28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Government is intending that the role and functions of the Governor-General should become those of a Viceroy so that State Governors would become responsible to the Viceroy and act upon the advice of Commonwealth Government Ministers and not, as at present, on the advice of State Government Ministers? Has the Government made any approach to the United Kingdom Government along those lines? If there is no such intention and if no such approach has been made, will the Government make a clear and unequivocal assertion repudiating any such intention?
– The question is of such importance, on a matter concerning prerogatives, that it should be referred to the Prime Minister for his own answer and I will do that for the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister publicly announced that he has sent engagement congratulations to Princess Anne and Lieutenant Phillips on behalf of himself and the people of Australia? Has he noted that the British royal engagement has attracted as much news coverage and public interest in Australia as did similar events in the past? Does he not feel that this widespread interest reflects that a majority of Australians are closely linked with Britain and the rest of the Commonwealth? Does the Prime Minister’s recent moves to break time-honoured ties with Britain and his persistent criticism of the United States of America, confirm growing fears that Australia, under Whitlam and Labor, could become a small barren rock in a none too friendly sea?
– I think everyone in Australia likes to see that 2 young people are in love with one another and are prepared to undertake the great risks of matrimony. I think everyone takes great pleasure in that and I do not think that the feelings of pleasure of Mr Whitlam, or of other people in Australia, at the happiness of these 2 people should be mixed up with political questions on which the Labor Party has a policy which has been endorsed by the people of Australia. I do not propose to engage in something which will mix up the engagement of the 2 persons with political affairs.
– Has the Prime Minister publicly announced that he sent engagement congratulations to Princess Anne and Lieutenant Phillips.
– I do not know.
– I preface my question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs by referring to my repeated questions on the territorial fishing dispute involving Iceland and Great Britain. In view of the interest that Australia has in the outcome of this dispute does the Minister believe that it will be helped by a State Minister visiting Iceland at the moment ostensibly to look at the subject and therefore endeavouring to usurp the authority of the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs?
– No, the position certainly will not be helped at all. The situation in Iceland is a very difficult one in which we all sympathise. Australia has an interest in it because of our attitude to the law of the sea. Shots have been fired and it is a time when the help of all nations ought to be applied. We should not have people interfering in such a technical matter.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the House. Does the Government intend-
– Order! The Leader of the House is not a term known in the Senate.
– Well, I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does the Government intend to provide an opportunity before the Senate rises for the Senate to debate the Prime Minister’s inadequate statement on foreign affairs and the non-defence statement by the Minister for Defence?
– I do not know that there are such statements as characterised by the honourable senator. The important statements on topics which have been made by Ministers for the information of the Senate can be debated if the Senate wishes. It is a matter entirely for the Senate. If the honourable senator likes to move a motion or to suggest to his Leader that it would be convenient for everyone to discuss those matters I do not doubt that time can be made available for that course to be followed.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development aware that total land development costs in Brisbane, including acquisition, holding, construction and realisation costs are currently approximately $3,000 to $3,500 per allotment, while prices range from $5,500 to $15,000? Will the Minister take action against subdividers such as Hooker-Rex Pty Ltd, W. H. Bowden Pty Ltd, Cambridge Credit Corporation Ltd, Alfred Grant Pry Ltd, and others who are making exorbitant profits by withholding land from the market to keep prices up? Will he also take action against speculators in subdivided land who are increasing demand for land and, by so doing, are causing prices to rise so that they can make capital gains?
– The Minister and the Government are well aware of the spiralling increase in prices and the activities of land speculators for the purpose of increasing and maintaining high prices. The Government hopes to overcome part of this problem by acquiring land in developmental areas. South Australia has taken the lead. The Housing Commission has just released 140 blocks. We think that this may assist in stopping speculation and the fixing of prices. The Commonwealth has limited powers in this field. The matter comes within State powers. It is hoped in discussions on housing to obtain the stabilisation of the price of land through Acts of State Parliaments. It is hoped that the discussions will end in agreement with the States undertaking to take action. Perhaps the practice of withholding land for the purpose of increasing prices could be considered in relation to the Trade Practices Act. It may be that the matter could be looked at from that angle, but the remedy for the whole problem lies in the State legislation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. I refer to the unequivocal undertaking given by Mr Whitlam in June 1972 that a Labor government would preserve all existing forms and conditions of state aid to independent schools. I ask: How does the Government reconcile that clear promise with the report of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission - the Karmel Committee - which recommends the phasing out of a major area of direct per capita grants and the subsequent statement by the Minister for Education that there was no conflict within the Government over the report and that he did not reject the Committee’s findings? Does the Government now intend to repudiate a major pre-election promise? Does not such a serious repudiation severely damage the credibility of the Whitlam Government and put under query the whole validity of its mandate to govern?
– During the course of the last Federal election campaign the Leader of the Australian Labor Party - the present Prime Minister - gave an undertaking that upon election to office a Labor Government would establish a schools commission to inquire into the needs of all sections of schools in the community. One of the first acts of the newly elected Labor Government was to establish the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission. That Committee has now reported to the Government and the Minister has indicated that he does not reject the findings set out by the Interim Committee. I do not think that any change of policy is involved on the part of the Government. We said that we would investigate the needs of schools. This we have done. The report of the Committee surely goes to indicate how much education was neglected in the hands of the previous Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware of the qualifications that are necessary for producer membership of the Australia-New Zealand Pea and Beans Panel? It is necessary for a producer representative to be a supplier to a particular processing company or is it only necessary, as it should be, for him to be a supplier to any company?
Because it is a Government sponsored panel, will the Minister closely investigate this matter?
– The members of the Pea and Bean Panel are appointed by the Minister for Overseas Trade. It is, of course, customary for nominations to be made by the grower organisation, which I think is the Australian Vegetable Growers Federation in this case. 1 am not aware of any case of discrimination against any member of the Panel. If there is an instance of this happening, I will certainly have a look at the matter. The normal practice is for the grower body to make the nominations to the Minister and for him to appoint those people who are nominated accordingly. If there is any further information of a specific nature that the honourable senator could have, I will supply it to him.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s program ‘A.M.’ this morning with Mr Tuxworth, the Chairman to the Tennant Creek Town Board, concerning the lack of staff at the Tennant Creek hospital. According to Mr Tuxworth some people seeking treatment at that hospital have been turned away and at least one has died as a result of not being able to obtain medical advice. Will the Minister make inquiries into this matter and report to the Senate on it before it rises for the winter recess? What is the Government doing to alleviate the medical staffing problem at that hospital?
– I have not seen or heard of the report to which the honourable senator refers but I will have the matter referred to my colleague the Minister for Health to ascertain the position and I will let the honourable senator know.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour or the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, whoever is the appropriate Minister. The question concerns idle time payments to watersiders on the waterfront. Am I correct in understanding that for the last financial year the amount paid to waterside workers for idle time under the port levy system totals more than $8m? Does this figure represent about $14 per waterside worker per week?
– The honourable senator is well aware that in 1967 his Government laid down a national agreement which encompassed this question and which provided for redundancy payments to avoid the very problem about which he is talking. I might also point out that at present there are 2 Bills before the Senate which are related to this question and which are aimed at reducing those payments. In that case, I suggest that Senator Wright might pursue the matter when those Bills are discussed.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry inform the Senate what the interest rate will be for the $20m made available to rural industries through the Commonwealth Development Bank? Will the rate by from 7 per cent to 8 per cent, as reported in the Press? Is it true that the interest rate charged by the Development Bank was 6 per cent from 1966 until 1971 when it was increased to 61/4 per cent?
– It is envisaged that the rate of interest charged under the new rural finance scheme will be 7 per cent to 8 per cent. The differential referred to by Senator Maunsell arises from the fact that under the Government’s policy the term of the loans has been extended and we hope that those loans will be made on the basis of a15 to 20-year term. It is customary commercial practice in cases where a loan is extended for a longer period and a greater risk is involved for the lender to be entitled to raise the amount of interest charged by some small margin. That is the reason for the difference between these rates and the61/4 per cent which has obtained in relation to loans made through the Commonwealth Development Bank over shorter loan periods.
– Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate know that the Department of Civil Aviation has just announced that the French Government has warned all aircraft to keep clear of the French nuclear test zone in the Pacific region from 5.30 a.m. on 2 June 1973 to 7.30 a.m. on 3
June 1973? Will the Minister agree that this may indicate that a nuclear explosion could take place tomorrow? What steps can the Government take to protest against this breach of ethics by France in defiance of the International Court of Justice deliberations and world public opinion?
– It is known that activation notices were issued by the French Government some little time ago. I am not aware of the precise information which the honourable senator has just given to me, but he will be aware, as all of us are, that Australia took a case to the International Court of Justice in regard to the proposed French nuclear tests and that that Court is still deliberating upon Australia’s application for interim measures to prevent the French for continuing with any tests in the Pacific. Apart altogether from the legal questions, it is the hope of the Australian Government and, as we understand, it is shared by the Opposition in this Parliament, that the French will desist from the tests in the interests of Australia, the other peoples of the Pacific and, indeed, the peoples of the world. As to the protests, Australia has certainly made its attitude clear to the French Government, not only by public statements on behalf of the Australian Government but also in direct negotiation with the French Government, namely, that it disapproves and wishes that the French Government would desist from any further tests.
-Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate know that the Prime Minister, in another place, in putting forward the record of his Government adopted the title used by John Henry Cardinal Newman in his famous work ‘Apologia Pro Vita Sua’? Can the Minister advise the Senate whether Mr Whitlam would have used that title if he had known why Cardinal Newman wrote the book?
– I do not know that question time is a suitable vehicle for the Senate to be engaged in a critical review of works by an author long since dead, held in great esteem by some and not held in esteem by others; an author whose works have been subject to considerable criticism, some favourable, some unfavourable, for a very long time. The purpose of question time is to answer questions relating to the public affairs of the Government, and I do not think that I can usefully assist the honourable senator in the course that he is undertaking.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister for Customs and Excise and refer to the question asked by Senator Durack last Wednesday in relation to the collection of Spanish coins taken from the wreck of the Dutch ship ‘Gilt Dragon’ which foundered on a reef 3 miles off the Western Australian coast in 1656. Is it possible for the Minister to use any powers under the Customs Act to make sure that this valuable collection remains in Australian hands?
-Since Senator Durack asked the question on Wednesday I have had the matter examined. I have not been able to ascertain with finality the legal position as to the true owner of the coins, but I have investigated the position under the Customs Act. Section 112 of the Customs Act provides that the Governor-General may, by regulation, prohibit the exportation of goods from Australia. That covers any kind of goods. It has been used for the making of regulations to prohibit the export of such items of national importance as archaeological specimens relating to the Aborigines of Australia. At the moment I am minded to recommend, today if it is possible, that regulations be made in order to prevent the coins in question being exported from Australia except with the consent of the Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the statement reported this morning by Dr Cairns that the People’s Republic of China has made overtures to Australia to have Qantas Airways Ltd establish an air route to China, will this involve a reciprocal arrangement for China’s international airline to establish an air service to Australia?
– I have not seen the report. Obviously the honourable senator is a greater reader of reported statements by Dr Cairns than I am. I gather from the honourable senator’s question that he believes that Dr Cairns has proposed that there should
– It was suggested to him.
– It nas been suggested that Qantas Airways Ltd should operate an air service to and from China. No agreement has been made. At such time as an agreement was made, I think the agreement would be between the 2 countries. I do not know whether there would be a reciprocal arrangement or even whether a request has been made for a reciprocal arrangement. I think the question is premature as the matter has not yet reached the stage of negotiation.
– I direct my question to Senator Willesee. It relates to the newly established Prices Justification Tribunal. Senator Willesee handled in this chamber the Bill for the establishment of the Tribunal. I think my question is directed to him in his capacity as Minister representing the Treasurer. Does the Minister believe that the Government gave sound consideration to the provisions of the Prices Justification Tribunal prior to the establishment of the Tribunal being approved by the Senate? If he does, can he advise the Senate of the position that will apply when a company, due to its annual turnover being in excess of $20m, comes under the requirements of the legislation and finds that, in attempting to quote for a new product or, for that matter, an existing product, under the requirements of the legislation it has to obtain approval from the Tribunal before it can supply the goods? What will be the position when a company, in quoting for the supply of goods, has to compete with a company which may have an annual turnover of slightly less than $20m?
– In his first question the honourable senator asked for an opinion, which I am not bound to give. He asked whether in my opinion mature consideration was given to the legislation before it came to the Senate. Yes, I think it was - not by my Department, but by the Treasury. Generally, the criticism of the Treasury is that it gives too much mature consideration to matters that come before this chamber. On the question of how the Tribunal will operate and a comparison of one company with another, I think we explained, and it was fairly %?ell debated, why the figure of $20m was set. There is nothing magical about that figure. It just came within the bounds of practicability. If the figure were reduced to $lm, it might be argued that a company with an annual turnover of less than $lm should not be exempted from the provisions of the legislation any more than a company with an annual turnover of less than $20m or $30m. It would be impossible for the Tribunal to deal with the price rises of companies with ar annual turnover of $lm or more. A bureaucracy as big as the Public Service itself would be needed and it still would not be able to handle the work. That is the reason why the figure of §20m was set.
A comparison could be made, as Senator Webster has suggested, between a company with an annual turnover of $20m and one with an annual turnover of about $19m. A situation could arise where one company had an annual turnover of $19m and was not bound to accept the opinion of the Tribunal; but if it started to sell products at a cheaper rate its annual turnover would quickly go up to more than $20m. That is the law of supply and demand. I understand that members of the Liberal Party always say that people will buy on the cheapest market. So, on their own argument, this situation will improve itself. As to the general working of the scheme, the Tribunal is another commission and it will have to make largely its own guidelines, outside the parameters fixed by the Parliament, as it goes along.
– My question follows upon the answer that the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development gave to my previous question. I now ask the Minister: Can the Queensland Government’s reluctance to take action to freeze land prices be attributed to the fact that several Liberal members of the Queensland Parliament, including Mr dive Hughes and Mr William Lickiss, have large financial interests in land development and personally would lose financially if the Government were to act? Is there any way in which the Minister could expose these land interests by Government members of the Queensland Parliament in order to embarrass that Government into taking action similar to that taken by the Labor Government of South Australia, that is, to freeze profits on land development to a fixed percentage each year?
– I do not know whether the fact that members of the Queensland Parliament have interests in big land holdings is the reason why the Queensland Government is reluctant to take action to freeze land prices. As I stated before, there is very little that the Federal Government can do; it is a matter for the State Government. The honourable senator asks whether we could expose these holdings in order to get the Queensland Government into a position where it will have to take action. I do not know what we can do but I think the honourable senator is doing a very good job and he may continue as he thinks fit.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Education aware that the Central Commission of the Australian Catholic Bishops, representing all the Catholic Bishops of Australia, has emphasised in a prepared statement dated 30 May its unqualified support for direct per capita aid to independent schools without means test and its opposition to a system of lump sum payments to schools according to the needs of the school or parents? Will the Government give this statement full consideration when considering the report of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission - the Karmel Committee - and when reflecting on the pre-election promise of Mr Whitlam, in June 1972, that all existing State aid provisions, including therefore direct per capita aid without means test, would be maintained?
– I am not aware that the Central Commission of the Australian Catholic Bishops has made a statement of the nature suggested by the honourable senator. I shall refer his question to my colleague the Minister for Education for a reply.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Following the advice tendered to the Department of Customs and Excise by the South Australian Police Commissioner on the type of tracker dog to be used to detect drug smugglers, have breeding variations been commenced? In the light of a promise given in the era when Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was the Minister for Customs and Excise that honourable senators could see a demon stration of the dogs in action, will the Minister comment on the first proposal and the possibility of observing the dogs in action?
– Yes, the promise made by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson when he was the Minister for Customs and Excise certainly will stand. All honourable senators and, for that matter, members of the other House and perhaps other interested persons may be able to watch the operation. As for the first part of the question, I know that some action is being taken and I shall give the honourable senator further details a little later.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security confirm that the Minister for Social Security has criticised the schedule and fee proposals published yesterday by the Australian Medical Association? If the Minister has been critical, is the criticism directed to the ‘Unfairness and unreasonableness of the increases made or is it directed merely to the fact that the Commonwealth Government has not had an adequate role in the negotiation of what should be the fee increases?
– The Minister for Social Security yesterday issued a Press statement on the proposed increase in fees put foward by the Australian Medical Association. He pointed out that the AMA proposal meant that the Australian public would have to pay at least an extra $89m a year. He added that that figure was only an estimate at this stage and that it probably was an under-estimate. What the Minister, Mr Hayden, said was that he was disturbed that the AMA has so implacably set itself against negotiations over the schedule and that he had not had time to study the schedule in detail but that even a quick check made it clear that there would have to be consultations on some of the 4,000 items involved. I think Senator Greenwood will be aware that Mr Hayden and the Department of Social Security have pointed out to the AMA and the Australian public for some considerable time that it takes several months for the departments involved to study the fee schedules and to make arrangements. I think that the main criticism in Mr Hayden’s statement was that the AMA had seemed to set itself against negotiations.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General and it arises out of a question that I asked on Wednesday in relation to the collection of coins recovered from the ‘Gilt Dragon’ which foundered in 1656. I would like to express my appreciation of the urgent action taken by the Attorney-General to prevent the export of these coins. Does he appreciate that there is just as much of a threat to the preservation of this collection so long as it remains in private hands in Australia as there is that it may be exported, and that there is as much need for urgent action to be taken to preserve the coins for the national estate in Australia as there is to prevent their export?
– I thank the honourable senator and commend him for the interest he is showing in this matter. I understand exactly what he is saying. The question of ownership is as important as the question of preventing export of the coins. If, as seems to be implicit in the suggestion of the honourable senator - I think there is probably a lot to justify it - the true owner of the coins is the Commonwealth of Australia, appropriate action will be instituted to see that the coins are restored to the Commonwealth. I am proceeding urgently in pursuing that approach to the matter. A question as complex as this, as the honourable senator understands is not easily sorted out, but I will do it as quickly as it can be done.
– My question is addressed to the Special Minister of State as Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is the Minister aware that Press reports indicate that Britain, because of her commitments within the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, is in danger of being drawn into a new war shaping in Thailand? Is it a fact that Article IV of the Treaty pledges its 7 member nations to act to meet the common danger of armed aggression, which specifically covers communist insurgency? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the present military position in Thailand? Is it a fact that Australia could be involved if called upon under the terms of the Treaty?
– I do not have a copy of the Treaty in front of me, therefore I can not quote from Article IV of it. The general aspect of SEATO is that each constituent state will take note of a situation and act within its own constitutional situation. So if Australia was not to be embroiled or involved, it would be as a result of a decision of this Government. The same would apply for any of the other constitutent bodies.
– My question without notice is directed to the Special Minister of State. Has the Minister been informed of the phenomenon that happened yesterday in elections held in Ireland when Mr Erskine Childers, an English Protestant, was elected President of Ireland? Will the Special Minister of State send a message of congratulations to the new Irish President wishing him success in the new ecumenical era which follows the 3 previous eras - the pagan era, the Christian era and the De Valera?
– Yes, I think that Erskine Childers is President of Ireland. I understand that the election was to choose a president. As I remember Irish politics, he is in opposition to the present Prime Minister who is in a different political party from (Erskine Childers. Ireland is a remarkable place. Attention is drawn to the fact that in a Catholic country a Protestant has been appointed as President. This is the country which for many years had a Jewish lord mayor in one of its cities. The tolerance of the Irish people seems to be greater than that in some other countries we know.
– We will have a Presbyterian Pope next.
– On that note, I think I will close.
– I direct this question to the Minister who represents the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. On 16 May I asked the Minister a question concerning the election by Aborigines of 80 representatives from all States and the Northern Territory to the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. Has the Minister received a reply to this question? If not, will he obtain one for when the House resumes next Tuesday?
– I have not received a reply. This matter is outside my portfolio. I am only representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The question has been conveyed to the Minister’s office. I shall contact his office again today and try to get a reply, but I can give no undertaking about when a reply will be given.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether my information is correct that the cost of transporting a case of apples from the wharf shed to the hold of the ship in Hobart on Sunday is $1.20 and that at ordinary daily rates it is 60c? If that is correct and he agrees with me that that cost reflecting waterside labour costs is inordinately high, will he discuss the matter with the Minister for Labour to see what reduction can be effected?
– I do not know that it really falls within my responsibility to answer the question, but I would say that the actual cost of hauling the fruit from the orchard to the wharf, if it is $1.20 a case, has nothing to do with the waterside workers’ award.
– I said from the wharf shed to the hold.
– I do not know. Whatever the loading factor is, I did not think it was $1.20. But if the honourable senator would like me to obtain the figures I shall endeavour to do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the allocation of a licence to Marrickville Margarine Pty Ltd to manufacture 300 tons of margarine in the Australian Capital Territory. Does the Minister acknowledge that he has taken on his own shoulders the responsibility for Mr Enderby entering into such an arrangement with Marrickville Margarine in view of his statement that he made a mistake in this matter in relation to the outcome of the Australian Agricultural Council meeting? Is the Minister aware ‘hat following every meeting of the Australian Agricultuira Council an outline of what was agreed at the meeting is sent to his office and to the office of every State Minister for Agriculture? Is the
Minister aware that the outline issued after the 84th meeting held in Canberra stales in item D that the question of a separate quota for the Australian Capital Territory is to be discussed at the next regular meeting of the Council? That document is signed by the Assistant Secretary to the Council. Does the Minister wish the Senate to accept the fact that when he made the arrangement, apparently, with Mr Enderby, he neither referred to the outcome of the 84th meeting nor consulted any of his officers on the matter? Further, can the Senate expect the statement which he intends to give regarding Mr Enderby’s attitude to this matter prior to the Senate’s rising?
