28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘Free’ National Health Scheme is not free at all an.d will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the government will take no measures to interfere with the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That the Senate deplores the Government’s double standards in respect of atmospheric nuclear testing by China and France.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: In view of the fact that land values have reportedly halved in the Galston area since the announcement that the Government intends to site Sydney’s second airport there, could the Leader of the Government advise whether it is true that Mr Sim Rubensohn of Hansen Rubensohn-McCann Erickson Pty Ltd, the Labor Party’s public relations agency, purchased land in the Galston area last year for a little over$1 00,000 and sold it 2 weeks ago for $250,000? Could the Leader of the Government in the Senate also say whether there are any other persons in the Labor Party or associated with the Labor Party who have recently sold land in that area with the benefit of a certain amount of inside knowledge on the possible site for Sydney’s second airport?
– I do not know the facts of the matter to which the honourable senator refers, but if he is suggesting some impropriety on the part of some citizen-
– I do not think that he was suggesting that.
– I was just asking whether it is true.
– If the suggestion is that these are facts and that there is some kind of impropriety on the part of some citizen, that is a very serious matter. I think that the whole question ought to be put on notice so that a proper answer may be given.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I think he also represents the Minister for the Capital Territory. Is it a fact that the increases in the price of petrol necessitated by the Governments’ Budget proposals have been approved by the Prices Justification Tribunal as able to be included in the petrol retailers’ price of petrol throughout Australia? Is it not also a fact that the fixation of the price at which petrol may be sold in the Australian Capital Territory excludes the increase necessitated by the Budget proposals? If so, what is the reason for this discrimination?
– I will refer the question to the appropriate Minister and get a reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that Australian wheat growers are getting about $3 a bushel f.o.b. on the world market, yet they are supplying the Australian market at$1. 85 a bushel? Is this huge subsidy by the wheat industry to the Australian consumer to be corrected in the new stabilisation plan, which should commence on 1 December this year, by an upward revision of the domestic price of wheat? As this growing crop will form part of what is in fact a one-year plan, will any deductions be made from export returns for stabilisation fund purposes? If so, what justification can there possibly be for this action in connection with a one-year plan when export returns are so far in excess of the guaranteed price?
– It is true that at present wheat is being quoted at very high prices on the world markets - I understand as high as S3. 80 a bushel, which is abnormally high. There is very little wheat available for sale. The decision earlier this year to continue the current wheat stabilisation scheme for one year was made on the basis that the Government felt that there were certain anomalies in the present scheme which could be overcome if sufficient thought were given to a new scheme. The Australian Wheat Growers Federation made certain proposals which included a request for a guaranteed export price and a guaranteed home price. Both those requests were made under the current 12- months expansion of the scheme. At that time nobody - I am sure the Wheat Growers Federation included - envisaged that wheat prices on the world market would increase as they have. The fact that the local price is away below the export price has come about as a result of that very great increase in overseas prices of which, I think the honourable senator would agree, none of us has very much control.
I cannot give the guarantees which he seeks because we have not yet determined the precise nature of the new agreement, but I think I can say that there will be no disadvantage suffered by wheat growers because we are about to embark on a new stabilisation agreement with the industry. It is important to realise that one of those anomalies which existed in the past was the long term credit arrangements which had been made by Australia and which, as I have said previously in this place, had been borne by the industry itself, with which I do not agree. It is one of the things which I think we can overcome in the new agreement. I do not feel - I do not know whether there is any implication in the honourable senator’s question - that the wheat growers will be disadvantaged by the relative disparity that exists between the “2 prices at the moment.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry confirm reports coming from overseas that there is anticipated a world grain shortage in the coming year? If these reports are true, what steps are being taken to inform farmers growing grain of this possible increased demand? Finally, can the Minister provide estimates of the current wheat acreage in Australia and the prediction of the size of our coming harvest?
– Strangely enough, this question is related somewhat to the earlier question.
– There might have been. The fact is that earlier in the year indications were that there would be a grain shortage during the 1973-74 year and despite the drought that was obtaining in Australia at that time, the present Government decided to increase the first advance to wheat growers from SI. 10 to $1.20 as an incentive to increase the acreage sown. I think that wheat growers all over the world are aware of the shortage, as is indicated by the prices I spoke of in answer to the previous question. As for the acreage, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics estimates that about 24 i million acres are being sown to wheat. The critical thing, of course, will be the yield. The recent rains have been excellent and the only State having any trouble from dryness at the moment, I understand, is Western Australia. But if we are fortunate enough to average a 20-bushel yield all over Australia this will result in a good harvest which will be of benefit to the Australian wheat industry.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that Government instructions have been given to Government departments that public servants and members of the defence forces are not to visit Taiwan? Is it also the Government’s attitude that these people would be frowned upon even if they were to visit Taiwan on holidays? If these are facts is this not in line with the types of diplomatic pressures China has endeavoured to exert on other countries? How does the Government’s ridiculous attitude align itself with its statement that trade with Taiwan will continue as before and will not be discouraged? Is this not another example of the Government’s policies being influenced by pressures from China and the left wing of the Australian Labor Party?
– I am unaware of any such instruction. I will find out whether there is any substance in what the honourable senator has suggested.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Is the Minister aware that many people over 75 years of age who had expected the means test to be lifted fully feel that they have been short-changed by the Government’s decision to deny them the right to receive pensioner benefits such as free medical, hospital and pharmaceutical benefits and reduced rates for radio and television licences? When will the Government give the old people of this country a fair go and do what it promised, that is, remove the means test without these unfair restrictions?
– I remind the honourable senator that a number of fringe benefits were denied the pensioners of this country by the previous Government. Regarding the means test, the Government has undertaken to the Australian people that this will be eliminated over a period of 6 years. We have been in office for not much more than 6 months and we are well on the way to achieving that result.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact that the Deputy Prime Minister on assuming office promised to give ex-regular members of the armed forces the same assistance in education for retraining as was and is being given to former national servicemen? If such a promise was given, has it been honoured or is it a fact that many exregular servicemen are still awaiting educational assistance? Will the Minister make a statement on the actual and projected entitlement to educational training for former members of the forces?
– For the information of the honourable senator there is a gap which involves some former members of the forces and that gap is under consideration. As the honourable senator knows, when the Senate resumes after the next adjournment, we shall debate the Defence (Re-establishment) Bill. From memory I think there is some reference to this group in that Bill. I will get further information for the honourable senator and supply it to him in the interim.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State. I ask: Is the Minister aware that concern has been expressed in sections of the Australian community arising from the fact that Australia’s national domestic airline, Trans-Australia Airlines, has been used to transport Portuguese troops - in civilian dress, of course - to Timor? Can the Minister state the facts of this matter and advise the Senate of the Australian Government’s position in relation to it?
-Some very exaggerated statements have appeared in the Press about TAA carrying groups of Portuguese soldiers to Timor. TAA has never carried groups of soldiers in uniform and, to the best of its management’s knowledge, it has never carried groups of soldiers in plain clothes. It does know, however, of a couple of occasions or of some occasions on which individual officers of the Portuguese Army have travelled in civilian clothes. It must be remembered, of course, that TAA is not the sole operator into Timor. Both the Portuguese and the Indonesians also have airlines operating into that place.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Government obviously believes in the establishment of special committees, commissions and inquiries to give specialist advice on a wide range of subjects. Is it also a belief of the Government that the advice of these committees, commissions and inquiries is not worth heeding, as instanced by the Government’s recent disregard of the cost-benefit work done by a specialist committee on the site for Sydneys’ second airport and the decision to adopt the Galston site without very much inquiry?
– The Government does have a regard for the advice of the specialist committees which it has set up. The Govern- ment gave very close and early consideration to the report of the committee inquiring into this subject. It reached a decision in principle in order to allow for a full examination and preparation of a detailed study on a particular site.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the honey industry sought the application of an export levy to finance overseas promotion? If so, has any decision been reached on the matter?
– It is true that the honey industry is seeking to impose an export levy. Until now there has been a levy only on domestic production. It is considered by the Australian Honey Board to be insufficient to meet its requirements. Proposals in this regard are being discussed at the present time. I am not sure whether a specific decision has been taken. I understand that, as an interim measure, the Board intends to increase slightly the levy on domestic production for a bridging period until such time as a final decision is reached on how much the export levy will be.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. Is it a fact that the Government proposes to remove the import quotas on cheap foreign shirts in March of next year? Did the Minister say yesterday that the quotas had been extended to that time on the understanding that the Australian industry undertake urgent studies of and planning on its restructuring? Has there been any indication that the Australian manufacturers will be able to restructure themselves so that they can compete successfully with the cheap imports?
– I am not aware of the exact details of the subject matter of the honourable senator’s question. I will refer the question to the responsible Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Following the announcement of the phasing out of the dairy bounty have any moves been made to determine, in consultation with the States, the best ways to aid industry reconstruction?
– Yes, my Department already has commenced investigations, in conjunction with State officials, to ascertain the best ways and means of effecting the restructuring which will be necessary in the dairy industry. All industry groups also have been invited to submit proposals on what should be done. Some of those submissions have been received. I have seen two of them and they have been extremely helpful. I am sure that when we have sufficient basic information we will be able to meet with industry and the States and make some definite decisions about what should be done. It will be important to recognise that the effects of the phase-out in various States will differ. We will be taking account of this fact. At this stage we are only at the beginning, but I am confident that within 2 or 3 months we will be able to formulate quite firm views on what steps should be taken.
– In the unavoidable absence of the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It relates to the Government’s announcement that the second Sydney airport will be sited in the Galston area. Is it not a fact that any such airport must have flight paths which will take a substantial and continuous number of aircraft, at low altitudes and with high noise nuisance, over the Parramatta federal electorate area? Would not such an airport, situated close to high and growing areas of population, constitute an accident hazard of major proportions, rendering such a decision intolerable to any sensible safety measures?
– The honourable senator speaks as if a decision had been made irrespective of what I call a feasibility study. Obviously no airport site would be finally determined unless such things as safety factors, noise nuisance and all the other matters that go into a technical appraisal as to whether an airport should be in one place or another had been considered. I do not represent the Minister for Civil Aviation and let me not be thought to be varying the position, but I want the Senate to understand that I am giving the Senate the best answer I can. Of course detailed studies of these questions would take place. “Nothing that the Government has said has been that something has been determined with finality without a feasibility study of all these questions.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to his recent discussions with the New Zealand Minister for Agriculture, Mr Moyle, on joint initiatives in overseas marketing. Did anything positive result from that meeting? If so, what benefits will accrue to Australian producers?
– It is true that Mr Moyle, the New Zealand Minister, was in Australia about a month ago in order to attend the Australian Agricultural Council meeting. I had some private discussions with him and he indicated quite strongly his desire to see man. mum co-operation between Australia and New Zealand in world markets. I am quite confident that we can look forward to the utmost cooperation with New Zealand. No specific agreements were entered into, except that we did agree that there would be reciprocal visits by both Ministers each year in order to discuss the various problems that we have with marketing our products around the world. I found the talks fruitful. I believe that there is a great desire on the part of New Zealand to work as closely as possible with us on the marketing problems that both countries have.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows on from the question asked by Senator Young. If the report that the Prime Minister has placed a ban on public servants visiting Taiwan even in a private capacity be correct, will the Minister advise the Senate of the reasons for the ban? What other countries which previously recognised Taiwan and now have diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China have placed a ban on public servants visiting Taiwan?
– I wish to make it clear to the honourable senator that I do not accept the premise which he is putting, because I am unaware of what he states. My colleagues, the Ministers in this chamber, are also unaware of the fact of this ban.
– I said ‘if.
– Then the honourable senator is asking a hypothetical question.
– Order! Hypothetical questions are contrary to the standing orders.
– In any event, being unaware, I shall endeavour to find out the facts. It is profitless to go into all the other matters until there is a determination as to whether the basic hypothesis which the honourable senator puts it correct.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether it is a fact that, after the increase in the pensions of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, which was granted in the previous Government’s 1972 Budget, the wives of these exservicemen were deprived of the pension fringe benefits because of the increase which they received in their pensions?
– The answer is yes.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Defence say whether there has been a change of procedure with respect of recruitment of naturalised Australian citizens wishing to undertake officer training courses at Australian naval colleges? Is the Minister aware of a case in South Australia where an extremely enthusiastic European aged IS years has been refused entry to a naval college on ethnic grounds, as pointed out in a letter? The Minister may be aware of the terms of the letter, which was received by the boy’s father from the Department. It stated:
Despite the fact that you and your son have been naturalised there are nationality requirements for entry which your son does not possess. Regrettably therefore it is not possible to accept his application for entry as an officer.
For the information of the Senate, will the Minister clarify the Government’s attitude regarding such applicants? Can the Minister say whether the Minister for Immigration approves of what seems to be a blatant act of discrimination against a migrant wishing to serve his adopted country in this way?
-I would have hoped that if the honourable senator knew about a particular case - it is evident that he does because he has read’ out part of a letter - he would bring that letter to my department. I think it would be the best course for him to do so. I shall give him the answer either privately or in the Senate.
– I address this question to the Minister for Customs and Excise: Some months ago in answer to a question asked by me the Minister referred to vigilant supervision by the ‘Department of Customs and Excise in relation to the illegal entry of firearms. Can the Minister indicate the extent of supervision, if any, over legal importation of firearms and whether any action is under way for the uniform control of firearms in Australia?
– As from 13 August, which was a little earlier this month, there has been supervision over the importations of all firearms. They have been recorded by the Department of Customs and Excise. Commercial importations have been recorded by obtaining- information supplied by the importers. Information on private importations has been recorded following a physical check by customs officers. At the moment the information is recorded manually, but studies are being undertaken with a view to having this computerised. The introduction of this initial recording of imported firearms is the first step to comprehensive control or recording of all firearms. I intend to initiate discussions on this matter shortly with the State Ministers. A study is also being instituted into the feasibility of having a ballistic record of certain firearms. This involves inquiries being made overseas as well as here.
– I ask the Minister for the Media: Is it the Government’s intention to set up an independent television authority based on the British system, the idea of which has been publicly supported by his colleague, Senator James McClelland, who is Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Education, Science and the Arts which is inquiring into television? Has the Minister noted that Senator James McClelland conceded that such an authority would mean the abolition of commercial channels in their present form?
– I can tell the honourable senator that it was Labor Party policy determined and enunciated at the Surfers Paradise Conference of our Party last July that a Labor government would conduct a feasibility study into the establishment in Australia of an independent television authority somewhat akin to that existing in England. That feasibility study has not yet been undertaken, although I have had reports on the subject from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board following an investigation that it has been making into this matter over a period of years. Frankly, as much as I was attracted to the idea of the establishment of an independent television authority when I first assumed office, having studied the reports coming to me not only from the Control Board but also from the Australian Broadcasting Commission I am now beginning to doubt the feasibility of such an authority in Australia. But, again, it is the policy of my Party to conduct a feasibility study in relation to the proposal, and in due course that will be done.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that on Saturday, 25 August, the airports at Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide were closed because of fog and poor visibility? Is the Minister further aware that Hobart Airport was the only capital city airport in south-east Australia which on that day was open to traffic all day? As there is no other capital city airport in south-east Australia capable of accommodating large overseas aircraft, can the Minister assure the Senate and the people of Tasmania that the proposed improvements to Hobart airport will be accelerated? I ask the Minister also whether more favourable consideration will be given to easing further the restrictions now applying to the landing at Hobart of charter flights?
– I understand that many people could not get to the Sydney Cricket Ground to watch the league match on that day, causing very much national distress. It is evident that the Hobart Airport in Tasmania suffers from various disabilities. I know that Launceston Airport was attended to in a handsome way during the period when Senator Denham Henty was the Minister for Civil
Aviation. Perhaps Hobart needs a Minister for Civil Aviation.
– That is a matter which you ought to bear out with fact.
– The honourable senator interrupts. He should be aware, as all honourable senators are aware, that no one has more respect for former Senator Denham Henty than I have, and he should be well aware of the many facetious remarks which have been made about the Launceston Airport and the former senator’s connection with it. Let me say no more on that. The observations of the honourable senator will be reported to the Minister for Civil Aviation in order that they may be attended to.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade: Is it not a fact that during his recent North American tour our present Prime Minister made great play with the allegation that his Government had shown international trading responsibility in cutting trading tariffs on goods from under-developed countries? Is it not a fact that the 2 countries which benefit most from current trade tariff cuts are the fascist Governments of Spain and Greece? What is the Government’s excuse for this ideological somersault? What action, if any, is the Government taking to improve the economic trading position of the fascist Government of Tanzania about which the Prime Minister has spoken so favourably? What effect will the current trading tariff cuts have on trade between Australia and Singapore? Will such trade be adversely affected by the Prime Minister’s description of Lee Kuan Yew as being like Cromwell? Is it not a fact that comparing the head of a friendly foreign country to Cromwell is an insult which goes far beyond normal ideological differences?
– I think it would be advisable for that question to be placed on the notice paper to allow the Minister to answer it.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that Dr Klugman, a member of this Parliament, was refused entrance to Czechoslovakia by the communist government? What were the reasons for the refusal? Has the Australian Government taken this matter up with the Czechoslovakian Government and, if so, with what results.
– We have nothing official on this in the Department. I understand that Dr Klugman was refused admission to Czechoslovakia. We do not know the reasons for the refusal. It is the right of any government to issue visas to enter its country. As far as I know we have Clot made any application to find out why Dr Klugman was refused entry.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister for Customs and Excise. Did the Western Australian Premier recently express his concern at the vulnerability of his State to illicit drug importation through the northern coastline of Western Australia? Has the Minister any evidence that drugs are being landed on the north-west or northern coastline? Is the Minister satisfied with the controls which currently exist in these areas?
– Yes, the Western Australian Premier expressed his concern last year to the previous Government and again this year at the time of the Premiers Conference. I am concerned at the opportunities which exist and the evidence that endeavours have been made to bring in drugs illegally through the Western Australian coast as well as around the north of Australia. Several attempts - one to bring in drugs by aircraft and others to bring in drugs by trawler - were frustrated in the last 6 months through the efforts of the Narcotics Bureau of the Department of Customs and Excise. I am satisfied also that those areas are extremely vulnerable and that the Department does its best with its facilities and resources. In regard to the question as to whether I am satisfied that it is under sufficient control, the answer is no, the Department does not have the facilities and resources which in my opinion are necessary to enable it effectively to prevent the illegal importation of drugs, including hard drugs such as heroin. The Government is currently considering proposals to provide further facilities and resources.
– Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate recall, in answer to a question by me yesterday regarding the effect on prices of metric conversion, saying that he would regard with disapprobation those who attempted to cheat for any reason - metric conversion or otherwise? I ask the Minister whether he is aware that one of his Government’s departments, under Labor control, is making proposals for such cheating. If it can be shown to him that a Government department is proposing to cheat the Australian public at the point of change to metric measurement by as much as 30 per cent of the cost of certain goods, will he give an assurance that such proposals will not be countenanced and will be rejected by the Labor Government?
– This is not the way for such matters to be dealt with. It is an extraordinary proposition for the honourable senator to speak of cheating by a government department, to put a hypothetical question to me and then to seek some assurance that it will be dealt with. If the honourable senator has something to say,, if he thinks that some proposal ought not to be made or that it is not fair to the public, let him say so and let it be examined and let us deal with it, rather than engage in some cat and mouse tactic of asking a hypothetical question about cheating by a government department.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. The Treasurer, in the course of his Budget Speech, mentioned that action was being taken to increase the dutiable content of certain bulk beer vessels. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to reports in the daily Press, attributed to hotel and club sources, claiming that this will mean an increase in beer prices of lc to 2c per 10 oz glass?
– Yes, I have noticed those remarks. Legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives immediately after the Budget Speech. The change that has been made should not add more than, as I understand it, some 63c to the price of a kilderkin, which is an 18-gallon keg. That increase would represent no more than onethird of a cent on a 10 oz glass of beer. So there is no justification whatever for the kind of proposal that has been publicised. In any event, I do not know of any representation that has been made to any price controller or the Prices Justification Tribunal for an increase in price on that ground.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. In view of the greatly decreased use of our defence forces’ aircraft, ships and modern equipment with the resulting increase in the use of moth balls and the general trimming of defence man power, has the Government yet given consideration to ordering a heavy cut in the advertising campaign that is still being conducted through the media for recruits to the 3 Services, as it would seem that the recruiting rate would not now be required at the former level?
-For the information of the honourable senator I state that there are no such heavy cuts of operations, as he talks about. There is, in fact, a slowing down of operations, as he well knows from the statements on defence. In relation to the question of recruiting, I point out that it has be?n claimed by the defence experts that it is necessary to continue recruiting despite the fact that in some areas there will be some redundancies, because the Services still want to obtain the specialist appointees that are required for a modern defence force. Their advice is that we still have to recruit and to spend money on advertising, and the Services will be more selective than they usually are. It is a requirement that they justify. That is the reason for the operation continuing, although at a somewhat slower pace.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence indicate whether a code has been applied for the conduct of Australian missions abroad selecting aircraft and other defence components when some of the potential manufacturers are overlavish in their hospitality to such delegations?
– I suppose the honourable senator is referring to the circumstance of the manufacturer, of the Northrop aircraft issuing invitations to some of the mission team which went there to make an evaluation of fighter aircraft in July. The position is that that particular mission had been billeted in Los Angeles. Members of the mission paid for their accommodation in Los “Angeles and they were invited to go to Las Vegas. The only advantage they received out of that trip was, in fact, payment of their accommodation for the period of one overnight stop at Las Vagas
The honourable senator may recall that this matter has been raised before. Mr Barnard has refuted - and I do too - the suggestion that if any of our missions or evaluation teams which travel overseas are shown some hospitality in particular circumstances that may influence their judgment. I think that Mr Barnard is right; such an invitation would have no influence upon their judgment. The code, if any code is established, would be the accepted behaviour and responsibilities of public servants.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. In view of this week’s tragic letter bomb explosion in the British Embassy in Washington I ask the Minister: What action has the Australian Government taken to attempt to prevent this form of missile reaching Australia and to detect letter bombs that may enter the Post Office system from either inside or outside Australia? Have any such bombs been detected? Does the Government consider there is a risk in handling mail, particularly overseas mail?
– I have had a discussion with my colleague, the Postmaster.General, about this matter. He advises me that the Australian Post Office maintains a close liaison with the appropriate overseas postal authorities on any bomb activities that have been reported. As the honourable senator will be aware, some time ago certain precautionary measures were introduced into the Australian mail processing network in an effort to combat the circulation of letter bombs, especially in the international postal service. I am given to understand that these measures have been modified to take account of new developments, as a result of the bombing of the British Embassy in Washington and further incidents in Great Britain. Now certain further precautionary measures are being taken by the Australian postal authorities.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a letter which was recently in the Singapore Straits ‘Times’ and which was headed ‘Boomerang for Whitlam’? The letter stated1:
I drive an Australian car, wear Australian shirts and eat their apples and pears, but I will be damned if I will touch these things again. My car goes for a trade-in this weekend. And if my grocer values my account he had better make sure that no boomerang or kangaroo marking appears on his deliveries to my home.
