
Now, that argument could have had logic in those days because (here was no real competitor to fine merino wool.
I am not arguing about that. The point is that the embargo was imposed following a tremendous upsurge of feeling in the wool industry, and it was a promise that was made by the Labor Party. This was not a decision that was reached overnight and imposed on the industry: this was something that the Labor Parly had promised to do. That is an important point. The Labor Party was only carrying out the mandate it had been given.
I want lo remind the Senate of a few of the points which have been made in previous debates and which are directly concerned wilh this matter. One point that has been mentioned again and again by speakers from the Government side tonight is that this action is the result of a decision of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. They have been honest enough to admit that the matter was referred back to the AWIC by the then Minister for Primary Industry for further consideration and that after 9 months, when asked for a decision, the Conference had the effrontery to say: ‘We do not consider that we ought to revise our decision or take any further evidence’. It was also contemptuous for the Wool Industry Conference, which considers itself to be the industry’s spokesman, to say ‘We do not propose to take any further action or to carry out any further investigation’, in view of the fact that a decision had been reached here following a tremendous outcry from farmers all over Australia. The point about the Wool Industry Conference refusing to reconsider its decision was also mentioned in the Minister’s Press statement.
I should like to direct attention to one point which has never been mentioned to date in any debate on this matter. In doing so I indicate to the Senate that f am criticising the Wool Industry Conference because I do not consider that it represents the industry. The way in which the original motion on the question whether the Conference should agree to a relaxation of the ban was put has never been mentioned. In a letter to “The Countryman’, a newspaper in Western Australia, Mr R. D. Logan of Richmond, north Queensland, makes this point:
Many votes in support of lifting the embargo were given because the resolution contained words similar to the following - ‘providing the Federal Government uses the embargo removal as a bargaining point to obtain benefits for Australian wool in overseas countries’. lt will be seen that the Wool Industry Conference was itself concerned about the relaxation of the ban. If the ban was relaxed, that was to be used as a bargaining lever to increase sales of and to gain better prices for the Australian wool clip. Nothing has been heard of any efforts which were made in that direction. Nothing has been disclosed at any time about any attempts to gain advantages for the Australian wool clip along those lines.
I had selected for correction a number of other statements which have been made but I do not think that we will get any further with this debate by re-hashing the arguments that have been put on previous occasions. Already on 1 occasion the Senate has voted to oppose the lifting of the ban, and on another occasion when only members of the Opposition and members of the Democratic Labor Party had participated in the debate and had spoken in support of the ban, the matter was not taken to a vote but the indications were that if it had been the members of the Democratic Labor Parly would have voted with the Australian Labor Party and we would have had a sufficient number of votes to establish our view. I believe that the Senate has been treated contemptuously in that an opinion reached by it democratically and after full debate, namely, that a referendum be taken of those involved in the industry to learn their wishes, has been ignored by the Government. I join with my colleagues in the Australian Labor Party and, f gather, wilh members of the Democratic Labor Party, in supporting the motion before the Chair.
– We have heard a remarkable variation of speeches tonight. Unlike the previous occasions when this matter was discussed, the relative merits of the embargo have been dodged neatly by the Opposi tion.. Its only argument is based on its claim that the wishes of the Parliament have been ignored by the Government. Senator Greenwood dealt effectively with that argument. I think it is just as well to recount some of the issues which brought about the Government’s decision. As Senator Drake-Brockman. who represents the Minister for Primary Industry, stated earlier, the ban was introduced in 1929 by proclamation. Neither the Parliament nor the producers were consulted. Subesquent Ministers, irrespective. of political allegiance, had to administer the proclamation as they saw fit. As a result of pressure from the wool industry the Government, on the advice of Mr Anthony, the former Minister for Primary Industry, decided on a partial - not a total - lifting of the ban, such decision to be reviewed in 12 months.
We have heard some arguments tonight about why the ban should be continued. The ban on the export of merino rams was imposed, and was supported by the wool industry over the years, because, as has been mentioned already, Australia has been’ producing fine wool. Because of our climatic conditions, stud breeders have been able to produce rams which grow the fine wool. Breeders in other countries have not been able to do so. The object of the ban was to create a monopoly for Australia in fine wools, the argument being that if there was a shortage of fine wools the price would go up and the Australian wool producer and the Australian people generally would get a higher return. That reasoning has fallen down because people have forgotten that falling prices can result not only from over production but also from under production of a product. That is exactly what happened with Australian fine wools.