– We have been through all this before. I think that, from the very beginning, when this matter was first raised in the Senate, I have answered Senator Webster’s questions frankly and in detail. I explained what had brought about the situation. I do not hold myself responsible for what Mr Enderby has decided as to who may be the manufacturer of margarine in the Australian Capital Territory. I also indicated last week that that was Mr Enderby’s business, not mine. 1 have also given Senator Webster an undertaking to get from Mr Enderby the details of the matters which arose. I am in the process of getting that information. I will give it to Senator Webster as quickly as it is available.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister for Primary Industry, follows on from the question that I asked him earlier. Is it a fact that loans from the Commonwealth Development Bank to rural industries under the previous Government were for periods up to 15 years without an increase in interest rates? If so, would this not mean that the proposed interest rates of 7 per cent to 8 per cent represent a substantial increase and negate various statements made by Labor spokesmen prior to the election?
– The maximum period of Commonwealth Development Bank loans to rural industries at an interest rate of 6i per cent was 15 years under the old scheme but the average length of those loans was 8 years to 9 years. There is a marked difference between the loans of 15 years to 20 years duration which are envisaged in the new $20m rural finance arrangements and those that obtained in the past. I think, as I indicated earlier, it is normal practice for a lender to lend at a higher rate of interest where the loan is over such a longer period. In this case the period of each loan will be twice the average length of loans in the past. I will not enter into the debate which seems to ‘have gone on here for some time about the rate of interest. I thought that we had sorted that matter out in the last 2 weeks or 3 weeks and that it was agreed that the Country Party does not subscribe so much to the principle of low interest loans as to that of longer term loans, which are what the Government is providing.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State. Is it a fact that next week the Minister commences a tour of Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Mauritius? Why is the Minister visiting these countries? What links does Australia have with these countries, or what prospective links does Australia hope to have with these countries? Apart from wishing the Minister a personally informative, enjoyable and safe trip, I ask: What advantages does he see accruing to the national interest or to this Government from his trip to these African countries?
– ‘First, I thank Senator Greenwood for his good wishes. The answer to his question lies in the difference between the attitude of this Government and that of the previous Government to world affairs. At the outset, we said that no longer would we continue the situation of Australia having a father-son relationship with the bigger nations; rather would our relationship be that of brother to brother. That policy should not surprise anybody as I have said it at least 100 times in this place and it has been expressed by every Labor man who has sat here. We believe that the former relationship with other nations was wrong. We also said that we would get away from the racist tag which had been dogging Australia for so many years.
The last Minister to visit only some of these countries which I will visit was the then Treasurer, the late Mr Harold Holt, who did so 12 years ago. He attended a meeting of treasurers or a meeting concerned with finance in one of these countries and decided to drop in on some of the other countries. The leaders of these countries meet regularly with the Australian Prime Minister at Prime Ministers’ conferences, yet they have no connection with us at other times. We do give some aid to some of these countries. A number of representations are received from them. Mir Malecela made a special trip to Australia to meet the new Government only a little while ago.
The previous Government took virtually a contumelious attitude in ignoring these people for so long. We think it is completely wrong. Honourable senators will remember that previous governments from 1950 until the time of the Prime Ministership of Mr Harold Holt very rarely had a Prime Minister visit Asian areas. To his everlasting credit Mr Holt corrected that situation the moment that he became Prime Minister. I want to have talks with these people on several matters. I also want to see those people who will be meeting the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, at Ottawa. I look forward also to meeting foreign Ministers whom we may meet at the United Nations later this year.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Yesterday the Minister told me in a reply to a question about reducing prescription prices that the pharmaceutical benefits scheme is at present under review. I ask: Will the Minister ensure that as a result of that review larger amounts of medicines required on a long term basis for chronic complaints be made available at one time so that, firstly, the cost to the patient will be reduced and secondly, the cost to the Government will be reduced due to less money being paid to chemists and less doctors’ fees being paid due to fewer visits to doctors just to get a prescription? This procedure would then bring essential medicines into the same category as the ‘pill’, of which a person can get 2 months’ supply for $1.
– I shall refer Senator Townley’s suggestion to my colleague the Minister for Health to be taken into consideration in the review that is taking place.
– I direct a question to the Special Minister of State, who is about to go overseas. I refer to the question asked by Senator Greenwood and the countries listed by him. I ask the Minister: Will he allow me to add my wishes of godspeed for the success of bis trip? I also ask him: Will he make an attempt to make contact with the Leaders of the Opposition in all of those countries, with one exception?
– I have asked our embassies along the way to arrange for me to meet as many people in my field as possible. I particularly want to meet the Foreign Ministers and those people who will be meeting Mr Whitlam later in the year. They are the first 2 categories df people I ought to see on my trip. The honourable senator referred to Leaders of Oppositions. I will be happy to meet people of divergent views if time permits.
– If you can find them, I meant.
– It always seems that the moment the Government wants to do anything - we saw this in relation to the French tests - people in the Opposition try to undercut the Government’s position. I wonder what sort of Australians they really are.
– Answers have been received to questions on notice-
– Mr President, I have been on my feet on 3 occasions.
– You have asked 3 questions already.
– I have not, Mr President, with due respect. I have asked 2 questions.
– Not according to my list. I call Senator Webster.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. It follows the question of Senator McAuliffe which the Minister answered. In his answer the Minister was critical of Ministers or members of .the Queensland Parliament. I ask the Minister: Does it appear that the Australian Labor Party holds a double standard in relation to its attitude to escalation of land prices? Is it correct that within the Australian Capital Territory the Labor
Party has complete control of land prices and land sales? Can the Minister indicate what has taken place in relation to land values in the A.C.T. since the Labor Parity has been in office? It is a fact that the value of residential land, and certainly business land has escalated beyond that of nearly any other State? What is the reason lor this? Is the Minister aware that a number of members of the Labor Party, both in the Senate and in another place, hold either residential leases or real estates in the Australian Capital Territory?
– In reply to the speech let me state that the problem in the Australian Capital Territory is the result of 23 years of neglect. The Labor Government will attempt to do something about reverting to another system of land control in the Australian Capital Territory. The accusation made in the previous question was that a rise in land prices in Queensland was caused by the control of large areas of land by members of the Queensland Government. It cannot be said that the land holdings of members of this Government have been the cause of increased prices of land in Canberra. While somebody in this Government may be holding the lease on a block of land in Canberra, no one can say that anybody in this Government is doing what apparently members of the Queensland Government are doing - that is, holding huge areas of land and so preventing the Queensland Government from taking any action to correct the situation in that State.
- Mr President, I ask that further questions without notice be placed on the notice paper.
– Mr President, I ask for leave to make a short statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honourable senators will join me in expressing the deep sorrow and regret of all members of this chamber at reports of an air disaster this morning in which a large number of passengers on an Indian Airline aircraft, including the Indian Minister for Steel and Mines, Mr Mohan Kumaramangalam, and the Indian High Commissioner to Australia, Sardar Gurnam Singh
Grewal, lost their lives. I am sure that all honourable senators would wish the sincere condolences of the Senate to be conveyed to the Indian Government and to the families of the bereaved.
- Mr President, I ask for leave to make a short statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
- Senator Willesee has expressed the views of the Senate, and the Opposition concurs in the expression of regret and the condolences which he is to convey.
– I present the fourth report of the Publications Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
– Pursuant to section 26 of the Tobacco Marketing Act 1965- 1966, I present the seventh annual report of the Australian Tobacco Board regarding the operation of the Act for the year ended 31 December 1972, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That Senator O’Byrne be discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee on Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings and that Senator Poke be appointed to fill the vacancy.
Debate resumed from 29 May (vide page 2021), on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When this Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives it was said to give effect to the intentions of the previous Government. This intention was outlined in the civil aviation policy statement put down by Senator Cotton on 29 August last and in the second reading speech of the Airlines Agreement Bill at a later time. On 29 August 1972, Senator Cotton said:
They are free to compete with each other, the purpose being to give equality of access and opportunity for both themselves and the Australian people.
He went on to say:
The Government has decided further to give TAA greater opportunity to undertake outside engineering works, including Government contracts, and to enter into mutually beneficial arrangements with surface transport carriers and hotel/motel operators.
However, it is now history that the Bill introduced by the present Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) went far beyond the previous Government’s intentions and the intention of the present Minister as outlined in his second reading speech.
I am not blaming the Minister for that, but it would seem that the Bill as originally presented in the House of Representatives, gave powers to Trans-Australia Airlines far beyond those envisaged by the Minister. I do not know how that came about. Happily the matter has almost been resolved with the Government agreeing to Opposition amendments. The Opposition now wishes to ensure that the 2 airline system is competitive in all aspects. TAA should have available to it the same opportunities that Ansett Transport Industries Ltd has available to it and vice versa. No one arm of our airline system should have an advantage over the other. If this occurs the system is no longer truly competitive and what is an advantage to one airline must be a disadvantage to the other. This would mean a loss of efficiency in our total airline system.
Matters of disagreement between the Government and the Opposition have always been resolved, except for the accounting arrangements relating to the operation of TAA’s superannuation schemes. The previous Government gave notice that it intended to change TAA’s present arrangement and the Parliament passed legislation to make this possible in October 1972. Funds had been appropriated in the Budget last August to allow for the change-over. It can be seen therefore that the decision on TAA’s superannuation funds had been taken prior to the Budget session. This had all been agreed to. I would like to quote what Senator Cotton had to say about this matter in his ministerial statement on civil aviation policy last August. Senator Cotton said, and I quote once again:
Although not part of the competitive 2-airline system, it is appropriate that I refer to the proposed new arrangements on TAA staff superannuation schemes. As mentioned by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in his ‘Budget speech, the Government is requiring Trans-Australia Airlines to change its accounting arrangements relevant to the operation of these superannuation schemes. The changes proposed will mean that Trans-Australia Airlines’ superannuation arrangements will be similar to those adopted by over 30 other Commonwealth instrumentalities, including the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and the Snowy ‘Mountains Engineering Corporation. At present, TAA uses a large part of its accrued employer’s contributions to staff superannuation in financing capital works and day to day operations. The use of superannuation funds in the business in this way is contrary to the normal practice for the commercial enterprise of the Commonwealth. In the circumstances, the Government believes that TAA should terminate this unique arrangement.
In effect, TAA has 2 superannuation schemes. The first is for its non-flying staff, who are contributors to the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. It is proposed that, in this case, TAA will pay to the Commonwealth its employer’s contributions to the scheme under pay-as-you-go arrangements similar to those applying to Commonwealth authorities generally. The Commonwealth will then assume ‘responsibility for pensions when they fall due. The second scheme is that of TAA’s flying staff. The proposal here is that the employer’s contributions will be paid into a trust fund, as are the employees’ contributions at present, and the trustees will be responsible for investing the funds and meeting pension commitments.
The proposed new arrangements involve a payment by TAA. to the Commonwealth of an estimated $21m to discharge its accrued liability in respect of nonflying staff as at 30 June 1972, and the liability accruing this year. Provision has been made in the Budget for an advance of $25m to enable TAA to do this, and to withdraw from the business and pay to trustees its accrued contributions to the flying staff superannuation fund amounting to an estimated $4m. This advance will be made by way of loan moneys at commercial rates of interest, and will not form part of the capital of TAA. It will be necessary to amend the Australian National Airlines Act to enable TAA to borrow this amount, and an appropriate Bill will be introduced for this purpose. I stress that the entitlements of TAA employees under the various superannuation schemes are in no way affected by the new arrangements. Nor is any change proposed in respect of employee superannuation contribution; these have always been invested outside the business. The changes relate only to employer superannuation contributions.
When the Airlines Agreement Bill was debated in the House of Representatives on 25 October 1972, Mr Charles Jones, the present Minister for Civil Aviation, as reported at page 3147 of Hansard, stated very clearly that he would restore the superannuation fund to what it was before if Labor won the next election and this in fact is what has happened. Money that was provided by the Parliament in the previous Budget to enable the change in TAA’s superannuation fund procedures to take place, has not been utilised for that purpose.
Under the present arrangement, TAA is able to use the employer contribution portion of its fund in financing its capital works and its day to day operations. The handling of TAA superannuation funds is contrary to the procedures adopted by more than 30 other Commonwealth instrumentalities such as the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. Why should TAA be different? What TAA does is contary to the normal commercial practice of the Commonwealth. More importantly, in relation to the 2-airline agreement it gives TAA access to capital which Ansett Transport Industries Ltd does not have. Ansett Transport Industries cannot invest its superannuation funds in its own business. It must place its funds with another organisation and then borrow any money it requires on the open market. This is not the case for TAA, nor is the situation resolved simply by TAA paying a higher rate of interest for using these funds. This is but a book entry and simply increases the funds that are available to it. The amendment I will move in Committee means that TAA will cease to have an advantage over Ansett Transport Industries in relation to access to capital in this form.
The previous disadvantages as to road transport, hotels and engineering services that TAA suffered will by this Bill be removed but the disadvantage that Ansett suffers still exists. The Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr Charles Jones, has said he believes in a fair and even-handed policy. If that is the case, he should give effect to the intention of the previous Government last year and alter the arrangements concerning TAA superannuation funds. He has seen fit to adopt the practices of the previous Government in relation to extending TAA’s activities, but he is not prepared to remove the disadvantage that the private enterprise operator suffers. His fair and evenhanded policy applies only to the government airline. It does not apply to the private enterprise operator. If disadvantages against one operator are removed, but the disadvantages suffered by the other operator are not removed, it is an unequal situation and one which should not be tolerated under the 2- airline system the way it has been conducted in this country for the past many years.
Both operators in the 2-airline system are meant to be equal. This is the wish of the were amply demonstrated by the actions Opposition and our intentions in this regard of the previous Government and reinforced by Mr Charles Jones in his second reading speech. We in the Opposition welcome TAA being able to take part in activities which are closely related to its airline activities such as road transport, hotel/ motel operations and the use of its engineering facilities for outside organisations and the like. This we all welcome because it brings the 2 airlines into a more equal position. The Liberal-Country Party Government was going to do this. Indeed we were going to do more and we made a provision in the Budget last year to give effect to the decision to bring the airlines onto a proper basis of equality. The Opposition believes TAA’s superannuation fund arrangements ought to be altered. We gave notice of this last year and introduced legislation which gave effect to that decision. The present Minister has chosen to ignore what Parliament gave effect to. The Minister has overruled what the Parliament decided on 25 October last year.
We support the motion for the second reading of this Bill and the equality of access it gives to TAA. But if we are to be fair and even-handed as the Minister claims he wishes to be, the special advantages available to the government operator ought to be removed. Restrictions on TAA’s activities are being removed. Privileges should also be removed so that in effect the 2 airlines are able to compete on equal terms. Therefore in the committee stage of the Bill I will move an amendment to give effect to our belief.
– The Opposition has stressed one aspect of the Bill before the Senate. It has pointed out that the use by Trans-Australia Airlines of superannuation funds to finance its domestic operations is a disadvantage to Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. This seems to be the main theme of the Opposition’s case in this matter.
– This is the employer contribution.
– This is the employer contribution. I must stress that. It is purely an internal financial matter. This is an indication of what the members of the Opposition have been trying to impose. There should have been equal and fair competition in the airline industry; but, in fact, a long series of disadvantages have been imposed on one of the airlines.
It might be as well for us to run through the history of the Airlines agreement which came into existence in 1952. At that time, the private enterprise airline, Australian National Airways Pty Ltd, had been operating at a loss for some years and had proposed to the then Government the amalgamation of TransAustralia Airlines and ANA. The 1952 agreement had as one of its objectives the continued existence of both ANA and TAA as operators of airline services, as was stated by the Minister of the day in his second reading speech when he said:
The main principle of our policy in civil aviation is to ensure that civil air services are provided domestically under conditions of fair and active competition.
The 1952 Airlines Agreement, which was to operate for 15 years, bestowed the following benefits on the private airline: Airmail was to be shared equally between the airlines, whereas previously it had been carried solely by TAA; government travel and air freight was to be freely available to both airlines, rather than carried exclusively by TAA, the government’s own airline–
– What is wrong with that?
– There is nothing wrong with the Government’s airline doing the government’s business. The other benefits were: ANA was to receive government guarantees for loans covering aircraft purchases; aircraft becoming available from Commonwealth sources were to be equally available to each airline; and air route charges, which had not been paid by ANA were to be reduced by two-thirds for the previous 5 years and levied at half the existing rate in the future.
Despite the assistance given by the 1952 Agreement, ANA was unable to sustain profitable operations, primarily due to a bad decision to operate DC6 aircraft against TAA’s Viscount fleet. In 1957, Ansett Transport Industries Ltd purchased ANA and the 1957 Airlines Agreement had as its prime objective the maintaining of 2 airlines operators of trunk route airline services, each capable of effective competition with the other. The evenly balanced competitive situation was upset with the takeover of ANA by Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. Not only was the combined airline larger than TAA but ATI had .widespread interests in hotels and resorts and bus touring services, as well as road freight and manufacturing companies. A rapid expansion of both airline and nonairline activities by the private airline took place over the next few years. Between 1959 and 1963, Ansett acquired Butler Airways in New South Wales, Queensland Airlines, Guinea Airways in South Australia, Mandated Airlines in Papua New Guinea and a controlling interest in Macrobertson Miller Airlines in Western Australia. Television was added as a new activity in 1963, with the acquisition of a television licence in Melbourne, followed some time later by a second television licence in Brisbane.
After only 9 years operation of the 1952 Agreement - while it still had 6 years to run and just prior to the Federal elections - under pressure from the Ansett organisation the Agreement was extended for a further 10 years. Again, just prior to the Federal elections in 1972 and While the Agreement again still had 5 years to run and when the Government’s chances looked even gloomier than in 1961, the Agreement was extended for an indefinite period, not being less than 5 years - in other words, until 1982, at least. Even to obtain termination at that date notice of termination must be given 5 years before the current expiry date on the motion of both Houses of Parliament. In effect, there is no expiry date; it is open-ended. Even by 1982 the 2 airline policy will have been in existence for 30 years.
When Ansett took over ANA, it was faced with the problem of re-equipping its airline fleet. TAA asked the Government for approval to re-equip with Caravelle jet aircraft, but Ansett objected on the grounds that it was not ready to move into pure jet aircraft and preferred to gain experience with turbo-prop aircraft. The Government then disapproved TAA’s request and allowed both airlines to re-equip with Electra turbo-prop aircraft, but Ansett was allocated two of these aircraft some 4 months ahead of TAA. This enabled the private airline to attract additional revenue of approximately $lm at the expense of
TAA. In addition, Ansett was given approval in 1959 for a third Electra, which was delivered in February 1960.
In 1959 the Government applied pressure designed to induce TAA to assist in the solution to the problem caused by the fact that the Ansett-ANA DC6B aircraft were much less attractive to the public than TAA’s Viscounts. An essential element of any such solution acceptable to Ansett was that it should involve imposing a disability on TAA. As a result, the well remembered cross-charter arrangement under which TAA received 2 DC6Bs in exchange for 3 Viscounts emerged as an agreement in March 1960. This agreement, which was known far and wide as the double-cross-charter’ was originally for 3 years and was extended later to 6 years. Following implementation of this cross-charter deal, TAA finally was given approval to purchase a third Electra so that it, too, would have 3 of these aircraft. To achieve an intoservice date for its third Electra comparable to that of Ansett, which had been given approval the previous year, it was necessary for TAA to charter an aircraft from Qantas Airways Ltd for a time. Since 1964, both airlines have acquired identical front-line equipment, introduced into service at the same time.
Since 1957, ATI has been granted route extensions, whereby it has been allowed to expand onto major routes which were previously monopoly operations for TAA. The most significant gain was the acquisition of licences covering 3 routes to Darwin from Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide, involving at <that time a revenue transfer of about $1.2m from TAA to ATI. The other major route award was from ‘Port Moresby to Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, where TAA was carrying a large volume of traffic associated with the development of copper mining operations on its monopoly air routes.
When the 2 airline policy was first introduced, the private and government airlines were equal in size, carrying equal traffic and earning equal revenue. In 1957, when Ansett took over ANA, the 2 airlines were not evenly balanced and at that time the Ansett revenue was 46 per cent higher than TAA’s. This was due largely to the non-airline activities of the merged group. With the takeover of smaller airlines, the expansion on to main routes operated by TAA and the development of its non-airline enterprises, Ansett’s revenue last year was 73 per cent higher than TAA’s. So, the imbalance has continued to move in Ansett’s favour and against TAA.
As at 1972, ATI’s airline operations were some 20 per cent larger than TAA’s, returning revenue of some $30m more than TAA’s airline revenue. Ansett’s non-airline activities - consisting of road passenger and freight operations, hotels and tourists resorts, television, manufacturing and .trading companies - earned revenue of $5 8m. In total last year ATI, because of its large monopoly airline network and its freedom to expand its nonairline activities, earned revenues greater than those of TAA by some $88m. This is the equal opportunity for the airlines. With this demonstrated and growing imbalance TAA notified the Minister that it was not prepared to sign the agreement extending the 2-airline policy beyond 1977, unless some assurance was given that the imbalance would be corrected or at least permit TAA to start closing the gap. Trans-Australia Airlines pointed out that one of the objectives of the 1957 agreement was to secure a position in which there were 2 operators of trunk route airline services, each capable of effective competition with the other and that effective competition was not possible because of the smaller size and restricted powers of TAA. The previous Government therefore took a decision to extend TAA’s operations on to the PerthDarwin route which had been and still is a monopoly route for Ansett and also to allow TAA to move into new areas of operations to assist its airline, such as hotels and road transport. These steps are necessary if an evenhanded 2-airline policy is to continue.