Will the Minister say whether this is a typical feeling in Singapore, following the arguments between our Mr Whitlam and Lee Kuan Yew, and to what extent our trade with Singapore has increased or decreased since last December?
– No, I have not read about the man who was going to sell his motor car. No, I cannot say whether the rest of the 2 million Singaporeans will sell their motor cars; I have no idea. As to the rows or arguments, I do not know what the honourable senator thinks an international conference is all about. Does he think people go along just to praise one another? These 2 people- Gough Whitlam and Lee Kuan Yew - have been friends for years. They have had these sorts of exchanges over the years. I was pleased with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference because at least a frank exchange of views took place. Members did not line up on racial grounds.
While I was recently overseas it was described to me how these Conferences were carried on in the past. One head of government said to me that the Prime Minister of Britain would speak, the Prime Minister of Australia would support him and the white people would gather at one end of the table and the coloured people would go down to the other and that was about the end of the Conference. He said that a stage was being reached at which the conferences would no longer be held. At least the situation was different on this occasion.
The fact is that there has been no breakdown of relations between Singapore and Australia. Mr Whitlam will be visiting Singapore in January of next year at the invitation of the Singaporean Government. That is the situation. The honourable senator put a tail on the end of his question as to whether trade between Australia and Singapore has risen or fallen between last December and now. I do not know what that has to do with the question.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. What action, if any, has he taken or does he propose to take to protect the privacy and reputation, if not the security status, of the officers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation whose persons and homes have been subjected to harassment, surveillance, unwanted public identification and abuse by members of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria?
– I know that there has been some conduct which could properly be described as harassment by some persons. I understand that there have been a number of telephone calls to clerical staff of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation at late hours of the night or very early in the morning and various other types of conduct which is, I think, to be deplored by everyone. Working people ought not to be subjected to that kind of harassment by anyone. Any person who is detected breaking the laws - for example, these telephone calls would constitute breaches of the telephone regulations - should be dealt with. The honourable senator ought not to turn this matter into some party political matter by suggesting that members of the Australian Labor Party-
– They are members of the ALP. They are proud of it, and they admit it.
– The honourable senator ought not to be turning this matter into some party political matter by alleging that the offences which I have described are attributable to members of any particular party. I have indicated the view which I take of the matter. Breaches of the law which come within the Commonwealth sphere will be pursued and the persons responsible will be dealt with. It seems that most of the things that are complained of are in the area of State law.
– Has the Minister for the Media noted the comments made or did he hear the comments made, in this chamber recently by Senator Wright who suggested that the Australian Broadcasting Commission had adopted a sycophantic attitude to the Government acid to the Minister for Primary Industry in particular on the issue of the King Island shipping service? In view of the exaggerated and unwarranted suggestions, has the Minister any reason to believe that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has departed from its usual impartiality of reporting on this issue?
– I heard Senator Wright’s remarks during the debate last Thursday on the report of the Senate Select Committee on Shipping Services between King Island, Stanley and Melbourne. After the Hansard was published I drew the matter to the attention of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I am informed that the Australian Broadcasting Commission was quite impartial in the manner in which it handled the report of the subject and, if anything, erred on the side of the attitude being adopted by Senator Wright. I understand that Senator Wright had also made his complaints known to the Tasmanian Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is true that on 7 and 8 June the ABC news carried a report referring to Senator Wriedt’s strong remarks on the King Island issue. I should point out that on 8 June following the report of Senator Wriedt’s remarks by the ABC, Senator Wright’s comments on the same subject were reported on the 9 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. news bulletins of the ABC and in the early morning bulletins of 9 June up to and including the 7.15 a.m. news. The ABC has not only provided a balanced report of the matter in its news but also afforded Senator Wright an opportunity to talk about the ship involved in the service, the ‘Straitsman’, on the television program ‘This Day Tonight’ in an item which lasted nearly 6 minutes.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media who, I quite understand, did not have available yesterday certain information which I had sought from him. I ask the Minister: Will he inform the Senate as soon as he is able to do so the name of the advertising firm currently masterminding the Australian Government’s proposed new health scheme publicity campaign? Further, can he state why Specialty Press in
Melbourne and not the Australian Government Printer produced the booklet ‘The Australian Health Program’? Were tenders called for this major printing contract?
– I certainly will obtain the correct name of the advertising agency. I cannot recall it offhand but I think it starts with ‘Coudrey’. As for the printing not being done by the Australian Government Printer, the honourable senator will realise that from time to time there is an extraordinary amount of pressure on the Government Printer in producing publications and that on a great number of occasions it is necessary for the Government Printer to let out printing work. That has probably been done in this case. However, I will make inquiries and let the honourable senator know the result.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. What progress has the Government made in its endeavours to have local government officially represented at the Constitutional Convention to be held next week in Sydney? If the progress has been successful, will the Federal Government be prepared to make Federal funds available to enable local government bodies from all States to be represented at the Convention and in all the Convention deliberations?
– There has been a steering committee meeting. On that are represented all State parliaments, the Australian Parliament, the Northern Territory through its Minister and all parties. That steering committee is making certain recommendations to the Convention. The question whether local government is admitted is one for the Convention, but I think it is fair to say and it has probably been published, that the steering committee would recommend that there be certain representation of local government from each State. I think it has been publicised also that the proposal would be for 3 representatives from each State and a certain number from the Territories but I think that voting rights would be restricted to one vote for local government in each State. I think it is proposed also that the representatives of local government would be able to speak on all matters of direct constitutional financial interest to local government and on any other matters on which the Convention resolved that they should speak. Having said that, I should again remind the Senate that it is entirely a matter for the Convention itself to determine what are the rights of local government or, for that matter, of any persons who are represented in any fashion at the Convention. The honourable senator also asked me about finance. I understand that the Commonwealth has in fact offered to meet the costs of those local government representatives whose costs will not be met by the States from which they come.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate both in his capacity as AttorneyGeneral and in the absence of the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. It refers to the recent allegations by the Minister for Housing, as a main reason for the Government’s precipitate decision to abolish the homes savings grant scheme, that there had been considerable abuse of the grants, including the use of the funds provided for the purchase of cars and for other acquisitions. Since such a broad allegation, which is considered to be sufficient abuse to abolish the scheme, reflects severely upon the 290,000 married couples of low income who have already greatly benefited from the scheme, I ask: Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate give any specific proof of such allegations? Have there been any prosecutions for abuse or has any thought been given to amending the legislation to enable such prosecutions to be launched? Above all, how can this now be reconciled with the unqualified statement by the Minister for Housing 4 weeks before the Budget was brought down that the homes savings grant scheme would be fully retained?
– I will do the best I can, in the absence of the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, to put the position as I understand it. First of all the Minister for Housing announced that the scheme will be phased out. I understand that it will still operate for some time. That may explain what the honourable senator has put as being some apparent inconsistency. The Minister for Housing did not, as I understand it, suggest that there had been a breach of the law in the use of the money for other than the purchase of a home. It was - again I stand subject to correction - permissible under the scheme for the money to be used for some other purpose. So it would not be a case of investigating, prosecuting and so on. That was permissible but it was not in acordance with the spirit of the proposals.
My understanding is that the operation of the scheme was such that it simply led to increases in the prices of houses and that, on consideration of the whole matter, the Minister thought that the proposals which have been made in respect of interest deductions were more satisfactory. In any event, he is undertaking a great deal of work, in cooperation with the States, to overcome the housing problem. I think even the honourable senator would concede that the Minister for Housing, Mr Les Johnson, is a most energetic and dedicated Minister who is devoted to solving the housing problem, and that he is attending to it in the way in which he thinks is best in the interests of young people and in the public interest.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for the Media. Is it a fact that the ‘This Day Tonight’ program which has been telecast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Hobart since the last Tasmanian State election has been under the control of a producer called Mr Holgate who was a defeated Australian Labor Party candidate at that election? Is it a fact that three or four young men who were members of the staff resigned in protest against the lack of objectivity and political impartiality on the part of Mr Holgate? Is it a fact that the ABC is today to be congratulated on having disembarrassed itself of Mr Holgate, who has taken up the position of secretary to one of the Labor Ministers in Tasmania? Is that a fair sample of the degree to which the ABC’s This Day Tonight’ program in Hobart has for the past 18 months been riddled with rancid Labor politics?
– I notice that Senator Wright is still attacking the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Suffice it for me to say, in answer to the honourable senator’s question, that information has been given to me to the effect that Senator Wright has appeared on the ‘This Day Tonight’ program in Tasmania 5 times since last November.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, believing that this matter comes within his responsibilities. My question refers to the consumer standards commission. Would the Minister indicate whether a ministerial statement has been issued on the establishment of an interim commission for consumer standards and advise whether the $200,000 allocation for 1973-74, mentioned by the Prime Minister yesterday in a Press conference, is part of the Budget introduced last week?
– I am at a loss. If the honourable senator has read such a statement we can assume that it is correct. Nothing that I know is inconsistent with what she has stated. I do not know whether a statement has been issued. I can say that the Minister for Science has been proposing that there be a structure to deal with the standards of consumer products and that it work actively in that field and involve the various bodies concerned with consumer protection in its activities. Certainly funds would be necessary for that work and they would be spent during the current year.
I cannot say whether this expenditure was included in the Budget, but I have read references to the proposition of the Treasurer, Mr Crean, that the Budget should not be regarded as something sacrosanct, with everything dependent upon a decision at that time, but that from time to time decisions on financial matters would be made so that the Budget might become less of a sacred cow. As it became clear that certain expenditure should be undertaken or that various institutions should be set up or various programs embarked upon, these things would be done and they would not necessarily have to wait until the particular Budget time. I shall obtain the precise information released by the Minister. I do not want to anticipate, in case the Minister has not issued a statement; otherwise I would tell the honourable senator exactly what I know of the matter.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy, concerns the reopening of the Kapunda copper mines in South Australia. At question time yesterday the Minister informed me that consideration of a proposal for a joint venture between local interests and the United States group, Utah Development, for the reopening of the Kapunda copper mines had been deferred by the Committee on Foreign Takeovers pending review of policy on ownership and control of Australian mineral resources. Can the Minister indicate when this policy review is expected to be completed and a reply given to the Kapunda interests?
– I shall have to refer the question to the Minister concerned in order to obtain that information.
- Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– I would like to make the observation that the Senate has been very effective in its questioning and answering today. There have been 38 questions asked and answered inside the hour, which is a little above the norm.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to Compensation in respect of the acquisition of certain land in the Australian Capital Territory.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
The assessment of compensation for the acquisition of land is made pursuant to the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act. It has been an established principle since Federation that the development of the national capital be carried out only by or on behalf of the Australian Government. Consequently, all compensation paid to the present time has been calculated on the basis of a rural valuation. This Bill is to confirm that freehold land shall not have an enhanced value as a result of urban development proposed or already affected by the Australian Government. It is clearly evident from Parliamentary debates prior to the establishment of the Territory as the Seat of Government that this principle should be applied and it has since been consistently followed. In implementing the concept of a National Capital developed under the control of Parliament and owned by Australia, freehold land has been acquired whenever needed for developmental purposes. Compensation payments made for rural broad acre holdings have been calculated and claims settled on the basis of the value of the land for rural usage, taking into account the general level of land values at the relevanttime.
When the Parliament selected the 911 square mile territory for the national capital one of its basic objectives was to ensure that no speculation in undeveloped land would occur and that the nation as a whole would benefit from public investment in the Australian capital. Before 1955 all acquisitions in the Territory under the Lands Acquisition Act had regard to the provisions of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act which pegged values to a 1908 level. In 1955 a new Lands Acquisition Act was introduced and the 1908 peg was repealed. Acquisitions continued on a rural value basis. The possibility of compensation for urban potential never arose.
The rapid expansion of Canberra during the last 5 years has resulted in the planned extension of the city into rural areas that were recently held in freehold ownership or that are in close proximity to freehold land. As a consequence of this development the previous Government announced its intention on 9 December 1970 that it would be in the best interests of the development of the Australian Capital Territory and meet predicted Commonwealth land needs to acquire during the next few years all the remaining freehold land in the Australian Capital Territory and to bring this land under the leasehold system. This has resulted in a program, that is now well under way, to acquire the remaining freehold land.
Compensation has always been settled on the basis that development of the Territory for urban purposes shall be by the Australian Government alone, which should not be at any risk of paying any increment in the value of land for urban purposes which, has been brought about solely by virtue of Australia’s investment in the national capital. The intention of this Bill is that outstanding claims as well as claims arising from future acquisitions be dealt with on the same basis.
Recently several claims for compensation have been made that appear to include urban potential. While the Australian Government has been advised that compensation for urban potential is not payable it would not be right either in the interests of the people of Australia as a whole, or of those citizens who will live in the new areas, that there should be any risk of the historical approach being put in question. In general terms, the legislation will not affect the freeholder’s right to have compensation assessed at full market value for rural purposes, including rural subdivisional potential, if any, and for the value of any business activity carried on before acquisition. Any value the land may be claimed to have had by reason of its possible potential for urban subdivision or development will be excluded.
The legislation will require an Arbitrator or a court, when assessing the amount of compensation payable on the acquisition of freehold land in the Australian Capital Territory, to pay no regard to any contemplated, possible or potential use of the land for urban purposes. The expression ‘urban purposes’ includes subdivision into parcels of less than forty acres; use of the land for residential purposes, other than one residence, or one residence per block of not less than 40 acres, and dwellings in connection with a rural business on the land; use of the land for business purposes other than rural business or a business that was being carried on before acquisition; and use of the land for the provision of services or facilities, including reserves, related to urban use or development of other land.
The legislation will apply to the assessment of compensation for the acquisition of properties which have already been acquired but in respect of which the amount of compensation has not yet been determined by a court or arbitrator. It is the Government’s intention that all outstanding claims be determined on the established basis which will also apply to future acquisitions. The Bill contains a provision whereby the Attorney-General may authorise the payment of reasonable costs incurred prior to the introduction of the legislation. The Bill will preserve the established basis on which compensation has been fixed for broad acre acquisitions in the Territory. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill presented by Senator Willesee, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the National Library Act 1960-67. The main amendments are to increase the size of the National Library Council by 2 appointed members; make the chief executive of the Library an executive member of the Council with the designation Director-General; and extend the definition of library material to take account of modern methods of communication. These amendments are intended to strengthen the National Library’s capacity to meet rapidly changing circumstances in the area of its responsibilities and take particular account of recommendations for accelerated development of library and information services in science and technology contained in the report of the Scientific and Technological Information Services Inquiry which I tabled on 31 May. In addition we wish to make amendments of a machinery kind to the financial and audit provisions of the Act.
In recent years - even in the decade since the original National Library Act was passed - there has been an ‘information explosion’ of unprecedented dimensions. The amount of recorded information in the world has been increasing at a rate beyond all past experience in both absolute volume and variety of forms - books, journals, microforms, films, audio tapes, video tapes and so on. Simultaneously the use of computer technology in the management of information collection and dissemination is advancing at an equally bewildering rate. It is crucially important in the national interest that we face up to the problems and opportunities created by these developments and shape our information services on a national scale so that they can meet effectively the developing needs of the Australian community as a whole. Achievement in various facets of Australian life - industry, health, education, leisure and so on - will depend increasingly on Australians being able to find their way to and through relevant areas of recorded knowledge. Prompt and efficient access can yield dramatic gains.
In a special way the responsibility for Australian national information services lies with the Council of the National Library. While seeking to ensure effective organisation and use of its present resources and services, the Council has also given attention to identifying future needs for national information services and other functions under the National Library Act. Briefly this Act provides for 2 groups of functions embracing all areas of knowledge - firstly, establishing a national collection and making it available to users, and secondly, performing needed national services and co-operating with others in Australia or abroad in library matters, including the development of library science. Because provisions to be made at the national level will touch so many institutions and people, it is important to make clear in broad terms the Government’s policy.
Our objective is to develop, in co-operation with appropriate organisations at both State and local levels, programs for library and information services which recognise the importance of free and ready access to knowledge as a basic factor in material progress and in advancing the quality of life. We propose that the National Library will act as a chief source and channel of advice to the Government on library and information services.
The Library will co-operate in the establishment of machinery to ensure adequate consultation- with Australian and State government departments and authorities and to shape and strengthen links with institutions and users throughout Australia by the establishment of advisory groups. It has in the past received, and has expressed a desire to continue to have available, the advice of the Australian Advisory Council on Bibliographic Services which represents the library community. It plans to take other measures to ensure that it has the best advice on the application of technology to information problems and to obtain through inquiry and research more authoritative information on the requirements of users than is at present available. We contemplate a re-organisation of the National Library to provide policy and planning capacity, together with resources and services in the major areas of external activity, namely, science and technology; social sciences and humanities; and the application of computing, telecommunications and microform technology to information problems.
In this connection I might perhaps draw attention to 2 aspects of the STISEC report. The first is that the National Scientific and Technological Information System should not be created in isolation but as an integrated part of a total information system. The second is that one method of satisfying the needs for scientific and technological information might be to set up an authority under the National Library Act. In view of the overall responsibilities of the National Library Council it did not appear to the Government necessary or appropriate to have such a separate authority. The services which the STISEC report found were needed will be implemented through the new resources and services to which I have just referred and through associated advisory machinery.
The physical and organisational coordination achieved through the 3 areas of activity developing to the activities centre of a nationwide network will enable us to make the maximum use of library collections and also the best use of the relatively limited numbers of personnel who are skilled in advanced methods of handling information. Where relevant services within the national system can be provided by existing specialised organisations, consideration will be given to assisting them financially to increase their effectiveness, but if assessments show that a new service is needed within the national system it may be provided either as part of the National Library or elsewhere in conjunction with other bodies. We look forward to continuing and extending our co-operation with State authorities and with institutions concerned with the problems of information transfer. We expect to be able to offer improved central services and technical assistance and a greatly improved access through the network centre to the resources of the whole system.
I wish to stress that it is not proposed to create a monolithic centralised organisation. Rather, we propose an arrangement by which the National Library of Australia, in the context of a broad and evolving information policy, will become the centre of a nation-wide library and information system through which existing institutions may link up. It will also ensure rapid access through international channels to recent overseas information.
The Government will, as necessary, introduce further amendments to the National Library Act enabling the Library to develop its role as library technology and information services develop at all levels in Australia. We recognise that programs of action will require the. provision of both human and material resources and we will view sympathetically the needs of the Library for capacity to perform its function. Under the aegis of the National Library Act we look to the rapid and cooperative evolution of library and information services in Australia to cope with the information explosion and the technological revolution in the handling of information. This Bill is a step towards that objective and I commend it to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Davidson) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That business of the Senate notices of motion Nos. 1 to 5 be postponed until the next day of sitting; that at 8 p.m., today intervening business be postponed until after the consideration of Government business, order of the day No. S, and that the Leader of the Opposition be given such time as is necessary for him to complete his speech, notwithstanding the provisions of the Standing Orders to the contrary; and that orders of the day Nos. 2, 3 and 6 be postponed until after the consideration of orders of the day Nos. 1, 4 and 7.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, before the orders of the day are called on might I have leave to correct a statement which I made in a question that 1 asked earlier this day?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown) - You are asking for leave?
– Yes. I have raised this matter with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy). I will certainly give him leave to respond because I. think that he ought to respond to what I have to say.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The first question I asked this day related to Sydney’s second airport. In that question I asked about a Mr J. Ruben of Hansen Rubensohn-McCann Erickson. I now am informed that the name Mr J. Ruben is no doubt incorrect and do not think that some innocent person ought to be named in a question. I now am informed that the name to which I should have referred in asking my question was Mr Sim Rubensohn. I therefore make this statement so that Hansard will read more correctly.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I ask for leave to make a statement.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I accept what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) says, that he said something in error not knowing of the person concerned. It means that he may have referred to some other person or he may have referred to no person. This illustrates the very grave danger of making reflections on persons without more certainty as to the facts of the matter. I think that this was discovered once by a previous Prime Minister of Australia when he named a list of people and had to alter it the next day. Now that the name of Mr Rubensohn has been mentioned, may I say that he is a man of very great repute and is highly regarded throughout the advertising industry. I do not know any of the facts of the matter. No doubt it will be looked into. But assuming that there was a purchase or sale of land, one does not know when a contract might have been entered into and one does not know any of the circumstances of the matter. I should think that no person should presume that there is in any way an assumption of impropriety whatsoever to be made unless the matter is thoroughly investigated and something emerges to that effect.
– I am only seeking information.
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition. He says that he is making no insinuations; he is merely seeking information. He does not suggest that there is any wrongdoing on the part of Mr Rubensohn; he is merely asking that the matter be looked into.
Debate resumed from 28 August (vide page 22 1 ), on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I understand that it is the wish of the Government that a decision on this Commonwealth Electoral Bill should be arrived at as soon as possible, principally because the Government has stated that it wishes to place itself in the position to be able to obtain a double dissolution at the appropriate time. I am unable to confirm or deny rumours that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is waiting impatiently in his office and that he has a car waiting with its engine running to convey him to see the GovernorGeneral. But whatever the circumstances, we in the Australian Democratic Labor Party will agree to the Government’s request. What I shall say will be very brief. We will vote against the Bill and place the Government in the position of getting a double dissolution if it wants one.
I believe that I should refer to statements in a section of the Press to the effect that because I asked for an adjournment of one day yesterday, my Party was having second thoughts and might not vote just as we voted 3 months ago. I want to make it clear that the usual procedure in this Senate when a Bill is introduced is for it to be adjourned for several days - in some cases for a week or more. Therefore, when I applied for an adjournment of one day it was not with any idea of holding up the decision, but rather because the Leader of my Party had had a painful but not serious accident. He was in Brisbane and we wished at least to consult him on this matter, which is a very important one, as it could eventually result in the termination of the life of this Parliament. I therefore say that we considered the Bill this morning, we consulted Senator Gair by telephone and we were unanimous in our opinion that this was an undesirable Bill - just as undesirable as when we dealt with it 3 months ago. We are therefore determined to vote against it. We are quite happy; the Government will be quite happy. I am sure that our decision will make for good feeling all round.
I do not propose to traverse all the arguments which I used 3 months ago. They can be found in Hansard. I merely want to say that this Bill contains provisions which would revoke principles that have been accepted in this Parliament almost since Federation. It is a new step; therefore it is a step that has to be considered very carefully, because the Government has indicated that it proposes to accompany this Bill by other Bills which could radically alter the electoral system and the structure of Parliament. The Government claims that it is doing this only out of a feeling for electoral justice. It will be a new thing for any government to be in favour of electoral justice. In my view the attitude of governments towards matters such as these is not: Is it electoral justice? The attitude of governments is: Who is going to win? In this case I think the Bill should be considered as part of a package deal whereby the Government proposes to alter the electoral system to its advantage.