Since the war the demand for apparel fibres has risen tremendously and the production of wool has never been able to catch up. That is why at one stage at the end of the war the Australian wool. industry was able to produce .16 per cent of the world’s requirements of apparel fibres. Today, however, we are flat out producing 7 per cent or S per cent of the world’s requirements. What has happened to the fine wool with which we are particularly concerned tonight - the wool which is produced by our merinos? In 1940m, the first year for which we have been able to get a complete breakup of the Australian wool clip - that was the first year of operation of the Joint Organisation - 64’s and finer, the fine wools of this country, represented 53.7 per cent of the total Australian wool clip. The latest figures which we have been able to obtain - they cover 1968-69 - indicate that 64’s and finer represent only 13.7 per cent of the Australian wool clip. A ban which has been in operation for some 40 years and which was imposed with the object of protecting the fine wools of this country in order to put up the price and to ensure that Australia would be able to produce this wool and maintain the wool industry, has had the reverse effect. It has happened because we have not been able to supply the needs of the apparel industry.
Senator Byrne made the point very well earlier tonight when he referred to the decline in the prices of fine wool over the years. One would imagine that the shortage of this type of wool would cause the price to rise. As I explained earlier, we have not been able to produce enough fine wool for the apparel industry and it has been forced to turn to synthetics. It is argued that if we send our rams out of this country and improve the quality of wool in other countries we will affect the price we receive for our product. That is just so much rubbish. The problem in the Australian wool industry does not arise because of wool grown by other countries. It arises through competition from synthetics. Until we can produce sufficient high quality wool we will have a problem. Australia produces only 30 per cent of the world’s wool needs. From remarks made in this debate one would imagine that we produce all the wool required throughout the world. The only way to save the wool industry through increasing prices is to improve the quality of wool, not only in Australia but throughout the world.
The other argument put forward by the Opposition stems from the lobby established with it by a section of the industry, and with our semi-opposition. That lobby has been established by people who are worried about competition from overseas countries which seek to buy rams from our stud breeders. That argument completely ignores the rules of supply and demand.
Over the years the studs in which the Opposition now has so much faith, because it is said they have been able to produce super wool that no-one else can produce, have gone out of production. Of the studs operating about 20 or 30 years ago, only half are left today. Stud breeding is a very involved and costly business. The owners of these studs are finding it is much more profitable, even under existing conditions in the industry, the turn to wool growing rather than stud breeding.
If the last Sydney sales are a true indication, before very many years the merino breeding section will cease to be a major part of our wool industry. The only other way to protect the stud merino breeding section of the industry is by subsidy, at the expense of the taxpayers, because the returns from rams are not sufficient to make ends meet at present. One stud after another will go out of business. Quite a few studs have gone out of business in the last few years. If buyers in overseas countries can help to keep the industry solvent, what is wrong with selling them rams? As an ordinary flock breeder I am vitally interested in the sale of rams. I can predict what will happen in future if action is not taken in respect of stud breeding. If income from overseas will keep our stud sheep breeding industry solvent, is that not preferable to asking the taxpayers to do so?
SenatorKeeffe - What will happen if those overseas buyers sell more wool than you?
- Senator Keeffe is an expert on rams. The Government has acted under the provisions laid down in 1929 by a Labor Government. On this occasion, unlike then, the Government has consulted the industry. Honourable senators opposite have been very critical of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The AWIC is made up of employers in the wool industry. If honourable senators opposite do not recognise the AWIC as being representative of the wool -industry of Australia, how the devil can they recognise the Australian Council of Trade Unions as being representative of the unions of this country?
– The unions are better organised.
– We might agree about that. It’ appears so, anyway. 1 will ignore future interjections by Senator Keeffe because he is not contributing to the debate. I turn to consider the suggestion of a plebiscite of wool growers. Senator Milliner said tonight that a plebiscite should be conducted. I have noticed on the notice paper an item bearing Senator Milliner’s name that does not -mention a referendum.
– That is right.
– It is an after thought.
– Do you support the Senate’s decision?
– We will get back to that. I know certain members of the Labor Party’ who believe that the Senate should be abolished, lt is amazing that members of the Labor Party have so much to say on this issue and are so churned up about the fact that the vote of the Senate was not taken into consideration. I ask honourable senators opposite whether they have been able to convince members of their Party in another place that this is a serious matter. Since this issue has been before the Parliament oodles of urgency motions have been moved in the other House, but not once has the Labor Party seen fit to raise this matter there. The forms of the other place would have provided an opportunity for the Labor Party to do so.