There is no way of summing up the position better than by quoting the words of Sir Reginald Ansett himself in his report to shareholders in his 1961-62 report. He said:
Last year’s Directors’ report referred to the 1961 Civil Aviation Agreement Act which extended the existing 2 airline system until 1977. The year has shown how little understood by the public is the significance of this legislation to the civil aviation industry and to this Company in particular. It gives the Company an Australia-wide aviation franchise of about 50 per cent of the industry revenue, which totals approximately $36m per annum. This franchise is for another 15 years and its value cannot be calculated
These are the words of the Managing Director himself. He added:
Nowhere else In the world is there such an arrangement which ensures civil aviation stability for such a period. Operating within this situation, and with efficient management controlling costs, reasonable .profits are assured for this same period.
During the 20 years or more that the 2- airline policy has been in existence, enormous assistance has been given to the private airline in the interests of maintaining a 2-airline policy. In addition to the 2 premature renewals of this agreement just prior to Federal elections and major help from the Government in the cross charter and Caravelle-Electra decisions, ‘the main areas of assistance have been as follows:
Sharing of air mail and Government business. There was, naturally, no corresponding improvement in TAA’s disadvantageous position in relation to penetration of the private business market.
Assistance with the financing of aircraft purchases. Repayment of loans totalling in excess of $100m have been guaranteed by the Government on behalf of the private airline.
Additional route licences which have allowed Ansett to expand its mainline operations without comparable matching expansion by TAA.
Limitation on increase in air navigation charges and fuel tax on Ansett’s request. Under the airlines agreements, air navigation charges can rise no more than 10 per cent in any one year and increases in aviation fuel tax may only rise in line with increases in the tax on motor spirit.
Use of the profit target legislation to increase TAA’s profit relative to ATI. This section was inserted into TAA’s Act at the request of ATI in 1959 and the profit target has risen progressively from 6i per cent to 10 per cent since that time.
Financial assistance in 1967-68, when Ansett was in financial difficulties following the loss of a Viscount airliner at Winton. The Government arranged for the refund of duty paid on Boeing and DC9 aircraft, increased air mail rate paid to the airlines and authorised increased subsidy payments to ATI.
It is illuminating to note that with the exception of the limitation on increases in air navigation charges and fuel tax and refunds on customs duty and increased mail rate granted in 1967-68, which could hardly have been given to Ansett unilaterally, the assurances wrung out of the Government by TAA last year and without which TAA would not have signed the 1972 Agreement are the only significant steps towards some semblance of parity with Ansett to which over the last 20 years TAA has been subjected. This comparison shows how the previous Government, down ‘through the years, has added disadvantages and disabilities in a so-called equal and fair competition airline. Are these steps to be made valueless now by the Opposition amendment which everyone knows is the result of years of pressure by Ansett and has in truth no relevance to the 2 airline system. It can have no effect other than to pile further advantages on Ansett at the expense of TAA and the Australian public.
– It is no wonder that students find history a dull subject. Their minds would not have been changed by the long and dreary recital of historical facts, true, false or distorted, by Senator O’Byrne. I am not too sure whether Senator O’Byrne’s speech indicates that he is opposed to a 2-airline policy. His whole outlook is governed by the sterile doctrinaire socialist philosophy of himself and so many members of his Party. Perhaps he also wishes to convince us that he is capable of historical research. But one guesses that he did not do the research because he seemed to be reading from some prepared speech. However, I shall not travel along the tiresome road which Senator O’Byrne travelled. It is quite irrelevant to the matter which we are discussing. Indeed, I do not intend to say very much about the matter raised by Senator Withers. I remind the Senate that the decision to provide Trans-Australia Airlines with added advantages was taken by the previous Government and announced by Senator Cotton when he was the Minister for Civil Aviation. We agree with that. We believe that TAA had the right of parity to move into the road transport, tourist and hotel fields.
We were most concerned, after the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) announced that the legislation was based upon the actions of the previous Government, to find that this was not so. The original legislation was causing great concern in many sections of the industry. However, good sense prevailed. The Minister agreed to a great number of amendments which have satisfied us, with the exception of the one mentioned by Senator Withers. I shall make a few comments concerning the decision taken by Senator Cotton and the previous Government to permit TAA to operate on the Perth-Darwin ser vice. This was a decision which neither I nor my Party opposed. I say to Senator O’Byrne, when he utters this rubbish about a monopoly route, that the number of through passengers from Perth to Darwin averages about 11 a flight. That is hardly a profitable operation for an airline unless it has pickup rights within the State. That average has been maintained over many years. It has not gone up very much nor has it moved down. So this is hardly a competitive route if we look at it in that respect. What is important is not the decision to grant TAA the right to operate on the Perth-Darwin route but the terms under which TAA will be phased into this operation. Senator Cotton, as a previous Minister, will recall that I had some discussions with faim on this aspect.
The north-west and Kimberley’s air services, conducted by MacRobertson Miller Airline Services for many years under very difficult conditions, financially, became profitable because of the great build-up of economic resources, mainly in relation to minerals, in Chat area. Today a sophisticated air service is conducted by modern jet aircraft. But there has been a dramatic downturn in traffic over the last .18 months. This is best illustrated by the fact that MMA, which was operating five F28 aircraft to a reasonably full utilisation, has had to put one of its aircraft out to grass. Indeed, it is not obtaining the 3,500 hours, which is a profitable utilisation of jet aircraft, from the remaining 4 aircraft which are maintaining this service. It is not today an economical and profitable service, but I have every confidence that there will be an increase in traffic and that the service will again become an economic and profitable one.
My concern is that if the Minister for Civil Aviation were in any heavy handed action - he has made all sorts of threats from time to time - to introduce Trans-Australia Airlines into the service on an equal basis with MacRobertson Miller Airlines it would cause a serious reduction in the work force of MacRobertson Miller Airlines and result in the retrenchment of many of its employees, all of whom are Western Australians. It would be bad enough if the ground staff were to lose their jobs, but it would be worse if a number of experienced pilots were to find that their services were no longer required. I will deal with that in a few moments.
According to information I have received, if TAA were to be phased in on an equal operations basis with MacRobertson Miller Airlines up to 30 highly .trained pilots would no longer have employment. The Western Australian Branch of the Federation of Airline Pilots appointed a committee of experienced captains to prepare a submission on this matter. I hope that the Minister for Civil Aviation has received a copy of it. The Department of Civil Aviation certainly has a copy of it. The committee prepared a reasoned submission which did not oppose the entry of TAA but which .pointed out the danger of the loss of experienced pilots to Australian aviation and, from a humanitarian angle, the effect that any loss of employment would have on young men who have made aviation their life and on their families. It is on that subject that I wish to make a few comments.
– Is that a fact or is it just your imagination?
– I am not like Senator O’Byrne. I do not engage in figments of the imagination. I am stating facts. If Senator O’Byrne wants to challenge the facts he is free to do so, but he should not judge others by his actions. If TAA were to be phased in on one or two flights a week on the PerthDarwin service to begin with there would be, in the view of the Pilots Federation, little dislocation of services. MMA .would probably be able to maintain its present pilot strength in anticipation of a build-up of traffic. If that were done and TAA was then allowed to increase its services commensurate with a build-up of traffic both airlines would have a profitable and economic operation with little or no dislocation. But, if that does not happen and TAA is phased in in such a way as to cause disruption, up to 30 pilots could lose their jobs.
What would that mean to Australian aviation? It should be realised that it takes 2 years before a young man becomes a proficient first officer on modern jet airliners, such are the standards required of him in Australia. Before he is proficient to command a modern jet airliner he is required to have 8 to 10 years experience as a first officer. Those are the standards that are common to the aviation industry in Australia. Over the next 5 years there will be a tremendous exodus of senior captains from the airline industry. It should be remembered that the senior cap tains flying the large jet aircraft of today are mainly ex-servicemen who, at the end of the Second World War, would have been anything from 25 to 30 years of age. So, if one does one’s arithmetic, one will see that in the next 5 years the oldest of them will be reaching the retirement age of 60 and many more of 54 or 55 years of age will be, for various reasons, leaving the industry.
If we were to lose, say, 30 young first officers - I have been advised that they would be men of 28, 30 or 32 years of age with 4 or 5 years experience as first officers who could be expected to be in command of aircraft in the next 3, 4 or 5 years - we would not have in Australia the experienced first officers to take command of aircraft and fill the tremendous gap that will occur when the senior pilots retire. In other words, we cannot afford to lose these men from the aviation industry in Australia. But their chances of reemployment in Australia are pretty well negligible. If they were employed by another airline in Australia they would have to go to the bottom of the seniority list. Because of the seniority system that applies to pilots a young first officer with one or two years experience would be senior to a transferred officer with 4, 5 or 6 years experience and would naturally get command of an aircraft before the more experienced officer. If these pilots were re-employed in Australia - I have been advised that their chances of being reemployed in Australia are pretty well negligible - they would go to the bottom of the seniority list and would have to start all over again. So to a great extent their experience still would be wasted.
What is more important is that many of these young men have tire opportunity of being employed by overseas airlines. Because of doubts in the minds of pilots employed by MacRobertson Miller Airline Services as to their future, 3 senior first officers have already gone to Moroccan Airlines and others have been tempted to leave Australia. Six captains are on loan to Malaysia-Singapore Airlines. In addition, there are 11 or 12 Australian captains already flying with MalaysiaSingapore Airlines. It is interesting to note that the training standards are so high in Australia that even junior captains with little experience initially of flying in command of Friendship aircraft are now in command, after 12 months or so with MalaysiaSingapore Airlines, of modern jet aircraft. That is an indication of the high standard of training in Australia. What I am trying to say is if these men go overseas they will be lost to Australian aviation for ever. We simply cannot afford to lose any more of our experienced young pilots to overseas countries simply because there are doubts as to their future in Australian aviation. My plea to the Minister for Civil Aviation is that he pay regard to these facts and ensure that the phasing in operations of TAA do not cause dislocation or the loss of jobs to Western Australian pilots. I will not be very happy if Western Australian based pilots lose their jobs and pilots are brought over to Western Australia from the eastern States to operate TAA aircraft.
I ask the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) who represents in this chamber the Minister for Civil Aviation to take note of what I have said and to draw it to the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation. I assure him that it is a matter of importance and that it is causing grave concern among pilots in Western Australia, who, I am bound to say, are adopting a reasonable attitude to the entry of TAA. They are not opposed to it. They accept it as being right. They accept that competition had to come into the operations in Western Australia and believe it is a good thing that it has, but they are worried about this very important aspect I have raised.
The last point I wish to make concerns the rumour that TAA wishes to operate DC9 aircraft on certain routes in Western Australia. I am advised that when Ansett Transport Industries was considering the reequipment of MacRobertson Miller Airlines with jet aircraft, it considered using DC9 aircraft but was advised by the Department of Civil Aviation that because of operational and safety requirements the DC9 aircraft could not operate on runways .with a width of less than ISO feet. As I understand the position, this advice had something to do with the decision to purchase the F28 aircraft which can operate on these runways. The 3 major airports in Western Australia with runways of less than 150 feet are Kununurra, Mount Newman and Karratha, which is the airport for Dampier and the great mining developments in the Pilbara.
I think it would be a shame if through Ministerial action DCA was pressured into allowing DC9 aircraft to operate in these areas, if in fact the recent decision was the correct one. I do not put it any higher than that. My information is that in the past Ansett Transport Industries has been advised that it would not be granted permission to operate these aircraft, and it would seem to be an odd thing if that decision was changed and some dispensation given to TAA to operate on these airfields, if indeed it intends to do so. I understand that TAA wishes to operate into Karratha if it is given intrastate rights by the Western Australian Government. I presume TAA would wish also to land in Kununurra on the Darwin-Perth service.
– Have the regulations been waived to allow Ansett to operate Fellowship aircraft?
– Those regulations do not apply to Fellowship aircraft because it is a smaller aircraft. The Department of Civil Aviation is quite happy for that aircraft to operate on a runway with a width of 100 feet. So there is no waiving of regulations involved. The DC9 is a bigger aircraft. I will not go into the details of why these regulations apply, buy they do apply because of the very high safety requirements to DCA. It could well be that in other countries these aircraft do operate on 100-foot width runways, but the very high safety requirements which apply here, which I think we all support, preclude this aircraft from landing on 100-foot width runways in Australia. I shall say no more. We support the Bill but we will be supporting the amendment which has been foreshadowed by Senator Withers on behalf of the Liberal Opposition. I ask the Minister to take note of the comments I have made.
– Senator Withers, in leading for the Opposition in the debate, claimed that this Bill would put Ansett Transport Industries Ltd at a disadvantage to Trans-Australia Airlines under this new agreement. But I think Senator O’Byrne in leading for the Government in the debate today probably knocked on the head all those fictious arguments which were put forward by Senator Withers. Senator O’Byrne outlined the whole history of the 2- airline agreement which has operated in Australia since it came into force, and I think he pointed out quite forcefully the fact that TAA has always operated at a distinct disadvantage under the 2-airline agreement. The purpose of this Bill, of course, is to put the operations of TAA on a par with those of its opponent airline. We in the Labor Party are in full agreement with the 2-airline policy and we are hoping that the Opposition will not insist on going ahead with its amendment which will have the effect of defeating the Bill. I feel that the only purpose of the amendment moved by the Opposition is to bring about the defeat of this new 2-airline agreement.
Honourable senators will recall that when this Bill was debated in the other place the Government accepted many amendments proposed by the Opposition, and on reading through the Hansard report of the debate one can see that Mr Nixon, who was handling the. Bill for the Opposition in the other place, on many occasions expressed his thanks to the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) for the very good co-operation which he received. The Bill, of course, eventually passed through the House of Representatives and we are now debating it in the Senate. The Opposition has stated that it supports the Bill but that it will be moving an amendment at the Committee stage. I think we are all well aware of the purpose of this foreshadowed amendment, namely, to bring about the defeat of the Bill. I hope that the Opposition will have second thoughts about moving the amendment, if honourable senators opposite reconsider the second reading speech which was delivered when this ‘Bill was introduced by the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh), they will find that he said:
When the previous Government presented the Airlines Agreements Bill 1972 to the Senate on 26 October 1972, the then Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Cotton, included in his second reading speech the following statement:
I want to read that statement which appears in the Senate Hansard of 26 October 1972 at page 1985:
It is the intention of this Government, therefore, to introduce in the first sittings of the new Parliament, a Bill amending the Australian National Airlines Act so that there is no question about TransAustralia Airlines having the powers enabling it to engage in activities closely related to airline operation and togive effect to the Government’s decisions. This Bill, together with the 1972 Airlines Agreement, is another milestone in the development of Australia’s outstanding airline system.’
Senator Cotton is not the Minister for Civil Aviation at this time, but Mr Charles Jones has carried on what Senator Cotton proposed to do and he has introduced the legislation. We are all aware of the debate that ensued following the introduction of that legislation.
I want to refer to a statement put down in the Senate on 29 August last year by Senator Cotton. That statement in part reads:
The system is really a duopoly operated by a Government owned arm. the Australian National Airlines Commission operating Trans-Australia Airlines, and a private enterprise arm. Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. They are free to compete with each other, the purpose being to give equality of access and opportunity for both themselves and the Australian people. In saying this, we are pleased that, after many years of criticism, the Opposition agreed recently, through its spokesman on civil aviation matters in another place, that the competitive 2 airline system had sufficient merit to warrant its continuation.
They were the words of Senator Cotton. So it can be seen that we do agree with the 2- airline system, despite the fact that Senator Sim accused Senator O’Byrne of being lukewarm in expressing the Government’s support for this particular 2-airline system. The amendment foreshadowed by Senator Withers is, as I said, a red herring brought in to defeat the Bill, because in the statement brought down by Senator Cotton on 29 August last year he stated:
Although not part of the competitive 2 airline system, it is appropriate that I refer to the proposed new arrangements on TAA staff superannuation schemes.
Last year Senator Cotton said that superannuation had nothing at all to do with the 2- airline system. But if we look at the remarks made in the other place by the present Minister for Civil Aviation when speaking on this Bill 24 May - this was after the Government in other place had agreed to many amendments put forward by the Opposition - we find the Minister said at page 2630 of the (House of Representatives Hansard:
The honeymoon is temporarily suspended.
Of course, he meant that the Government agreeing to all of the Opposition’s amendments had been temporarily suspended. The Minister went on to say:
The Government cannot accept the Opposition’s amendment.
That was an amendment equivalent to the one which Senator Withers has foreshadowed that he will move at the Committee stage. The Minister continued:
I have in front of me the correspondence between Sir Frederick Scherger, Sir Donald Anderson and Senator Cotton. Nowhere in that correspondence does it appear that Trans-Australia Airlines’ superannuation funds are in any way involved. In fact, in the debate that ensured last year on these matters, if I remember rightly, Sir Reginald Swartz, who then represented the Minister for Civil Aviation in the House of Representatives, made the statement that the funds were not involved as part of the agreement.
I am quite confident that when the Minister for Works winds up this debate he will be able to throw further light on the fact that superannuation was not part of the agreement and that superannuation was never discussed in relation to this 2-airline agreement. So it can be seen quite clearly that what the Opposition is endeavouring to do in this debate is to defeat the Bill entirely. If there is any honour left in honourable senators opposite they will not proceed with this amendment. If they do it will be conclusive proof that this amendment is a device to defeat the Bill in the interests of Ansett and to .the detriment of the Australian people who are the owners, of TAA. Of course, Senator Withers is now endeavouring to do something along the lines. I do not know whether he has the consent of Senator Cotton because if he is to pursue this amendment he is taking a view directly opposed to what Senator Cotton said when he made his second reading speech, and also when he made his statement on the 2-airline agreement in this Senate last year. We know that there is a division of opinion. It is said that operating in the Opposition in this Parliament today we have the Liberal A grade and the Liberal B grade. I do not know which grade Senator Withers is in or which grade Mr Nixon is in or Mr Snedden is in. Be that as it may, there appears to be a difference of opinion between these people as to the attitude that should be adopted.
The intention of this Bill is to give TAA equality of opportunity with Ansett Airlines of Australia. Of course this is what we all want to see. We do not want to see private enterprise having a very distinct advantage over the government airline. It has been said here by Senator Withers that we are endeavouring to give TAA an advantage over ATI. If this were so I see no reason why the Government, if it wanted to penalise ATI, should not insist that all airmail is carried by TAA and that all Government members and officials, whether departmental officers or members of Parliament, travel only on the government airline. Of course this would be quite good business. I know, from looking at Senator Webster, that he would agree with me that if a farmer has his own plant with which to sow his crops he will not call on someone who is operating a contract system and say: ‘Look, I have my own machinery but I think you should share in this. You can put in half the crop’. This is the argument that is going on. It is said that TAA will put ATI at a disadvantage. If the Government wanted to put ATI at a disadvantage it could, as I said, insist that all Government freight and passengers be carried by the Government airline. There would be nothing wrong with that, but the Government is not insisting on it. The Government is giving a fair share to both airlines to let them operate in competition. The airline which gives the better service to the people will get the business.
– It is not quite financially fair in some circumstances.
– It has never been fair until the introduction of this Bill which I hope will be passed today. Then we will see a big improvement in the fairness, and the Australian people who own the government airline will be able to see some fruits for the money they have invested in its operations.
It is not intended to develop TAA into the diversified type of enterprise that is seen in ATI. I am sure that all honourable senators have, like me, received a lot of correspondence and telegrams from people who operate motels and other tourist resorts complaining bitterly that TAA will take some of their business from them. If TAA takes some of the business from these people because it is giving service to the public, why should we growl about it? If TAA gives better service I am sure people will use its facilities. But if organisations like the Flag motel chain, which complains bitterly, give a better service they will retain the custom to which they have been accustomed in the past.
Senator Sim suggested that problems may arise with MacRobertson Miller Airways in Western Australia once TAA starts operating in that area. Senator Sim said that there would be a big retrenchment of pilots. I am informed that MacRobertson Miller Airways is an operating division of ATI and is not a separate legal entity. Its pilots therefore are employed by ATI. Last year, the previous Government indicated that TAA would be granted access to this route. The introduction of TAA to the route will be gradual so that staff and other adjustments required by ATI can be made in an orderly manner. TransAustralia Airlines is not yet operating this route so ATI has many months to plan for this eventuality. I would not presume to advise ATI how it should go about this because it is no doubt a matter which often faces airlines in Australia and which they are experienced in handling. However, I recall that the Chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission - TAA - has publicly made known that TAA wil be willing to cooperate to the fullest extent in placing surplus pilots, if in fact this situation does eventuate.
– Who said that?
– That is what the Chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission said, that the commission would co-operate in every way if there were any retrenchment of pilots in Western Australia. So it can be seen that there is no problem there. I should like to know whether ATI has felt strongly enough to accept the offer made by TAA that the 2 airlines might co-operate in this way. Additionally, I am informed that ATI said at an earlier stage that a MacRobertson Miller Airways analysis of allowing TAA to operate Perth-Darwin services via intermediate points, even with unrestricted rights to pick up intrastate traffic, shows that it would cause no significant reduction in MacRobertson Miller Airways’ flying hours and therefore no pilot redundancy.