If the Government really wants electoral justice, the door is wide open. It can introduce a system of proportional representation in the House of Representatives. To those who might suggest that this is the view of my Party only, I refer them to the strong statements of Mr Clyde Cameron, the Minister for Labour, in the debates in the lower House and also on the occasion when he recently addressed the Henry George League of South Australia. Mr Clyde Cameron made the point with great firmness that the system which in his view would give justice to Australia and which would be quite satisfactory for the Labor movement was the proportional representation system. When I was speaking in the debate on this Bill some 3 months ago I mentioned that a report on the proportional representation system had been prepared by a committee of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party and that distinguished members of that committee were the late Senator Sam Cohen and the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Gordon Bryant. I pointed out that the committee brought in a report which stated that electoral justice could best be obtained by introducing a system of proportional representation and that if such a system had existed the complaints of the Labor Party over a number of elections to the effect that it had received a majority of votes but a minority of seats would have been unnecessary. I tried to have that report incorporated in Hansard but a member of the Labor Party denied me leave to do so.
I do not wish to labour the point except to say again that if electoral justice is wanted it can be obtained by proportional representation. To those who say that the Australian Democratic Labor Party is putting up this principle only because it might profit from it, I point out that representives of the Australian Labor Party have examined the matter and have reported that that Party would profit by the introduction of such a system. We are not holding up the Bill. We reject any suggestion that we should be afraid of a double dissolution. Finally, I make this prediction: If there is a double dissolution the Government will not win a majority in the Senate, but it will lose its majority in the House of Representatives.
– I believe that it is the wish of the Government that this measure be given a speedy passage, so I shall be brief. I believe that the alterations contained in this Bill amount to political conniving which will help the Government retain office unduly and which may have severe repercussions for the people of Tasmania. Admittedly, the alterations envisaged would not directly affect Tasmania a great deal at this time. But indirectly, the effect of the legislation would be to centralise power in Sydney and Melbourne to the detriment of the rest of the country and the smaller States, particularly Tasmania and Western Australia. That is the main reason why I will oppose this Bill, lt is against Tasmanian interests.
Another reason is that if the Government wants an issue on which to force a double dissolution, this is as good an issue as any. Let there be no doubt about it; I would welcome a double dissolution. As a matter of fact, I feel that there are thousands of thinkers, independent of either political party, who would like an early chance to pass judgment on this Government. They do not like and are scared of some of the things - not all of them - that this Government is doing. This Bill is one of them. I hope that the Senate maintains its watch-dog position. It has a duty to protect State rights. I hope that it tosses out this Bill as it did 3 months ago. If it does not do so, this Government could correctly call the Senate a paper tiger. I shall oppose the Bill.
– in reply - I think the Senate is adopting the correct course in not going over all the ground that was covered when it rejected this Bill previously. I think that is a sensible approach. I also will be brief in order to give the Bill a quick passage because most of the debate took place when it was first introduced some 3 months ago. I was not here at the time and another Minister handled the Bill for me. Apart from Senator Withers, most honourable senators who took part in the debate confined their remarks to general comments. I will not go through all clauses in the Bill. However, I think that I should comment on one or two things that Senator Withers said. I regret that he used such dramatic and sinister terms in one of the remarks that he made. He said that there were ominous signs because the Surveyor-General in Western Australia was not appointed one of the distribution commissioners, contrary to past practice and despite his availability. Information has been given to me to indicate that he was not available for appointment. Another point is that in past practice - for instance, in the 1968 redistribution conducted by the LiberalCountry Party Government - the surveyorsgeneral in New South Wales and Queensland were not appointed. I do not suppose that this is very relevant but since it was put in such sinister terms I merely point out that it is not unique and that in this case the man was not available.
Senator McManus seems to think that there is something wrong with governments that try to perpetuate themselves in office. He suggested that the way would be wide open for us, providing we did what the Australian Democratic Labor Party wanted, namely to introduce a proportional system of representation. For whom would that do well? The Australian Democratic Labor Party is the very party that that would assist. If it is wrong for the Labor Party Government or other governments to be doing this, I suggest that it is wrong for the DLP to suggest that it ought to be done. Even if we had a system of proportional representation - it is true that there are people in our Party and in the community who think it would be a good idea-
– Members of your own Party are in favour of it.
– I am agreeing with the honourable senator and saying that there are people in our Party and in the community who think that the proportional representation system-
– We have said that.
– ‘How about letting me have my say. I listened to Senator McManus in silence. Of course, there are people in the community who have different views on this sort of thing. The fact is that none of the major political parties agree with it at this point of history. Therefore, they are not bringing it to the fore. I know that honourable senators of the DLP are suggesting it with the highest of motives. I am sure that they are not suggesting this to help themselves, which is the very thing that they consider would be wrong if it came from somebody else. Honourable senators can waffle on about this matter as long as they like, but how could any honourable senator say that votes should be of unequal value, that a barman in Melbourne should receive half the vote of a barman in a country district of Australia? We hear all the arguments about wealthy squatters and how they have invested in the country. The fact is that barmen, carpenters, labourers, schoolteachers or postmasters receive unequal votes, depending on their geographical location in Australia.
The other point made by Senator McManus was that if this Bill were passed it would alter radically the parliamentary set-up. What is wrong with that, provided that it is just? What is wrong with altering this Parliament in regard to the number of senators and the number of people they represent? Such a system may elect many more independents, many more Labor Party representatives or many more Liberal Party representatives. But what is wrong with that, if it is just? What Opposition parties are doing is refusing to stand up to a just situation. They are refusing to stand up to a position in which one man’s vote is as good as another man’s vote. The position is as simple as that. Honourable senators can argue on and on, but the fact is that that proposition has been upheld in the courts of many countries, including the United States of America. All I say is that equal voting rights should be given to every person in Australia.
As to the question of a double dissolution, I point out that this matter will not be decided by Senator Withers or by Senator McManus; it will be decided by the Australian Government. If we decide to go to a double dissolution it will be done along proper lines. We will not be rushing off to the Governor-General merely because of one or two things. If we think a situation has arisen justifying such action, we will take it. Honourable senators should not start bandying about words such as ‘courage’. Some people in some of the States had a fair chance in the last few days to show courage but they have shown very little of it.
May I say in conclusion that we often hear people in this place berating other countries and other people for being corrupt. I say to them very bluntly that a gerrymander is corruption in high places. It is corruption by the government of a country. That corruption is what we wish to see removed once and for all. It does not matter how long it has existed. When a gerrymander exists it is corruption; it is corruption by governments. Honourable senators opposite should not look down on the little bloke who is corrupt when they have practised this form of corruption and wish to continue practising it in the future.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 24 May (vide page 1913), on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill proposes to lift the limit of the cost of Department of Works projects which are required by the statute to go before the Public Works Committee. The present Act requires that any work proposed to be carried out on behalf of the Commonwealth should go before the Committee if its cost exceeds $750,000. The Government’s proposal is that that requirement should apply only to projects the cost of which exceeds S2m.
The Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee), when introducing the Bill claimed that the increased cost of such works would mean that the work load on the Committee would grow in excess of the Committee’s capacity to cope with it. The Minister showed that there has been a gradual increase of the number of projects into which the Committee has to inquire over recent years, growing from about 18 projects in 1969 to about 34 projects in the last year. From memory the Minister’s statement was that if the Act retained the limit of only $750,000 the number of projects which would be required to be submitted to the Committee this year would be some 50 or 60.
In dealing with the matter of the work load of the Committee, one suggested means of solving that problem was to appoint a further committee. But the objection that was advanced to that suggestion was that each committee might develop a divergent approach and, therefore, there would be some handicap in the formulation of projects by the Department of Works and others whose duty it is to put those matters before the Committee.
I find no figures with respect to rises in works costs that have occurred since we fixed the figure of $750,000 in September 1969 that will justify an increase from $750,000 to $2m. At that time the Civil Works Program amounted to $157m. In the present year the Civil Works Program will increase to $245m. That is not even a 100 per cent increase. It does not compare at all with the proposed increase from $750,000 to S2m. The Budget expenditure that year was S7,000m, in round figures. This year it is something like Sl2,000m- say, Si3,000m. Again, that is not a 100 per cent increase. In 1969 the gross national product was S30,000m. and in 1972- 73 it was $4 1,000m. That is not anything like an increase of 100 per cent.
There has been an increase in the number of projects referred to the Committee. If the criterion is $1.5m the position will still be that 2 per cent of the number of projects in the civil works program will go to the Committee. That is by reason of the great number of projects which cost under $400,000 and $500,000. Many of them cost about $100,000 to $200,000. Only 33 per cent in value of projects in the program will go to the Committee. It is quite obvious that if the amount were raised to $2m a lesser number of works would be submitted to the Committee. So, in the Committee stage I propose to move that the $2m referred to in clause 3 of the Bill be left out and that $1.5m be inserted as the criterion of the projects that are required by law to be submitted to the Public Works Committee.
In the Committee stage I intend to move another amendment. It relates to a point which was discussed somewhat tentatively when the Pipeline Authority Bill was before the Committee of the Whole. It was pointed out then that the Public Works Committee Act defined a public work as a public work that is proposed to be constructed by or on behalf of the Commonwealth. The interpretation which has been given to that expression is that it does not include works that are to be constructed by or on behalf of a statutory authority of the Commonwealth. This matter has engaged the attention of the Senate from time to time, with a good deal of concern, I think, and for other purposes the statutory authorities of the Commonwealth have been listed. They now number 60-odd. The point of the second amendment is to include in the description of a public work that is subject to the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee not only work which is the subject of construction by the Commonwealth per se, which is interpreted to mean adepartment of the Commonwealth Government per se, but work which is the subject of constriction by these statutory authorities. I remind honourable senators opposite that this matter was discussed by the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) during the debate on the Pipeline Authority Bill. As recorded in Hansard of 23 May, page 1897, he expressed his view in these words:
I do not think statutory authorities should be able to construct a building without scrutiny by the Committee when the Commonwealth cannot.
So I submit that he accepted the complete logic of the proposal that scrutiny by the Public Works Committee should extend not merely to works that are under departmental control but also to proposed works that are under the control of a Commonwealth statutory authority. I hope that the Committee of the Whole and the Government will see their way clear to accept each amendment.
– The Australian Democratic Labor ‘Party has considered the Bill and the amendments proposed by Senator Wright. We have considered the first matter, which is the raising of the level of an amount for proposed works which will require reference to the Public Works Committee. We recognise that the amount must necesarily be somewhat arbitrary. Because of the rate of inflation it has been found desirable to increase the existing $750,000, and the Government has suggested $2m. Senator Wright has suggested doubling the original amount to SI. 5m. Whether Senator Wright’s judgment is correct or whether the Government’s judgment is correct is very difficult to determine, but prudence and wisdom would dictate that at present, in view of the burden of work on committees and in view of the level of inflation which apparently will continue to rise, the upper limit would appear to have many attractive features compared with the lower level. Otherwise, in a very short time a proliferation of references to the Public Works Committee will be cluttering up that Committee, requiring it to put aside major projects which otherwise should receive early attention. For those reasons the Democratic Labor Party is unable to support that part of the amendment which proposes to reduce the amount of $2m to $1.5m.
The other matter, which is that capital works of this kind undertaken by statutory corporations should be referred to the Public Works Committee, is a very important matter. It opens a very wide field. It was my intention to speak on this whole matter of public corporations. I indicate now that I have had a developing concern about the expansion of public corporations, their proliferation in the community, more particularly their lack of accountability to the Parliament and the inability of Parliament to scrutinise their operations or to accept any particular responsibility for their day to day exercises. I had in mind taking specific action in this place to enable possibly a reference to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations of the overriding supervision by the Senate of public corporations, with a particular reference to one selected corporation for first investigation. That one would have to be determined. I have none in mind. This matter has attracted the attention and concern of the British Parliament, and Britain has a continuing committee which overlooks the operations of its statutory corporations. I understand that the practice is that one corporation is investigated by the committee in each session of the Parliament. The name of that corporation is not given in advance, but it is announced very shortly before the investigation. It is the practice to investigate it during the parliamentary session.
We know that there has been a great development of the principle of the statutory corporation. It is, as it were, a halfway house between complete government control, ownership and operation and complete ownership in private hands. The figures for the development of statutory corporations over the years are very interesting. J happen to have these figures because, as I have said, I have had this other exercise in mind. At the moment 60 government instrumentalities might be described as statutory or public corporations. The definition of such a corporation is:
A Commonwealth statutory corporation is a body corporate created by a Commonwealth statute, having a legal personality with perpetual succession and a common seal and the capacity to hold and dispose of real and personal property and to sue and be sued in its corporate name.
Bodies falling within that definition in Australia today number about 60, and the historical development of them is of considerable interest. In the first decade of this century no such corporations were created; in the second decade 6 were created, in the third decade, one; in the fourth decade - the 1940s - ‘16; in the fifth decade - the 1950s- 13; in the sixth decade, 16; and in the seventh decade so far, 7. We are only in the year 1973 and already 7 additional statutory corporations have been created, which is almost half of the number created as a maximum number in any previous decade.
– Where is this?
– In Australia. Therefore it does appear as if this is a quickly developing and proliferating practice and that we can expect that the number of statutory corporations created by the end of this decade could exceed the 16 created in any previous optimum period and that at the end of the 1970s we may have 80, 90 or even 100 corporations because it is part of the policy of the Government to create such instrumentalities; and backed by the ordinary commercial development in our modern society and supported by Government policy towards that end, we could expect that this will be the position. In that case a great deal of the public commercial and operating life of Australia is going to pass into the hands of statutory corporations and a great deal will pass beyond the realm of the administration of the Public Service subject to the Parliament in the principle of ministerial responsibility. I am not criticising that; I am merely saying that therefore a very big segment of Australian life will not be subject to the same type of parliamentary discipline, scrutiny and control as is now the case in this Commonwealth and that therefore this Parliament should gear itself in some way to establish its own discipline, control and scrutiny of the operation of these corporations - and by whatever method that is achieved, it should be done quickly.
– Such as by a Senate select committee?
– A Senate select committee is usually an ad hoc committee set up to achieve a particular definitive purpose which, having achieved its purpose, then subsides and disappears. What we want is a continuing committee.
– A Senate standing committee?
– That is what I had in mind, that there would be a reference of the statutory corporation for a continuing review by the appropriate standing committee of the Senate, which would be the Standing Committee on Finance and Government. That Committee currently has only one reference before it, that being a reference on federal estate duty which is I understand virtually completed. Therefore allowing for the other commitments of the honourable senator’s on that Committee, they could give their time to this matter. I have in mind, as I said, to move such a reference and to ask the Senate to endorse it. I mention that although it is not altogether appropriate because I did intend to mention it at greater length on another and a specific occasion; but it does raise this matter which has been referred and embodied in the amendment moved by Senator Wright. The honourable senator is by this particular amendment rather anticipating what I consider should be acknowledged and developed as a general principle. Senator
Wright is saying now that the capital operations of a statutory corporation are subject to no parliamentary discipline and that whatever might be necessary or done in the wider general field of statutory corporations, at least in respect of their capital exercise, let this discipline be exercised. That is why, I presume, Senator Wright has been prompted to move this amendment. If we have in mind adoption of the general principle it would appear that there is a very good case for support for Senator Wright in this amendment. The only difficulty 1 see, and I think it would have to be brushed aside, is whether we can select just one area of a public corporation for this type of control while other areas are not subject to the same sort of scrutiny. But I do not think that this is a major objection; I think it can be lightly dismissed.
Without prolonging unduly my contribution to this debate, since I said on an earlier occasion that I hoped to project the matter in much greater detail and to present it to honourable senators as a specific and definite proposition, so far as Senator Wright’s amendment is relevant to the general proposition that I have in mind and which I will project later, the Democratic Labor Party supports the amendment. I expect the Government may find itself in a somewhat difficult position in accepting this amendment if it has at this stage a general view on parliamentary scrutiny of corporations. I think that the case is compelling and that the need is becoming urgent and that if this is a first step and may reasonably be taken, then I think we should not hesitate to take that step. That is why I trust that the Government in considering this proposition will be prepared to accept Senator Wright’s amendment, as does the Democratic Labor Party, and I appeal to honourable senators to support the proposition.
– I support the Bill and I am pleased to note that honourable senators are interested in the work of the Public Works Committee and are taking an interest in this amendment. It is true that the Public Works Committee is probably one of the hardest working committees in this Parliament. Senator Wright pointed out in his speech that the Committee last year had 34 references - actually it had 35, but one does not make any great difference to the point I wish to make - and that this was 13 greater than for any previous year in the history of the sittings of the Committee. The Committee found the pressures which were exerted towards the end of last year very difficult to meet. We had 20-odd references in the last 3 months - that is, the last 3 calendar months, not the last 3 months of the financial year - before the House rose. This matter was discussed at the final meeting held by the previous Committee prior to it being disbanded before the then forthcoming elections. In the 35th general report of the Committee we made a recommendation to the incoming Committee which is now operative that the amount be the figure which Senator Wright has suggested in his amendment, namely $1.5m. It was thought at that time that the figure should be doubled from the then figure of $750,000. The Government has examined this recommendation and has put up a number of arguments as to why it should be increased by a further $500,000, and this did disturb members of the Committee. I shall be frank about this. We discussed it carefully and some members of the Committee were opposed in principle to any increase at all; in fact, the very correct point of view was submitted to us that there should be no minimal level for public works and that all public works should attract scrutiny. I suppose this would be the ideal position. There is no magical concept in the figures of $2m, $1.5m or $400,000.
We examined this position and put up certain submissions which we hope will be helpful. One was that all members whose electorates are within an area in which public works will be examined will be advised well in advance that the Committee has such a reference; they will be advised as to the type of reference and we will then be in a position to get comments from the local member about his own views and those of the people in the area. As honourable senators well know there is a provision in the Public Works Act that all public works should ‘be examined if they have been specifically referred to the Committee by the Cabinet and through the normal processes. That does apply and we would hope that all members will take an interest in the projects that will be projected into the areas in which they serve the people. If there is a problem about a project we hope that they will ask the Cabinet, and in effect, the Government to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee irrespective of whether ‘he cost is more than $2m or well under that figure.
Senator Wright, as a former Minister for Works, may have some knowledge of the concern which has been expressed by some members of the Committee relative to projects that are conducted in stages. Some of these projects involve the expenditure of immense sums of money but the expenditure on each stage is lower than the mandatory limit. Some very important projects have not received the scrutiny of the Committee because the expenditure on each stage of those projects has been much less than the total cost of the job. If a project which is to be undertaken over 2 or 3 stages involves a total expenditure above the mandatory limit, 1 think it should be examined by the Committee.
It is a matter of satisfaction to me that there is a healthy interest in public hearings of the Committee. There is perhaps a greater interest now than ever before. I think that is because we pay more regard now to the impact on the environment of many projects contemplated by the Commonwealth. We find now that a large number of citizens in some areas - in particular the Northern Territory - are submitting evidence to the Committee in relation to certain projects. This has resulted in an extra work load on the Committee in relation to the references it has been undertaking under the old figure. We also have the situation that as from 1 July environmental impact studies have to be presented in relation to all projects, which means that a closer examination has to be undertaken by the Committee. It was at one stage suggested that the Committee should also carry out the actual environmental impact studies. That is a matter which has yet to be decided. I think that the environmental impact studies should be taken up at a different level from that of the inspection and examination of projects by the Committee. If the Committee were to undertake these studies it would find it almost impossible to meet the work schedule laid down for it. Many aspects are involved in the making of a decision as to increasing the mandatory limit to $2m.
The matter which has been raised in relation to statutory authorities is also something which needs a great deal of consideration. I think we should give the matter a great deal of consideration before we include statutory authorities in the area of inspection and consideration by the Committee. On the one hand Senator Wright has sought to reduce the mandatory limit to $1.5m and on the other he has sought to increase the Committee’s work, load by requiring it to perform certain duties in relation to statutory authorities. I do not know how the Committee would be able to meet all of its commitments in that respect and still do a thorough job.
I believe that the most important function of the Committee is to undertake a thorough examination of all projects. It should not be required to short-circuit its examination of a project because of the time factor. If the Committee were required to undertake these additional duties the standard of work for which it has been noted ever since its inception may slip. That is something we can ill afford. I think any person who has ever been a member of the Committee is entitled to feel very proud of its record over the years it has been in operation. It is really the only Committee which has a positive role to play in the sense that it makes a decision that is carried through by a decision of the House of Representatives. All other committees have to make recommendations. As we know, many of those recommendations, after hours and months and in some cases years of hard work, are not adopted. The Public Works Committee does not play a positive role in relation to the matters it exmines.
I think it is well known that the Committee’s decisions always have been taken on the basis of the opinions of the majority of members of the Committee and never at a political level. For instance, at a recent hearing mine was the only minority voice in relation to a matter the Committee was discussing. That is the basis upon which the Committee has always operated. That is the only way in which the Committee can operate. I can recall a number of occasions on which two members of the Committee who expressed a minority opinion were from different political parties. I believe that this type of operation will continue.
I think that many projects have to be examined in depth because of the new factor of their impact on the environment. One of the most interesting exercises the Committee undertook was in relation to the HMAS Stirling naval base on Garden Island in Western Australia. The Committee spent 3 days in Perth taking evidence from members of the public and various departments. When the Committee first met to consider this project the Department of the Navy said that it required the whole of the Island for its operations and wanted the whole of the Island to be completely closed off to the public. After hearing evidence from various departments and the representatives of various organisations in Western Australia - yacht clubs, environment organisations, bush walkers and others - the Committee was able to reach a decision, with the co-operation of the Department of the Navy, whereby three-quarters of that lovely Island would still remain available for public use. The Committee was able to make this very satisfactory decision as a result of a very close in-depth examination. It set aside sufficient time for its sittings in Perth to enable it to hear everybody fully and to cross-examine them fully. I do not want to see the situation arise in which the Committee is so overloaded with work that it will be unable fully to examine the proposals before it.
I admit that at the time the Public Works Committee examined the proposal to increase the mandatory limit for works considered by it to $2m I was very much in favour of the limit being increased only to $1.5m. Indeed I, as were the other members of the Committee, was very sorry and indeed disappointed that the work load of the Committee had come to such a stage that it had to recommend that there be any increase at all. Earlier in my remarks I gave the reasons for it recommending the increase. I hope that this Bill will be passed in its present state. By all means let us examine the matter raised in relation to statutory authorities and let us have a proper look at where we are going in relation to them before we put on the Committee an increased work load that it does not quite know how it is going to handle. I hope the Bill will be carried in its present form.
– lt is with very mixed feelings that I rise to speak on this Bill. I have before me the 35th annual report of the Public Works Committee. I have noted that the greatest worry of the Committee is the work load upon it. As a member of the Committee from 1962 until my appointment as Chairman of Committees, I have perhaps had longer experience of the Committee than any other member of the Senate. I believe that the Senate has a peculiar interest in the national works program because historically it, as the representative of the State, has the responsibility of ensuring that the national works program is distributed equitably between the States.
Therefore the Senate should have a special concern for the workings of this Committee, which has been known as a watchdog committee.