– I rise to a point of order. I do not think the honourable senator should be discussing procedures in the other House. I am not saying that he is being offensive to my Party. I do not regard his remarks as offensive but I do not think he should be discussing the affairs and conduct of motions in the other House. I ask, Mr Deputy President, that you suggest to the honourable senator that it is extremely undesirable and contrary to Standing Orders for him to do so. It is incumbent upon each House to ensure that it does not offend in that regard. I am not saying that the honourable senator intends to be offensive, but the rules should not be transgressed by discussing the affairs of the other House. 1 ask that it be suggested to the honourable senator that he should not do so.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. Surely what Senator Maunsell has said is merely a criticism of the Labor Party for its failure to use the forms of the other House and no criticism whatever of proceedings. It is simply a criticism of the lack of action by the Labor Party.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Senator Maunsell will continue. As I have just come into the chair it is difficult for me to adjudicate on this point. I ask Senator Maunsell to conform with Standing Orders..
– I am extremely sorry that the Labor Party is a little hurt by what I have had to say. If the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) does not like it, I simply say to him that the Labor Party has had ample, opportunity to debate this matter. Mr Hawke used the argument that we have heard in this place. He said that he would be quite happy to lift the ban, provided the issue were debated in the Parliament. Surely he has had every opportunity to” convince members of another place to initiate a debate. I thought he had more influence in the Labor Party. Mr Hawke is one of those people who think they can run this country. The real issue before the Senate is not whether rams should be exported - that decision was made constitutionally in a proper place - but whether the elected representatives of the people or the people outside who are not responsible to the community should govern the country.
Most thinking Australians - certainly most that I have talked to - even if opposed to the ban have applauded the action of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in ensuring that the decisions of the elected representatives of the people were carried out. It is a shocking indictment against this country that pressure groups from outside, no matter of what type they may be, should dictate to the elected representatives of the people. The sooner that we in this and the other place recognise this, the sooner we will receive the support of the Australian people. I am completely opposed to the motion that we are debating tonight. We have made our stand on this matter abundantly clear in previous debates. A decision has been taken constitutionally by the Government in the same way as a previous decision on this issue was taken and enforced by a former Labor government. Until such time as the wool industry through the Australian Wool Industry Conference, which is its superior body, decides that the ban is having an effect on our wool industry the Government’s decision should stand. As the matter is to be reviewed every 12 months, I cannot see any danger in the partial embargo which is being enacted at present.
– Mr Deputy President, this question has been traversed quite openly-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! Is the honourable senator rising to a point of order?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The honourable senator may not speak a second time in the debate.
– There are no other speakers listed and the subject has been canvassed quite openly. I request that the question be now put.
– Senator Prowse was on his feet.
– He was not on his feet.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! I call Senator Prowse, who was getting to his feet.
– On a point of order, when Senator Maunsell resumed his seat no senator on the Government side of the chamber attempted to rise. It was only after I began to speak that Senator Prowse attempted to rise.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! I call Senator Prowse, whose name appears on my list of speakers.
– Mr Deputy President. I looked at the list-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The honourable senator may address himself to the point of order only.
– I am addressing myself to the point of order. When the list of speakers was compiled, Senator McClelland was to follow Senator Maunsell in the debate. Senator
McClelland intimated that he did not wish to speak and, consequently, I believe that should be the end of the debate. I pursue my point of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! There is no substance to the point of order. I call Senator Prowse.
– It is little wonder that members of the Opposition have difficulty in finding a speaker to pursue an argument which has no basis whatever. It must be very difficult to debate a subject when there is not a single point on which the Opposition can base an argument. We have heard members of the Labor Party trying to equate the Senate with the Parliament. This argument is palpably absurd and it was ably demolished by Senator Greenwood. Surely honourable senators opposite must be speaking with their tongues in their cheeks when they equate the Senate with the Parliament. When many of them argue that we should abolish the Senate, surely they must be arguing that we should abolish the Parliament. In effect that is their attitude. They want to substitute thetrade union movement for the Parliament of this country and they want to substitute the law, or lack of law, of the trade unions for the law of the Parliament. Their argument has been so palpably absurd that they must be ashamed of it.
Honourable senators opposite have argued in favour of a referendum, a proceeding that they despise. But they have been forced into this argument because they have been straining to find some sort of case to support what in the first place was simply a political attempt to cash in on some confusion -I admit to this - in the minds of the wool producers of Australia regarding the merits of a case that they had not considered.
– They had not been properly informed.
– Whether or not they were properly informed, they had opportunities to be informed. I can speak from my own. fairly close knowledge of the Farmers Union of Western Australia. I know that that organisation circularised every branch of the Farmers Union and asked for its opinion on this issue.
– If they find out about this in Western Australia you will not come back next time.
– Never mind whether I come back or you come back. I have come back. This sounds a bit like an advertisement for hair cream. Senator Cant might have more use for hair cream than I have, but he is very short of arguments if he has to raise the point whether I will be back or he will be back. This is a wonderful example of the complete lack of constructive argument on the part of the Opposition. When I was so rudely interrupted I was telling honourable senators, in case they did not know, that the Farmers Union circulated every branch of that organisation and asked whether it supported the lifting of the embargo on merino rams. The Farmers Union sought these opinions because the matter was being discussed by the Australian Wool Industry Conference which, despite efforts by the Opposition to rubbish it. is the recognised body. The Farmers Union of Western Australia-
– It is recognised by you but not by other people.