– Rubbish! You cannot be serious about that.
– Senator Sim says Rubbish’. I heard him say to Senator O’Byrne when he was speaking that the statement he, Senator Sim, made was correct. I will leave it to the Minister to say whether what I have said is rubbish or what Senator Sim said is completely wrong, The fact that the Opposition has opposed this Bill has caused some comment outside in the public arena. I should like hurriedly to read into the Hansard record several letters which were sent to Mr Snedden, to the present Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) and to Sir Frederick Scherger, the General Manager of TAA. The first letter was dated 19 May and was addressed to Mr Snedden. It reads:
My Dear Sir,
After some years of writing to various Ministers of Civil Aviation in your Party’s Government on sundry matters which I considered lacked the tag of fair play’ it was most rewarding to receive on 19 September il972 a letter from Senator R. Cotton stating that the Government was to introduce legislation to enable TAA to compete effectively with Ansett Airlines.
This undertaking, of course, was given by Senator Cotton last year as I have stated previously. The letter continues:
I have read with interest the sudden outbursts from yourselves and other opposition members in both
Federal Houses to this proposed legislation which is aimed at allowing TAA to operate in equal competition with Ansett Airlines. It is not surprising to me that you have suddenly realised that after some 23 years of operating virtually with one arm tied behind its back that at last it was to be permitted to operate fully as laid down in the First Schedule of the Airlines Agreement Act Section 3 (1) b ‘The maintenance of competition between the Commission and the Company;’ something which your party over the years ensured did not take place in its entirety. It took your party when in Government 9 years and 1 month to announce after using all the stalling tactics ‘that it could muster even as a last resort to refer to Cabinet for consideration the extension of the Two Airline Policy which still had until :1977 to operate to permit TAA to enter the Western Australian State. And even then defer the actual entry date 10 months to Ansett’s benefit. Then on 29 August 1972 Senator Cotton in a Civil Aviation Policy Ministerial Statement stated The Government has decided further to give TAA greater opportunity to undertake outside engineering works, including Government contracts, and to enter into mutually beneficial arrangements with surface transport carriers and hotel/motel operators. This is designed to improve Trans Australia Airlines’ abilities to continue to compete effectively, especially now that it faces additional competition.’
Now we find that wild statements are being made about TAA going to take over all the Hotels/Motels, Road Carriers and even the Railways, and whilst Sir Reginald Ansett has played on the sidelines he has no doubt been stirring the possum elsewhere as the latest cry of anguish emanates from the Company Directors Association and you have also acknowledged the fact that a number of representations had been made to you by the Ansett Group. (Before we all get carried away with these wild accusations you of all people being a former Treasurer and Privy Councillor should realise that there are financial limitations besides other legal and constitutional provisions which would prevent such situations, and therefore your public acceptance of this nonsense astounds me. I do not recall your party making such a protest when the Ansett Group decided to enter the Television field, nor when they entered the Hotel/Motel field nor were there wild statements that they may take over the almost defunct Victorian Railways! I respectfully commend the statement made in the Senate by your colleague, Senator R. Cotton, to both yourself and your party - the words of the statement were ‘to enter into mutually beneficial arrangements’ and this is as far as I can understand all that is intended as the Minister has stated that the basic legislation is as put forward by the previous Government.
Indeed the clear statement made by TAA’s Chairman, Sir Frederick Scherger, on Friday, 13 May, would without doubt put the case in its true perspective. 1 feel that your party is honour bound to comply with the statement to the Senate of 29 August 1972 by your colleague Senator Cotton or forever be branded as a party which would not honour promises made to the electorate when in Government or in Opposition their credibility in doubt.
Sir, Is your Party frightened to allow TAA to operate on an equal basis?
That is the question asked by the person who wrote this letter to Mr Snedden. The letter continues:
I would appreciate a reply to this matter at your earliest convenience realising that the demands upon your time are great, however another letter forwarded through you to the shadow Minister for Transport on 12 January 1973 still remains unanswered.
Action Sir, ls the name of the game, and the game requires you to publicly state outright do you support Trans Australia Airlines having equal competitive rights as outlined in your party’s statement on 19 August 1972 or not?
Your credibility and indeed that of your party rests on your answer.
That letter was signed by Mr Milton D. Marsden, 37 Crawford Road, Templestowe Heights, Victoria. I think that letter did have some effect on Mr Snedden. He was then, through Mr Nixon, able to negotiate with Mr Charles Jones and resolve the difficulties. The Bill was subsequently amended in the other place and has now come before the Senate. But Senator Withers is now going against the whole principle of the 2-airline policy and the undertakings given last year by Senator Cotton that the then Government would introduce a Bill to implement that policy and further to give TAA at least some parity with ATI. But Senator Withers will not even consider the credibility of the statements of Senator Cotton or of Sir Reginald Swartz who represented Senator Cotton in the other place. These 2 gentlemen will have to go out to the public at large and answer why they stood behind Senator Withers today and supported a directly opposite view from the statement that was released in this place last year.
When the Bill was introduced into this Parliament last year I had some words to say on it, particularly in relation to the operation of TAA in South Australia. Senator Cotton replied to me, when I queried him as to whether any applications had been made by the South Australian Government to allow TAA to operate intrastate. First of all Senator Cotton said that no representations had been made. I was able to point out to him that representations had been made as far back as 1956. Senator Cotton was then kind enough to look at the records and he told me that representations had been made on 3 occasions, firstly by Sir Thomas Playford, secondly by Mr Walsh and at a later stage by the present Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan.
Senator Cotton, in answering those queries on 26 October 1972 at page 2299 of the Senate Hansard, said:
Senator McLaren has dealt not only today but also on many other occasions with the request by the South Australian Government. The situation is as I reported it to him last. We have that request under active consideration and examination. Probably the honourable member would be aware that there are not many air routes in South Australia that support a great level of competition.
Of course, I am well aware that there are not many air routes in South Australia at the present time which would support a great level of competition. But this Bill will enable TAA to operate on those routes in South Australia in conjunction with road coaches, motels and holiday resorts and this will be of great benefit to the tourist industry in South Australia. There are places in the Flinders Ranges which are fast becoming popular all over the world as places that ought to be seen. We have an airport at Leigh Creek on which Fokker Friendships can land. I am sure that when the scheme begins to develop properly TAA will give consideration to having hostels and tourist resourts in the Flinders Ranges. There is great potential in the southeast of South Australia, on Kangaroo Island, in the Barossa Valley and on the far west coast. TAA will be able to operate services from places outside the State to various points within it. It can provide road coaches so that its travellers may be conveyed to hotels, motels or whatever else it decides to operate in South Australia.
This is a great feature as far as South Australia is concerned. As a South Australian I wholeheartedly support this legislation. I will not say anything more about the superannuation aspect because my colleague, Senator Primmer, will expound upon it and deal with some of the anomalies which possibly members opposite think are in this legislation and will give direct benefit to TAA over ATI. I am sure that when Senator Primmer finishes his speech Senator Webster will indicate that he is on the side of the Government and will vote against the proposed amendment.
– Senator Withers may not move the amendment.
– Yes, I put that point forward for consideration. Perhaps the Minister in his reply to the second reading of this Bill might be able to convince Senator Withers that he should not persist with his amendment. If Senator Withers moves an amendment the 2-airline agreement, as envisaged by the previous Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Cotton, will be in jeopardy and the public at large will then form the opinion that the Opposition is wholeheartedly behind private enterprise and backing Ansett all the way to the detriment of the Government airline which is wholly and solely owned by the taxpayers of this country.
– I rise to indicate that the Australian Country Party will not oppose the second reading of this Bill and will support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). There is no doubt that this Bill has had quite a remarkable history, lt was first introduced by the previous Government more or less in the form in which it entered this chamber.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wilkinson) - Order! May I remind you, Senator Maunsell, that the amendment has not as yet been moved. It is proposed to be moved at the Committee stage. It is only a foreshadowed amendment.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. When the new Government took office on 2 December it looked around for instruments to effect the left wing Labor policy of nationalisation of any industry that it could find. The Labor Government seized upon this legislation to socialise the transport industry and probably the tourist industry. Consequently the measure that was introduced into the other House had a much wider scope than the measure which we are debating in the Senate today. ‘In fact, the previous Bill gave TAA enormous powers to acquire almost anything. Unfortunately, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) and the Government have seen fit to bring the whole airline operation back to its previous level and to bring about what was previously intended to be a development of the 2-airline policy.
I think Australians can be very proud of the 2-airline system that operates in this country. It has a safety record second to none. Australia, because of its size, is one of the most air minded nations in the world and consequently most Australian citizens at some time or another travel on its domestic airlines. Everyone in this nation appreciates the efficiency and particularly the safety of our domestic airline service. This record has been brought about mainly by the fact that we have had competition. We have not allowed any other airlines to enter the field and so take from the existing 2 main airlines the volume of traffic available to ensure the profitable working arrangement that enables them to expand sensibly. Both airlines have been offered financial assistance to expand and the competition between them has been responsible for keenness and the devotion to maintenance requirements which is necessary for efficiency and safety.
I do not know why the previous speaker in this debate, Senator McLaren, believes that by supporting the proposed amendment the Opposition will defeat the Bill. The proposed amendment merely says that Trans-Australia Airlines should not have the advantage of using funds from its superannuation scheme for capital improvement works. No other industry is able to use such funds; no other Commonwealth instrumentality is able to use funds from its superannuation scheme for its capital development. That is the reason why the Opposition proposes to move this amendment. I cannot understand the thinking of Government supporters who say that it »vill defeat the whole principle of the 2-airline system.
I know that there are anomalies in the 2 airline system. Senator Sim referred to what is happening in Western Australia where one airline is competing with another, mainly on developmental routes. We have the reverse problem in Queensland where Ansett Airlines of Australia has attempted over the years to enter developmental routes that have been the province of Trans-Australia Airlines. This resulted in difficulties because of the lack of through-put. The economic viability of some of these routes in western Queensland has been affected by the rural recession and the extended droughts in those areas. The result is that most of these routes have become unprofitable. I think that from time to time the government of the day has to take note of such a situation and endeavour to come to some arrangement that will enable service to be given to people in those areas. The airline concerned, whichever one is running the particular service, should be given an opportunity to operate profitably. However, in the main I think that the 2 airline system has worked remarkably well.
I want to refer to one other matter. It seems that Government supporters in this chamber and in the other House have set out upon a campaign in the debates on this Bill to rubbish Ansett Airlines of Australia whenever possible. Although Senator McLaren said that his Party supported the 2 airline system, I doubt whether many honourable senators on the Government side would agree with him. I am quite certain that the majority of Government supporters would prefer to see one airline in this country. I often wonder how a certain gentleman who wanted to introduce a third airline could have supported the Labor Party on different occasions. No doubt he hoped that he would be looked after. Why should he have thought along those lines, knowing that the main policy of the Australian Labor Party is to have one airline?
– Who was that?
– -You know very well who that gentleman was. The .Country Party will not oppose the second reading of this Bill but will support the amendment which is to be moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I rise to support the Bill and to oppose the proposed amendment. A lot has been said by honourable senators opposite about wanting to see the 2 airline system continue on an equal footing and that is very desirable. I want to refer the Senate to what happened back in 1952 when the Civil Aviation Agreement Bill was introduced in this Parliament by Mr Hasluck, as he then was, the honourable member for Curtin and Minister for Territories. In his second reading speech to the Bill on 24 October 1952 he said that the aim of the Bill was: to ensure that the major air services flown by these two companies are conducted under conditions of fair and active competition.
Later in that same speech he said: 1 stress again the main principle of the Government’s policy which was to see internal air services of Australia were conducted under conditions of active competition, so that the best possible service would be available to the Australian travelling public. But such competition implies an equal right of access to available business, lt also requires that each of the major operators should be in a position to operate on a business of solvency and that each should have such security of tenure as was necessary to enable it to plan its finance and future development, particularly in the ordering and operation of its fleet of new aircraft.
One could say, perhaps, that the parties now in Opposition have agreed generally on that principle. But when we look closely at what has arisen since 1952 we see the cold hard fact of the matter is that things have not always been that way. One can only doff one’s cap to the people who have been in charge of Trans-Australia Airlines over the years and acknowledge the ability with which they have carried out its operations despite a slant against .them by Liberal and Country Party governments over that period of 23 years.
When we look at the situation we find, for example, that the total revenue of Ansett Transport Industries in 1971-72 exceeded $208m. On the other hand, TAA earned $120m. The difference between those figures is not a bad sort of advantage for any private enterprise to have in conflict with a government run airline. It certainly gives the private enterprise organisation greater access to funds. It has a greater turnover and surely that must mean a greater profit can be made. In airline revenue alone Ansett Transport Industries earned $150m in .1971-72 which was 25 per cent more than the total revenue of .TAA. If one looks at what happened in the last 12 months or so with the advent of Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd into ATI, the balance of the scale against TAA has been tipped immeasurably further.
As I said, I propose to speak against the proposed amendment relating to the superannuation fund moneys and I mainly want to confine my remarks to that aspect. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones), when dealing with this Bill on 22 May in the other place, tabled certain letters. I do not want to read them now; suffice to say that anybody interested in looking at them can read them in the House of Representatives Hansard of that date. The letters were from Sir Frederick Scherger to Sir Donald Anderson, Director-General of Civil Aviation, and a reply by Senator Cotton, who was then Minister for Civil Aviation. This was at the time that the previous Government was contemplating extending the 2 airline system. Finally it did so. Nowhere in those letters is there any suggestion from the then Government on the question of superannuation. It was not an issue in those very pertinent letters. Trans Australia Airlines had asked for certain extra rights which, incidentally, it asked for during the inquiry conducted by the committee of this Parliament into the proposed takeover of Ansett Transport Industries by Thomas Nationwide Transport - exactly the same rights. Unfortunately for TAA at that time, the committee, because of the intervention of the Victorian Government, did not get around to looking at TAA’s submission to that inquiry.
However, the rights that TAA asked for were for the provision of aviation engineering works - and surely there was nothing wrong with that. It did appear from discussions that TAA had the capacity to carry out certain works beyond those which it was carrying out atthe time and it purely and simply wanted the right fully to utilise the manpower and capital investments that it had in this area. TAA also wanted the right to negotiate Commonwealth contracts; to establish hotels, tourist accommodation; road transport services; to acquire subsidiaries or shareholdings in companies or to establish and operate subsidiaries for the purpose of the Australian National Airlines Act; and to carry out certain aerial work and charter operations. The sixth right sought was the right by amendment of section 34(2) of the Act to allow investment of moneys not immediately required. TAA also asked for the right to operate in Papua New Guinea. But in neither of its letters nor in the Minister’s reply at the time was there any mention of superannuation.
We on this side of the House - the Government senators - believe that TAA should be entitled to continue the use of portion of its superannuation fund which, as has been stated and admitted by honourable senators on this side of the chamber, is only the employer’s contributions. The facts are that TAA has used part of its superannuation fund for the last 27 years with advantage to itself and disadvantage to no one else. TAA manages its superannuation fund in a manner which is quite consistent with acceptable commercial principles. Its profit and loss account bears an interest charge of 7.5 per cent on accumulated superannuation funds used in its business. Surely this is a fair and reasonable business principle. As I have said, the renegotiation of the 2-airline agreement late last year shows that the subject of superannuation did not arise for discussion.
We believe that to introduce, as the Opposition has suggested by way of this amendment, alterations to the Act to make an arrangement for TAA to pay the superannuation fund to the Commonwealth and to be given a loan would create hardship and would in fact, on figures that I have, cause a net financial disability to the Commonwealth - to the Commonwealth, mind you - of$3. 8m. Those figures are in a statement which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wilkinson) - How much is involved in the statement?
– A single page.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Is there any objection? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– This amendment, if carried, also will increase the cost of TAA’s superannuation fund and once that happens, of course, in a business enterprise such as TAA this increased cost must be passed on and the people who will pay it will be those who every day travel ‘the friendly way’ with TAA. So that what the amendment will do is to increase costs for the thousands of people who travel by TAA aircraft. It is somewhat unfortunate, as with much of Ansett business, that the Senate committee which sat last year to investigate the takeover bid had a great deal of difficulty in finding out where to go and, when it got there, just what it could find out about Ansett’s business. The Government, unfortunately, does not have any details of the Ansett Transport Industries superannuation scheme. However, I understand that it is inferior to that of TAA. The only other thing I know about it is that it is negotiated with the Australian Mutual Provident Society - and that is rather interesting. When we come back to the Senate inquiry that was conducted last year, we find out that the Australian Mutual Provident Society had 560,000 50c shares in Ansett Transport Industries. We further find out that since the deal between TNT and Ansett has become a fact, the Australian Mutual Provident Society holds shares in Thomas Nationwide Transport to the value of $2,080,762. So it seems that in effect Ansett Transport Industries has ready access to its own superannuation funds by these means. To suggest that TAA is gaining an advantage because it has access to similar funds of its own is surely not a fact. That is a very good reason for permitting TAA to leave its superannuation funds just where they are.
I do not want to hold up the progress of this Bill much further except to say I believe that if the policies of this Government are to be brought to fruition, and particularly in respect of regional development, the brakes must be taken off TAA. There must be State government concurrence in intrastate rights in order to create competition in areas which this Government will designate for rapid growth development in the various States of the Commonwealth so that people and industries that go to those areas can be provided, if at all possible, with an economic air service. I do not believe that the Government’s intention will be properly developed unless each of those growth areas has a fast, regular and safe air service to and from all capital cities in this Commonwealth. I know that in my own area the impending, it would appear, demise of the commuter service between that area and the capital city of Melbourne and the rise in fare charges is creating problems. The increase in price makes it impossible for the average person to travel by this service. Still, despite the high charge, the business community continues to use the service - and it seems to me that once a business community becomes used to travelling by air, that becomes part and parcel of its operations. To be able to leave a rural area in the morning, to land in Melbourne at half past eight, to put in all day conducting one’s business and then to arrive home at 8 o’clock at night is very handy. As I have said, I hope that this Bill is pushed through and that TAA is given the powers it wants, because I believe that by so doing we will create the competition about which I spoke. Rather than allow air services to rural areas to run down, we will build up better services. If that can be done, so many more of the Government’s proposed policies can be carried out.
– It has been stated by every section of this chamber all morning that the civil aviation policy of Australia should be one that would allow fair and equitable competition between the 2 major airlines. Those arguments have been defeated by Government senators as they have spoken of investment policies which arc not fully interpreted as relating to commercial investment as it is at the present time. 1 feel sure that the statements by all honourable senators that they would want to see fair and equitable competition should allow them to accept the proposed amendment which will be moved at a later stage. It is based on the premise that it was not the intention, in providing equal opportunities, that the superannuation funds of Trans-Australia Airlines be used in its commercial operations.
If there is to be equal and fair competition it should be assumed that both airlines would pay all State and Federal taxes and charges. It should also be assumed that TAA must not be given allocations of funds from the Treasury at rates so favourable as to disbar other competitors from receiving capital resources at similar rates. It should be assumed also that the use of a superannuation fund, to finance commercial operations, is not permitted in either of the major airlines. We would also have to assume that TAA would have the responsibility of providing an adequate dividend target each year, bearing in mind that this is the objective of any commercial enterprise and that an adequate profit to return an adequate dividend to shareholders is an objective of the commercial undertaking. In June 1972 the Australian National Airlines Commission was advised that the target for 1972-73 would be 10 per cent on a capital based at $15m. This was the rate that was paid in the previous year. We would also expect that if the competition was to be equitable both airlines should provide for adequate reserves, as any business must do.
We have heard that there is a requirement that the superannuation contributions of emplyoyees of TAA be invested outside the Commission. I would point out that under the superannuation provisions the employees’ contributions are two-sevenths of the cost of the scheme and that TAA is responsible for fivesevenths. The employees’ contribution is paid to and administered by the Commonwealth Superannuation Board. While those staff contributions are paid into the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund and are credited with compound interest based on the earned interest rates, the TAA employer contribution is retained in the accounts of the Commission and used to finance its business. 1 mentioned the ratio of the contributions being twosevenths from the employees and five-sevenths from the employer. The contributions made by the Commission must include a notional interest element corresponding to the interest credited by the fund to the employees’ contribution. I have before me a scale which shows the growth of the TAA superannuation fund ranging from the year 1961, when the balance was some $7.5m, to the year 1972, by which time the fund had grown to almost $30m. It will be agreed that this is a fund which is increasing in strength and is a sizable proportion of capital which can be used within the structure of TAA to finance its own development.
I have some matters of personal interest to which I wish to refer in this discussion. Investment of TAA funds is one matter. Under the Bill the Commission will have new powers, and I think I should restate them. Proposed section 19H provides:
The Commission has power to do all things necessary or convenient to he done for or in connection with, or as incidental to, the performance of its functions and, in particular, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, power:
These are fairly wide powers. Section 40 of the principal Act mentions the matters which should be disclosed in the report of the Commission. They are set out in paragraphs (a) to (e). 1 have the personal feeling that we should also require the disclosure of certain other matters. I feel that in addition to the required disclosures stated in the Act, such things as any arrangement by the Commission for, or participation in, the formation of a company and any action taken by the Commission to enter into any partnership or arrangement for sharing of profits are also matters that could well be disclosed in the annual report of the Commission. It has been stated many times that TAA is an airline which is of fundamental interest to the taxpayers of Australia. I feel ‘that full disclosure of its activities would be in the interests of those people and also would be of interest to them. I would like to think that included in the items required to be disclosed in the report are the additional ones that I have mentioned.