Great concern has been expressed abour the work load on the Committee. With the assistance of the Committee’s secretariat, I have taken out some figures concerning its work load. In the year in which I became a member of the Committee it held 37 meetings and had before it only 3 references. We were able to devote an average of 12 meetings of each of those references. The next year the number of references jumped to 12 - a tremendous percentage increase - but the average number of meetings per reference dropped to 34. The next year the number of references dropped to 5 and we had an average of 8 meetings per reference. The next year we had 15 references and we dropped again to an average of 34 meetings per reference. The next year we had 13 references and again we devoted an average of 34 meetings to each reference. The next year, 1967, we had 11 references and we devoted an average of 44 meetings to each reference. The next year we had 20 references and we devoted an average of 3 meetings to each reference. The next year we had 18 references and we devoted an average of 24 meetings to each reference. The next year we received 22 references and we were able to devote an average of 24 meetings to each reference. In 1971 we had 18 references and we were able to devote an average of 34 meetings to each reference. In 1972 the number of references virtually doubled - there were 35 references - and the Committee was able to devote, on average, less than 2 meetings to each reference. In 1973 it is proposed that there be 54 references.
There is a descending scale in the average number of meetings for each reference, and with the work load that is proposed it will be necessary to dispose of each reference in only one meeting, or something of that order. It is clear that as the work load has increased the Committee has been able to devote less and less time to the references. Clearly this is not good enough. The Government proposes that the minimum limit for the cost of works which have to go before the Committee be increased from $750,000 to S2m. I do not think that is good enough either. The solution to the problem must lie elsewhere. If all works of an estimated cost of less than $2m are to be excluded from reference to the
Committee a considerable area of public expenditure will escape Committee scrutiny.
– It would not escape scrutiny. It would escape prior scrutiny, but subsequent scrutiny would be possible through the estimates committees.
– The subsequent scrutiny would be given under very great difficulty. The scrutiny that the Senate can give is virtually minimal. If we reduce the work load of the Committee in that way we will seriously limit the ability of the Senate to do anything about proposed expenditures. It disturbs me greatly to see this situation arising. I have looked at the cost of the works included in the 54 references proposed for this year. If the proposal contained in the amendment to be moved by Senator Wright is adopted - that is also the proposal that the Committee recommended - namely, that works costing under SI. 5m be excluded, only 1 1 of those 54 references will be deleted. The Committee still will have a work load of 43 references for this year. If we accept the Government’s proposal that the figure be S2m, this will remove 17 references from the list but still leave the Committee with 34 references, which nearly equals the work load of 1972 when there were 35 references and the Committee was able to devote, on average less than 2 sittings to each reference. Neither the proposal of a limit of SI. 5m nor the proposal of a limit of $2m will solve the problem of the work load of the Committee.
Senator Wright has proposed in his amendment that there be an addition to the work load of the Committee. In his amendment he proposes that the Committee also look at work ‘that is proposed to be carried out by or on behalf of the Commonwealth or a Commonwealth statutory authority within the Commonwealth or within a Territory’. I am strongly in favour of the principle contained in that part of the amendment. As Governments set up statutory authorities empowered to carry out work involving vast expenditures of public money, those activities and expenditures are removed still further from the scrutiny of Parliament. I believe that we urgently require a more precise and more effective means of the Senate and the Parliament in general supervising the expenditure of the Commonwealth in the public works field. Surely in the inflationary situation in which we find ourselves today we should be looking at the proliferation of the number and cost of public works. This calls for greater scrutiny, not less.
– A lot of the diseconomy is in the lower contracts - those of lesser value.
– 1 believe that that is so. I have discussed this matter with senior officers of the Department of Works. In many cases expenditures of a lower order of cost are of doubtful validity, or because they are of a lower order of cost receive less scrutiny by the Department. The fact that such expenditures are not to be brought before the Committee for examination tends toward that end. Senior departmental officers have told us that they welcome the scrutiny that the Public Works Committee gives because it keeps officers on their toes. Because of the great spread of work senior people cannot always have their fingers on everything that is being done. The knowledge that there is a parliamentary committee which examines proposals in some detail means that there is much greater effort to present that work in a proper manner. Every government that I have known since I became a member of the Committee has failed to present to the Committee any works costing below the stipulated minimum figure although governments have the right to do so. Governments are not obliged to present to the Committee any works costing below the minimum figure, and in fact they have exercised their prerogative not to do so.
– Except in the case of the Darwin Port Authority project where there was no obligation and I had it referred to the Committee.
– I will make that exception. That matter, which related to the responsibilities of the honourable senator who was then Minister for Works, escaped my memory. However, governments have a habit of trying to keep as many works as possible from the scrutiny of the Committee. I have seen works of very doubtful validity escape scrutiny as a result of reliance on the statutory provision that works of an urgent nature can escape scrutiny by the Committee. The urgency has sometimes been caused by the dilatoriness of the department in bringing the works to the point where they could be submitted in time. I have seldom if ever seen works delayed to any extent by the Committee. I have seen defence works of tremendous capital cost, particularly housing, escape the scrutiny of the Committee because it has been decided in the public interest not to submit the work to the Committee. I think that one project was to cost some $23m and it consisted of housing. This housing escaped the scrutiny of the Committee because the government of the day declared that in the public interest it should not be submitted to the Committee. At the time I objected strongly and members of the Committee also expressed strong opinions about this. I can see a reluctance on the part of governments to submit some projects. I make an exception to this in relation to Senator Wright who was Minister for Works and the present Minister (Senator Cavanagh). There has been a genuine regard on their part. I am sorry that Senator Cavanagh is not here and I regret the circumstances which force his absence. I believe that Senator Cavanagh and Senator Wright are 2 Ministers for Works who have appreciated and understood the function and role of the Public Works Committee.
I feel that we have to look further for a solution to the problem, because I have shown that neither the figure of $1.5m nor the figure of S2m will in any substantial degree reduce the work load. We have a continuing proliferation of public works and I think we should be careful about it. So I feel that we have to look at some way in which the Committee can function adequately and not be overloaded. Through our committee system we have imposed upon honourable senators a great additional load which is apart from the work which they accept as members of the Public Works Committee. I suggest that the Public Works Committee adopt in principle a system which has worked very well for the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee could not possibly look at every reference that would come under its scan without the assistance of professional scrutiny. I think that we have to do this with the Public Works Committee. We have to set up a body at high level of professional people and include in it, as Senator Poyser suggested, people expert in relation to the environment. There should be persons with some knowledge of and ability in regard to environmental factors, for instance engineers. I suggest that we have a body consisting of, say, 3 people which will scrutinise all public works and, irrespective of price, recommend to the Committee those works which, in their opinion, should be the subject of examination by the Public Works Committee. This method has worked successfully over the years for the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. I think it is worth a trial with regard to the Public Works Committee. 1 hope that this debate will not conclude today without giving us an opportunity within each party of looking at the proposals that have been brought forward in the debate. I trust that this very important matter - 1 think it is one of the most important matters that we have to deal with at the present time - will be given more careful scrutiny having regard to some of the factors that have been mentioned by Senator Poyser, Senator Wright, Senator Byrne and myself. The matter is worthy of more careful examination.
– The contribution of Senator Prowse in this debate the purpose of which is to amend the Public Works Committee Bill to provide for an increase in the cost of a project which is necessary before it is given to the Joint Statutory Committee on Public Works for examination has been in my view a constructive one. Tt has been sufficiently convincing that we do not really need to extend the debate very much further. Senator Prowse has pointed out the details of the work load that is being imposed on the committee which is one of the oldest joint committees of the Parliament. It has a long and very favourable history of dedication and devotion to the work of Parliament. It is worthwhile mentioning that the portfolio of Public Works and the Department of Public Works have possibly come in for less criticism over the years from the public or in the Parliament than any other. I believe that this is because of the work that is done by the Public Works Committee in scrutinising the projects that have been put before it. The detailed examination which the projects receive and the final recommendations of the Committee are of such a quality that the Committee has shown itself to be not only a watchdog for the Parliament but also a very valuable adjunct to the administration of public works in this country.
I have been a member of the Public Works Committee possibly longer than anybody else in the Parliament. My experience has proved this quality over the years, not because we were not able to spend more hours scrutinising but because of the fact that every section of the Public Service associated with presenting details of the project to the Committee consisted of conscientious and highly intelligent public servants who knew the requirements of the Committee very well and they had the details there available if they were required. The comparison that was made relating to the hours which were spent at sittings on the projects is not completely relevant. I have been present at meetings on wharf facilities in Darwin, the high school in Darwin, the Australian Broadcasting Commission building in Perth, the airport and public buildings in Hobart, the Commonwealth Centre in Melbourne, the Redfern mail exchange in Sydney and other buildings in other parts of the Commonwealth particularly at Townsville in Queensland on the airport and on the Townsville wharf. This last was a problem specially referred to the Committee. We not only had to travel great distances but also public servants had to travel them. It was not a matter of the number of meetings we held but of doing the job thoroughly. I pay this compliment to my predecessors and successors on the Public Works Committee: Their reports Which have come to this Parliament carry prestige and reliability.
I was very pleased to hear the tribute which Senator Prowse paid to our colleague Senator Cavanagh. We hope that his moment of great anguish will soon be overcome and that his wife will soon be restored to good health. I endorse those sentiments expressed by Senator Prowse.
But I would like to make one further important point. This Committee is composed of 9 members of Parliament, all of whom have their electoral work to do and parliamentary duties to perform. Practically all of them are members of other committees. The workload is such that some reasonable and rational approach must be made to help them solve the problem that confronts them. In this day and age the type of facilities being constructed for the Government of the country has altered. Previously if a post office or a set of public offices was built it would consist more or less of 4 walls with perhaps some ornaments on the outside but with very few facilities and amenities inside. This was in marked contrast to what is required today. We have seen in these big public works projects the development of airconditioning, carpeting and staff amenities and facilities, as well , as complicated amenities such as car parking. As Senator Poyser mentioned, when a large public work is undertaken or a public building is erected in any city, or in any area for that matter, studies of the environment and many other aspects have to be coordinated with the proposed construction. Although these studies increase the cost of a project, I believe that it is necessary that they be taken into consideration when now planning a public building.
So the virtue of the Public Works Committee, as I see it, is that it continues to be a scrutineer and watchdog of the expenditure of public moneys on public works. The very existence of the Committee and its long history of conscientious work act as that screen on behalf of the Parliament. The proposed amendment is virtually a minor one and it is a compromise, but we are in a realistic way trying to reduce the workload of the Committee to a certain extent by admitting that rising costs have made it imperative that the limit be lifted. This, combined with all other factors, makes this amendment a very reasonable one. There has been some discussion on whether the limit should be $2m or 1.5m. It is not much good the Committee receiving 35 or 40 references if it cannot handle them. This is the thing to be considered. As I have said before, members of the Public Works Committee have many other commitments and responsibilities. Although they do the job very well it is just ridiculous for us to ask them to give more of their time than they are giving at the moment in order to handle the projects placed before them. I understand that in the coming period these will number between 50 and 60,
When it is considered that in the last 3 years the number of references to the Committee has doubled, and it is about to double again, we have to find some way of dividing the Committee into sub-committees, but there are disadvantages in that idea. I think it is very valuable for each member of the Committee to have a knowledge of the continuity of the works coming before the Committee. For that reason I believe that we just have to face up to the facts of life and adopt the figure that we have nominated as being the limit below which reference need not be made to the Committee. Of course, projects costing less than the limit still can be referred to the Committee because there are provisions in the Act which provide that any work can be referred, regardless of its cost. These provisions act as safeguards. I am sure that the Committee will be prepared to. meet any reasonable demands that are made on it.
Finally, I want to pay a tribute to those members of the Public Works Committee who have done such a good job in past years and who have handled the great number of references that have been placed before them. I do not envy them the task of having to evaluate 30 to 40 references which involve projects each costing more than $2m. Because of the work load it is placing on all members of this House, I can only hope that the whole committee system will sort itself out so that it is in a better position than it is at the moment. Members are finding that the time element is such that they cannot physically attend all the committee hearings that they are obliged to attend. So I hope that the correct emphasis will be kept on the work of the Public Works Committee because of its long tradition of service as a scrutineering committee, because of the work that it has done, and because of the savings that it has made over the years through recommendations and suggestions that it has made to the Parliament as a result of its investigations. I hope that this Committee will be able to function effectively and continue to do the good work that it has done over the years. I support the amendment.
– Very briefly, I wish to support the 2 amendments moved by Senator Wright. The first amendment refers to an examination of expenditures of Commonwealth authorities, commissions and, indeed, corporations that are owned by governments. I think the test we have placed upon us is a very substantial one because we are here charged with a public interest in the examination of expenditures in a capital sense style. In modern communities this particular device of operating what might be called an undertaking in a particular corporation, commission or company owned by governments is an increasing fact of life as life gets more complex and as economic affairs and government affairs become larger. The Parliaments and the governments cannot divest themselves of the responsibility for representing the people’s interest. In the broad, therefore, both now and on much earlier occasions, I have supported this general attitude and this general approach. When I was a Minister I was prepared to have the particular authorities or companies for which I was responsible examined by the Estimates committees, if need be, and accordingly I told those concerned that they ought to be prepared for this. I thought it was their proper place to do so. I do not think we can walk away from the situation that this is a fact of developing life in this country and other countries. The Parliament has a responsibility. I agree with honourable senators who have said that the Public Works Committee has in the past discharged that responsibility to the Parliament and the people with tremendous credit to itself.
I support also the second amendment which deals with the amount of money which a project must cost before it is necessary to refer it to the Committee. Senator Wright demonstrated quite adequately that, with the expansion of works and money values, the proper order of increase was from $750,000 to $1.5m, which means that the amount would be doubled. The proposal to increase the amount to $2m did not really have a great deal of support in the last report of the Public Works Committee. This tends to be an argument that the Committee has such a lot of work to do that really the margin ought to he more substantial. I do not think this is really the proper answer to the argument. Regrettable as the workload is, I feel that the Committee is entitled to some consideration from government as to how its workload might be more evenly shared. Perhaps it should have its staff expanded. I would not want to see the ability of the Committee to examine critically, as it has in past years, taken away by, in effect, providing for a margin which perhaps allowed many areas to escape examination. I argue therefore in support of Senator Wright’s 2 amendments and, through them, in due course for government support to the Public Works Committee to allow it to do its job effectively and properly, as it has always done it.
– in reply - I was impressed by the point made by Senator Prowse and I will meet that. Honourable senators will remember that he said it would be wise not to proceed with this Bill so that the parties would have a chance to have a look at it. If I may be given a little leeway, I could reply to the second reading debate and say some things which I think may be of assistance in those sorts of considerations. Firstly, I thank all honourable senators, particularly Senator Prowse and Senator Byrne, for the suggestions that they have made. The suggestions are not new to me because I must confess that I went through a lot of trauma and a lot of agonising both with the Public Works Committee and with my own people before finally coming down with this figure of S2m. As Senator Byrne says, one would need to have the wisdom of Solomon to know whether Senator Wright’s figure is right or whether my figure is right. I do not think that there is any need to go into this matter. I think that honourable senators know why we have had to alter the present figure in the Public Works Act.
Senator Prowse’s figures are really amazing. In i2 years the number of matters referred to the Public Works Committee has increased from 3 to 54, and this bears out a lot of what Senator Byrne says about the question of statutory authorities. There is only one thing about this matter that I think we are overlooking. All works are subjected to some sort of scrutiny. If my amendment to the Act is carried it will mean that it will be absolutely mandatory to refer to the Public Works Committee any works costing more than $2m. Any works costing between Sim and $2m must go to Cabinet and Cabinet can decide to have further investigations made or indeed to refer the works to the Public Works Committee. Works costing less than $lm are considered by the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) and the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and, there again, either one of those Ministers could call in - and undoubtedly would call in - the Minister representing the environment portfolio which has been set up or the Minister representing the urban development portfolio which has been set up.
So although technically, if a small amount of money is involved, it will be a matter for the Minister for Works and the Treasurer, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) are increasingly being brought into these matters. So with all works there is scrutiny of different kinds. The Senate may say that that is not sufficient. In addition, any work can be referred to the Public Works Committee by a motion moved in either House of the Parliament. So at all stages all of these works are completely within the control of the Parliament, the Cabinet or the departments themselves.
There is some urgency or some imminence about this matter because the present situation continued throughout the last parliamentary recess. Technically, under the present
Act we should be referring to the Committee all work of a value of less than $2m. I do not know what has happened, but I would think that there would be a tendency not to refer such work to the Committee in anticipation of this Bill being passed. I think that this matter should be attended to. Senator Byrne raised questions concerning statutory bodies and I think that Senator Prowse made the same sorts of points regarding normal bodies. The House of Representatives is about to invite the Senate to enter into a joint committee for the following purposes: to inquire into, report on and make recommendations for -
I can see Senator Cotton laughing. Of course, what we are doing now is setting up a committee to look at committees and, quite frankly, I think that it is nearly time we did so. I think that these questions of how the Public Works Committee should be expanded or in what way we should look at the workings of the Committee could well be considered by this proposed joint committee. Senator Prowse could be right when he says that we might have to move outside the system under which we have worked for so long. The work connected with the Regulations and Ordinances Committee is a little easier because the Committee has counsel to advise it. Obviously there would not be counsel to advise the Public Works Committee, but Senator Prowse has suggested that similar advice could be given to the Public Works Committee by somebody engaged in the building industry. As I say, I went through all the agonising in trying to look at this matter. But we have to do something fairly quickly in order to allow the Public Works Committee to continue with its work.
The next and last thing I want to say is that I am not inflexible about this matter. Many of the points which honourable senators have raised today had already been brought to my attention and I had thought about some of them myself.I thank those people who have given us new ideas on this matter. What I ask at this time is for the Senate to let this Bill go through so that we can get the Public Works Committee into the position of being able to do its work. The worry that I have with this Committee, as with all committees, is that we do not want to get bad work because I think that the only thing worse than having no committee is to get bad work from a committee. This is why I am greatly in favour of the proposition that has come from the House of Representatives.
I assure the Senate that I am not inflexible on this matter. If we could work out some better system between us I would have no hesitation at all in introducing amendments at any time when I was convinced that it ought to be done. We will not be moving into the Committee stages of this Bill because we have made other arrangemnts for tonight. This will give the parties a chance to look at the matter. I suggest that we should let this Bill go through, get before the joint committee when it is established and put to the committee our ideas on committees, and on the Public Works Committee in particular.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 21 August (vide page 34), on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Payments to or for the States, 1973-74.
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30 June 1974.
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30 June 1974.
Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 1974.
Government Securities on Issue at 30 June 1973.
Review of the Continuing Expenditure Policies of the Previous Government.
Report on Possible Ways of Increasing Imports.
– I commence my speech this evening by thanking the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and the Senate for extending to me the courtesy of being able to speak beyond the normal 30 minutes that is allowed. The members of the Labor Party, In line with their great friends, the Chinese, have introduced the system of naming years. I believe that 1973 will be known as the Year of the Great Pretender. But pretenders are always found out, and Australia’s great pretender, the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), will be no exception because this Budget is the beginning of this process. Looking at the Labor Party’s first Federal Budget in 23 years, one cannot blame the cynicism of the average Australian, who says that he takes the promises of political parties with a grain of salt and who thinks that no matter what a party may promise at election time it will do much as it pleases once it is in power.
When he was wooing the Australian electorate last year the Prime Minister told the people: ‘We come to Government with malice towards none. We will co-operate wholeheartedly with all sections of this Nation’. Despite this, he has, within 9 months of assuming office, brought down a Budget that is noteworthy for its vindictiveness. It has attacked the country man with unparalleled viciousness. It has attacked the small private company owner. It has attacked the rights of a section of school children. It has attacked the home owner. It has attacked a percentage of pensioners and disillusioned the rest of them. But it has done nothing in real terms to help the man in the street by tackling inflation to help him keep some value in his savings and in his earnings. It is a Budget of broken promises and double standards.
To date, this Government has claimed a mandate for whatever it wants to do. it claimed a mandate for the abolition of national service. It has claimed a mandate for its health insurance scheme, its electoral redistribution Bill, its industrial reforms and its education, taxation, housing and urban development policies. It claims a mandate because these schemes were announced as Labor Party policy during the election campaign. But in that same policy the Labor Party promised to keep defence spending at between 3.2 per cent and 3.5 per cent of the gross national product. In this Budget the Government has reduced that to 2.9 per cent. In that policy, it promised not to withdraw existing subsidies from schools; yet within its first year it has announced that per capita grants will be withdrawn from 105 independent schools. In that policy, it promised to bring pensions up to 25 per cent of the average wage by increases of SI. 50 each spring and autumn. Further, it said that it would increase pensions by more than the Si. 50 if it appeared necessary to allow pensions to reach this level.
Now, although it is quite obvious that the rate of inflation will not allow pensions to catch up with the average weekly earnings, this Government is still fiddling around with the SI. 50 increases and making a song and dance about it. It is not being quite so noisy, though, about the imposition of a changed tax relief scheme for elderly people. Not many people will be affected, but those who are will bc taxed more harshly than even the wealthiest in the land. 1 give the following illustration: By next July, a full rate pensioner will have received S7S in extra pension, but if he has a taxable income of 51,040 as well - not a large sum - the tax bill comes to S53..This means that of the extra social service pension, 67.9 per cent goes in income tax. The highest rate of income tax paid in this land - that paid by the wealthiest in the land - is only 66.7 per cent paid on taxable incomes of over $40,000.
In its policy speech this Government promised not to increase taxation for the individual or for companies. Mr Whitlam stated:
The rates for which the wealthier sections of the community, including companies, are liable are already high enough.
And yet, in his Government’s first Budget we find the tax on private companies increased sharply. This will not affect the large bodies, the so-called multi-nationals. But it will affect the small businesses which individuals have worked a lifetime to establish. It is the private company that will bear a large share of paying for the Government’s increased spending in 1973-74. I recall again that in his policy speech Mr Whitlam said:
Our first step towards revising the tax burdens at the lower and middle levels will be to require the Treasury to produce and publish forthwith-
I repeat the word ‘forthwith’ - the comprenhensive review which Mr McMahon as Treasurer said in August 1969 would be urgently acted upon.
I ask: Where is that review? Labor pointed out that Australians pay some of the world’s highest rates for some of the world’s worst municipal services. Now it has put a ceiling of S300 on the amount that can be claimed as a tax concession. I believe that this will be a crippling blow to the home owner and will place many shires and municipalities in financial jeopardy as they struggle to meet their increasing wages bill - a task most of them find impossible without raising rates.
In its policy the Labor Party claimed that it would co-operate wholeheartedly with the
Government of Papua New Guinea. Obviously the Labor Party meant co-operate on its own terms. With this string of broken promises already behind it, the Government will no doubt now claim to have a selective mandate to do those things it considers popular. No doubt, it also will claim a mandate to break more of its promises.
Perhaps the most scurrilous of the Government’s broken promises, and its biggest blunder, is in its cavalier attitude towards defence. Mr Barnard, in his statement to the nation, tells us that Labor’s policy calls for a strong and valid defence capability that will demonstrate beyond all doubt the nation’s intention to defend itself and its vital interests’. Hardly pausing for breath, he then goes on to announce the effective emasculation of each of the 3 Armed Services. The Royal Australian Navy, denied new ships and with stripped manpower, must be proud that the Minister envisages that it could ‘deter to a great extent any minor harassment and interference with Australian sovereign control’. The Royal Australian Air Force is not to get the new tactical fighter it needs; it is not even to be allowed to keep all its present ageing Mirage fighters. It will lose not only onequarter of its fighter strength but also, to save a little more on the defence budget, 1,200 men. The Army will suffer in a like manner, with cuts in equipment and manpower. These are the Services which will, to quote Mr Barnard ‘demonstrate beyond all doubt the nation’s intention to defend itself and its vita interests’.