– What you do is of no consequence. The farmers of Western Australia are represented by 2 organisations, the Farmers Union and the Pastoralists and Graziers Association. The Farmers Union elected 5 members and a similar number was elected from the Pastoralists and Graziers Association. This is democratic. It is the sort of process that a trade union uses. Honourable senators might as well repudiate the Australian Council of Trade Unions as to repudiate the Australian Wool Industry Conference. This is the sort- of absolute rubbish that the Labor Party has been trying to put over in trying to disregard the fact that the AWIC represents the wool growers of Australia. The wool growers considered this question over a period of time- and sought all the evidence from any inquiry that had ever been instituted into the merits of the embargo. The fact is that no inquiry ever set up to examine this question has ever come out in support of the embargo. The reason is clear: The whole thing was imposed on a basis of ignorance.
– And it took 40 years to find it out.
– lt did not take that long to find out but we suffered the embargo for 40 years.
– We submitted to it knowing that it was wrong.
– Some of us, yes. The fact is that it has existed for that time. But why was it imposed? It was imposed at a time when wool prices were falling. It was assumed that it would help to keep up the price of wool. Now, of course, we have a disastrous situation. We have- had the ban and it has failed to keep wool prices up. lt has had absolutely no effect on the price of wool. In the intervening years the situation has been that the laws of Australia have been used to prevent sheep breeders exporting sheep which have done a magnificent job for the Australian economy. The rams do not belong to the industry as a whole: they, belong to the people who produce them. Surely these people who have contributed magnificently to the wool industry have some rights in this matter. It is completely fallacious to argue that if we were to export merino rams we would encourage the production of Australian wool in China, Russia, South Africa or somewhere else. The fact is that we did not prohibit the export of rams to New Zealand. Has New Zealand been able over the intervening years to produce Australian wool? Of course it has not. Before 1929 we exported merino rams to South Africa. We also exported some to Russia. Yet those countries have failed to produce wool of a quality equal to that of Australian wool.
Now, how did we get the Australian merino? We got it by taking blood lines from here and there and blending them for Australian conditions. The wide world has had the genetic blood lines that we used and still has them. If anybody wants to produce the genetic equivalent of Australian rams they can do so and there has never been any hindrance to that objective. Are we assuming that the Australian stud breeder has some magical skill that the stud breeders who have produced the “numerous varieties of sheep and other animals throughout the world are incapable of learning? Are we assuming that they cannot achieve the same degree of skill.
– It is the favourable climatic conditions.
– Exactly. But you cannot export favourable climatic conditions.
– Do not get excited. I am telling you something that apparently you did not know.
– My dear sir, I have lived in this country nearly as long as you have. 1 am asking the Senate to listen to somebody who knows something about sheep and sheep breading. I do not know how many rams you have produced in your career.
– How many have you produced?
-I have been responsible for a number. The point is - it was well taken by Senator Gair - that we cannot export the Australian climatic conditions. Recently I had the opportunity of inspecting some South African rams. I was on a property where there were some 200 rams. They were described as flock rams, but they were magnificent animals.
– They were apartheid rams.
– They were all white anyway. The rams were splendid specimens of their breed. They would cut very heavy weights and they were up to Australian standard. I doubt whether I have seen in Western Australia a flock breeder with 200 rams of equivalent quality. Later in Bradford I was discussing South African wool and the processors told me that although it appears to be the equivalent of Australian wool it does not process and this factor is associated with climatic conditions. If Australian rams go to South Africa it is extremely doubtful whether under those conditions they will reproduce the best qualities of Australian wool.
– Why did they buy them?
– Because hope springs eternal in the human breast and I have never yet seen a stud breeder who does not try to improve his sheep.
– If our rams go to Russia will they come rarer?
– If they go to Russia and the Russian ewes are as barren as the Labor Party is barren of ideas they will be completely useless. Despite the best efforts of the Australian rams on the Russian ewes it will be, I am afraid, a case of love’s labour lost. The pity of the matter is that tonight we have spent so much time on a matter of so little consequence. As far as the wool industry is concerned I do not think it matters two hoots commercially whether these rams are exported. However there is an important principle involved and that is the right of the individual who produces an article to export it freely. If he is prohibited from exporting it he has a clear case for compensation. Unless we agree to the argument that the Australian sheep industry is to be socialised and that Australian rams do not belong to their owners the Opposition case is lost.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - 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.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Bull)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 February 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19710218_senate_27_s47/>.