There is another matter that I find of interest. I would be grateful if the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) in his response would mention to me the reason for the deletion of paragraph (d) of sub-section (2.) of section 40 of the principal Act, which related to the Auditor-General. That paragraph required the Auditor-General to report to the Minister on the adequacy of the provision in the nature of reserves made in the accounts of the Commission. The deletion of that provision means that nobody has the responsibility for carrying the adequacy of provisions in the nature of reserves >in the accounts of the Commission, as would be the obligation in a public company under the Companies Act. I find of interest the fact that this Bill has deleted that provisions. I would be grateful for an explanation of that.
– What was the point the honourable senator was making?
– The provision to which I referred is the one which was formerly under section 40 (2.) (d), the provision which required the Auditor-General to report the adequacy of provision in the nature of reserves made in the accounts of the Commission. I would like to know why that was removed, because I have not seen anything that gave the reason for it. It is a normal requirement of an auditor in relation to disclosure of certain funds.
The way in which we have been discussing the retention of superannuation funds is of interest, because I wonder whether it is understood just what we are speaking about and the advantage which this gives to the Commission when it is compared with any other public company and, in particular with the Ansett Transport Industries group. The fact that the Commission is to be allowed to retain superannuation funds in its business means that those funds, which perhaps in a period of some 7 or a few more years could total approximately $100m, will give the Commission the opportunity to build up a vast investment portfolio. This could be selected in a manner which could give it enormous influence in wide sectors of road transport, hotel accommodation or, indeed, any form of investment which the Treasurer considered to be appropriate.
This Bill proposes to substitute a new subsection for sub-section (2) of section 34 of the principal Act. The new sub-section provides:
And this is the way in which those moneys may be used:
The power granted in paragraph (c) is very wide. I feel that the opportunity which the Commission will have for the investment of its funds not immediately required does not need to be bolstered by the use of funds, which in a few years will amount to some $100m, from its superannuation fund. Funds of this type are not available to any other commercial enterprise.
The Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) spoke in the House of Representatives in the debate which followed the moving of an amendment similar to the one to be moved in the Committee stage of this Bill here. He claimed, as an original proposition, that the TAA superannuation funds had been credited with only51/2 per cent interest. He continued: 1 said I though that that rate should be increased to a more reasonable and more practical interest rate. I understand that that action has been taken. Other comments which relate to the same subject were made in the course of that debate. The Minister for Civil Aviation understood that action had been taken to increase the rate of interest credited to the superannuation funds. But, from my point of view, it is difficult to see how this action could have been taken or how it could have become effective, since employers’ superannuation provisions are based on actuarial calculations adopted by the Superannuation Board after approval by Parliament of the recommendations of the Commonwealth Actuary in his quinquennial report under section 17 (2) of the Superannuation Act 1922-1972. If the Minister has fixed for TAA a different rate from that applying to all other Commonwealth instrumentalities and Public Service employers’ contributions, this may have been inconsistent with the Commonwealth superannuation scheme and would have the result that TAA would now be overproviding for its superannuation requirements. I seek an explanation of that statement by the Minister from Senator Cavanagh, who represents the Minister here, when he replies at a later stage.
Perhaps it is that point which leads me to restate the former point that I made. I would like to think that the Auditor-General still had the responsibility to certify the adequacy or otherwise of the reserves and provisions of the Commission in the future as he has had to do in the past. I feel that this is a rather fundamental point with regard to the future accountability of the Commission for its actions and with regard to having clarified exactly what is the operation of the superannuation fund, the interest which is being attributed to it and the way in which it is dealt with in the accounts of TAA as they are published in its annual report.
It is vital to appreciate that the interest rate, whatever it may be, is a notional concept. It is an entry which is made in the books of TAA; it is not a matter of someone paying money by writing a cheque and making the type of entry associated with that transaction. It is a notional entry which is made as an internal accounting entry only. TAA never has, would not and could not, under the Minister’s approval, pay interest to anyone in cash. It would simply add the additional interest charged to its superannuation provisions so as to inflate those provisions, thereby aggravating the most unfair situation which now exists. In other words, if the interest rate is being increased - and the Minister said that he thought this had already been done - a further amount is being credited to the superannuation account and this aggravates the unfair situation which we say is in existence. This inflated interest would become part of the provisions and, in all future years, the additional funds so derived would bear compound interest at the inflated rate. The Minister has said, with respect to when the notional rate was only 51/2 per cent: ‘I think that ATI had some reason to protest about that’.
There can be no question as to the sincerity of the Minister in wanting to see that a fair rate of interest was attributed to the superannuation fund. But there is the general objective of placing the 2 airlines in a similar position. I wish to make it quite clear that, if the Minister has not been advised as to the actuarial and accounting basis of TAA’s superannuation provisions, the fact is that by increasing the interest rate his proposal, assuming h to be legally valid, seriously aggravates the present position. What would need to happen in practice is a reduction in TAA’s employer contributions corresponding to the amount of the increased interest, so that there would be no difference at all in the total amount debited as a cost against TAA’s revenue. I think that these points ought to be placed on the record; I would like to see them interpreted in Senator Cavanagh’s response.
For the foregoing reasons, I hope that, despite what has been said by honourable senators from the Government side who have preceded rae, the foreshadowed amendment with regard to TAA superannuation funds will be supported. A similar amendment designed to achieve this purpose was not agreed to when it was moved In the other place. I would like to think that, as the Senate rethinks and reviews this legislation, which is desirable in the interests of our civil aviation policy, honourable senators on the Government side will understand the reason for the amendment which will be moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). This amendment, if given effect to, will place both airlines in a similar position with regard to the investment of superannuation funds and will remove this difficulty which we have with regard to me 2 airlines when comparing the sources of funds which they may use for their capital investment. I support the Bill. I would not like to think that the Government feels that there is an intention on the part of the Opposition to defeat this Bill. We seek simply to move an amendment which will give expression in the closest sense to equality of opportunity in the competitive operations of the 2 airlines in Australia.
– in reply - I thank the Opposition for its attitude to this Bill as a whole. It is reassuring to know that the Opposition will not oppose the motion for the second leading of this Bill. An amendment to be moved in the Committee stage has been foreshadowed; obviously that is a question to be determined in Committee. I had hoped that the matter would be dealt with at that stage; but, as each honourable senator who has spoken has related his or her remarks to the foreshadowed amendment, a few words from me at this stage may save discussion of the amendment at length in Committee.
I was asked to give some information on questions which were posed to me and which are outside the ambit of the proposed amendment. I inform Senator Guilfoyle that she presented her puzzles so quickly that I was not able to grasp them, lt is proper that in the Committee stage she should raise them again; perhaps she will do that. The reason why the legislation seeks to omit section 40 (2) (d) of the Principal Act, according to the information from my advisers, is that the position is covered by proposed new section 36 (1), and by proposed new section 40(18)(e) for which provision is made in clause 18. If that explanation is not to the senator’s satisfaction I shall seek further information at the Committee stage.
asked me to obtain for him information about the Perth to Darwin ran. He was inclined to think that there will be unfair competition on this run, that TAA might use DC9s which ATI is not permitted to use because the airports concerned are not satisfactory for landing DC9s. Ansett purchased F28s, I believe, which have a smaller payload than DC9 aircraft. To operate F23s is not as good a commercial proposition as the operation of DC9s. Senator Sim requested that the regulations be not altered to enable TAA to use DC9s at these airports when they could not be used by ATI. I can assure the honourable senator that there will be no alterations to the regulations to permit the use of DC9s at landing strips where their use .vas not previously permitted. Ansett Transport Industries has got itself into some difficulties over this question. On 29 August last year the previous Minister for Civil Aviation, the Hon. R. C. Cotton, indicated that he. wanted to phase in the introduction of this scheme over a period of 2 years, starting in June of this year. ATI would not accept this proposition and wanted rationalisation. Under rationalisation there would be equal access and not part access. Because of its own choice ATI created the position in which TAA will not come in over a period of 2 years but will come in as from June of this year in full competition, because in the, meantime airports at which DC9s were not permitted to land have been j or will be upgraded. i
Some reference was made by Senator > McLaren to letters between Ansett Transport ;
Industries and the then Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Cotton. That correspondence, including correspondence to the then Treasurer, Mr Snedden, pointed out the difficulties involved. In his letter Mr Pascoe, the Executive Director of Aviation of ATI, pointed out:
Despite the Minister’s statement that there is no Government commitment to up-grade aerodromes, there is an imminent threat that TAA will be able to use DC9 aircraft on the route and expand its operations with this type of aircraft as aerodromes are upgraded within the time scale provided for its access into Western Australia. There is no suggestion that TAA would be required to acquire those of the Company’s F.28 aircraft which would become surplus its a result of its intrusion. The F.28 aircraft is, of course, not economically competitive wilh the DC9 aircraft which has a substantially greater payload.
For these reasons ATI considers it is vital that the Government should announce that TAA will not be granted access, unless it undertakes to acquire those of ATI’s F.28 aircraft which become surplus as a result of such access.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspenion of the sitting I think I had replied to all the questions raised, other than the question of superannuation. Perhaps I can add some information, which I obtained during the adjournment, to the points raised by Senator Guilfoyle and she will have an opportunity to consider it before we reach the Committee stage. She asked why the new section 36 has dropped the requirment regarding the AuditorGeneral’s certificate as to the adequacy of the provisions in the nature of reserves made under the accounts of the Commission. I am informed that the new section 36 was agreed to by the previous Government on the basis that it updated the audit provision of TransAustralia Airlines and drew it into line with the most recent legislation passed by the previous Government.
The new section 40(1 B)(e) which was drafted in conjunction with the Opposition in the House of Representatives, requires TAA reports to include details as to the adequacy of provisions in the nature of reserves made under the accounts of the Commission. In the view of the Government, this provision together with new section 36(1), which requires the Auditor-General to inspect and audit the accounts and records of the Commission, adequately protects the position. It is reasonable to proceed on the basis that the Auditor-General normally would include in his reports from time to time comments as to the adequacy of the provision. In regard to the whole question, it would appear that there is a difference of opinion here. The previous Government was not concerned with the audit provisions insofar as the question of investment was concerned.
The 3 statements on changes in superannuation arrangements which the previous Government made in this Parliament indicated that the changes proposed would bring TAA into line with other government instrumentalities, and no reference was made to balancing the benefits or disadvantages between the 2 airlines. The previous Government approached this matter on that basis, and the question that this did not provide equal competition was not raised. The first of the statements was made in the Budget brought down by the former Treasurer - now the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Snedden) - in which he stated that the proposed changes were to have facilitated changed accounting arrangements. The former Minister for Civil Aviation, in his statement on 28 August 1972, stated that the changed arrangements, while not part of the 2-airline policy, would bring TAA into line with other Commonwealth instrumentalities. The third statement was made by the former Minister in a letter to Sir Frederick Scherger on 17 October 1972, which was incorporated in the House of Representatives Hansard on 22 May 1973. In that letter the Minister set out the amendment relating to the legislation covering TAA which the previous Government would have introduced in the first session of this Parliament if it had been returned to power.
This letter made no reference to superannuation. The matter is raised now for the first time on the question of equality in competition between the 2 airlines. That was the strong point of the argument put by Senator Withers who I take it was expressing the view of the Liberal members of the Senate. But this was not the attitude of Senator Maunsell who I take it was expressing the view of the Australian Country Party. Senator Maunsell’s approach to this was not that there was inequality in competition between the 2 airlines but that no other company was able to use its employees’ superannuation funds. Of course Senator Maunsell is wrong. I am advised that the Postmaster-General’s Department uses its superannuation funds for the purpose of financing its activities without paying interest rates. TAA has to pay interest rates on this money and it is only the employers contributions which are used. The proposed amendment does not seek to alter the basis of the arrangement which imposes an additional charge upon TAA insofar as it pays interest on the money which it borrows. It has been suggested that this is just a matter of transferring figures. There is now a proposal to have the superannuation money invested outside TAA and then to finance TAA’s activities from some Treasury advance or some loan money on which the interest would be paid to someone else. This would deny the benefit of the interest payments going to those who will receive benefits under the superannuation scheme. If we are to decide whether there is even competition between the 2 airlines, we will have to ascertain the amount of interest which is paid by TAA and the amount that is paid by ATI whose figures are not available. Therefore they can never be compared to find out whether one company is at a disadvantage or not. The figures for Ansett Airlines are simply not available. They should be disclosed before we make such a consideration and reach a judgment. The Senate should not be forced to accept the amendment on the lines proposed until it examines the basic data and reaches a conclusion based on that information.
As Senator Primmer stated, this arrangement is not altogether one way. While TAA does use the contributions to the superannuation fund for the purpose of financing its own activities - - and this proposal was never opposed by the previous Government - one doubts whether Ansett is not doing the same thing. Senator Primmer stated that the Ansett scheme involves investment with the Australian Mutual Provident Society and on the figures he gave AMP is a substantial shareholder in ATT and Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd. Insofar as there is support from another company, there is a different approach.
– That is capital investment by AMP. It is not loan investment. There is a vast distinction.
– I do not think the dictinction is vast.
– I would have thought that there is a vast distinction between capital investment and loan investment.
– If an investment is made in a favourable company possibly the profit will go to the same shareholders. Another point I want to raise and of which I think too much was made by the previous Government is the danger of amending legislation after the other House has risen.
– By jove!
– I know that I have been critical of the argument that the Senate should not exercise its power on that basis. Although honourable senators opposite may argue that I am inconsistent 1 think this also applies to them because it was an argument that the previous Government hung their hats on. However, in this particular case everyone has agreed to the amendments to the legislation as being desirable. The Opposition is seeking to prevent us having the Bill passed because of a minor proposed amendment which, in my view, does not effect greatly the question of competition. The Senate could again be placed in an embarrassing position, as we were last night, in that when the Bill came back to the Senate we would have to accept it. I have spoken to the Minister and he has said definitely that he will not accept the amendment proposed by the Opposition. I can say no more than that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
I do not intend to discuss the amendment at length at this stage. The reasons for proposing the amendment were canvassed all around the chamber during the debate at the second reading stage. The only comments I want to advert to are the closing remarks of Senator Cavanagh and the red herring drawn across the trail by Senator Primmer. Senator Primmer referred to the fact that the Australian Mutual Provident Society invests money in Thomas Nationwide Transport and Ansett Transport Industries. If the honourable senator cannot see the distinction between capital and loan funds it is not much use my attempting to explain it at 2.30 on a Friday afternoon. It is just so elementary that I will leave it at mat.
– Why doesn’t Ansett publish his balance sheet?
– As I understand it, as from 30 June under the 2-airline agreement ATI will publish its balance sheet. It is an obligation for it to publish details of its airline operations. Perhaps the Minister could better advise the honourable senator but I understand that the accounts are to include this financial year’s operations. I think that is what the Minister said last year. I understand also that Mr Charles Jones has said that now that TAA is entering other activities it will be publishing accounts relating to its confined airline operations. Both sets of accounts can then be properly compared. Whether they are properly compared will depend upon whether TAA complies with the same sorts of provisions in presenting a balance sheet as does Ansett Transport Industries. ATI will have to comply with all the requirements of the Victorian Companies Act. We have to be very certain that the accounts of TAA are presented in the same form. If not, they will tend to present a completely different picture.
– Why do you want to interfere with the domestic affairs of TAA when you do not know what is happening with the other airline?
– That is part of Liberal Party policy which was laid down in this p ace. Legislation was passed to bring this into effect. Provision was made for it in the Budget. I am surprised that TAA no 1-jnger wishes to live up to what was then a policy to which it must have agreed.
I want to come back to the closing remarks of Senator Cavanagh. 1 suppose circumstances do alter cases. But I can recall being in this Senate about this time last year when the present Government, which was at that time the Opposition, had no compunction in having a number of Bills stand over until the Budget session, basically on the excuse that the then Government should have been running its program better. I see that the Bill we are now discussing was passed by the House of Representatives on 24 May. The Government must have well known that its amendment, or an amendment in a similar form, was put down in the House of Represen tatives. It must also have well known that this amendment would be put down in the Senate by the Opposition.
– Not necessarily, because you put amendments down here which Mr Snedden did not agree with.
– Perhaps I may be permitted to speak without being interrupted, Mr Chairman. The simple fact is that the Government must have known that an amendment would be presented. There is an obligation on the Government to arrange its business on the notice paper each day. If for some reason the Government thought that this Bill had such a low priority that it could be dealt with today when the House of Representatives has adjourned - and after all planning for the House of Representatives is in the hands of the Government. - that is too bad for the Government. I make no apology.
Senator Cavanagh when in Opposition was a great believer in the right of Parliament to act as a Parliament and not to be overridden by the Executive. When I came to this pla<-.e 1 used to be a great admirer of Sena:01 Cavanagh. I thought that he was one of the last of the parliamentarians, apart from myself and a few other very distinguished members on this side. I was an enormous admirer of Senator Cavanagh for the work that he carried out on the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. I can well recall the debates we had on the Therapeutic Substances Bill some years back when geat exception was taken by Senator Cavanagh to a provision that certain things could be dons by ministerial order in writing. I was horrified last night to think that Senator Cavanagh was a member of a Government which now has this terrible provision in the Grants Commission Bill which is to be considered by the Senate. I thought as a matter of principle he would have resigned from the Government rather than be a party to having included in legislation that a Minister may do something by ministerial order in writing.
– Order! I think that the honourable senator is getting a bit wide of the Bill.
– Perhaps I am getting away from the Bill, but I think I am entitled to allude to this because part of the argument that will be put by Senator Cavanagh is that if the Senate amends this Bill the Australian National Airlines Commission will be prevented from doing certain things unless the Government in its wisdom brings back the House of Representatives and accepts or rejects the Senate’s amendment, or if the Government in its wisdom decides that this matter will be dealt with in the Budget session. That is the responsibility of government. If honourable senators opposite want to be in government they should pick up the responsibilities of it. The Opposition believes that it is entitled to move this amendment. The reasons for the amendment have been canvassed again and again. 1 do not think I need say any more at this stage.
– I do not think that the issue has been taken any further by Senator Withers. But I point out that the reasons now given by members of the Opposition for their attitude are not the same as the reasons they gave when in Government and were attempting to interfere with superannuation provisions. Whether Trans-Australia Airlines would have been willing to enter into the 1972 agreement between the 2-airline companies for a 5-year extension had it known that its system of financing would be tampered with during the course of the subsequent agreement is another thing. What Senator Withers said about my previous action is quite right. I make no apology for it. What I did say was that the stunt worked for the previous Government because the Australian Democratic Labor Pary has never failed to use that as an excuse for opposing an amendment which would stop the effectiveness of the Bill. We have stronger grounds on this occasion because it is a Bill which honourable senators agree contains benefits. But merely to establish a different method of investing the superannuation funds the Opposition wishes to deny the organisation the benefits which the amendments proposed by the Government will provide.
Even if the Government calls Parliament together next month or at some other time for the purpose of rectifying the position, the amendment moved by the Opposition will still delay the operation of the Bill. As to why the Bill was so late in appearing on the notice paper and coming before this chamber, honourable senators opposite must accept that there have been many impediments to our progress in bringing legislation before the Senate.
– Since when? What about the last 6 weeks?
– It has occurred ever since honourable senators opposite became the Opposition. Many sitting days were taken from us. But this Bill is only one of the important pieces of legislation to come before the Senate; another 45 are yet to be presented. We could not bring them all before the Senate before the other House rose for the recess. I do not think we could justify the other place sitting on, merely waiting for the Senate to decide on the question when the Government has the numbers to use the guillotine there and get away for the recess. The Government will not accept the amendment and the ministerial position is that such an amendment will not be accepted if it goes back to the other House. As to whether, if I were a member of the Opposition, I would oppose something contained in the Grants Commission Bill, we could well leave that matter until that Bill comes before the House.
– I do not wish to delay the Committee but I think I should pick up one comment made by Senator Cavanagh who said that TransAustralia Airlines would not have entered into the new airlines agreement if it had known that this was going to happen to its funds.
– 1 said it was doubtful whether it would, not that it would not have entered into the Agreement.
– Perhaps we can get some dates from the Minister to set this out. As I understand it, the Budget came into this House on the second Tuesday of August last year. I cannot recall the exact date. But I do know that on 29 August 1972 Senator Cotton put down what was the then Government’s policy in respect of the superannuation funds of TAA. I gather from looking through my notes that the Bill to give effect to the new 2- airline agreement passed through this chamber on 25 October. One can only assume therefore that the decision to alter the superannuation fund arrangements was known to TAA. The Government’s policy was known; the Budget monies had been provided before the new agreement was signed or, if not before it was signed, certainly after those arrangements were known. The legislation had been brought in to give effect to it before the 2-airline agreement was passed through this Parliament.