Mr Barnard also claimed to have set out the Government’s thinking on defence; in modern parlance he has set out the Government’s non-thinking on defence. He admits that the nation’s security is the Government’s first responsibility, that there can be no neglect of defence; and then he immediately defers decisions on all acquisitions for the Services and cuts back their manpower. He tells us we live in peaceful times and then admits to ‘uncertainties in the longer term’. He says his Government would be prepared to consider the use of Australian forces abroad in support of United Nations peace-keeping operations and says we could make a ‘useful contribution in this sort of situation’. But he neglects to say that if the contribution was to be at all useful it would probably involve the export of our total defence force under th:.s Labor Government.
The Government has based its defence policy on the assumption that we live in peaceful times and tells us that present trends generally point to a prospect of relative stability in the global area. In the interests of open government we would like to know who has made this assessment. The Government further tells us that it has, despite stripping the Services of their former high morale, whittling away career opportunities for advancement and promotion, successfully implemented its policy for an all-volunteer army and that volunteer enlistments and reengagements in each of the Services are buoyant. This, the Government says, is because of its introduction of improved Service pay and conditions, improvements of which it is continually boasting. But let us look at the facts.
The Government has made much of its introduction on a Service allowance of $750. What it has not talked about is the withdrawal of a tax-free marriage allowance of $700. For the married serviceman this was a severe blow. With the increased tax he must pay because his Service allowance places him in a higher income tax bracket, his increase in pay is minimal and has already been eaten up by inflation. May I illustrate this with some figures. Under the old pay scales a first year captain received a fortnightly pay of $250, in round figures. He received further a clothing allowance of $4, a marriage allowance of $17.50 and a provisional separation allowance of $9.80. From that he had deducted $20.61 in Defence Forces Retirement Benefits payments and $53.90 in tax. In round figures his take-home pay was $207.31.
Under the new scheme, his pay is $298.76 a fortnight plus a Service allowance of $28.77 and a uniform allowance of $6.71. Admittedly his DFRB has dropped to $16.34 but his tax has jumped more than $28 to $82 making his take home pay $235.90.
In spite of all the posturings of the Government, he has but received an increase of about $14 a week which, as I said earlier, has now been eaten up by inflation. This is the massive pay increase that is going to entice volunteers into the Service from the private sector where their pay increases are greater and more frequent. Resignations from the 3 Services, and particularly the Army, arc increasing. The rate of resignation is expected to accelerate in the next few months following Labor’s Defence Budget.
The 3 Services feel that they have been sold out by the Labor Government. Morale has seldom, if ever, been lower. Yet the Government’s defence policy concept depends on the existence of an organisation big enough and well enough trained quickly to enlist, train and assimilate large numbers when necessary. Sir, it’s time - it’s time the Government realised that the Defence forces of our country must not be allowed to run down; the lead in time is too long and too costly to allow this.
From defence, I would like now to turn to education, a field which, in the Government’s own words, is a ‘top priority’. This is a field which constitutes the fastest growing component of the Budget with an increase of 92 per cent on last year and which will now be provided for in the sum of $843m. Yet even with this vast expenditure the Government shows its vindictiveness towards what it considers to be the wealthy sector of the community. Despite its policy promises not to withdraw existing per capita grants to independent schools, its proposed new charter for the children of Australia and its pledge to treat all children equally in the disbursement of funds for an education that is compulsory, the Government in this Budget intends to save what in comparison to the whole expenditure is an insignificant amount of about S6m by withdrawing per capita grants to about 105 schools it has lumped together and decided to call category ‘A’ schools. Apparently children who attend these designated wealthy schools are not to be covered by Labor’s new charter for the children of Australia.
Parents of children at all schools in all parts of our country are justifiably angry at this blatant injustice. Any Minister who so callously betrays a large section of the electorate which trusted his promise regarding aid to independent schools cannot be relied upon in the future either on this issue or on any other. The same may be said of the Government of which he is a Minister. The Government’s actions must call in doubt every assurance given as to the future of independent schools under Labor. The principle implicit in the withdrawal of grants from schools which are deemed to have reached a certain standard is that there should be a penalty on excellence. What it will mean in effect is that where parents, staff and councils know that by working hard to raise standards at their school they will automatically raise it to a category where aid will be withdrawn, ali efforts in this direction will cease, lt is a great way of bringing everyone down to one level! Perhaps the time will come in the not too distant future when those schools classed in category ‘A’ could be eligible for grants under the Labor Government’s special programs, for socially disadvantaged schools. After all, the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) in his ministerial statement on education did not define for us what a socially disadvantaged school was. Nor did he tell us how the Government was to select specific community schools or schools on a needs basis to benefit from the modified free school milk scene.
The Government has done nothing to help the home seeker. It has proposed the introduction of legislation to provide for a scheme making mortgage interest deductible - a scheme which, when introduced in the United Kingdom, sent home prices soaring. The Government’s proposal must quickly push demand inflation even higher by increasing the available money chasing the end product. The government is denying people the right to own their own houses, but perhaps this is in keeping with Labor Party Policy. But it is a part of the policy that has not been made clear under Mr Whitlam’s so-called open government. Perhaps this socialist government sees each home owner, no matter how small his home, as a little capitalist.
Under the heading ‘Economic Services’, the Government then proceeded to announce increases in postal services by eliminating concessional postage rates on registered newspapers and periodicals, concessional telecommunications charges to the media and the low telephone rentals that have always applied in non-metropolitan areas. It also announced a rise in the telephone connection fee for new subscribers from S50 to $60. This was despite earlier promises that telephone charges from growth areas would be calculated on local call charges.
– Where is it? Under the same innocuous heading, it also announced an increase in the rate of recovery of civil aviation costs to 80 per cent within 5 years, an increase in air navigation charges to the maximum allowed under the terms of airlines agreement with the 2 major domestic airlines, a substantially larger increase in general aviation charges and a policy of recovering the full economic costs of airport terminals from the occupants. Then the Government has the audacity to say that it wants reduced air fares. The increase in air navigation charges alone must force air fares up, and this in turn must surely affect the internal tourist industry. Perhaps the Government’s policy is that if airline travel is not within the reach of a small percentage of the community its charges should be so high that no one in the community can afford to travel that way.
When one looks at the rural sector one finds that the La’bor Government was at its vindictive best. One can almost picture the Cabinet enthusiastically rubbing its collective hands in glee as it worked out ways of slashing concessions to the rural community by at least $10Om and possibly as much as $147m. At the same time, it cut the estimated expenditure for the Department of Primary Industry by almost $70m. I believe that the more harmful effects on sections of the rural community will be felt through the following measures: The expenditure on the free supply of milk to school children is expected to decline by $3. 5m; butter and cheese bounty payments reduced by $9m; the phasing out over the next 2 years of the processed milk products bounty; a charge of lc a pound to be levied on meat exports, expected to yield $14m to recoup the cost of the export meat inspection services, estimated to cost $ 12.5m; the plan by the Government to recoup from the beef industry the expenditure incurred in the campaign to eradicate bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis; the loss of tax concessions worth S37m a year through the abolition of accelerated depreciation of plant, double taxation for land clearance and development, and the investment allowance. Surely in Australia, a continent plagued by drought, water and fodder conservation are of such vital importance that the farmer should be encouraged to become self sufficient. Would it not be better to allow the farmer to become self reliant instead of building huge dams which may alter the nature of the environment and then warrant conservation measures? We well recall the debate on the wine tax. Now we see that the wine industry will be up for an additional SI 5m a year with the repeal of special provisions permitting the winemaker to value, for taxation purposes, trading stock manufactured from grapes, at any figure he chooses, provided only that it is no less than prescribed minimum values.
I refer also to these measures:
The phasing out of subsidies for ‘developmental’ air services and the cessation of subsidies for ‘essential rural’ services to some country centres; the increase in postage rates on registered newspapers and periodicals, telecommunications and telephone rentals.
I recall the projected increases in petroleum products and motor spirits. All sections of the road transport industry have been hit by the increased petrol costs. Farm produce merchants have estimated that their transport costs would be increased by as much as 27 per cent. It is no wonder then that the 1973- 74 Budget has been seen as basically an anticountry Budget.
I turn now to the business sector. The key feature of the Budget as it affects business is that, by its direct and indirect imposts on the business community, costs will rise. While the Prices Justification Tribunal has approved the passing on of the duty increases to the initial users, the continued flow on of these and other costs generated by the Budget measures may be difficult to achieve because, given the Government’s action and statements over the. past 9 months, it is clear that it is disposed to move strongly against price increases. Equally the general inflationary situation and the Government’s permissive attitude to and expectation of strong wage and salary increases will confront the. business community with increasing cost pressures. Of critical importance to business then in a period of sharply rising costs is the extent to which it is able to pass on cost measures in the face of government, trade union and general consumer opposition because the Government quit? foolishly is still directing its attention almost exclusively to prices. So, the abolition of the taxation differential between private and public companies and the switch to quarterly collections of company tax resulting in a small and hidden increase in company tax costs may not prove more than an irritable pain in the neck for large companies - I believe they will - ‘but they could deal a lethal blow to the small company. The ‘little man’ for whom the Government professes to have such a sympathy will be the very man who will be forced under water for the third time.
The imposition of duty increases on motor spirit, diesel and aviation fuels will affect not only the business community but every single member of that community. The cost of fuel is reflected in the price of every commodity, appliance or service. A man will not have to drive a car to feel the effects of these increases.
The abolition of the tax exemption on profits from gold mining will have a very damaging effect on an industry that, with only recently improved prices for gold, had been able to start a program of rehabilitation. The Labor Government’s vendetta - it is a vendetta - against the mining industry has now been extended to the small number of active prospectors because the removal of this tax incentive given to gold and base metal prospectors will mean the elimination of the people who played a major part in the discovery of many of the mines on which this country’s present prosperity is based. Coupled with the removal of the capital cost write off allowance on primary productions plant and the provision for company tax to be paid quarterly now instead of annually, the Labor Government has delivered a deadening blow to the gold mining industry. These new measures will result in unemployment in remote areas and reduced wages.
To test whether or not the Senate agrees with our point of view that this is a Budget of broken promises and double standards, I move:
I commend the amendment to the Senate.
– I take this opportunity to congratulate the Government on the first real Budget which has been brought into this chamber in more than 20 years. The Budget, as enunciated by my Party, has catered for all sections of the community, in spite of the statements that we have just heard from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers). Before I expand on some sections of the Budget, I wish to reply to some of those statements. I think I can truthfully say that he tried to be all things to all men. In particular, he tried to cater to the wishes of those people in that class of the community which he represents. For that reason he concentrated not only on the Doomsday sections of his statement but tried to be a Colonel Blimp and an expert on defence; and from there he went across the board to become Mr Chipps and’ to pride himself on being an expert on education.
Might I say that the Leader of the Opposition made his greatest contribution to this country as an armchair soldier in the Vietnam war, safe in this country but sending young Australian troops to a war which he had helped to initiate but in which he was not prepared to participate. His association with education is largely in the field of the old school tie; he says: ‘Look after my friends in the upper class and we are happy with your education budget’. This is not the policy of the Australian Labor Party because it has been said on so many occasions and expanded in the Budget which was presented a week or so ago that education will be helped in areas where the greatest need exists, and that is the way it ought to be.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to 1973 as the year of the Great Pretender. He must have said this with his tongue in his cheek because for 23 years pretenders have been sitting in the other place whereas today we have a man of substance leading a party of substance and providing policies of substance for this country. The Leader of the Opposition said the Budget attacked the home owner and the pensioner. Let me give a little more detail of this in a few moments. I respectfully submit that I am able to refute every accusation made by the Leader of the Opposition. He said that our Party - the Labor Party and Government - claimed a mandate to implement certain policies. I say without any possibility of contradiction that the Labor Party has a mandate to govern this country and that it has been frustrated continually by the noisy little people sitting on the back benches on the other side with their inept leadership at the top level.
The Opposition decides that it will either postpone or reject every major Bill that comes into this chamber. In other words the Opposition will not give credit to the will of the people who elected the Labor Government. We saw the Commonwealth Electoral Bill rejected here today for the second time although the Labor Party had a mandate to bring about electoral re-distribution in this gerrymandered country. And for the second time we have seen people flying their kites in order to remove price controls which have been imposed in a minor way in the Australian Capital Territory. They are doing this because the faceless men of the Liberal Party, the minions of big business sitting behind their ranks, have told them that they have to do it or else. That is why they are flying their kites now.
Let me make my final point concerning that rather weak speech by the Leader of the Opposition. He said the Labor Party has not tried to help the pensioners. We have been in government for less than 12 months and in that time an increase of $3 has been made across the board to pensioners. But let us consider the record of the Liberal Party. In 1968-
– We did not have a 13 per cent rate of inflation.
– Inflation is not of the Labor Party’s making. It was brought about by the policies of the previous Government over so many years. It is absolutely impossible for inflationary trends to occur in several months. The policies of the previous Government over the years were directed towards inflation and honourable senators opposite know that. Mr President, I will not be diverted. Let me go back to 1968 when the standard pension was $14 a week and the standard married pension $12.50. In 1969, out of the generosity of the Liberal Party’s heart - no doubt being held down by the Country Party - that Government was able to increase the pension by $1 for the whole year for a single person and by 75c for the whole year for a married couple. In 1 970-
– What was inflation like then?
– Inflation was running at about 11 per cent. In 1970-
– That is not so.
– You cannot face up to the truth when you get it thrown at you. In 1970 the pension for a single person was increased by 50c - 50 single little cents for the whole year. The pension for a married couple was increased by a similar percentage. In 1971 the pension rate was increased in April from $15.50 to $16, and in October of that year when the Government of the day got a political fright, it increased the pension to $17.25. In May 1972 the then Government increased the pension to $18.25 - a whole $1. This was the year when the political tide was flowing against the Government Parties. So regardless of inflationary trends and any contributions that the then Government might have made, in August it brought in its panic Budget and raised the pension from $18.25 to $20.
The only time that the pensioners of this country were helped by the previous Government during the whole of those 20 years was during those periods when it had its back to the political wall. Until then the plight of the pensioners did not worry the previous Government one iota - and this was reflected in repatriation benefits as well. There were no proper increases in repatriation pensions, particularly in the general pension, for about 15 years. At a time when members of the then Government were still killing kids in Vietnam, their fathers and grandfathers were not given one penny; and when those kids came back maimed from the Vietnam war members of the then Government found every excuse they could to prevent them from gaining repatriation pensions. So honourable senators opposite should not cry crocodile tears now.
The philosphy of the Labor Party is bound up in the Treasurer’s 1973 Budget Speech. I should like to read a number of paragraphs. They State:
The Budget is not simply an economic document. It is also an important instrument whereby we give effect to our goals and aspirations.
In Australia today we are much better at selling cars than providing decent public transport services; much better at building houses than providing sewerage services for them . . .
We believe that proper budgeting requires continuing critical review of existing programs. It is only too easy for inertia to take over - for 95 per cent of budget outlays each year to be pre-determined by the past. It was time for such a thoroughgoing critical review … to clear away deadwood . . . and thereby begin to make room for the programs to which we are pledged . . .
In a buoyant and strongly growing economy, with inflationary pressures intense, we are limited by the over-riding need to bring down a. Budget which does not add to these pressures . . .
We have already taken some far-reaching steps. The Prices Justification Tribunal is now in operation. In December 1972 we acted to appreciate the Australian dollar and thereby restrain price increases.
– We can read all this ourselves, you know.
– There is a grave possibility that you are not able to read, therefore I have to read it into the record. The Budget Speech goes on:
We have cut all protective tariffs by onequarter . . . The flood of borrowed overseas funds in 1972 which helped to build up the inflationary pressures now so evident has been stopped. We have acted to reduce excess liquidity.
– How did this man get a second go?
– The honourable senator’s political term will cease at the end of this current session by the will of his Party. I suggest that he beep quiet. The Treasurer went on to say:
The Budget too must fit into the overall antiinflationary policy. With that in mind the Government came to 2 major conclusions.
First, despite competing demands for resources, the whole thesis of the Government’s policies requires that there be some increase in the share of resources going to the public sector.
Secondly, given the need to avoid adding to net pressure on resources, it is necessary that the increase in outlays budgeted for be more than covered by increased receipts. In 1972-73 outlays increased about twice as fast as receipts.
It should be remembered that that was, for the most part, under the previous Government. The Treasurer went on to say:
The very different economic circumstances now prevailing dictate a much more circumspect approach.
Just prior to 2 December 1972 the then Government, with its back to the political wall, decided that it would use the taxpayers’ funds for campaign purposes - and that is exactly what it did. It decided that it would dip into the public purse to bolster its own political ego in a last bid attempt to save its political hide. We have heard the Leader of the Opposition - alias Colonel Blimp - say that the Labor Government has decided to cut down on defence expenditure. It is true that we have cut down on expenditure in some fields. We have cut down on expenditure in all of the wasteful fields of endeavour in which his Government loved to indulge.
Let us have a look at the Budget in terms of money values. The actual outlay on defence in 1972-73 was $ 1,234m. The Budget provides for a total defence outlay in 1973-74 of $<l,266m. In other words the Labor Government’s projected expenditure on defence represents an increase of S32m on last year’s figures. I respectfully suggest that the figures which were quoted by the Leader of the Opposition in respect to rural industry - they were not quoted in the field of defence because the Leader of the Opposition was a little more careful there - were in most instances false figures. They were dreamed up by him. They were taken from the top of his head.
– ‘Prove it.
– I am not going to set out the figures. Any rural economist who examines them tomorrow will laugh at them, as will lots of farmers, because they are false figures. They are figures which were dreamed up by the Leader of the Opposition. That is the only way in which he could have produced them. The Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland), who represents in this chamber the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham), has suggested to me that the figures were doctored. I do not want to bring public health into the debate at the moment.
The Leader of the Opposition gave the impression that he was also an expert in the field of education. In this field he played around with his pet club - the wealthy schools. I do not know why he is worried about them. In any case, if any of the wealthy schools think that they have been seriously mistreated by the Government they have the right of appeal. As the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) said recently in another place, other sums of money will be made available in these fields which will probably more than compensate them anyway. Once again the Leader of the Opposition was shedding political crocodile tears.
Let us have a look at the figures. In 1972- 73 the Liberal-Country Party Government was able to find the fantastic sum of $439m for education. I should point out that it was also able to find something like $600m or $700m for its little private war in Vietnam. In 1973-74 the Labor Government proposes to provide $843m for education. Any member of the Opposition who is crying because he will have to pay an extra 3c for his shot of whisky ought to go away and think the thing over and examine his own conscience. As far as I am concerned this is an area in which the needs of the people must be met. For too long the children of the underprivileged people of this country have had to accept third or fourth rate status when it has come to education. It is time that they were brought to the top. Under the Labor Government they will have equal rights with the sons and daughters of wealthy people. The Labor Government’s expenditure on education this financial year will represent a 92 per cent increase on the expenditure of the previous Government last year. The expenditure on education this financial year is to be almost double that of last financial year.
Another field in which the unhealthy Leader of the Opposition was crying was that of health. If he wants to play around with his own private doctor - I do not mean that in any nasty way - he will be entitled to do so. He can continue to contribute to a private medical benefits fund if he wants to do so. Criticism was expressed in another place of the amount of money which has been made available for Labor’s new national health scheme. It is a major scheme that is going to take a fair while to get off the ground, but I venture to say that every nationally minded doctor in this country approves of Labor’s scheme. We are in the situation where a minority of doctors - not always democratically elected - are claiming as the heads of their respective organisations to be speaking on behalf of every doctor in Australia. That is a damnable lie because they are not speaking on behalf of every doctor in Australia.
I know many doctors. Some of them are only just casual acquaintances. In the last few months I have had only one doctor come to me and be critical of the system Labor is likely to introduce. Most of them are prepared to see it given a go or are distinctly in favour of it. So let us have a little less of the shilly-shallying and a little more co-operation from those sections of the community which are merely in opposition because they think it is fashionable to be in opposition.
– Tell us about the attitudes of the patients; that would be interesting.
– I suppose Senator Young is probably writing letters for the patients of some doctors, too. That is one of the tricks being used. Letters are being written by political figures in the community who sign themselves as ‘pro bono’ or something else and who say that they are writing on behalf of doctors and patients. They are not. That is another hoax which Senator Young and others of his type are perpetrating on the community. But let us not worry about that. The public is not deceived by them.
We heard another cry from the Leader of the Opposition in the field of housing. When the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) put a plan the representatives of big business, the developers, the housing contractors and so on said that they did not like some aspects of it. Some compromises were made. The only people who are crying today are those who are afraid that their profits may be reduced from 300 per cent to 100 per cent. If that is the way in which housing policies have :to be implemented, I hope the Labor Government will go right ahead with its plans. The people of this country are entitled to decent housing conditions. As far as I am concerned the socalled developers who engage in rackets and who batten on young married couples and older couples ought to be in gaol. That is the proper place for them. For too long, with the encouragement of the previous Government, they have been able to line their pockets with profits extracted from the workers.
– That is dead true.
– Talk some sense.
– Senator Laucke is probably selling land in the same way. If he is not he can get up and say so afterwards. But if he encourages that sort of thing he deserves to be castigated, along with all the other speculators. The Labor Government is to increase the allocation to defence service homes by $28m this financial year. This is a field in which the previous Government, usually about 3, 4 or 5 months before the end of each financial year, used to throw up its hands in horror and say: ‘No more money can be provided for war service homes; the allocation has gone’. That was said by the same Government which in the 1950s said: Let us all go to war. When you come home everything will be there for you’. When it did not suit the previous Government to do so it decided not to allocate any money to this area. The Labor Government has seen the justice of making an allocation in this field and has decided to make an extra $28m available.
The Budget provides for expenditure of $136m during the current financial year on our cities initiatives. An amount of $33m has been provided for expenditure on AlburyWodonga and other growth centres. Decentralisation is a major part of Labor Party policy. One of the unfortunate things is that the friends of the Opposition members, the speculators, again have come into the field in an attempt to make as much money as they can out of the Albury-Wodonga growth centre. They have moved also into the Gladstone, Rockhampton and Townsville areas in my State of Queensland and are speculating again.
– And Cairns.
– It is true that they have done this also in Cairns, as my colleague said. It is in those areas that they believe the great financial kills will be made. Let me cite a particular instance as a result of Townsville being declared a growth centre. A friend of mine sold a block of land for 59,000. He thought he had made a profit of about §1,000 after owning the land for several years. That same afternoon the purchaser’ flew to Sydney. The next day he brought back a buyer and re-sold the block of land, in less than 24 hours, for $45,000. If any of the speculators on the Opposition side would like to buy it now they can have it at the bargain price of $150,000. That block is on the market at that price now. These are the things which will be the only blots on development. There ought to be co-operation between the Commonwealth and State governments in freezing land prices in order to keep out the speculators and the vultures. That would be done if we had the co-operation of the Opposition. Already at least 2 anti-Labor governments - those in New South Wales and Victoria - have been prepared to co-operate. It is a pity that their example is not followed by the sole remaining anti-Labor government in the States of Australia.
I turn now to smaller areas. Last year the National Fitness Council received a grant of $600,000. This year the grant has been increased to $lm. The National Fitness Council had to come begging to previous governments. Sometimes it got an increase of $50,000, sometimes it got $25,000 and sometimes it got nothing. This Government has seen fit to make available an additional $400,000. The Government also will make $lm available to cover some of the expenses of sportsmen and sportswomen who want to participate in national competitions and in international events.
– Cigarettes and whisky will have to go up again if you throw millions of dollars around like that again.
– If Senator Little ever makes an intelligent interjection I will deign to answer him. Australian sportsmen and sportswomen of national and international fame have been prevented on occasions from participating in competitive events because of the lack of cash. Under this new grant at least they will have a reasonable chance of participating when selected. The Government is providing $3m for the acquisition of land for the development of national parks and to preserve the national estate. I respectfully suggest that this is the first major breakthrough in more than 20 years in the preservation of the great national estate. Undoubtedly in succeeding years this sum will be increased considerably under Labor governments, unlike under the previous Government which was prepared to sell the national estate - not necessarily to the highest bidder but to its warmest friends, particularly if they came from international areas.
Some years ago a committee known as the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources was set up. I am very proud to have been associated with that Committee. I am particularly proud to have been associated with the minority report which we submitted. One of the points that have been adopted by this Government is the setting up of a national pipeline authority. No longer will international oil companies be able to set the prices for the carriage of petroleum. No longer, if all the recommendations are adopted, will international oil companies be able to tell consumers precisely what they will have to pay for products in this field. This is a first step, a very commendable first step, of setting aside $107m to construct the first Australianowned natural gas pipeline.
Our predecessors in government were particularly tardy in Aboriginal affairs. They were also particularly miserly. They used to make token amounts available, believing that that would keep the Australian conscience a little under the rug. This year $117m, double the amount made available last year, is being provided for Aboriginal causes.
– Honourable senators opposite would not understand that.
– No, I think that might be a little difficult for them. Let us look at the other side of the ledger, the side which is now covered in salt encrusted tears from the Leader of the Opposition. Income tax deductions for private rates and land taxes, of which he made much, now will be limited to $300 a year. I do not blame the Leader of the Opposition for crying. Probably he lives in an upper crust area where he is expected to pay $1,000 a year in rates and land taxes. If he can afford to live in that sort of area and has to pay that much, he has the type of income that can cover that scale of taxation. The average small man in this community, the average worker, the average artisan, does not own areas of land in such places and the $300 allowed will more than cover his rates and land taxes. In fact, the average person will not stand to lose anything. There was a distortion of the whole argument in this respect by the Leader of the Opposition. He forecast that all sorts of nasty things would happen to local government. They will not happen because local government will be treated as a partner under the policies of the new Australian Government. There was also a great cry about the rate of duty to be applied to potable spirits. I refer specifically to brandy. One really cannot draw a parallel between the wine tax and the proposed tax on brandy. We have not broken any promises to anybody in Australia.
– Certainly you have.
– I remember the interjector, who is now the shadow Minister for something or other, coming in here and weeping wine-like tears day after day while trying to get a reduction in the tax on wine in South Australia. Every time there was a crisis or a crunch and a vote was taken he used to scuttle across the chamber and vote to keep the tax on wine. He did that consistently, and so did every other political - I nearly used an unparliamentary word, Mr Deputy President, so I will calm down a little. It was a political sham. One of the first actions of the Labor Government aimed at encouraging the Australian wine industry was to remove that tax. In the first instance, this tax on potable spirits will be phased in and will not have anywhere near the impact that the tax on wine had. Secondly, this is an area where there has been particular protection. We have not broken any election promises. Honourable senators opposite can distort things in any way they like, but we have not broken any election promises.
A bit of a cry is coming from those in the insurance company field. This is an area which has been particularly tax free. There is no reason why it should not give some assistance to the national economy. The only thing that I have not heard honourable senators opposite crying about so far is the fact that the quantity of tax-free alcohol and cigarettes that they are able to bring in after their overseas jaunts has been cut by half. No doubt there will be complaints next year, after the summer spate of overseas trips, about how they were touched on the way back to Australia. I have only a couple of minutes left in which to speak. I want to refer to a couple of other points about which there have been many complaints. This country can afford the tax on potable spirits and the tax on cigarettes. In fact, it will do those of us who smoke good to cut down on our cigarette consumption if we cannot afford it. I would like to see the tax on cigarettes increased to such an extent that the price was three times the current price. Cigarettes are a dangerous commodity and they should not be used in this community.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– Thank you very much. It seems that my speech is a health hazard for the Opposition.
– It is wise, for the listening public, that I acknowledge that the honourable senator who has just resumed his seat has delivered the best speech that can be delivered for the Government. Senator Keeffe led for the Government and the quality of his speech can be judged, I believe, from the quality of the Budget. 1 congratulate the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on being the first Labor Minister in a quarter of a century to present a Budget in the Federal Parliament. I acknowledge the statement which sets out the aims of Labor in this instance. It states:
This Budget incorporates far more decisions than any previous budget. It overriding theme is one of reform. It is designed both to clear the decks for progress in the years ahead and to ensure that in major areas of concern - social welfare, education, the quality of urban life - real forward moves are made immediately.
I acknowledge that it is the genuine desire of the Labor Party that that should be achieved in our society. I think it must be acknowledged that along with this goes the responsibility of the Government to maintain in this community not only an ever increasing standard of living but also to increase benefits to those people in the lower Income areas and to see that jobs are available in the community. This is something which is not available in every country. The Government has a responsibility to see that Australia retains its situation as a country with one of the highest material standards of living in the world. 1 hope that the present Government in the time that it is in office will see some benefits flowing from the type of philosophy which it is presently pursuing. In attempting to find some words to open the debate I noticed that the then Leader of the Opposition who was Senator Murphy in his Budget speech in 1971 used these words: . . this is a Budget which highlights the economic and social injustice of the Liberal and Country Party philosophy. It is designed to counter inflation at the expense of the working man. It is a Budget which will give the Australian people the worst-continuing inflation and a. rapid rise in unemployment. It is depressive. It will subdue business activity and confidence. It perpetuates all the social injustice that we have come to expect under this Government’s rule. Like the last Budget, it gives a little and takes away a lot.
I doubt whether I could phrase the words any better than has Senator Murphy. That really will be the effect of the present Budget. Labor in its first 6 or 8 months flush of government has attempted to publicise some very radical policies which it has followed. I think the years to come will only prove how damaging has been that philosophy as far as Australia is concerned. I think that the period of Labor Government has to be judged in relation to the outcome to date and the financial proposals will have a major control in financial matters for this ensuing year. Labor still attempts to say that it has the ability to govern this country. I deeply regret that Labor’s attitude in so many fields has been apparently to hand over the reins of decision making to economic experts such as we find in the economic task force which was led by Dr Coombs and in other areas such as the Karmel report in relation to education. Undoubtedly both men are very intelligent in their fields, but I believe that for a government to completely throw away its responsibility for decision and hand it to men such as this only reflects the reputation which Labor has and that is its inability to make decisions and carry out policies which it thinks are right.
I believe that in general terms the Budget has been received with very little criticism from the Australian community. However, there has been great criticism and some by industrial and union leaders. Industrialists who have the responsibility of maintaining employment and a responsibility to the owner of their businesses, and certainly leading union officials such as Mr Hawke, have found it necessary in the first Labor Budget to be critical and to say that some actions which the Government has taken are certainly not viewed with favour by those who are responsible to both unionists and business. I believe that the general public just does not comprehend the calamity to industry and to the average citizen which is about to occur. In the present economic situation as far as the public is concerned there is a high level of income within private industry. Within business generally there is a high level of turnover. Primary industries are experiencing the highest returns for many years. Labor cannot take pride in one facet of this. There has been an enormous increase in the overseas returns from wool, dairy products, wheat, meat, etc. Of course, we know that those products are the basis of the new income to this country by which the cities are sustained and by which the standard of living is increased for the average individual. But this Budget displays the first instance of socialist control. It is in that area where we see a change.
I acknowledge that this Government was placed in a position of power so that it could say that it had a mandate in some areas to pursue a socialist philosophy. I believe that pursuing this philosophy will be of great disadvantage to us in the very near future. The Budget proposes an expenditure of some $12,168m of taxpayers’ money. It is the highest Budget expenditure that we have ever seen in this country. While it is stated in terms of depreciated currency it is still a particularly high figure and it requires a great level of responsibility in its expenditure. For 20 years Labor has criticised the economic activity of previous governments. The then Opposition pinpointed excessive expenditure. It drew attention to the fault in the levels of pensions and at stages to what it thought were faults in the level of government integrity. Compared with this, Labor, in its first 8 months of office, has been very recreant to its trust to a degree which can be described only as deplorable. I recall to the Senate some of the actions which have taken place. The last honourable senator who spoke praised the present Government because no promise was broken and because it has pursued a wonderful policy in the interests of the Australian people. Some of the actions taken by the Government may be acceptable to Labor, and to the Ministers, and they may be what we have to expect under this Government, but they are certainly not actions which I support.
When Labor came into office it immediately proliferated to an enormous extent the expense of the Federal Government. It immediately moved up departments, as we han seen, such as the Department of the Environment and Conservation. Advertisements were placed for hundreds of staff at most excessive figures for the leading men. The Government has attempted to attract into the Public Service people of the calibre to lead these departments. It is interesting to note that this Labor Government cannot carry out its program without greatly extending the direct ongoing cost to the community. I believe that in many areas the Labor Government is demonstrating how wasteful and extravagant it can be in the proliferation of government expenditure. The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) talks about tall poppies, but at the same time other Ministers are advertising for staff and offering $25,000 and $30,000 a year. I noted with interest that none of these Minister suggested to the Parliament that they themselves were tall poppies on very high salaries or that perhaps their use of Commonwealth cars and aeroplanes, or their extra allowances and other Government perks, could perhaps be shared by their fellow backbenchers.
What the Minister for Labour was suggesting to the heads of the Public Service - this is something with which I agree in the terms of Senator Wither’s amendment - certainly indicates a double standard. In relation to the hiring of staff by this Government - this is a most important area - we find that there is no check on the quality of the person employed. We know even that some Ministers employ ex-criminals. I do not disagree with this philosophy. Indeed, I employ ex-criminals myself and I am very proud to be able to do it. But one Minister employed an ex-criminal in a department that was handing out $300m in contracts every year. How recreant the Labor Party is in its trust when it goes that far. Undoubtedly it believes that it is quite all right to do such a thing, and perhaps the public must accept that that is so.
But one thing I do abhor is Ministers hiring their relatives. Undoubtedly the Labor Government does not disagree with this philosophy. Ministers, in employing their relatives, I believe are showing to the Public Service an example which should not be followed. I do not believe that we should have a Public Service which gradually is built up into a hierarchy of relatives. But this is the type of thing which Labor is encouraging and I think it will be greatly to our disadvantage in future years. Indeed, at the present time in my own State of Victoria a Minister in the House of Representatives has relatives employed in particularly important offices, and ex-members of the Parliamentary Labor Party are employed in similar offices. It is very interesting to note that the great burden of Labor’s expenditure supposedly has gone towards assisting the municipalities in my State. I abhor the proposed method of doing this and I hope that the Australian public will realise that this is not the type of thing which ought to be proliferated.
I am proud that I belong to a Party that while in Government in past years at least did not have this attitude. We can hold up our heads in relation to that type of thing. 1 have noted also that there is provision for the granting of funds to bodies and individuals who are conducive to Labor Party philosophy. As has been mentioned in answer to questions, this type of thing has occurred in relation to support for the arts, which to me is a most disagreeable thing. I have a question on the notice paper relating to Aboriginal affairs. Anybody in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs will tell honourable senators about the way-out individuals - this is not everyone, but in the main - radical bodies and those who have been anxious to support Labor philosophies who have received handouts. Of course, it will be very interesting to note what happens in the letting of contracts. I am terribly disappointed in the fact that Marrickville Holdings Ltd was able to establish itself in the Australian Capital Territory. This company had openly supported the Labor Party through the advertising firm of Hansen Rubensohn-McCann Erickson Pty Ltd, which was mentioned in the Parliament today.
Labor’s great philosophy is that we must support Australian industry. What won Labor office was its promotion by an expert American publicity company that was able to push the ideal of one vote one value, the slogans Don’t blame me’ and ‘It’s time’, and all the other gimmicks that caught up the people. Marrickville Holdings was the company which gained the support of Mr Enderby against all other companies. No quotations were sought. He just said: ‘Marrickville, you establish yourself in the Australian Capital Territory. We will see that you get a quota of production’. I abhor that sort of thing, but undoubtedly it is the type of philosophy that our socialist friends wish to pursue.
– What about Mr Myer’s donation to the Party’s fund?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown) - Order! I think Senator Webster is able to make his own speech without any assistance from Senator Little.
– I do not believe that it is the appropriate time to be speaking of encouragement to exporters and creating greater competition for our local industries. I think that Labor should be devoted to the support and retention of work in our own Australian indigenous companies. But by its actions of cutting tariffs by 25 per cent it is driving the boot industry out of business and driving the rag trade out of business. It will not be very long before Mr Hawke and indeed Dr Cairns are supporting those who have lost their jobs with government money, purely because the Labor Party has attempted to crush Australian indigenous industries.
One could go on for a long time about this matter of the double standards that the Government has demonstrated in relation to multi-national corporations. I have no respect for multi-national corporations which are able to corner the market in a country and thereby are in a position to direct its overseas exports policy or able to direct prices in that country. But Australia would not be the country that it is today if we had not had money flowing in from overseas. There have been some very wonderful overseas employers of Australian labour. There have been some very wonderful overseas companies, including those engaged in the car industry, which, Mr Acting Deputy President, have paid 50 per cent of their profits to support you and I in this country. I do not know why we should be criticising them at this time. Obviously it is having the effect of chasing them out of the country. Again it is a demonstration of class division. Perhaps this is one of the outstanding things which I see arising under Labor, whether it is in relation to its education policy or in relation to the tall poppies in the Public Service. One of the things that Labor proclaimed that it would not do was have class distinction in the community, but its socialist philosophy is leading the country directly into that situation. I believe this to be the aim of this socialist Government and that it will have the effect of bringing disrepute to the Federal Government from people overseas and certainly from Australians themselves.
I mentioned previously some of the advice given by the Coombs task force in this excellent book ‘Review of the Continuing Expenditure Policies of the Previous Government June 1973’. This advice has been followed in very many areas. It is a most interesting document and one which was put out in a very short time by a very expert committee. Some of the comments made in the book are quite stupid in the practical sense, so far as I see them, although they have a wonderful basis of theory. But that demonstrates the kind of advice that may be followed by this Government. The Coombs report mentions the withdrawal of industrial support, the withdrawal of subsidies, as was mentioned yesterday, and the withdrawal from the construction of water conservation schemes for this country. There was a discussion in this Senate the other evening about whether the Dartmouth project or some other water storage scheme should be proceeded with. When it comes to water storage in this very dry country, it is my philosophy - indeed, I may be proved to be right one day - that in actual fact it is better to spend money on water schemes than on education, because those who may be very well educated in future years may find that they have not sufficient food or water to serve their needs within the Australian community. The comment which the Treasurer makes on page 2 of his Budget Speech indicates something of Labor’s socialist philosophy when he says that government control from Canberra will be the best thing. In stating his budgetary objectives the Treasurer says:
In Australia today we are much better at selling cars than providing decent public transport services; much better at building houses than providing sewerage services for them. I could go on . . .
I think the Treasurer could go on. What he could have done there was pinpoint the fact that private industry is very well able to cope with selling cars; it is very well able to cope with the manufacture of cars; it is very well able to cope with the building of houses; but by bad luck, in the field of providing public transport and the necessary sewerage services, the Government administration just cannot keep up. I suggest that within a number of years we might find that this Government will do as some of the other socialist and communist governments of the world are doing, and that is turning more and more to taking advantage of the private initiatives that are inbuilt in the people. In Australia we have the greatest group of people with private initiative who possibly would be able to drive this country to become the greatest country in the world, but this country will be downgraded by the Labor Government in a very few years.
The most important matter in the Budget that should be faced at the present time is inflation. Although the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has proposed that a prices and incomes policy is the only thing that is required in this community at the present time, it is my view that other things should be done. Although the inflationary trend under the previous Government increased by an average of 3i per cent over the last 10 years we have seen, in the last 9 months, the rate of inflation increase to the extent that this year I predict we will have ongoing inflation approaching 10 to 12 per cent.
Of course, the damage that is done by inflation is not done to the moneyed man, the man who holds land or assets; it is done to the small man, the man who is on a fixed income. His money is depreciated. It affects the salary earners in the community, the pensioners, the unemployed and the dependent single parents in the community. This Government proliferated its expenditure. Immediately on assuming office it granted an extra week’s annual leave in the Public Service and it spoke of a 35-hour week, maternity leave and paternity leave and a lot of other benefits. They are wonderful things to be achieved in the community, but they presented to the general private sector of industry the great threat that unless large companies had the ability to meet these demands immediately they come to the companies would find themselves running out of business and they would be recreant to those who owned the companies.
I turn to the matter of housing because I am involved in housing. The thing that has accelerated housing prices today is purely the actions of this Labor Government.
– What rubbish.
– If Senator Gietzelt had any nous or understood what was happening in the community he would know what has taken place within the building industry. Labor wished greatly to accelerate the volume of home building but we do not have the resources in the community to meet that accelerated activity. There has been a demand on timber, bricks, steel and every other product that is used in housing. Companies such as those which I direct were unable to cope with the hard buying in which they were able to engage originally with the suppliers. They lost the ability to demand discounts. They had to sell goods at a higher figure and there has been an enormous escalation of at least 15 per cent in the cost of building products. It is the private home owner who is feeling the disadvantage of this position which has been created perhaps by trying to meet the best wishes of a socialist government, but this socialist government does not know what it is doing. That is the situation which this Government has created in the building industry at the present time.
Another important heading which this Budget proclaims is defence. We see a drop in defence expenditure. Indeed, defence expenditure will be 33 per cent less than that proposed by Mr Whitlam when he was out on the hustings trying to get himself into office. I think that it is disastrous to Australia to scale down the Army, the Navy and the Air Force - indeed, our defence services. But I think that this attitude would be consistent with the attitude of those who wish to endear themselves to the communist countries, and one cannot deny that this is what this Labor Party has done. It has become subservient to the demands of every’ communist bloc in the world.
I come to the matter of education. I think that the Government is to be complimented on the fact that it has been able to increase expenditure on education by $400m. This will make a great impact on education. Although the Government is making a greater amount of money available for education and declaring that it will abolish fees in the tertiary area, what it has done is to show a complete disregard for the inflationary costs that are being appended to private schools. We have debated in this chamber the question of the disaster which is being brought to bear on the community by a Government which is attempting to bring about class distinction, which it will do by denying to those schools which are supposed to be wealthy the right to receive any financial support. Promises have been broken all the way and this is one of them.
Turning to pensions, I suggest that this is the greatest disaster that we have seen. The Government promised that it would increase the pension to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. But we find that with the cost of living rising by more than 6 per cent, the increases in pensions granted by Labor will never bring pensions up to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. We have seen what has happened in the last 2 quarters while Labor has been in office. The cost of living increased by 2.1 per cent in the March quarter and by 3.3 per cent in the June quarter. The time is coming when honourable senators will have to work out the disaster that in actual fact is happening. It must be remembered that in the last year in which the previous Government was in office the cost of living increased by 6 per cent and there was an appropriate 17 per cent increase in the single rate pension. That was a genuine benefit to the pensioner.
Surely the greatest fault has occurred in relation to primary industry. I believe that the dairying industry has been harder hit than any other industry in our community. There has been a reduction in the cheese and butter bounty, a reduction in the processed milk products bounty, the imposition of a meat export charge, a further levy for tuberculosis and brucelosis testing, cancellation of the accelerated depreciation allowances which former governments had introduced, cancellation of the right to deduct expenses for fencing, putting in dams and renewing silos and cancellation of the investment allowance which encouraged farmers who may have been in some difficulty to move into new areas of equipment.
There has been the increase in the rate of taxation on private companies which have been built up and which are the basis of ownership within the community. This is one of the greatest disasters that we have seen. Now that the Treasurer (Mr Crean) has accepted the proposition of equating the rate of private company tax with the rate of public company tax, I appeal to him to eliminate the very harmful undistributed profits tax that applies only to private industry. I plead with him to do that. Small companies are able to reserve the benefits of their labours during the year, but if they have to pay 50 per cent undistributed profits tax after paying 471- per cent primary tax, it will be disastrous to the families and to the small companies which are manufacturing in the community.
I wonder whether anyone has noted the disaster that has happened in the field of postal charges. Here is an area in which the Government - and I asked Senator Murphy a question about this today - is attempting to cheat on the changeover to the metric system. It is raising its charges in the course of conversion to the metric system. I do not blame the Postal Department, I blame the Government for this. On the changeover to the metric system the Government will cheat the public by increasing charges by 30 per cent. I draw the Senate’s attention to that fact. I refer to one item. A person living in the country would be paying a postage rate of 9c on today’s ‘Age*. The rate is 5.1c for the Weekly Times’. Within 3 months the rate will be 11.5c, and by March next year it will be 15c. One can follow through and refer to the escalation in costs for every postal article to the average person in the community. With this escalation in postage rates the average person who wishes to use the services of this one Government department will have to bear the heaviest burden that has ever been placed on the community by any authority. I agree with the comments made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). I am of the view, as stated in the amendment:
But the Senate is of the opinion that the Government has failed to honour its election promises in respect of defence, per capita grants to independent schools, pensioners, company taxation, the revision of taxation burdens, the home owner, its claim to come to government with malice towards none and its subsequent unfair discrimination against the rural community and its disregard of inflationary pressures and that this budget therefore deserves condemnation in the Senate as the budget of a government that has exposed itself as a government of double standards.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– lt is rather surprising to hear Opposition senators, who are not yet used to being the Opposition, talk about the great charges which the Labor Party has placed upon the community. Of course, as everybody knows, in the days when they were in government every budget contained increased costs for fuel and postal charges and there was no attempt as this Government has made to cope with prices. Apart from the State Labor governments, the Labor Government is the only government that has attempted to do something about prices. We have established a parliamentary committee and also a tribunal will be established. The Australian Labor Party is the only Federal political party that has attempted to tackle these sorts of problems. Of course, we are members of a welfare party. As members of a party we decided that because of the promises we made to the electorate we should arrange the Budget in a concept that would restore to the Australian people the welfare standards that have been eroded by many years of the Liberal-Country Party governments. Everybody knows about that erosion and the promises which were made by the previous goverments but which were never kept. But the Labor Party has kept its promises.