– Senator Withers referred to the remarks of Senator Cotton last year.I remind Senator Withers that Senator Cotton also said in his statement of 29 August last year, when referring to the matter of superannuation - I pointed this out when I spoke earlier - ‘although not part of the competitive 2-airline system’. He made a definite statement that is was not part of the 2-airline system. Sir Reginald Swartz said the same thing in the other place.. I am concerned that if this amendment is carried, Trans-Australia Airlines will have to come to the Government every 12 months and seek an appropriation to carry on its business. Of course, this would be all right while there was a Labor government in office which wants to see a 2-airline policy operating on a fair basis. But we run into the danger that if there is a return to free enterprise government, as honourable senators opposite so clearly say there will be, TAA could find that the amount of money which it seeks to enable it to carry out its business enterprise is not forthcoming. Then TAA will be put at a distinct disadvantage relative to the private airline. This is the danger which exists in this amendment if it is carried.I am sure that honourable senators opposite are well aware of this situation and that they have introduced this amendment so that on the one hand they can say to the people of Australia: ‘Look, we agree with the 2-airline policy’, but on the other hand they are leaving an escape clause for Sir Reginald Ansett so that he can bring pressure to bear, as he has done over the years, on the Department of the Treasury. If, by some chance, honourable senators opposite become, (he Government again the squeeze will be put on TAA which will be at a distinct disadvantage. This is the very danger in this amendment which has been put forward by Senator Withers.
– I have listened to this debate. I was most anxious not to be involved because I was involved in a great range of civil aviation policies during the time I was Minister for Civil Aviation. I was extremely proud of all that the Department had done. The policies are largely being continued by the current Government. At the time they were laid down the Australian Labor Party largely endorsed them. It made a muck of several of them and then got back on the rails again. I took great care to bring into the Parliament what could be called a White Paper on all aspects of civil aviation policy. It was clearly stated in the paper put down in this Parliament that in regard to this matter of superannuation there was no doubt about the proposal to change the arrangement to bring it in line with that operating in 30 other government instrumentalities. There is no doubt about that in my mind. This was the subject of a long discussion between TAA and the Treasury. The views of Ansett and of the Department of Civil Aviation were taken into account. So this amendment is perfectly consistent with the policy then laid down that the superannuation arrangements would be changed. I do not want to be involved in a process of name calling. There has been enough of that in this airline business in the past years. TransAustralian Airlines was not denied funds for the 23 years of office of the previous Government to prosecute its business. To assume that the company will be is, in my view, completely improper.
– I am very grateful that Senator Cotton has explained the operations which applied when he was Minister for Civil Aviation. Perhaps he could go along with me and agree that he has not taken his account of what happened on that occasion to its final conclusion. The White Paper which was referred to by Senator Cotton was put down on 29 August. In it he stated that there would be a change in the superannuation arrangements. In closing the debate on the second reading I stated that the purpose of this Bill was to bring TransAustralia Airlines into line with other instrumentalities. Senator Cotton has just repeated that. The Opposition says it is now moving the amendment only for the reason of equality of competition between the 2 airline companies. I am advised that from the time the White Paper was presented Ansett Transport Industries disagreed with Trans-Australia Airlines being permitted to operate on the PerthDarwin route and TAA disagreed with the change in the superannuation arrangements.
The 2 companies together with the Department were negotiating their 2 points of disagreement. Their final meeting was 4 days before the election. Right up until that time they were still in disagreement. This was 4 days before the extension of time of the agreement. Those points were still being negotiated at the time the agreement was entered into. At that stage of the negotiations the 2 airlines were still in disagreement with each other on portion of the agreement. It is still doubtful whether the same reception would have been given to the extension of the agreement had it been known that TAA’s right to finance its organisation, as it had done for the past 27 years, was to be taken away.
That the proposed new clause (Senator Withers’ amendment) be inserted in the Bill.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 30 May (vide page 2122).
Clause 1 (Short Title and Citation).
– When this Bill was last before the Senate earlier this week I indicated the course the Opposition proposed to follow and some of the reasons for doing so. On behalf of the Opposition I moved a motion in relation to clause 1, the clause with which we are now dealing, in the following terms:
That clause 1 be postponed as an instruction to the Government: that the further consideration of the Bill be deferred until after the general inquiry into National Rehabilitation and Compensation by the Committee under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Woodhouse has reported - and further that the inquiry should take into account - social service benefits for invalidity; social service benefits for widowhood; repatriation benefits; road traffic compensation; workers’ compensation; and the need to cover self-employed persons and housewives.
The reasons for the Opposition moving this motion were outlined briefly last time the mater was debated. I simply reiterate that, in the interests of fairness to the whole community and because of concern that one section of the community is being placed in a position so advantageous in relation to other sections of the community, this matter requires consideration in its proper perspective - a perspective which should be available in the not too distant future when the Woodhouse Committee presents its report. That Committee has been set up. It is not a case of waiting for a body to be set up to investigate the matter.
Another point to which I referred when the matter was last before us was that we had referred this Bill to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs for report. A very valuable report was presented by that Committee. I should like to refer to certain sections of that report. I point out that a supplementary submission was presented by Senator Byrne, Senator Durack and Senator Wright. I understand that Senator Wright will be addressing us in relation to this matter and will refer to some sections of his supplementary submission. I shall not refer to them at this stage. I refer to paragraph 15 of the Committee’s report, which states:
Turning from death, to the case of incapacity,
for certain specified injuries the employee is entitled to a lump sum, for example, to take two instances:
Those are examples of the type of increase which is provided for in this Bill. They are very substantial increases. The report continues:
This sum is in addition to the weekly payment pay able for total incapacity mentioned below; the lump sum is payable whether the loss of the limb causes loss of earning capacity or not.
A very generous provision is being made which we suggest, as I will be reiterating shortly, is out of keeping with other awards and compensation available to other sectors of the community. The report states further:
The amounts of lump sum payments are being greatly increased in this Bill, in which for the first time in Australia lump sum payments for death are being superseded by weekly payments. Furthermore, for the first time in workers’ compensation legislation, lump sum payments are to be added not only for specified injuries but, under proposed section 39 (8), for ‘loss of any part of the body or faculty’ not specified - the amount being directed to be ‘fair and reasonable’. Attention is drawn to the wide discretion conferred by this sub-section and by the proposed new section 39 (6).
The Committee points out that there is an apparent anomaly in the amounts specified in the schedule for certain hand injuries: The percentage of compensation payable In respect of the loss together of the thumb and four fingers of one hand is fixed at 80 per cent. While the amount payable in respect of the loss of the thumb and the four fingers separately aggregates a total of 106 per cent.
Obviously, that is a matter to which the Government can give attention when it has time to reconsider this Bill. The report continues:
The report makes it clear that this is quite a different development in workers compensation legislation. 1 think that it has many desirable aspects and I wish the Minister to know that I - and, I am sure, all other members of the Opposition - welcome some of the developments. In particular, I refer to the provision which is being made in an endeavour to reduce the incidence of industrial accidents. It is a very important endeavour and one which my Party has espoused over the years, but one which I personally believe has not in the past received as much attention as it should have received. The National Safety Council has been trying to encourage industrial safety. The figures - and I believe they are well known - indicating the difference in the accident rate between groups which have a modern safety conscious program to reduce the incidence of accidents and groups which have not show quite remarkable differences. I believe that the Government should be complimented on the introduction of certain provisions of this Bill.
There are other desirable developments but I shall not take up the time of the Senate indentifying them in particular. I wish to make it clear that although we are concerned about the social implications of this legislation we are not opposed to the principle of the legislation in any way at all. We are opposed only to the way in which the legislation may operate to the detriment of various sectors of the community. We are concerned as to whether the community can afford to take the step to provide for one relatively small section benefits which will not be available to much larger sections of the community. Some examples are given in the supplementary report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. It shows that various people in the employment of the Commonwealth could receive very large sums of money under the provisions of this Bill. I believe Senator Wright will be dealing with that matter later. It may be thought that some of the examples are extreme. One refers to a person earning a salary of $20,000 a year. I think it would be of interest to honourable senators to have a look at the types of salaries which are being paid to public servants who would be covered by the provisions of this Bill. I note that the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, who is classed as a First Division officer in the Commonwealth Public Service, receives a salary of $32,650.
– What is the accident expectancy of a man in that sort of occupation?
– 1 am coming to that, Senator. I accept that there is less likelihood of a person in that occupation having an accident, although heart disease does take its toll, particularly amongst the higher paid bracket. That is apparent from recent figures 1 have seen.
The Chairman of the Tariff Board receives $29,250 a year. There are very many similar salaries above $25,000. The salary range in the Second Division is $14,500 to $22,000. On 31 January 1973 there were 957 officers in the Second Division. The salary range in the Third Division is just on $4,000 to $12,500, in round figures. -I will give some further examples. A grade 5 teacher receives $12,000. A class 2 veterinary officer - who may be kicked by a bull or something else - receives $10,930.
– Gored by a bull or kicked by a horse.
– I knew I would eventually get some reaction. A class 5 medical officer receives $17,827, which is an exception for a Third Division officer. As Mr Slater seems to be interested in this matter I mention that a senior mail officer, grade 4, receives just on $5,000 a year. In June 1972, which are the latest figures I have, there were 67,500 Third Division employees. I feel that those figures do give some idea of the range of salaries with which we are concerned when we are considering paying 100 per cent or, in some cases more than 100 per cent, as salary reimbursement to people who do have claims. As opposed to that we have the situation where pensioners - returned servicemen, age and widow pensioners - and various other people in the community obtain from the public purse relatively small amounts when considered against the sort of amounts that have been provided for in this Bill. I wonder whether the Government would argue that a returned serviceman receiving a total and permanent incapacity pension, for instance, injured in the course of serving his country, was any less deserving of proper compensation out of the public purse than a member of the Public Service injured in the course of his employment on behalf of the country. I wonder whether the Government would argue that cases involving civil damages for people injured in car accidents, or through the fault of an employer or what have you, warrant less than the amount provided for Commonwealth employees who suffer incapacity or death during the course of their employment.
Those are the things which concern the Opposition. We believe that there should be social justice and equity in the approach taken to compensating various sectors of the community, all of whom are entitled to consideration from the public purse. We believe also that account must be taken of the maximum level which the remainder of the community can bear in assisting in providing compensation to people in the community who are justifiably entitled to that assistance. This is the very essence of the investigation by Mr Justice Woodhouse and his report will cover it. The Opposition believes that before the pace making step provided by this Bill is taken there should be consideration of the report of Mr Justice Woodhouse and what is practical for the whole community and at what levels various types of compensation should be struck.
I feel I must emphasise that the standover tactics and threats of Mr Slater, apparently made on behalf of his union, although I know a number of unionists who would dissociate themselves from the type of tactics adopted by him, to members of this Parliament about what will happen to them if they carry out their function as they see fit, conjure up a terrible prospect. No member of Parliament, on either side of this chamber, should be threatened with action consequential upon what his vote may be or what he does in representing the people of this country. It is an impossible situation and one which I trust Mr Slater and those who support him may yet reconsider. Whether he reconsiders it or whether he makes any threat, I and the Opposition generally propose to proceed with the motion I have moved. We believe that social justice requires it and therefore we shall proceed as indicated.
– I want to state clearly that the Government considers there is no case for deferring this Bill because the comprehensive nature of it has been widely canvassed before. Everybody knows that what is contained in it is in the platform of the Australian Labor Party. Everybody knows that we promised to bring into the Parliament a model Bill on workers’ compensation. In fact, on the last occasion on which the former Liberal-Country Party Government introduced an amending Bill to the present Act we moved amendments consistent with what is now proposed. Therefore we consider that the move to defer this Bill simply denies to many thousands of Commonwealth public servants something which they expect and something for which we have a mandate.
The Opposition knew about this. The principle of no loss of pay has been well canvassed and it applies in many outside industries. It has resulted from agreements between employers and employees in many industries so it certainly is not a new venture. In fact, as honourable senators will remember, the last Government went part of the way towards providing this basis when it said that in respect of all its employees - not only those who were fitters and turners, builders and carpenters, but every public servant, including the top public servants who honourable senators opposite say will get too much under this Bill - in cases of total incapacity they would in fact get their ordinary weekly earnings for 26 weeks at their sick leave rate. So that principle is not new. In most of the States it now applies to the extent of 80 per cent. So it seems to me there is no new ground.
The case put by Senator Rae which is based on the fact that there will be an inquiry which has been approved by the Government which decided the terms of reference for Mr Justice Woodhouse, simply seeks to defer the whole question for many months. There is no certainty that the report will be available this year and there is no certainty that it will be available before the middle of next year. When we receive that report which I accept will relate to these matters, except as to the terms of reference on repatriation which the Opposition now puts forward for our consideration, it will receive the attention of many people, organisations, the Government and the Opposition as to what should be done about it. What is proposed today is simply a move which will defer for that length of time an important piece of legislation on the basis that in some cases there are anomalies and that in some cases there ought to be a ceiling on the compensation payable. I put it to honourable senators that what they should think about, firstly, is: Where does one apply that ceiling? The top public servants of whom 1 have spoken, those earning $20,000 or S30.000 a year who become incapacitated, will receive compensation at the sick pay rate for 26 weeks. That principle was the result of the very persistent representations made last year by the combined trade union movement and the combined Public Service organisations as a result of which, as we said it at that time, that Act became the best in Australia. We said it quite clearly. I should like to come back to that point later.
Regarding the claim that the inquiry ought to extend to repatriation matters, I remind honourable senators that 2 inquiries on repatriation are currently proceeding. One is proceeding under the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, the other under the Chairmanship of Mr Justice Toose. Mr j US.tice Toose has been given an extension of time, as he requested when Labor won government, to allow him to complete bli report by about the first quarter of next year. We do not know when Mr Justice Toose will make his report - he will make it in his own good, competent time - but he will shortly go overseas to make further investigations related to the representations that have been made to him. When his report is presented, the Government will consider what ought to be done about the repatriation matters that he raises. So there are in fact 2 competent inquiries current. In addition, of course, there is the point raised by the Opposition - which is probably valid - as to what shall be done about war widows and repatriation beneficiaries. In the short time that W: have been in office we have made it clear that we would be ready to make improvements. As honourable senators know our commitments, not only for benefits in this first short period of government will be $29m. In addition, we have made improvements and we propose to make more for the operations of the repatriation system and the use of repatriation hospitals which will make the system work more beneficially to those entitled to it. But. in turn we will be subject, sensibly of course, to whatever the inquiries recommend to u>
As to the matters complained about, I suggest that they have been given very serious consideration by these competent committees and that we should be allowed to proceed on the basis that the Act ought to bc modified Honourable senators will recall that in this legislation we made it clear as to what the basic improvements would refer. That is, that in fact there would be compensation for total incapacity based on the employee’s average weekly earnings and compensation for partial incapacity on roughly the same principle. There would be an obligation, as appears in many other Acts, that if the Commonwealth cannot employ a partially incapacitated employee the employee must be paid compensation, as provided, until he can be employed. We have replaced the system which now exists in most of the States, that of providing for a lump sum payment to widows and dependants, to a system of weekly payments. This is a matter which of course is concerning some members of the Opposition and some members of the Committee. We have increased the amounts applying to specified losses, as other governments have done in the past.
Let me deal with the 2 matters raised by Senator Rae. Perhaps anomalies exist in respect of the percentages relating to specified losses such as the loss of an arm, leg, hand or fingers, but those percentages apply equally in all States. In fact they are in the present Act. After submissions had been made to the former Minister for Social Services by special advisory committees and experts and after considering the criticism of people experienced in compensation matters, the former Government adopted the same approach as the present Government. The proposed relativity between various specified losses exists in the present Act and in the State Acts. If there are anomalies in that respect they are related to the history of workmen’s compensation and they are related to the determinations which have been made in the past. So they are not critical anomalies. They are not anomalies in the sense that they are newly created. As Senator Rae has been good enough to point out, for the first time the Government has said that compensation principles must be attached to the question of rehabilitation, and we are attempting to do that. We have introduced ‘ special provisions for those who need rehabilitation to ensure that they get their ordinary earnings while they are being fitted to come back into the work force.
May I refer to one or two things which appeared in the supplementary report of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on this Bill. Attention has been drawn in the supplementary report to the situation of top officers of the Australian Public Service. I point out that there are a few officers whose salary would be $20,000 or more per year and who might be 30 years of age. An example given concerns a person of 30 years of age. The figures given to me show that there are 52 officers in the Australian Public Service who receive $20,000 or more per year. They comprise only 0.02 per cent of all the persons employed in the Service. At present there are no officers aged 30 years or under in this group. The youngest is aged 37 years, so the example is not an extremely good one. But of course it raises the principle whether, in providing that an employee should suffer no loss of pay, we ought to impose a ceiling. That is always a difficult decision. As I have pointed out, the ceilings applying to workmen’s compensation benefits have been raised bit by bit, year by year. As we know, after continual pin pricking with relation to the various provisions - I took part in some of these debates and accompanied representatives from the Commonwealth Council of Public Service Associations and the Australian Council of Trade Unions to the Minister then responsible - it is a fact that many representations made to the former Minister were taken into account in the last amendment to the Act. This will be the procedure in the future. The States may move ahead of us, as they have done in respect of some of the matters about which Senator Wright talked. The question arises whether a percentage can be fixed for compensation in respect of a specified disability. For example, in relation to the old vexed question of back injury, there is a provision in the South Australian Act that such a specification can be made.
– A highly desirable one too.
– Of course it is. When in Opposition the Australian Labor Party canvassed proposals, which were finally accepted, about compensation for personal disfigurement, facial injuries and bodily disfigurement. At the time they were partly accepted after I had put it to the former Government that the various States had accepted an obligation that compensation should apply to these injuries. I put it to the Opposition that in fact it has taken an extreme and unreal example and I suggest that it might look at what might be a real case, the case of a widow whose husband had been on a lower level of payment. Consider her position.
Let me refer to what was given as an example. The amount stated seems to have been arrived at on the false premise that a weekly payment of $383.39- that is, $20,000 a year - would be payable for 30 years. In fact, probably this would not be so. The weekly payments would probably be apportioned on the basis of a payment of 75 per cent of the total benefit to the widow and 25 per cent of that benefit to a child. The weekly payment in that case to a widow would be $287.54 and to the child $95.80. There would be very few examples where employees in this situation would not contribute towards a superannuation pension. In the case of the employee who does contribute towards a superannuation pension, provision is made under this legislation to offset the superannuation payment against the compensation benefit received under this legislation. If the facts that I have given are applied to the example that 1 quoted earlier, quite a different position is reached. Account must be taken of the offsetting of the superannuation payments in any calculations of the amounts which would be paid by the Commonwealth. Regard must be had also to taxation requirements.
The Committee ought to look at a more realistic example to obtain a correct picture. I invite the Committee to consider the case of a Commonwealth employee who is killed at the age of 30 and who leaves a widow of about the same age. At the date of his death that widow becomes entitled to a weekly payment of $180.50. The present lump sum value of a weekly payment of $180.50 to a widow aged 30 until her death or remarriage, based on an interest component of 6 per cent per annum, is $74,250. That amount is substantially less than the figure of $211,000 quoted in the report of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. The lump sum payable at present for a child in that circumstance would be in addition to the amount that I have just mentioned and would depend upon a number of factors such as the age of the child and the age at which under the provisions of the legislation the child would cease to be a dependant.
Taking a comparison on the basis of an annual salary of $20,000 to Commonwealth and State public servants, we find that compensation on death of a State public servant averages approximately $15,000. But 1 wish to point out that in most cases a superannuation pension would almost certainly be payable to the widow whereas in the case of the widow of a Commonwealth employee, fivesevenths of the superannuation entitlements of that widow would be offset against the compensation payment. No offsetting provisions exist with respect to State public servants. It is also well known that large numbers of civilian employees in private industry are now covered by superannuation benefits which are completely additional to compensation payments. No offsetting provisions are made. Persons engaged in the vehicle building indus try, such as those in relatively minor executive positions including foremen and supervisors, can retire on a lump sum payment which is not taxable and in addition they can be eligible for certain compensation benefits.
I take next examples of provisions in State public services. In South Australia, the widow of a public servant who was on the same rate of pay as we have been speaking about with respect to a Commonwealth employee would receive in addition to the compensation payment of $15,000 to which I have referred-
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I rise to enable the Minister to complete his speech without further interruption, if he so wishes.
– I thank the honourable senator. In the examples T will give with respect to State public servants, I will cite the position in most of the States. Widows of State public servants receive a compensation payment of $15,000. In New South Wales, the widow’s pension is twothirds of the ordinary pension to which a public servant would be entitled on retirement. I am presuming for the purpose of this and later examples that, as is usually the case with respect to payments in State public services, no part of the Government subsidy is reduced by offsetting that payment against a compensation payment. The widow in. New South Wales receives $8,202 each year by way of superannuation payments. In Victoria, the widow’s pension which is based on fiveeighths of the normal retiring pension is $5,915 a year. In Queensland where, similarly, the widow’s pension is five-eighths of the normal retiring pension a widow receives a payment of $8,333.33 a year.
– Are you speaking of State public servants?