I refer to the Budget papers which have been circulated to all honourable senators and to some of the increases which the Labor Government has provided as set out in those papers. I wish to reply to the attack that has been made on the Labor Party’s defence vote. The criticism of the defence vote amazes me. There has been a massive increase in expenditure for servicemen and people who have retired from the defence area. The Labor Party considered that those obligations should be the first to be met. Because of the need to meet those obligations, there has been some slowing down in the operation of the Services. The Labor Government accepted the advice of its defence experts. I point out that those defence experts are not only the advisers to the Labor Government; they are the same defence experts who were advisers to previous governments. Those experts and the experts from the Department of Foreign Affairs tell us that we should have a comparatively peaceful period in the next 15 years. The Labor Government decided that during that period it should meet its welfare obligations to the Services. These include massive increases in expenditure, such as the pay increases which have been granted to servicemen since we have been in Government. With the introduction of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits scheme, they have cost the Government approximately $l00m.
I refer also to the bonuses for servicemen who want to re-enlist. In the first 12 months they will cost the Government about $2,500,000 and so far this year have cost about $500,000. They represent massive, increases for serving members of the forces who, for too long, have been left out on a limb. Do not honourable senators remember that the last Federal Government, the McMahon Government, decided not to accept the report of the Joint Parliamentary Select Committee on the Defence Forces Retirement Benefit Legislation? Mr Barnard, who was then the shadow Minister for Defence, said that a Labor government would accept the report and put it into operation. Not only did we do this, but also we improved upon the proposition. So we started off on the basis that in relation to the defence Services at this time and in the present international context we should do something to ensure that Australia was defended by a professional and well equipped army. We have done that. It is well known that although Liberal-Country Party governments have said year after yearthat it was never possible to raise a volunteer army, our enlistment figures have been very favourable and show that we have been highly successful. We have proved that without recruiting and without conscripting national servicemen we can in fact have this volunteer army.
We have done away with conscription. To do so was Labor Party policy. Even before the Cabinet was constituted as a combination of Ministers, Mr Whitlam and Mr Barnard acted together as an interim cabinet to make sure that the conscripts within the Government forces were the first to be released. So it can be seen that the Labor Party kept its promises. In addition to that, we have other large obligations to members of the Services. The Labor Party promised to set up an ombudsman for the first time. We have looked at the position in the context of the development in the western world where servicemen now have not only new obligations but also a new role and new rights. The Labor Government has said that it will appoint an ombudsman and we are about to do this. Of course, these large improvements for the defence forces have been welcomed, not only by the soldiers but also by the exservicemen’s organisations. It seems to me to be trivial for Opposition speakers to talk about cuts in the defence forces and to talk about some officers in the manner that you might talk about some category of wage employee who might not get the sort of increase that he ought to have received. Those increases to which I have referred amount to $60m in one regard and almost $80m in another regard. Nobody can tell me that when the Government is handing out increases of this kind the lot of exservicemen is not improved.
Let me now deal with the back-up people, the repatriation people whom we were talking about this afternoon. For the first time in the history of any government, this Labor Government has met what the exservicemen’s organisations have been asking governments to do for 15 or 20 years. I remind you, Mr Acting Deputy President the forthcoming legislation in respect of repatriation will provide what those organisations have asked for for years, that is, free hospitalisation for the veterans. Do honourable senators remember when the Labor Party moved in the Senate to have this introduced? We won because a sufficient number of senators voted for the proposal. The Bill was sent across to the other place where it was killed by the Liberal Government. It introduced a new Bill. So whatever expressions of opinion the Senate might have, however strong the Senate might have been in those days, it was unsuccessful under the previous Liberal Government in obtaining what the Labor Government now proposes. As is well known, the Labor Government has made great progress in the repatriation field. That great progress which we promised has been rewarded with the plaudits of the people who represent ex-servicemen.
Under the Bills concerning repatriation, in the last year we have spent approximately $27m. Our commitments at the present time are approximately of the same order. We are doing other things in addition to these welfare matters of increasing pensions and providing other facilities. I refer to what has been welcomed greatly by the community, namely, making sure that the repatriation artificial limb centres may be used by members of the community. After the legislation concerning this matter has passed through the Parliament, any person will be able to go into a repatriation limb appliance centre and obtain free treatment and free appliances fitted by people who are the most adept and the most experienced in this field, ls that not a great welfare service not only for ex-service people but also for other persons in the community? As will be known, in addition, during the last few months, even though this legislation has not been passed, whatever spare bed capacity has been available in repatriation hospitals has been opened up on a priority basis to exservicemen who might not have had a disability entitlement. Such facilities have been made available to the families of ex-servicemen and to civilians also. We have done that for 2 reasons. Firstly, we have done it because we think this is good in view of the policies we have proposed. Secondly, it is good for the teaching and experience of the people in the Repatriation Department.
I wish to outline what the Labor Government has done and compare the figures of expenditure by this Government with the figures of expenditure by the previous Government, in 1970-71 an amount of $ 1,097m was spent on the defence vote. In 1971-72 an amount of $1,1 64m was spent on defence. In 1972-73 the amount was $ 1,233m. In 1973- 74 - this is the first year of the new Labor Government - an amount of $ 1,266m was spent on defence. This represents ar increase in expenditure of 32.5 per cent. In 1970-71, $296m was voted for education. In 1971-72, $346m was appropriated. In 1972-73 the vote was $439m. In this first year of our Government, $843m has been voted, an increase of $404m in the education field. Yet people say that the Labor Government is not worried about education.
I refer now to health. I said earlier that the Labor Party is trying to catch up with and meet the needs of the health sector and the welfare sector of the community. In 1970-71, $559m was voted for health. In 1971-72 the amount was $687m. In 1972-73 the vote was $783m. This year $978.9m has been voted. That is an increased expenditure in the health field of $195.7m. In the social security area, which includes repatriation, there was an increase of $339m. The appropriation has increased from $l,378m in 1970-71 to $2,439m this year. As one studies the list one sees that the outlays follow an upward pattern. Who would say that we are not keeping faith with the electorate with respect to our promises? That is the score. That is what we are doing. In respect of our welfare promises and defence obligations we are confident that we are doing what the people wish us to do in this period. There will be no dropping back on the question of responsibility for defence capability. Defence experts ought to support what we have tried to do in our period in government.
Earlier today, we heard criticism of what the Leader of the Government, the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, has been doing overseas. A few minutes ago Senator Webster, who has now left the chamber, talked about a Government that was more sympathetic to the communist side than to what he called the non-communist side. Anyone studying the record of Mr Whitlam’s visits overseas will find that almost every newspaper in Australia applauded Mr Whitlam for his appearances overseas. The newspapers saw Mr Whitlam emerging as a new sort of leader. May I remind the Senate of what I have often stated in this House. For many years the last Government was subservient to the great powers. The attitude of that government was different from that of Australian Governments in the old days. If one looks around the walls of this building one will see a portrait of Billy Hughes who was a great Australian. During the First World War Billy Hughes was not ashamed to go to the Imperial Conference and to stake a claim for Australia, showing a new form of nationalism. But we have not seen that sort of stance taken since Billy Hughes was in power. We have had a return to that approach only since Mr Whitlam became the Prime Minister of Australia and our country’s new leader.
I challenge anybody to quote to me any editorial in Australia that does not support the point of view that I am making. The Australian’ of 1 August stated:
For what Mr Whitlam’s Washington visit and the warmth of his reception by the U.S. Administration demonstrates, above all else, is that there were never any reasons other than the injudicious statements by a few ministers to believe that the new independent foreign policy would rupture the relationship with America.
Mr Whitlam has done well to establish so clearly an independent but friendly association between the two countries, which must surely be the right one for Australia to pursue at present.
Overall, he appears to have made about the most impressive impact on Washington of any visiting Australian Prime Minister in memory; and perhaps one of the most useful visits.
The force of Mr Whitlam’s personality in those fresh surroundings has also reminded us of something which, in the heat of local disagreements and the midst of domestic familiarity, we tend to forget; that we now have - particularly in contrast wilh the run of both Australian and American politicians - a very impressive Prime Minister.
During question time today endeavours were made to make much of the so-called rupture of the relations between Lee Kuan Yew and our own Prime Minister. I remind the Senate that Lee Kuan Yew is a member of the Socialist International. ‘Socialist’ is that horrid word that we hear from some honourable senators on the other side. Lee Kuan Yew is a socialist. Mr Whitlam has attended conferences of the Socialist International at which he has met Lee Kuan Yew. What has Lee Kuan Yew said since he returned from his visit to the Commonwealth Conference? Are the contentions by our opponents true? What Lee Kuan Yew said is reported in the Canberra Times’ of 1 1 August. It states:
Mr Lee was asked what he did not like about Australia’s foreign policy given the apparent friction there had been at the conference between him and Mr Whitlam.
It’s not for me to like or dislike Australia’s foreign policy’, he said. ‘It’s for me to state my own position. I’m sorry if there is this impression of - did you say friction? I don’t remember rubbing, colliding with the Australian Prime Minister.
We did extend views which were not identical, and in fact, in certain respects quite opposite. He believes with Mr Trudeau, for instance, that detente between the great powers has made peace and security for everybody that much better, that much more likely.’
Lee Kuan Yew did not agree with our Prime Minister’s point of view on that matter. That is the difference between the Labor Party and the position adopted by Singapore. It is not for me to criticise that view. I think that Senator Willesee put the position quite correctly when answering a question this morning. He said that this Government sees hope in the new relationships between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. As everybody knows, these new relationships have been developing and cementing for many years.
I went to Germany in 1968 and met its leaders, including Willie Brandt who was then an outstanding figure and is now even more so. In those years there were new relationships between the United States of America, Germany and the Soviet Union. I think that detente is growing. We realise that against the background of the Vietnam conflict there is also a new relationship, which arises from Dr Kissinger’s activities, between the United States and China. We have in this Senate a group of people who see nothing good about hose developments. We are a socialist party. Our policy is to promote a new awareness of the need for Australian intervention and independence. I believe that what has been reported and the sorts of statements to which
I have referred indicate that our Prime Minister has done exactly that. There is no cause for honourable members opposite to attempt to discredit him.
As a matter of fact the United States of America - the country on which they have relied for so long - is a country of which I am a friend. I do not wish to be quoted as being antagonistic to it. Great domestic forces operate there. I have had the pleasure of visiting the United States on several occasions. I know that the majority of Australian people welcome the sort of strong and independent role which the Australian Labor Party is now assuming with respect to the United States of America. The old days of Australian subservience to any policy which might have been acceptable to those in command of the Pentagon is now dead.
In concluding my remarks on this subject, may I point out what Mr Marshall Green, the United States Ambassador in Australia, said. His prestige throughout the world is great and he is probably the most successful ambassador to Australia whom America could have produced. The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of
I I August reports:
Mr Whitlam’s visit to the United States had been a success, Mr Marshall Green, the United States Ambassador to Australia said yesterday. Australia has come of age since the days it had moved in lock-step with the United States during the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson, he said. The United States, and Australia, shared 3 particular interests.
Mr Marshal Green then referred to those particular interests. The present position is that Australia has a great man as leader of its newly elected government. Unfortunately, at present the Senate is frustrating some of the programs of the Labor Government.
– No. Look at the record of the previous session.
– Let me mention some of the programs. I know them better than Senator Davidson does because I have to watch them.
– Why not have a double dissolution? We have given you the opportunity.
– I want to give some il’ustrations to Senator Jessop.
– You are not game to have a go.
– Senator Jessop always interrupts. Every time I talk he interrupts me to stop me from putting what I know to be the facts. What I was saying was that in some areas the Senate was frustrating the work of the Labor Government. The first area which I wish to mention is the Senate’s action in respect to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. As Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence and Acting Minister for Labour on occasions, I have found that some of the provisions in that Bill would have succeeded in resolving successfully the differences in respect to the Moore v. Doyle argument. The disputes could have been resolved if the Senate had passed that legislation. Instead the Government has had to ask the people who have the necessary skills to do the job of trying to solve the disputes. I refer to people such as Harold Souter and Bob Hawke of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Every time that we get a dispute such as the one concerning the Federal Branch of the Transport Workers Union we cannot do anything under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. We have to rely upon the good offices of skilled arbitrators in the ACTU such as Harold Souter and Bob Hawke to settle these disputes. Honourable senators opposite were the ones who held up the legislation.
– You did not give us time to debate it.
– Yes, we did.
– You gagged it.
– It was not I who did not give you time. Honourable senators opposite did the same thing in respect of the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill. They did not propose any amendments, but they cut the debate short because they had the numbers. As former Senator Pat Kennelly said, the people with the numbers have the power, but the power ought to be mitigated by good sense. So I say that honourable senators opposite have done badly by exercising that power and by criticising our leadership and our policies. I think that I have destroyed completely the arguments which have been put tonight. In respect to defence, repatriation, welfare or education, no government has the record that we have up to now. May I repeat the figures in respect of education so that honourable senators opposite will not forget them? This financial year there will be an increased expenditure of $404m on education, an increase of 92 per cent. Government schools under the McMahon Government, for the 2-year period from 1971 to 1973, were allotted $40.5m. Under Labor, in 2 years they will be allotted $495m. How do honourable senators opposite answer that - $40. 5m against $495m? That is 12 times as much. Non-government schools under the McMahon Government, for the 2-year period from 1971 to 1973, were allotted $71. 5m. Under Labor, in 2 years they will be allotted $121m. These figures give only an outline of the propositions which have been put forward by the Labor Government.
Our Ministers are presently working on plans and methods to buy back Australia. To me, that is a great slogan. Under Liberal governments the years went, and bit by bit our country was being taken over by foreign owners. The position today is so serious that it needs drastic action. 1 conclude by saying that we intend to take whatever action is possible to make sure that Australians own Australia. Of course we have an Australian outlook. Of course we are a welfare-pointed government. We intend to discharge our duties in that respect. Labor has bought down a fine Budget. It will be supported by the people, and we will be in government for many years.
– This Budget is a most unsatisfactory one. It is unsatisfactory because it was presented by a Treasurer who was the prisoner of promises that had been made by his Leader, Mr Whitlam. Mr Whitlam made promises to win an election, without regard to the possible effect on the country’s economy. That is the principal reason why this Budget is unsatisfactory. I have respect for Mr Crean. He is a man of great sincerity and a man who has given a great deal of time to pledging himself to deal with his country’s economic problems. Even Mr Crean has been unable to conceal the fact that if he had had his way this Budget would have been a very different one. I believe that he was overruled on a number of the decisions which were made and that, if the Government had taken more account of his views and the views which the Treasury has indicated in a paper which it has issued, md which expressed grave concern about the trend of the economy under the Labor Government’s Budget, we would have had a very different Budget and one which would have at least made a proper effort to cope with tha inflation spiral.
To show the difference between what Mr Crean would have liked and what was forced on him by his Leader’s pre-election promises, let us look at the question of income tax. In my view, it is the fairest method of taxation. I have always been biased in favour of income tax and opposed to indirect taxation. At present, in order to find the money to cope with the lavish promises which were made by his Leader, Mr Crean is forbidden from implementing increases in income tax, which would have been fairer, and has had to resort to indirect taxation. In my view, it is a most unfair form of taxation because, to a large degree, it places almost the same burden on the poor man as it places upon the man of wealth. I think I would agree with Mr Crean’s statement that if he gets the opportunity in future he will direct his attention to the field of direct taxation rather than to the field of indirect taxation which is promoting inflation and. which is so unfair to the poorer people in the community.
It was interesting to note that when the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, who was taking a few hours off from his duties as company director, was asked what he thought about this Budget he declared that in his opinion the blot upon the Budget was the fact that it resorted to indirect taxation which pressed heavily on the workers and was unfair to the workers. I agree with Mr Hawke, who was merely expressing an obvious opinion and one that should have come from a .trade union leader. I think that it is significant that the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party brands this Budget as unsatisfactory n that respect because, he said, it should not impose indirect taxation on the people to the extent that it did. If taxation had to be raised obviously it should have been raised by the fairer and direct method.
The biggest objection to this Budget is that the Treasurer has not been allowed to implement obvious measures which are necessary to cope with inflation. The rate of inflation is 13 per cent or 14 per cent. Predictions are being made freely that it will increase. The paper which the Treasury issued recently in regard to trends in the economy leads one to only one conclusion, and that is that the Treasury believes that this Budget will bring about an increase in inflation. We know what inflation does. It takes value out of the workers pay packet. The truest thing Ben Chifley ever said was: Tt is not the number of pounds in your pay packet that counts, it is what you can buy with it’. Today under this heavily increasing inflation the worker is finding that value is being taken out of his pay packet. Every now and again one reads in newspapers that a particular increase has been granted or enforced. But what does it mean? It means that as a result of the inflation that has occurred since the Labor Government took office every increase the worker gets is rapidly taken from him. People on fixed incomes are, of course, the worst off of all; they have fixed incomes from investments but those investments are losing value almost every day. The person on the fixed income who a few years ago considered himself or herself as having reasonable resources threatens to become the new poor. Consider insurance policies. People who years ago paid for insurance in pounds that were worth something - or who paid for insurance even a year or two ago in dollars that were worth something - find that when their claims come to be paid they will receive payment in debased currency, currency which has lost value under the Labor Government and which is losing value to the extent of 14 per cent. Consider the cost of homes. A newspaper published today contained a statement by a Melbourne estate agent that in some areas the cost of a block of land is going up by $200 a week. What is the Government going to do about that? There are obvious measures.
– What is Hamer doing about it? What is the Victorian Government doing about it?
– It is a Federal Budget which we are considering. If the honourable senator wants a debate on Hamer he should ask his representatives in the Victorian Parliament to launch it. They do not seem to be dealing too well with Hamer at the moment. Consider the price of homes, the sum which young people have to pay as a deposit for a home and the heavy burden of loan money which they must impose upon themselves and their families as inflation increases daily the prices of homes and land. Consider prices generally. Prices are going up every day - and what do we get from the Government? Only pious platitudes and a statement that it is instituting tribunals to examine prices. Why does this Government not do the right thing and admit straight out that it does not have the constitutional power to control prices? And why does not this Government on the next suitable occasion seek Federal powers to control prices in this country? If it is game to do so, I will support it. I say once again to the Government that if it wants to control prices then the only solution is to hold a Federal referendum at which it should ask the people to give it the power to control prices instead of doing what it is doing at present.
– Will the Democratic Labor Party support it?
– I will support it. I say that what the Government says it has done to control prices is complete nonsense. It knows perfectly well that it has only set up a smokescreen before the people; it knows perfectly well that this has not had the slightest effect except one which was that as soon as many of the business firms heard of the intention of the Government to institute this tribunal to examine prices, they all rushed round and put up their prices in anticipation of what that tribunal would do. The biggest upsurge in prices this year came as soon as the Government announced that it intended to bring down legislation for the purpose of examining price increases. The Government should have the sense to admit that it does not have constitutional power to control prices. The only hope the Government has of controlling prices is not to set up these boards or tribunals, which are only a smokescreen, but to implement sound economic policies. That is the way it will control prices.
The Government tied the hands of the Treasurer and said to him: ‘Look, you cannot bring in a deflationary budget because we have promised all kinds of things; we have promised to spend money left, right and centre’. Therefore the Government told the Treasurer: ‘It cannot be a deflationary budget’. Then it told the Treasurer that nothing could be done about income tax. It told him all sorts of other things that he could not do owing to the promises made by his leader to get into power. While that is the situation, one cannot expect to see any effective action in this country to deal with inflation.
One thing the Government did, of course, was to bring Dr Coombs into the field. He has what is called a task force. I had thought this was an anti-militaristic Government but it has established a task force under Dr Coombs. I could not imagine anything more embarrassing for a Treasurer who is trying to handle the affairs of his country than to have this particular gentleman - who is of great ability, no doubt - imposed on him for the purpose of determining where certain savings can be made and where certain moneys should be spent. I think that Mr Crean and the representatives of the Treasury were quite capable of doing the job just as it had been done under government for years past. I do not see why we should have had this particular body prying into every nook and corner, suggesting ‘You can screw a few bob here and a few bob there’. While it has been endeavouring to get a few bob out of a corner here and a few bob there, Ministers have been competing for the number of millions they can spend on projects many of which are of very doubtful value to the community. We have at the moment a Cabinet of jubilee plungers. Every Minister seems to be attempting to set up a bigger and bigger empire; every Minister seems to think it is necessary for him to display himself abroad. When the Ministers have gone abroad - in a few cases I am prepared to accept that the entourage they took was reasonable - it seems that the only limit they were prepared to make to the numbers they would take on their trips abroad lay in the capacity of the accommodation for them. I think that while allowing for the starry-eyed atmosphere which surrounded Ministers when they first took office it is time that they settled down and concluded that governments abroad are not hungering to see every one of them. It is time that they settled down and realised that the finances of the country are not a bottomless pit - and it is time that some discipline was instituted in the Cabinet. It is time that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) stayed home a bit longer and said to many of them: ‘You had better stop wheeling up project after project to spend more money. You have to be reasonable about these things. There must be discipline’. Instead of every Minister saying: ‘I am going to have this, this and this’, the Prime Minister ought to sit down with the Treasurer and tell them they have to take their turn.
One area in which I think the effects of the Budget will be extremely miserable is that of the schools which are to be deprived of per capita payments. I have dealt with this elsewhere and I do not propose to spend much time on it except to say that when one considers the millions of dollars that are being lavished in other directions it would not have taken much for the Government tb have decided it would carry out Mr Whitlam’s promise that no aid being given before the election would be ended. He made that promise in Melbourne’s Festival Hall - I heard him - and he lapped up the applause that he got for it. Now, for the sake of a few millions he or his Government proposes to break his word. Before leaving the subject I again appeal to him by saying that, because of what he promised, he should continue the per capita payments as they are now to every school. In regard to additional money he has the right to claim a mandate to proceed on a needs basis.
I cannot understand why 105 schools should be deprived of this money when the Prime Minister is prepared to spend millions and millions of dollars on free education for university and tertiary institution students. When I heard today of the disgraceful manner in which students at one of our Victorian universities had rabbled and ill-treated the ambassador of a friendly country who had come to address them, and when I learned how those ignorant yahoos had broken every principle of freedom of speech and expression, I said to myself: ‘There ought not to be free university education for people of that type’. Anyone who reads the reports of the universities throughout Australia will find in them the clear statement that there are thousands of students attending universities these days who will not complete even their first year.
Before the Government says that it will spend without limit and that it will make university education free to everybody who wants to go to a university, I think it should say to the universities: ‘You have to establish a method of examining these people to see who is fit for entry to a university and who is not’. I have sat on Senate committees of inquiry into education which have had astonishing, appalling figures offered to them of the degree to which people who go to universities, in many cases at the Government’s expense and last at them for only the briefest of periods. In some courses 50 per cent of the students do not last even to the end of the first year. I think the Government is guilty of reckless extravagance when it makes an elaborate gesture and says: ‘We will make university education completely free’ - particularly when the records indicate that the money which it is going to spend on a large number of these people is going to be poured down the drain. I believe that the universities of this country should be called upon to institute some system of examination of prospective students - ‘based on school records, if you like, but also based on a psychological examination and other forms of entry examination - to ensure that the Government will not be lavishing upon university education millions of dollars that could be well spent in other directions.
I repeat that I cannot understand why a few million dollars should be taken away from 105 schools at the same time as the Government is opening up its coffers and throwing millions and millions of dollars to university students. I believe that students who are qualified and who are the right type ought to be given every possible assistance to attend a university, but I do not believe in assistance being given to people who are obviously not fit to go to a university, who never should have gone to one, who pull out before the end of the first year and who in many cases because they cannot cope with the courses they have undertaken resort to the kind of hooliganism that was practised today on the ambassador of a friendly nation.
This Budget is not the kind of Budget on which the Government should go to the people. I know that today the Opposition has facilitated the wish of the Government to be in a position to be able to call for a double dissolution. Why would it not do so? One has only to talk to people throughout the community to ascertain that the Government has offended many sectors of the community. Firstly, it has offended the farmers. One would almost think from some of the things that are going to be done to the farmers that all of them have been rolling in wealth for years and that they are still rolling in wealth. Only about 2 or 2i years ago farmers were walking off their blocks, fruit growers were pulling up their trees and sheep farmers were losing their holdings because they could not get credit and were so much in debt. Farmers came to me and confessed that they had reached the stage where they had had to borrow money at 14 per cent interest in order to try to keep things going. They wanted to know what could be done to assist them. People who have owned their properties for years may be in a good position, but one has to take into consideration the fact that there are large numbers of farmers who are buying their properties and who are financing themselves on credit.
I am shocked at the attitude that I have heard expressed in some Government circles that all of the farmers who only a couple of years ago were in a desperate situation - we knew that they were in a desperate situation then because we debated’ their circumstances - are now so well off that we should take away from them the assistance which has been given to them over the years and which in my view has not been misused in 90 per cent or 95 per cent of the cases. I am appalled particularly at the suggestions which have been put forward by those people who talk about the 5 per cent or 10 per cent who may have misused their opportunities but who pay no regard to the 90 per cent or 95 per cent who have been decent, good farmers and who have also been - some people laugh at the idea - to a large extent the backbone of this country. They were the backbone of the industries which kept this country going before mining and other industries came to the fore.
As well as offending the farmers the Government has offended the young married couples by taking away the homes savings grant. It has also offended the manufacturers. Thousands and thousands of dollars were collected prior to the last House of Representatives election from manufacturers in my State of Victoria by a senior representative of the Australian Labor Party, who told them that if Labor got into office it would safeguard the tariff system. The manufacturers contributed thousands of dollars. An official of the Labor Party in my State said that the Labor Party had never before received so much money from the manufacturing industries. Dr Jim Cairns assured them that everything would be all right if Labor got into office. But what happened when Labor got into office? The Prime Minister said: T will be in charge of tariffs.’ Of course that enabled Jim Cairns to say: ‘I am very sorry, gentlemen, but it is not in my hands’. Honourable senators would be amazed at the sums of money the manufacturers gave to the Labor movement prior to 2 December last on the understanding that the tariff system would be looked after. As I said to them, their trouble was that they did not know it was loaded.
– You probably said to them that they should give it to the DLP next time.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown) - Order!
– The Government has also offended the migrants, particularly the East Europeans. The manner in which one group of East European migrants, the Croats, has been treated by the Government has been regarded by migrants as an indication of the true feeling of the Labor Party towards them. It will be of no use for the Labor Party at the next election to seek the votes of the East European migrants. The Government has offended the doctors. It has offended the motorist. It has offended the smoker. It has offended the newspapers. It has attacked the media.
– And it has frustrated the DLP.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
– In view of that list of people, groups and organisations which the Government has offended - the farmers, the manufacturers, the East European migrants, the doctors, the motorists, the smokers, the newspapers and the media - any talk about a double dissolution appeals to my sense of humour. If there were a double dissolution in the next fortnight the Government would not be able to get control of the Senate. No matter what happens in the next Parliament the DLP will have the balance of power in the Senate.
– You will be annihilated.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
– We had the balance of power when we had only 2 members of this chamber and we will have the balance of power irrespective of whether we have 2, 3, 4 or 5 members in the next Senate. So if the Government calls for a double dissolution-
– Who will the two be?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator McLaren, I have called you to order on at least 4 occasions in the last 10 minutes. If I have to do so again, I will have to consider your conduct with respect to the Standing Orders as being disorderly.
– If this Government goes to a double dissolution it cannot get a majority in the Senate, which would be the ostensible purpose of taking that action, and it will lose in the House of Represenatives. If it does that its Party will never forgive it. Finally, I want to make some references to the question of defence. This Government was so desperate to save money for extravagant adventures in other directions that it determined to do so by cutting down on defence. We have heard the statement made that it is able to do so because Australia has nothing to fear for 10 years. That is not an original statement. The Government took it from John Gorton. In the kind of world in which we live, how can anybody say that we have nothing to fear for 10 years? Does the Government propose to cut our defences to such a degree that we will be left open to a sudden and unexpected attack?
I remember that years ago a gentleman used to come to my office in the Melbourne Trades Hall once a week. It would have been in 1948 or 1949. His son had been a member of the Australian forces who went away after Japan entered the war, when so many Australians were sent away without equipment and without training. His son was one of those who were captured and taken to Ambon, where he was killed by the Japanese. This father came to me and said that he did not mind his son dying for his country but he objected to his son being called upon to die for his country when the people he was with were sent away almost without weapons with which to fight.
– That was under Menzies.
– Senator Gietzelt says that that was under the Menzies Government. Let us be honest. Before the Second World War broke out the Australian Labor Party was running organisations demanding the disarmament of Australia. Let us be honest about that point.
– What did Curtin suggest in 1938?
– Curtin said not so long before the 1939 War broke out that Australia had nothing to fear for years to come. We live in a world of violence. We were the luckiest people in the world that Sukarno was not able to hand Indonesia over to the communists when they attempted to take control. Fortunately that attempt was held off by General Nasution and General Suharto. I believe that in a world of violence we ought to retain adequate defences. We promised our allies in ANZUS that we would be as self-sufficient as we could be in weapons and that our defences would be adequate to give assistance in an emergency if we were called upon collectively.
What is happening with the Army? It will be cut to about 31,000 or 32,000 personnel, which will mean that we will have only about 5,000 people who will be able to bear arms. Mr Whitlam went to see President Nixon and, according to the Press, told him that Australia would not be isolationist. What can Australia be but isolationist when we will have only 5,000 troops capable of bearing arms, when this Government has decided that it will not buy the destroyers that were promised and when the Air Force will not get the aeroplanes that were promised? Why are the savings being made? They are being made because the Government made extravagant promises in other directions and, having made those promises, in order to get the money it needed it determined that the appropriate place to make cuts was in the defence field. During World I and Word War II we were lucky because we had Great Britain and other countries which could take the strain of the war for 6 to 12 months while we were training our troops and getting the equipment that, we did not have. But Great Britain has gone.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown)- -Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– Members of the Government Party derive a great deal of pleasure from being associated with the most progressive Budget presented to the Australian Parliament in the last 24 years. It represents but an instalment in the long range programming of the new Government, lt has been interesting to listen to speakers presenting the Opposition point of view, to compare what they have said with the speech made in the other place by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and to attempt to analyse the way in which the Opposition parties approach the society in which we live. Let us examine what the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Withers, said tonight. As Leader of the Opposition in the Senate he was entitled to speak for one hour. He did not avail himself of that right; he spoke for only half an hour. Only 2 journalists were sitting in the Press gallery. Obviously the Press had some indication of the lack of fire in the approach of the Opposition to the problems besetting the development of this country and its economic future.
Having listened to the speech that Mr Snedden made in the other place about the Budget, the Press recognised that the contributions that would be made in this place by Opposition speakers would be colourless, uninspiring and puerile. There is no other way in which we can describe the contributions of those who have opposed the Government’s Budget and have attempted, in their own inimitable style, to present an amendment to the Senate for its consideration. Perhaps the only positive thing in the debate to date has been the offer of the Deputy Leader of the Democratic Labor Party (Senator McManus) to support any action that the Commonwealth Government may take to control prices as it endeavours to handle the very complex problem of inflation that is besetting the Western world.
– I did not promise to support any action; I said that I would support a referendum to give the Commonwealth Government control.
– I think the Australian Labor Party got the message that Senator McManus personally agreed that the Commonwealth should have power to control prices. It is interesting to refer to what Mr Snedden had to say. The Press, in its analysis of the recent federal conference of the Liberal Party, was rather critical of the failure of that Party to grapple with current problems in contemporary politics. I think the only change that can be ascribed to the Liberal Party is its agreement to support an incomes and prices policy. Of course, the difficulty in which the Liberal Party finds itself is that it is in a somewhat contradictory position. For example, Mr Snedden says that inflation is harmful to the society and that it forces the poor to enrich the strong. He goes on to say that the Government has to take strong action and that to enable it to reach that objective it has to reduce public expenditure and allow the private sector to run unfettered,- On the other hand, on the next page of that speech Mr Snedden makes the point that if we are to tackle the serious problem of inflation we will have to have an incomes and prices policy. He suggested the holding of a national conference involving all sectors of the community. He went on to say that we would have to restrain incomes. He stated.
Incomes would need to include wages, profits, dividends and interest.
Contradicting himself he said that we would need to have the private sector unfettered in relation to the problem of inflation which besets our nation today. Of course, this is typical of the budgets which we have had from the Liberal and Country parties over many years. They have put on stopgap type policies and endeavoured to chop and change the economic direction of our country. Of course, now that the Labor Government is in office and bringing down its Budget the Liberal-Country Party finds it difficult to come up with any new thinking. 1 think that most Australian people would agree with the statement which was made by the Federal Treasurer (Mr Crean) when he presented his first Budget 8 days ago in the other place. He drew the attention of the Australian people to the program of the Government. I think it is worth reiterating that he drew attention to the fact that the Government was implementing energetically many of its election undertakings. He stated:
This Budget incorporates far more decisions than any previous budget. Its overriding theme is one of reform. It is designed both to clear the decks for progress in the years ahead and to ensure that in major areas of concern - social welfare, education, the quality of urban life - real forward moves are made immediately.
The Treasurer is saying that he is quite happy with the Budget. Here I have to challenge the conclusions which Senator McManus has made that the Treasurer is a dissatisfied person, not happy with the Budget. There is no evidence of this. Those of us who have spoken to the Treasurer can assure the Senate and the Australian people that in fact this Budget represents the decisions of the Treasurer and of the Cabinet. What we are endeavouring to do in this first instalment Budget of the new Labor Government is to change the priorities. Clearly this is what the Australian electors want. They voted this Government in because they recognised that there was a need for new policies. In that sense what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said in his election policy was that he was going to establish a much firmer and stronger public sector and put it in a primary position.
The purpose of this was to help the man in the street to improve the quality of life in urban areas, to improve the public transport, to reduce unemployment and to improve pensions, repatriation benefits and a whole variety of other matters which have been so clearly expressed in the Budget. We have taken the first very essential step to abolish the means test. No speaker in opposing this Budget or supporting the amendment has attempted to give any credit to the Government for this very historic decision - which is incorporated in this Budget - to take the first step towards abolition of the means test. It will abolish the means terst as it applies to people 75 years or over. Let us examine the criticisms which have been made by the forces of conservatism in this country. They ure critical of the fact that in this Budget the Commonwealth is spending an additional $7 89m in the current financial year. In the area of education it is spending an additional $404m. I find it somewhat pathetic to hear Opposition speakers criticise what the Government is doing in education. It has increased the amount which was made available by the previous Government. I give some credit to the previous Government because last year it did seek to increase the Budget expenditure on education. In the new Government’s approach to education we will spend 12 times more money on public education than has ever been spent before by the Commonwealth. We will spend 3 times more money in the private sector. This represents a tremendous and significant additional Commonwealth expenditure in the area of education. Instead of honourable senators opposite congratulating the Government all we hear is calamity howling. In relation to health - time will not permit me to canvass all .that the Treasurer and the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) have said - again there has been an increase of 25 per cent over the amount provided in last year’s Budget. An additional $196m will be spent on health and $3 40m on social welfare. On housing and community facilities - which incorporates the new urban affairs policy - the Government is increasing the expenditure to $41 lm. Compared with the previous Government’s effort, this represents 324 per cent more than was provided the previous year. So we can go on to the increased expenditure which this Government incorporates in this Budget.
Let honourable senators opposite say which section of the Budget should be curtailed. Are they saying that we should spend less on education, on pensions, on urban affairs or on health? I think that honourable senators find it difficult to present an argument against this Budget. That is why when each speaker has got up he has traversed grounds far outside the ambit of the Budget itself. That is very much evident from what Senators Withers, Webster and McManus have said. They cannot challenge the Government’s record and its proposal to spend those additional sums on the Australian community. For example, Senator McManus endeavoured to say that the blame for rising prices of land and accommodation is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. This has never been stated before. In point of fact, we all know that the responsibility of providing land and accommodation is largely a matter for State governments. It is only since the establishment of the Department of Urban and Regional Development in the dying days of the last administration and which is now carried forward by this Government under the very active leadership of Mr Tom Uren that the Commonwealth has entered the field in a massive way in an endeavour to play a more meaningful role in accommodation. To suggest therefore that the rising price of land can be attributed to nearly 8 or 9 months of this Government’s tenure of office seems to me to be an attempt to fool the Australian people.
Honourable senators opposite talk about migrants. I think it is pretty common knowledge that the endeavours of the Opposition to make the migrant question a political issue in this country have probably failed very miserably in relation to the current inquiry which is being conducted by a committee of this Senate. I think it is becoming increasingly clear that the meetings which took place in Perth where 500 migrants congratulated Senator Murphy for his forthright stand against terrorism belie the statements made by some Opposition speakers. Then we have the hoary old question of defence. This is always raised by the Australian Democratic Labor Party and by some of the fanatical fringe of the Opposition parties. They always concern themselves about this mythical enemy, this threat which even the defence experts in their submissions to the Government and to the various committees of the Parliament tell us no longer exists, if it ever existed at all. Quite rightly the Government has said that in this period of relatively peaceful relations between nations we should not continue to spend so much money as has been spent in many previous years.
I find it ludicrous for the Democratic Labor Party to make an issue out of defence because its mentor, Mr Santamaria, in addressing a mass meeting in Melbourne in the late 1930s called for the abolition of armaments and for peace. Of course, it is known that the Labor movement in those years was advocating a policy of collective security. If the allied powers had joined forces in those days it is likely that the horrible 1939-45 war could have been avoided. I am one of those about whom Senator McManus was talking. I was in the Army. Our defence was in such a bad .state in those years that every rifle in the unit in which I was serving - we had 1904 model rifles - was taken from us and sent up to Milne Bay. That was the state of preparedness of our nation in 1941. That happened under a government that was being led by people who represent the conservative viewpoint in the Australian political scene.
I think we have to challenge some of the basic tenets of the Opposition. I do not think any member of the Senate could take exception to my quoting from the report of the Reserve Bank of Australia because all of the people who represent the leadership of that organisation were appointed by previous administrations. I do not think anyone appointed by this Administration - short of Mr Hawke who I think received an appointment in the last few days but has not yet taken his seat - could possibly be responsible for the comments made in this report. But the Opposition attempts to simplify the whole economic problem that is facing our country by suggesting that if we put a stop to wage increases we have the panacea to the problem; we will have no further problems so far as inflation is concerned. I want to refer the Senate to the comments made by the Reserve Bank. I am sure that it would be useful for Senator Jessop, who is trying to interject, to digest what is said in this report because it cannot be regarded as propaganda for the Labor Party. The report deals with the period 1972-73. It reads:
In the event, private consumption grew firmly during 1972-73; a remarkable rise in disposable incomes overshadowed any increase in the willingness of consumers to spend. Wage and salary incomes rose strongly though no faster than in other recent years;
So we have from a fairly reputable source a statement which I think probably represents the real position so far as costs are concerned, if they have any relationship at all to inflation. If we accept these comments as having any validity at all there is very little criticism about inflation that the Opposition can apply to this Government. If we examine the average weekly earnings - these figures have been supplied by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library, Statistical Service section - we find that in the year 1969-70 they increased by $8.40, by $8.50 in 1970-71, by $8.50 in 1971-72, and by $6.20 in the current year. When we examine what was said by Senator Withers and by Mr Snedden, those figures surely would represent something which denies the credence of the Opposition which is endeavouring to say that increases in wages are the contributing factor to inflation and that it is Government expenditure that has to be curtailed if we are to solve the current problems of inflation in this country. I put it to the Senate that if the average weekly earnings are increasing at the rate of approximately $8 per annum they are increasing at the top level of the scale and not at the lower level of the scale. In other words, if average weekly earnings are increasing at about the
Tate of $8 per annum clearly it is those people receiving money way in excess of the average weekly earnings who are responsible for the increase in the average weekly earnings.
If that is acceptable as a reasonable approach to the problem, it must be that the economy of the country is such that it can afford to pay wages in those areas. If that is an acceptable premise - and I suggest it is in replying largely to the criticism made by Mr Snedden who utilised the full time allowed to nim in the other place - then we are entitled to challenge another one of his favourite hobby-horses when he talks about the need to increase productivity if the Budget is to have any relevance to the economic problems facing this country. Here again let me refer to the period for which figures are available, namely, the census period 30 June 1947 to 30 June 1971. Mr Snedden takes the view that wages have to be controlled, that productivity has to be increased and that public spending has to be reduced. I think there are 3 principal premises upon which he bases his opposition to the Labor Party’s economic program.
Let us have a look at the employment position in primary and secondary industry as at 30 June 1947. In those days the proportion of people employed in the work force was 54.69 per cent - that is,’ those associated with primary and secondary industry, who I think anyone would concede are those associated with productivity. The incredible thing is that some 24 years later, which is approximately the period for which the previous Government was occupying the Treasury bench, that figure has fallen to 43.43 per cent, a drop of 11 per cent in the proportion of people working in the productivity area of our country. So when the Opposition was in government it permitted a situation to develop where the percentage of the work force involved in primary and secondary production declined some 11 per cent. Yet it is suggested that the Government should curtail its own expenditure.
Let us examine the question of Government expenditure for the period during which the former Government held responsibility. If we look at the tables provided with the booklet ‘National Income and Expenditure 1972- 73’ which was presented to us by the Treasurer, we find that in the period 1966-67 final consumption expenditure, which is associated with gross domestic production, increased some $95 lm in the private sector whereas it increased by only $172m in the public sector. Of course, that was in the period in which the previous Government accepted responsibility for leading this country. We are changing that emphasis and in this Budget the Labor Government is seeking drastically to increase expenditure in the public sector. In the current financial year we intend to spend an additional $789m on social welfare programs for the Australian people.
Some criticism has been levelled at the Budget. Many of us believe that it is only a first step Budget. I find it easy to examine the Budget in a critical light. I also find it easy to examine the taxation figures. For example, if we look at average weekly earnings which are now $107.20 we find that people receiving less than that contribute 47.9 per cent to the personal income tax revenue of the Commonwealth and that in Commonwealth revenue received from indirect taxation 65 per cent of that received comes from those receiving less than the average weekly earnings. This is the result of 23 years of Liberal-Country Party policies. That same imbalance exists right across the board - whether it be at the State or local government level.
In a report which was presented to the Economic Society of Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide in May of this year figures were produced which showed that people receiving less than the average weekly earnings are contributing the greatest proportion of tax to Commonwealth, State and local government. It is the hope of the Labor Government that this imbalance will be changed. But we do not seek to change it in the first Budget because we believe that there are priorities to which we are committed and that there is forward planning which requires us to spend a great deal of money.
I think it is worth while now to move on to what the task force which reviewed the continuing expenditure policies of the previous Government had to say. I applaud the initiative of the Commonwealth Government in appointing the task force. I think it was right for the task force to say that in examining expenditure programs involving taxation and revenue concessions it sought firstly to explore the economic and social purposes for which the concessions originally were introduced. Anybody who reads the task force’s considerations must surely agree that the examination of past policies was long overdue. Something was said about defence. I think that the task force was quite right in drawing the attention of the Parliament to the fact that claims by defence on community resources need to be scrutinised with more than usual care and that a reduction in those claims and a redistribution of them between domestic and overseas resources would be economically of great value to the Government’s financial and economic planning.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– It is small wonder that without exception all Labor members, both in this chamber and in another place, have approached support for the Budget in such a disheartened, tepid manner, with such resort to inaccuracies and superficialities of information and indeed without any regard for facts. The simple fact is that the Australian people, sadly enough, now know that they have been the victims of a serious confidence trick; that the position as represented to them by the Australian Labor Party last year and specifically in the Labor Leader’s policy speech, a copy of which I hold in my hand, was not borne out but was rejected in the
Budget Speech. Contrary to the statements of Labor speaker after Labor speaker, the promises, rather than being implemented, have been broken one by one. I remind the honourable senator who is trying to interject of the old saying that the sins that you do two by two you pay for one by one. That is precisely what will happen in this regard.
This Budget bears no relation at all to the promises as set out in the policy speech and, Mr President, with your indulgence I will bear out that statement. Perhaps the Budget’s epitath should be the words that we read in the concluding statements of the Treasurer (Mr Crean). We must bear in mind what this Government said in order to get itself elected by the Australian people. It said: ‘Here is our list of promises. We give you our guarantee that we can implement them totally and speedily without resort to any increase of revenue of any kind by way of taxation. Indeed, we give you an undertaking that we will cut taxes and specifically that we will cut taxes for the smaller income earners. We give you that, and we bring you as a token of our credit Dr Coombs to be our special adviser’. One did not know then that the Labor Party was taking him not as a task force commander but as a demolition expert. Indeed he has shown remarkable skill.
If there has been one outstanding confidence trick it is that the Labor Party failed to say to the Australian people that it was going to remove by the dozens many valued policies that had been implemented over the past decade by the previous Government. The Labor Party was silent on that point. Indeed, it gave an explicit undertaking that it would implement all of its policies, that it would not increase tax revenue, that it would reduce it, and that it would bring in a whole series of policy reforms. What does the Treasurer say? In the few moments available to me tonight let me give honourable senators a little vignette on this subject. I hold in my hand the ‘Age’ newspaper of 17 November of last year - a few days before the election. As reported in this newspaper Mr Crean, as Treasurer-elect, said: ‘As soon as we are elected we will make some cuts in taxes, particularly for the lower incomes. We will accomplish almost the lot in the first Budget*. That was his promise in the teeth of the election campaign. On 19 April of this year, some few months ago, the ‘West Australian’ reports:
Crean: Tax will be cut. The Treasurer, Mr Crean today confirmed that there would be tax cuts for middle and lower-income groups in the next Budget.
Does anyone suggest that in April of this year Mr Crean, as Treasurer, did not know what the decision of the Cabinet would be in June and July, or what the state of the economy would be? What do we have here? Do we have something that is stated by a man who breaks a promise, or is it a statement by a man who did not know what was going to be done? What do you make of a man who does this?
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 August 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730829_senate_28_s57/>.