– Yes, only State public servants. I am not completely aware of the position with various private schemes, but I have referred to two industry schemes which I know about. These cases are more beneficial than the Public Service Superannuation Fund. For example, the widow of a Tasmanian public servant would receive two-thirds of her deceased husband’s salary at death. This would mean an income currently of $8,888.88 a year. In South Australia a widow would currently receive $7,943 a year. So, when one looks at the situation, one can see that it is quite different from what has been stated in the example that we have been talking about. 1 think that we ought to keep that in mind when we are stipulating what would be the position. Let me compare 2 cases - the present position of people eligible for repatriation benefits and those eligible for compensation payments. This comparison was referred to by Senator Rae in giving an example of the case of a widow of a person who was earning $130 a week. Under the provisions of our Bill, the deduction for superannuation would be $65 a week, so that the compensation is reduced to $65 a week. In addition, a tax of $13.75 is applied. So the net value of that compensation is reduced to $51.25 a week. Now 1 take repatriation benefits. Do not think that I am defending the present standards of repatriation benefits. For many years I have stated that ‘repatriation benefits and benefits for serving members and their widows and dependants ought ) be more closely related to compensation scales. In the past repatriation benefits generally have been better than the compensation standard. But, because of the moves we have made, in a wide area repatriation benefits currently could be less than compensation payments. But in the example I have given, the repatriation pension would be $21.50, the domestic allowance would be $8.50 and the child’s allowance would be $1.38 a week. So in that case the family would be receiving $37.55 a week. In that case repatriation benefits would not be better.
But I point out that lump sum payments in the States are not taxable, but the weekly compensation payments are taxable. So allowing for taxation, which has not been noticed by some members of the Committee, I point but that the earnings of an employee who is totally and permanently incapacitated would be less. I also compare this situation with the current repatriation position that I have mentioned. Of course, the line of demarcation which I have mentioned sounds extremely high when one talks about an officer receiving average weekly earnings when his salary is $20,000 a year or more. But I submit that, as I mentioned, the Liberal-Country Party Government provided the present basis. As Senator Mulvihill I think interjected earlier, there may not be many people who would come into this class. But may I also refer, without being in-
– It did not provide it for good.
– It provided ‘t as a basis. Let me put it this way: At one stage the previous Government argued that this should not be permitted to be done. When the amount of weekly compensation was low the previous Government offset compensation payments against accrued sick leave. At one time the Commonwealth Act provided that if an employee had any sick leave entitlement his sick leave was taken to make up his compensation payment. The previous Government moved from that position because the States changed their policy. The previous Government moved to the situation where an employee was allowed compensation at his sick pay rate for up to a maximum of 26 weeks. We welcomed that because, after all, that is a partial acceptance of the principle we have been advocating for many years. We have said that compensation should be based on the average earnings of the employee, that is, the no loss of pay principle. Without being impertinent, I refer to the position of ourselves as senators. If any senator were to receive an injury, which incapacitated him temporarily, in the course of his attendance at the Senate, and provided that the Senate granted that senator leave of absence, as it would, he would receive his ordinary salary. This happened during the term of the previous Government.
Senator Wright will speak shortly. For example, if Senator Wright, when he was Minister for Works, had been temporarily incapacitated during a session of the last Parliament and had been granted leave of absence - and a similar position would apply to me at the present time if I were temporarily incapacitated - under the old scale of salaries and allowances Senator Wright would have received his senator’s salary of $9,500, his ministerial allowance of $8,625 and bis special allowance of $4,000, making a total of $22,125. If a senior member of the previous Government had been temporarily incapacitated and had been granted leave of absence from the Senate, he would have received his senator’s salary of $9,500, his ministerial allowance of $10,500 and his special allowance of $4,000, making a total of $24,000. A number of people would come into this category.
– But they do not get that for life.
– Of course they do not get that for life, but we are talking about the no loss of pay concept. I will not pretend that the Commonwealth provisions will not become the pace setter. They will become the pace setter this year if we pass the Bill which has been introduced by the Government. For years we asked the previous Government to introduce uniform legislation, lt took 7 years - as a matter of fact, it took from 1964 when the then Prime Minister Harold Holt promised to introduce a model compensation Bill until 1972 - before the levels of compensation which were paid in the States were introduced into the Commonwealth legislation.
I put it to the Committee that what we are doing is not extravagant and that really the only peg on which the Opposition can hang its hat is the reference to top public servants. I do not think that that position justifies, to any extent, anybody holding up this legislation. It might be pertinent to say that we should look at the general levels of workers compensation when Mr Justice Woodhouse and the relevant committees to which honourable senators opposite have referred and in which they are interested - the inquiry into repatriation by Mr Justice Toose and the inquiries by the Senate committees - have presented their reports. As I have mentioned, all of the points which honourable senators opposite have raised are presently covered by the examples that I have given.
Some other related and more minor matters are raised in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. One relates to dependancy and to a legal wife who may not be dependent. 1 put it to honourable senators that not only the previous Government, but also this Government since it was elected to office - in our social services legislation and our repatriation legislation - have established a new concept in relation to dependancy. In my opinion, that concept ought to be considered.
In conclusion, an argument could be submitted regarding ‘the case cited in the report about 2 public servants - a State public servant and a Commonwealth public servant-: who were aged 30 years and who were driving cars and became involved in an accident. But I think it is pertinent to remind honourable senators that in that case there could have been claims for damages.
– No, they were both equally at fault.
– I am told by people who I think are as competent as Senator Wright, that actions could have been taken against each other under the road traffic laws, in which case the offsetting provisions in section 99 of the Act would apply. Sub-sections (5) and (7) of section 99 contain offsetting provisions. Those offsetting provisions apply in the Commonwealth legislation, but they do not apply in the State Acts. When honourable senators opposite talk about the superiority of our provisions, I suggest that they should have regard for the State position. The State Acts do not provide that some part of the Government’s contribution should be offset against payments made in a damages case.
I shall refer to the amounts awarded in some damages cases in the various States. In the case of D. E. Moore in the New South Wales Supreme Court in April 1971, for the loss of a right leg - .the person being rendered almost unemployable - the amount awarded was $45,000. In the case of Ferry v. Milardovic in the New South Wales Supreme Court in April 1971, for the loss of a right leg the amount awarded was $26,000. In the case of Palmer v. Luxe Motors Pty Ltd in the New South Wales Supreme Court in November 1971, the amount awarded was $40,430. In the case of Mulherin v. Kingswood Distillery Pty Ltd in the New South Wales Supreme Court in December 1971 the amount awarded was $51,120. In the case of Pamela Savage v. Redline Coaches Pty Ltd in the New South Wales Supreme Court in April 1972, the amount was $58,130.
– What were those last awards for?
– For the loss of a leg.
– They were for the loss of a leg, is that so?
– They are all leg injury cases. In the case of Gough v. New South Wales Railways in the New South Wales Supreme Court in September 1972 for the loss of both legs, one severed below the knee and one severed above the knee, the verdict was for an amount of $94,000.
– Do those amounts take into account loss of income and things like that or are they damages for other aspects?
– As far as I am aware they are awards for damages. I am not fully aware of the details of the decisions.
– I think that before the honourable senator quotes these things he should check his instructions.
– The honourable senator would be in a better position than 1 to know that the amount of damages awarded in these matters compared with compensation allowances is greatly in excess of the amount provided under this legislation. We should have regard for this. What is the” magic in saying that a widow should get an amount of $13,000 as the final compensation for the death of a spouse? What is the magic about that?
– We are not saying that.
– The point is this: We have set a level of compensation. The only argument which the Opposition has against that level is that in some cases the very top public servants should not be entitled to this sort of compensation. The Opposition has failed - as I have reminded its supporters - to take into account various things such as taxation and the offsetting of superannuation benefits which reduce the figures which it has posed. I accept the comment of Senator Rae that the Commonwealth Government has moved forward in this field but I say to honourable senators opposite that there is no good reason why this legislation should be held up. There is no good reason for deferring it. If the Opposition wishes to defer it on the basis that a committee should bring down recommendations in respect of one or two clauses in the Bill, then there may be something in that. But what the Opposition is saying today is that it wishes to defer this legislation on the basis that an inquiry will be made. But that inquiry may take up to 2 years.
– The Minister may like to redraw the Bill.
– But that is not what the Opposition is saying. The honourable senator may want to let himself out on that.
– The Minister might like to redraw the Bill and rephrase some of the provisions.
– As far as we are concerned, we have put forward Labor’s model Bill. Some honourable senators have read it. Some honourable senators have read our platform. It has often been quoted in this place.
– In my time compensation was planned for the plug, not the tall poppy.
– I do not disagree with that.
– But the honourable senator is crying out for the tall poppy today.
– May I respectfully put to Senator Gair my position, his own position and the positions of the Ministers in the previous Government? We have a standard whereby people get the ordinary entitlements that we would expect them to get but because persons outside are going to get something like this, the Opposition says, in effect: ‘No. We stop here.’ By stopping there the Oppostion does not propose a ceiling only in respect of that category of compensation. The Opposition draws out some anomalies from the Bill to which I have referred. They are nothing new. They have been in all of the Acts. There are specified amounts of compensation which do not seem to make sense in regard to the loss of a hand, a finger or a thumb. These amounts have been continued over the years and I sugegst that the compensation in these cases, is not substantial. I suggest that it would be more reasonable for the Opposition, if it wishes to amend the legislation, to say: Well, after the reports have come out we will review this.’ But what the Opposition is doing is holding up this legislation despite the fact that certain of its provisions are essential. These provisions have been enacted by the States. We are improving upon the State levels.
– You are doing more than that.
– No, we are not.
– Of course you are.
– The principle of weekly compensation payments in addition to payment of a lump sum is not new. It was introduced recently by Victoria and has been in other State compensation Acts for some time. The only new principle in the measure - it definitely seems correct to me - relates to payments to a widow. She receives payments unless she remarries and I think it is fair that she should receive an amount equal to that which her spouse would have earned had he lived. The Opposition says: ‘No. Let us dismiss her by giving her $15,000-‘ That sum would not buy a flat in Canberra. In some places in Australia it would not buy even a shed. What we are considering is compensation for the loss of a bread winner and there is no sense in what the Opposition proposes. If she is a young widow the chances are that she will remarry and the liability that has been suggested will not eventuate. (Extension of time granted.)
I have put the position as the Labor Party sees it. It may be argued that some of the great improvements should not be provided at this stage. I do not see that. It does not matter where the level is set. If a fence is erected between certain salary ranges injustice will be done to some people. Where is the barrier to be put, at $100 a week, $500 a week, or $1,000 a week? Are you to apply it to yourselves as well as to ordinary public servants? Having set down the Commonwealth Act, will it flow on to other people? I have told the story which by now all honourable senators have heard. As the States have improved their social and industrial legislation and workers compensation payments, because of the movements and improvements in society the law has tended to become uniform. It is only recently that the Commonwealth Government has done what it should have done over the years in providing maximum compensation standards. I think the standards set by this Bill are reasonable. 1 do not see any sense in the deferral suggested by the Opposition. It would take too long to pay the benefits provided for in the Bill and now expected because they have been announced.
– The Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party have proposed that this Bill be deferred until a comprehensive and wide ranging inquiry into special personal injury compensation has been made. The purpose is to ensure that the best possible benefits can be provided for people who are injured in the course of their work, but without singling out any special class such as Commonwealth public servants for special privileges and payments of inordinate amounts. Senator Bishop knows full well that this is an extravagant Bill and unreason able as it relates to many higher echelons of the Commonwealth Public Service and if it were to be passed into law now it would be impossible to gear it back onto a proper basis which would provide equity in relation to those people and other classes.
Senator Bishop’s argument falls completely flat when he suggests that the deferral of the Bill will create injustice because he stated that as workers compensation legislation for Commonwealth employees was improved by the Liberal-Country Party Government up to as recently as October last, it was the best compensation Act in Australia. If the Commonwealth Public Service were left to enjoy benefits under that Act until a comprehensive inquiry was conducted and a report furnished for consideration - before legislation of this sort was enacted - those Commonwealth employees would be enjoying the provisions of what Senator Bishop has called the best compensation Act in Australia. So far from doing them an injustice, we are guaranteeing to them that small advantage over other sections. Therefore, it is impossible to suggest that they will be caused any injustice while this consideration takes place.
Senator Bishop did not make it clear that this legislation applies to Commonwealth government employees who are employed in a civilian capacity. It applies to employees of Commonwealth instrumentalities such as Trans-Australia Airlines, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian National Line. It applies to presently serving peacetime military, naval and air force personnel, but excluding war service personnel. One should consider to whom this legislation does not apply. It does not apply to any of the great mass of working men or business executives in private industry; nor does it apply to employees of State governments, either the civil servants or the great mass of railway workers, electricity workers and other public servants of the States; nor does it apply to self-employed persons such as members of the farming community, 40 per cent of whom have been on less than $2,000 a year for 10 years; nor does it apply to the housewives, who for the purposes of law are not regarded as employees at all.
The reason why we Opposition senators are taking the point of view we are taking is that we are determined to make social justice equitably available to all classes and just as firmly to deny unjustified privilege, to a class of servants on whom we have the capacity and the opportunity to confer privileges because of the enormous revenue that is available to the Commonwealth Treasury. We do not believe in the principle that just because one is near to the bakehouse one should get the best bread. We want to take a vision that will look to the whole country - not forgetting the taxpayers, who pay every penny that is provided for workers compensation for Commonwealth employees.
The wife of a farmer who is killed on a tractor receives nothing. On the other hand, the wife with one. child of a public servant in Canberra who is on a salary of $30,000 a year receives $30,000 a year for the rest of her life if he is killed. That benefit is terminable only if she remarries. Just fancy how few widows would remarry with that fortune in their pockets. The wife with one child of a public servant on a salary of $20,000 a year receives $20,000 a year, terminable only if she remarries. This benefit is provided for life - not for the remaining working life of her husband, not until she would become pensionable at 60 years of age. A farmer’s widow can go and milk the cows again, if the farm is left after payment of death duties. I see Senator Negus watching me closely as I make that comment. She can work the farm for the remainder of her days.
At present the widow of * State public servant receives as workers compensation a sum not in any State in excess of $15,000. lt is a lump sum, once and for all. That widow does not receive $15,000 a year. But the widow of a Commonwealth public servant receives in workers compensation his annual salary. She does not receive a static amount; it is increased year by year in accordance with the classification he would have attained in 5 years had he not died. She could be receiving $20,000 a year every year through the remainder of her life.
Let us take the case of the person in private industry who is entitled to worker’s compensation. His widow would receive the same as the widow of a State public servant. The upper limit of any lump sum that is payable is $15,000. No weekly payment is provided for that widow. Those are the great mass of people for whom this legislation originally was provided - the working people in industry. It was never intended at the outset for high public servants in civilian offices, where the risks are minimal as compared with those of a man out on a building construction job or working on hydro-electricity lines, or telephone lines, or anyone of that sort.
Having dealt with the widow of a State public servant and of a private industrial worker, let us consider a few of the men who died in the First and Second World wars, the Korean War and in Vietnam. There is in this country a medical man who lost both eyes in Vietnam. He is paid $55 a week if he is entitled to all the allowances, yet the Government reckons the average medical man in his practice is worth $30,000 a year. If any man who is capable of being employed in the higher salaries is wounded and killed, his widow now would enjoy a widow pension under the Repatriation Act of, I think, $31 plus allowances that bring it up to about $45 a week.
– Was it not your Government which did that?
– Of course it was, and that is as far as it has been advanced up to date. We instituted a review under Mr Justice Toose and some of us had to fight to get even that for Vietnam casualties. Before then, it would have been half that amount, lt is a blatant, rude deprival of justice to bring in a provision whereby the widows of public servants can receive $15,000 or $20,000 a year for the rest of their lives while the widows of men who were killed in the First and Second World wars and in other wars are left on midget pensions. Today we are fighting for some degree of equity for these classes. I now mention the ordinary worker, whether selfemployed or employed casually in industry, who becomes an invalid pensioner on social service without recourse to any damages at the law court because he cannot prove negligence and without recourse to any workers compensation because he had the misfortune to be, say a self-employed bricklayer. The Government pays him an invalid pension of $21.50 a week - about $1,000 a year. Yet it wants to give the widows of some Commonwealth public servants about $21,000 a year during their life times.
The principle behind our motion is to defer this Bill and leave Commonwealth public servants, as a class, enjoying what Senator Bishop has said is the best workers’ compensation Act in Australia while we take into account these other sections of the community. In comparison with the provisions in this Act they are being treated by the Labor Government with absolute disregard.
Let us now consider some of the examples in relation to death which Senator Bishop mentioned. [Extension of time granted]. He took the example of a salary earner on $20,000 a year. The widow’s benefit is $15,000 a year if she has no child. That amount for 20 years at only 7 per cent represents $158,000. It is all very well to apply the life tables modified by ordinary rates of marriage and say that that would be greatly discounted if we apply the rates of re-marriage. But the rates of re-marriage for widows with annuities of this sort at hand will be remarkably small. As I have said the amount is $158,000. The highest amount that is paid to any widow under a comparable workers’ compensation Act in the States or in private industry is $15,000 once and for all.
Let us look at the case of a public servant’s widow who lives for 20 years. Of course, if her husband dies when he is 30 or 35, in the community which we have today the expectancy of the widow’s life if she were of the same age would not be 20 years as I have taken; it would be nearer 40 years. But so as not to overstate my case I took 20 years. There we have the disparity. On a 20-year estimation the widow of a Commonwealth public servant will receive $158,000. The widow of the worker - assuming that he gets to the stage of earning a very good salary in private industry of $20,000 a year - will receive one lump sum of $15,000 at most. If the Commonwealth public servant’s widow has one child to keep she will get not merely three-quarters of his salary - $15,000 - but the full $20,000- and that will not be reduced when the child dies or becomes selfdependent, nor will it be reduced while she shows dependency on her husband. She may have a fortune of half a million dollars. She may be Mr Whitlam’s private adviser on $10,000 a year. Nevertheless, under this ridiculous Bill, she will at the same time receive $20,000 a year undiminished. In the case of an employee of private industry or the State Public Service, the most that his widow with one child can receive is one payment of $15,000.
I was intrigued by the manipulation of figures by Senator Bishop with regard to superannuation entitlements. We should not forget that we have had since 1922 a most generous superannuation provision for Commonwealth public servants and that, in the States, there is one for State public servants.
As to the Commonwealth public servants, it is well known that the Commonwealth provides 70 per cent of the pension that is payable to a widow upon the death of a contributor and that the subscriptions of the officer provide, let us say, 30 per cent. Again I have overstated the case because the officer’s contribution is a smaller percentage than that. The Commonwealth provides more than seven-tenths. I have instanced the case of a widow who will be able to get $20,000 a year for life. If she were to get $20,000 a year and lived for 20 years she would receive the $211,000 mentioned in the Committee’s report. A widow in private industry in similar circumstances gets one payment of $15,000. In the State Public Service the public servant still gets his superannuation and in the Commonwealth Public Service the compensation to which I have referred is not reduced
This method of stating things in some sections of the Public Service has to be scrutinised with caution. That public servant will still get the pension insofar as it is attributable to his own contributions. But he will not get the full superannuation pension if the Commonwealth pays his widow $20,000 a year. If, except for this legislation, his widow were entitled to a pension of, say, $7,000 a year under superannuation, she would not get the full $7,000 in addition to the $20,000. There were some limits upon the extravagance of those who conceived this Bill. They did have the modesty to say that of that $7,000 she should not get the $5,000 which was attributable to the Treasury contribution. But she will still receive the $2,000 that the fund has provided from his contributions. So let us have no argument as to the application of the Commonwealth superannuation scheme.
Having dealt with the case of death, let me refer now to the case of injury to an employee. During the injury and incapacitation the employee will get the full average weekly wage. Senator Bishop said: ‘So do we, do we not?’ Some of us have pointed that out in relation to the fixation of parliamentary salaries. We are pretty free office holders. But we apply an average allowance to all clashes alike, irrespective of earning capacity in the great outside world where there are opportunities for some to make $30,000, some $40,000, while there are some who would consider themselves well paid on $4,000 or $5,000. Taking it all in all and attributing to the parliamentarians some degree of selfdiscipline, a member of Parliament gets his full emolument while injured for that term of Parliament, and if he is re-elected the payments continue. He does not receive the payments for life but for the time he is elected to the Parliament.
As Senator Bishop has truly said, about 30 years ago there was engrafted upon the weekly payment made to the injured worker a lump sum payment for specified injuries. For instance, if one lost one’s left forearm ai that time one would have probably received an extra £400. Under this Bill it is provided that one will get $20,800 for such a mishap. Under the provisions of the legislation which we enacted last November, the payment for a corresponding injury was $9,400. So in the very same legislation in which the Government is discarding the lump sum payment for death as the appropriate recompense and substituting weekly payments, it is taking the occasion in the case of an injury causing incapacity of engrafting on to the full payment of wages during incapacity a lump sum award. It does not matter whether the person concerned has been negligent; it does not matter whether his employer is completely free of fault; he will receive for the loss of an arm below the elbow $20,800 in addition to his full weekly wage during the time of h:s incapacity. That is the figure which is now proposed although in November the payment was $9,400 which, on the stateme.it of Senator Bishop, was provided for in the best workers compensation legislation in Australia.
– At that time.
– Oh, I know that Mr Dunstan has been niggling about the same rabbit holes since November, but I am speaking about a comprehensive national social recompense that should be applicable to all classes at the highest level that the country can afford. Just because the Labor Party came into power, it is taking the occasion here to increase a payment from $9,0u0 to $20,000. It has taken the occasion also of engrafting a lump sum payment on - to the weekly payments in the case of specified injuries. But under the provisions of this Bill one need not specify the injury. If the injury sustained is not on the list, then in addition to his full weekly salary which is paid during incapacity, the injured person receives such lump sum as the commissioner thinks is fair and reasonable according to the organ lost or the facility destroyed. So if a person has a lung removed the commissioner has a discretion to determine the amount of compensation that person should receive. The occasion has been taken to expand the field of specified injuries and to add to that full weekly wages. When I had the great advantage of working with Senator Durack and Senator Byrne on this matter and making comparison with other fields of compensation, I thought the position was clearly illustrated by the hypothetical case of 2 public servants - one a State public servant, the other a Commonwealth public servant - driving to work in such a way that they kill each other. Each is equally to blame. The widow of the State public servant becomes entitled to $15,000. Assuming that the Commonwealth public servant had been on the same salary as the State public servant - that is, $20,000 a year - the widow of the Commonwealth public servant becomes entitled to a pension, the present worth of which is $211,000.
– As against $15,000?
– Yes. Can anyone tell me that that is not an outrageous and, I am compassionate enough to believe, ignorant proposal? I cannot imagine anyone so audacious as to put it forward consciously. It is a proposal so discriminatory in favour of the Commonwealth public servant that the Opposition believes the matter should undergo a comprehensive review so that in the whole field of personal injury compensation a national scheme will provide adequately for those who are injured in civilian employment, in the Public Service, whether Commonwealth or State, in self-employment, in war or in any other capacity.
– I rise only to enable Senator Wright to continue.
– I have only 2 things to add. When Mr Justice Woodhouse was considering compensation on this comprehensive basis in New Zealand in 1968 he felt able to recommend a weekly payment, but in no case whatever to exceed $120 a week, which is about $7,000 a year, and in no case whatever to exceed 80 per cent of the earned salary or wage. Mr Jess presided over reconsideration of the scheme applicable to superannuated servicemen on peacetime service in the armed Services. The
Government put into force to some effect his committee’s recommendations. Now the present Government takes pride in putting it into force in its entirety. The pay of an officer at retirement after 40 years service is 76 per cent of his pay, less if his period of service is shorter. If he dies his widow has that payment reduced to a figure which represents 47.7 per cent of his pay. I suggest that that demonstrates that the generality of people in this country are entitled to be brought into consideration by this Parliament to ensure that the system of compensation for personal injury will entitle them at least to a measure of compensation which will not suffer when subjected to considerations of justice by comparison with the Commonwealth Public Servict. This is not a delaying process.
We know that in several of the States there are no fault insurance schemes under active consideration at present. Senator Bishop stated that an inquiry was made into repatriation in the time when my Party was in office 18 months ago by Mr Justice Toose and also by a Senate Committee. We know that a general national superannuation scheme is being considered. For those reasons it is imperative for this Parliament to defer thepassage of this specially privileged measure so that full consideration can be given to all classes and an equitable scheme of compensation worked out. The only disadvantage that the Commonwealth Public Service will suffer from the deferment of consideration of this Bill is that it will remain for another 12 months, maybe, on what Senator Bishop has described as the best compensation Act in the Commonwealth.
– I must confess that I still can be surprised by the logic of the formidable orator who has just resumed his seat. At one stage today Senator Wright seemed to be suggesting that the Labor Government should be niggardly with public servants, merely because the Government of which he had been a member had been niggardly with people who had been wounded in a war to which they should never have been sent in the first place. I would like to draw the honourable senator back to the real purpose of this debate. Despite his histrionics I suggest that this debate should be not on the merits of the Bill now before us but on the merits of the proposition that consideration of it by the Senate should be postponed indefinitely. I said indefinitely’ advisedly. I will support these remarks fully in the course of what I have to say.
I suggest that it is quite appropriate that a Party which in office was characterised above all by a quality of inertia should now become so enamoured of a tactic of deferment. This is not the first time we have seen this tactic employed. We saw it employed the other day in relation to the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill when it was suggested that consideration of that Bill should be delayed in order to allow an opportunity for further discussions with State Premiers, with whom there had been an opportunity to discuss this matter over a period of 3 years. They have signalised their readiness to confer further by packing their bags and going to London to get an advisory opinion from the Privy Council. Behind this tactic that is being employed by the Opposition is the basic philosophy of conservatism, that is, if action must be taken - Opposition senators are very reluctant to act - they say: ‘Let us have it later rather than sooner’. They believe that the smaller the intervention by governments in human affairs the better off most people will be. I am afraid they are still imprisoned in the old laissezfaire philosophy of the last century. Accordingly it is not surprising that we should–
– Does the reverse apply in your view?
– The honourable senator is asking me whether I believe that the more intervention there is in human affairs the better people are. Certainly I do not suggest that. I suggest that the sensible view is that there are spheres of human endeavour in which the state must intervene. I suggest that Senator Rae would not be averse to the proposition that a securities industry which has complained for years that it should be left alone should now be subject to some regulation.
– I agree.
– Not to be deflected from the point 1 am trying to make, let us examine the bona fides of the proposition that was put by Senator Rae when he moved last nightthe motion for deferment of this legislation. Let us see whether the reason that he gave is the true reason why it is suggested that the Senate should not proceed speedily to a consideration of this Bill. Senator Rae said:
The Opposition moves this motion after the matter has been considered by both the Parliamentary Liberal Party and by the Parliamentary Executive of the Liberal Party.
It” is extraordinary that he should enter upon this explanation but I suggest he did so in the light of the accusations made about the Opposition’s motives in relation to the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill. Senator Rae went on to say:
Mark this - in the light of the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs and the disclosure of the exact details of the quantum of some of the benefits conferred by this legislation, the Bill requires further examination because the provisions in it are enormously out of step with all other forms of compensation for death or injury which exist in Australia at the present time.
I invite honourable senators to consider very carefully the implications of that explanation for this motion. Are there not in the House of Representatives people who are capable of understanding the terms of this Bill without having them pointed out to them by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs? I seem to recall that in the other House there are distinguished lawyers. There is a Queen’s Counsel named Bowen. There is a Queen’s Counsel named Snedden. There is another distinguished lawyer named McMahon. Are we to understand from what we heard from Senator Rae that it was only after a committee, admittedly constituted of highly distinguished lawyers such as Senator Wright, Senator Durack-
– And yourself.
- Senator Durack has been gracious enough to mention my name. We also should add that of Senator Wheeldon.
– Do not forget the chief raider. : Senator JAMES MCCLELLAND- No, he was not there. But what is Senator Rae’s proposition? Is it that the lawyers and the other distinguished members of the lower House are incapable of understanding the full implications of this Bill until they are pointed out to them by a Committee of this House?
– You must admit that we had great advantage and assistance in having these matters pointed out to us, did we not?
– 1 acknowledge the assistance that we had from the worthy public servants who appeared before the Committee. However I think the honorable senator does an injustice to himself and especially to Senator Wright by suggesting that Senator Wright, above all, needs any assistance from a public servant, an academic, a professor or anybody else in construing a statute.
– Who on the Committee suggested that witnesses should be called?
– I think it was Senator Wright. What I am putting is that Senator Wright would be the last senator in this chamber who would need the help of anybody else to construe a statute and also would be the last member of the Senate whose opinion would be affected in any way by anybody’s advice. I am suggesting that in any event we have been given a phoney reason by Senator Rae and Senator Wright as to why this Bill should be postponed. I suggest that the true reason is that given by their agregious leader, Mr Snedden - if he is still their leader - in the other place when he said the other day, by way of explanation as to why he had been reversed by his own Party in his attitude to the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill, that the Party had developed its view - that is, its new view - of what should be done about a Bill having regard to its position in the Senate. The opposition’s motion to defer this Bill has nothing to do with the merits of the Bill. It has everything to do with the tactics that the Opposition has decided upon in relation to legislation that comes before this House. Let us examine Senator Rae’s reasons for the motion for deferment. I trust that Senator Gair who is interjecting will have some great contribution to make to this debate apart from his usual inane heckling, so I suggest he wait until he is on his feet.
– We are on the side of the rental home people.
– I cannot hear myself because of your heckling, Senator. All I am asking is that you be silent for a few minutes. We will have the benefit of your remarks next week. Mr Chairman, let us examine in some detail the reasons put by Senator Rae. Senator Wright suggested that deferment of consideration of this Bill pending the tabling of the Woodhouse report will involve a delay of only about 12 months. I am suggesting that it will probably be about 18 months before the report is even tabled. But that will not be the end of it. If the honourable senator will read the report of the debate in the other House he will see that even though no opposition was expressed by the Opposition to this Bill in the other House, when Mr Cameron sat down after the first reading of the Bill Mr Bonnett got to his feet and, while using the pious expressions about the Bill similar to those used by Senator Rae when he said it was his melancholy duty to move the deferment, Mr Bonnett warned that when this report was presented the Opposition would not sit by and tamely accept any propositions emanating from it which might constitute an attack on the insurance system in this country. So the notion that it is only a matter of waiting until Mr Justice Woodhouse and those assisting him have concluded their inquiries, and that then this Senate will be able to go on with consideration of this Bill, is just not the case. That will be only the beginning of the matter. When the Woodhouse inquiry is finished a report will be submitted to the Minister, it will have to be considered by him, there then will be a debate on any proposals that emanate from it and Mr Bonnett, speaking for the Opposition, has indicated that as far as the Opposition is concerned there will be a pitched battle about any proposition to implement a system of national superannuation.
– That is an exaggeration.
-Senator, read it very closely. I doubt even that you have read it.
– Perhaps you would like to quote it again. I think it is an exaggeration.
-What I have said that Mr Bonnett said is that your Party would want to look very closely at any proposals which took insurance for personal injury out of the hands of the established insurance system in this country.
– That is a different thing, is it not?
– All the same it does imply that it is not just a matter of waiting until the Woodhouse inquiry is over and that then this Senate can get on with consideration of this Bill. The public servants who are being asked to wait are being asked to wait, I suggest, for 2, 3, 5 years - perhaps for ever. That is the effect of the deferment which is being sought. Mr Chairman, in view of the hour I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay upon the table a statement made by me to the International Court of Justice in The Hague on 23 May 1973 in connection with the report of a meeting between Australian and French scientists in Canberra from 7 to 9 May 1973. That report was tabled in the Senate several weeks ago. I ask for leave to have my statement incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Mr President and Members of the Court:
In compliance with the request made by the Court, copies of the documents (issued by the Australian Academy of Science) relating to the recent talks between Australian and French scientists on 7-9 May last were deposited with the Registrar yesterday morning.
Mr President, as was indicated by the Australian Agent at the close of yesterday’s public hearing, I wish to make a few short comments on the reports of the meeting between Australian and French scientists. As page 18 of the record shows, I quoted only the agreed portion of this report. I did so, solely for the purpose of establishing that the French Government scientists did not dispute the certainty of deposit of radio-active matter on Australian soil from French tests. The quoted portion clearly establishes this. As the Court will see from the document which has been deposited, the agreed part ‘A’ of the report contains the table of dose commitments to which reference was made on 21 May 1973. The French and Australian scientists were unable to agree on the exact extent of the biological consequences. The French officials have in their Part ‘B’ sought to demonstrate that French atmospheric nuclear weapon tests in the Pacific are without hazard by invoking dose limits recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (the ICRP), by arguing that the radiation doses from those tests are small compared with those from other man-made sources of ionizing radiation and by comparing those doses with those inevitably received by populations from natural background radiation. Let me examine those propositions.
It is necessary to bear in mind that ICRP draws a distinction between controllable sources of radiation (such as planned releases of radioactive substances from nuclear power reactors) and uncontrollable sources (such as radio-active debris from nuclear explosions). (See paragraph 50 of the request.) ICRP identified nuclear weapon explosions as an uncontrollable source of radiation. French officials compare the radiation doses from French atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific with the dose limits recommended by ICRP which the French wrongly suggested were for the total population. This is an unjustified and erroneous use of these dose limits which ICRP has recommended for controllable sources of ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation from French atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific is an uncontrolled source. Then, too, these dose limits recommended by ICRP are not intended for application with respect to the whole of the population of a country. Specifically they are recommended for application in the planning of radiation protection and of operational procedures so as to ensure that the radiation doses received by small population groups living in the neighbourhood of a radiation facility or exposed to ionizing radiation as a result of a particular practice within that country are kept to low levels. It is explicit in the recommendations of ICRP with respect to dose limits, that national authorities in the country whose population is exposed to controllable man-made sources of ionizing radiation should make a conscious decision between the radiation risk of the practice and the benefits, social or economic, which accrue from the practice. Australia acknowledges that it is the right of the French Government to determine the levels of radiation exposure to which the population of the French Republic is exposed.
Equally Australia claims for itself the right of determining the controls upon levels of radiation exposure to its population. To put the point another way, the French Government has no right to impose upon the Australian Government the French Government’s views of what are acceptable levels of radiation doses for the Australian people. The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council has adopted, for application in Australia, the dose limits recommended by ICRP for members of the public. In making this decision, the National Health and Medical Research Council explicitly accepted these dose limits for application with respect to practices within Australia involving the use of controllable sources of man-made ionizing radiation and with respect to critical groups of its population exposed to ionizing radiation from a particular practice. It is the contention of the Australian Government that it alone has the right of regulating sources of man-made ionizing radiation within its territories having regard for its assessment of a balance between the benefits and risks to its people.
By seeking to apply, for the total Australian population with respect to its atmospheric nuclear tests, the dose limits recommended by ICRP for critical groups of the public, France usurps the absolute right of the Australian Government. The action of France by increasing the general level of radiation to which the Australian population is subjected thus unnecessarily impairs the opportunity of Australia to exercise its sovereign right of choosing to allow its people or some of them (in a selected area, occupation or other categories) to be subjected to artificial radiation for purposes with compensating benefits.
It is incongruous for the French Government to seek to apply dose limits recommended by ICRP and yet to fail to recognise and apply the principles and assumptions on which the International Commission bases its dose limits. These are that: any exposure to radiation may carry some risk for the development of somatic effects, includng leukaemia and other malignancies, and of hereditary effects. and that: down to the lowest levels of dose, the risk of inducing disease of disability increases with the dose accumulated by the individual.
The French Government, in seeking to find reassurance for its radio-active contamination of man and his environment, in the dose limits for critical groups of the public recommended by ICRP, might also have noted the following comment in the same publication. The International Commission observes that:
When whole populations or large sections of populations are exposed, it becomes necessary to consider not only the magnitude of individual risks but also the number of persons exposed.
ICRP points out in this context that:
Even when individual exposures are sufficiently low so that the risk to the individual is acceptably small, the sum of these risks, as represented by total burden arising from somatic and genetic doses in any population under consideration, may justify the effort required to achieve further limitations of exposure.
The Australian Government subscribes to these observations and believes that its efforts to seek provisional measures of protection through this Court when all other approaches have failed are justified.
I now refer to natural background radiation to which populations, from the beginning of life on earth, have been inevitably exposed. The French Government has argued that the radiation doses to the Australian population and to other populations from its nuclear weapon testing in the atmosphere, are but small fractions of hte annual natural background doses and, indeed, that the radiation doses from the radio-active fall-out from those tests are embraced by the variations which occur in natural background doses even within a large city. However, it is implicit in this case before this Court that the Australian Government must with respect to its people look at the total radiation scene. I would like to quote what I regard as an important paragraph from the recommendations of ICRP.
On the assumption that the risk of radiation injury is directly proportional to accumulated dose, it follows that exposure from natural background carries a probability of causing some somatic or hereditary injury, which would be present even without the addition of man-made exposure. Furthermore, other environmental factors and innate causes, quite unconnected with radiation, may add to the risk of developing those same injuries that might be caused by radiation, exposure. Thus, provided there is no synergistic effect between irradiation and other factors, the total risk of injury will be the sum of “the risk from irradiation (from either natural or- man-made sources) plus the risks resulting from environmental and other cause.
The total radiation scene for the Australian population involves natural background radiation, it involves man-made sources of radiation which have direct benefit to the Australian population. It further involves all past nuclear weapon tests, including those carried out by France in the atmosphere in the Pacific Ocean, and in particular further nuclear weapon tests which Australia has reason to believe France proposes to carry out in the atmosphere at its Pacific test centre. As set out in paragraph 51 of the Request, Australia through regulations and through codes of practice can, and does, exercise control over man-made sources of ionizing radiation from which its population derives benefit. These controls are under constant review to take account not only of increases in scientific knowledge and technical developments but also of the balance of benefits and risks to the Australian population.
– Order! In conformity with the order of the Senate relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put me question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLAND- The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Has the Minister any evidence that the fluoridation of public water supplies is in any way deleterious to public health; if so, what is the evidence, and what action does the Minister contemplate taking.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLAND- The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The National Health and Medical Research Council has over a period of more than 20 years, and after taking into account experience in a number of countries, consistently taken the view that fluoridation of public water supplies is a signicant factor in the control and prevention of dental caries, and that the process is a reasonable and safe public health measure. The Council has emphasised, however, the need for the addition of fluoride to be strictly supervised and scientifically controlled to ensure that a uniform concentration, most commonly 1 part per million, is carefully maintained at all times and irrespective of seasonal or climatic variation in the particular area concerned. Individual instances of allergic reaction to fluoride in the recommended concentration have been reported but it is difficult to establish that some of these do not have a large psychological element which is common in allergic reactions.
The evidence reported has involved clinical history and examination, skin tests and other recognised methods of identifying allergies.
I have asked my Department for advice as to the effectiveness of alternatives to water fluoridation including milk fluoridation which has been in use for some time in Switzerland and elsewhere. Dental hygiene and early treatment of dental caries will be assisted by the National School Dental Service with the Slates’ co-operating and the NHMRC has been asked to give priority to research into the reasons for lack of illnesses (including dental caries) in some regions, especially the relationship of diet to disease and length of life.
– On 9 May, Senator Durack asked me, without notice, whether the Government intended to divert the savings of revenue made by withdrawal of subsidies and tax concessions for petroleum and mineral exploration to the Government’s own announced mineral and petroleum exploration program, and if so, to what extent. The Minister for Minerals and Energy has provided the following answer:
The provision of funds for the proposed petroleum and mineral authority will be appropriated by the Parliament specifically for that purpose and will not necessarily bear any relationship to the savings in revenue to which the honourable senator has referred.
– On 15 March, Senator Lillico asked the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade, without notice:
Whether he has noted reports that primary production in New Zealand is so prosperous that it has been described in some Press comment, including today’s Press, as a bonanza, and that astronomical returns are quoted for some commodities.
Will the Minister look closely at the deprivations to this country per medium of the New ZealandAustralia ‘Free Trade Agreement with a view to curtailing damage to the local market of Australian producers.
Will the Minister treat this matter as urgent and expedite a reply to the question which I placed on the notice paper yesterday.
Will the Minister ascertain the origin of the peas distributed by Rosella Foods Pty Ltd under the brand name ‘Surprise’.
What percentage of the Rosella company is Australian owned.
The Minister for Overseas Trade has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Senator WRIEDT - The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
– On 16 May 1973, Senator Rae asked the following question, without notice:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report in the ‘Australian’ news-: paper of15 May suggesting that acting upon the Campbell report on university and college of advanced education staff salaries the Government will break the existing nexus between the rates of pay applying in universities and colleges of advanced education? Is the report accurate?
– The Minister for Education has informed me that:
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
Senator WRIEDT- The Minister for Minerals and Energy has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice:
Senator WRIEDT- The Minister for Overseas Trade has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Will the Treasurer make available to the Senate the names of companies and the amount of funds Invested by the Defence Forces Retirement Benefit Fund in ‘loans prescribed under Trustee legislation’ and ‘Mortgages of Land’ as shown on page 21 of the 1970-71 Report of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board.
Senator BISHOP - The Chairman, Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board, which has the statutory responsibility for the investment of the Fund, has provided the following Information:
The total investments of $134,304,724 referred to in the Board’s Annual Report for 1970-71 (and 1971-72) included $47,141,391 as ‘loans prescribed under Trustee legislation’ which represent loans to semi-governmental and other statutory authorities, mainly government guaranteed. The borrowers and amounts are listed on page 72 of the Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for 1970-71. The distribution of these investments together with other trustee and local government investments is included in Table 2 on page 32 of the Board’s Report for that year.
The investments of $33,827,100 in ‘Mortgage of Land’ as at 30 June 1971 were secured by long term mortgages of land and buildings, being placed with companies and organisations spread over a wide range of industry. The various types of property and the industries of the borrowers are shown in Table 3 on page 33 of the Report for 1970-71. those for 1971-72 being shown in a similar table in the 1971-72 Report.
As to the details of these investments, which are privately negotiated, the Board does not publish this information, the usual banker-client relationship being maintained.
The Chairman of the Board has also provided additional information arising from the question without notice on 11 April 1973, addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, relating to investment by the Board in first mortgages with borrowers in the property and construction industry. He confirms that the reports of the Board have shown an increasing volume of investment in long term mortgages on land and buildings over recent years. This policy has been followed to diversify investments within the range of powers available to the Board and to improve the earning rate of the Fund. Indeed as at 30 June 1972 the average earning rate of 6.55 per cent on all investments has only been achieved by a return of 8.29 per cent obtained on first mortgages. Such investments are on a long term basis limited to a proportion of total valuation and are not made for short term property dealings of a speculative nature, which appears to be indicated by the question.
The Board already invests extensively in loans for local and semi-governmental bodies; as at 30 June 1972, the time of the last Report when all arrangements were dealt with by the previous Government, these loans represented some 46 per cent of total investment.
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
Senator WRIEDT- The Minister for Minerals and Energy has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Does the Minister consider that past Commonwealth Health Ministers unduly pandered to the desires of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd, rather than the interests of the fund subscribers, in view of the massive cash reserves held by those funds.
Senator McCLELLAND - The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 June 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730601_senate_28_s56/>.