28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 9.59 a.m., and read prayers.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the amendments to the Quarantine Plant Regulations contained in Statutory Rules 1973 (No. IS 1) and made under the Quarantine Act 1908-69 be disallowed.
-My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the Prime Minister’s statement at his Press conference earlier this week that the Australian Government would support economic measures designed to bring down the Government of South Africa. How does the Government justify this economic warfare?
-The situation regarding our relationship with South Africa is that we move in these matters, as we did in regard to Rhodesia, only on international levels. In the case of Rhodesia, the United Nations decided to apply sanctions, and we did that. Senator Greenwood ‘s Government did it, but it left a few loopholes which we have closed. In regard to South Africa, we have said in the United Nations that we would support sanctions against South Africa and that we would apply them provided that everybody else did so. We do not intend to take unilateral action against South Africa.
-I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is a Press statement correct that an Aboriginal child of about 7 years of age was transported with the assistance of the Commonwealth from her foster parents back to her parents in order that the child might be married to one of the older men of her tribe? Whether the report is true or not, what is the Australian Government’s policy regarding the compulsory marriage of under-age Aboriginal females to older men of the tribe? Does the Commonwealth support this practice on the ground that to do otherwise would interfere with Aboriginal culture?
– I saw the report today and I was concerned about it. I contacted the office of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in order to get a statement on the matter, and the Minister promised to supply me with a statement. At the time of entering the Senate that statement had not come to hand. When it comes to hand I shall advise the honourable senator of it. On the radio program ‘AM’ today the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs denied that it was an abduction for the purpose of marrying the girl. He said that the action was taken after some 3 years of requests being made by the parents for the return of their child. It was reported that the parents had the right to make such a request.
The Government’s policy in regard to the law in Aboriginal culture that a girl should go to the promised husband has not been decided. The honourable senator will know that I was very vocal on this question when it arose in a case somewhere near Gove and I compared it with the different treatment which was meted out at Yuendumu. But despite the Press reports, I do not think that that is one of the questions involved in this case.
– My question which I direct to the Minister for the Media follows a question which I asked yesterday in relation to the televising of the Victorian Football League final. I believe that yesterday Mr Mccutcheon, Secretary of the Victorian Football League, met the Victorian Trades Hall Council to discuss the possibility of televising next Saturday’s Victorian Football League final. What is the current stage of negotiation on the televising of this important sporting event?
-What Senator Poyser said is correct. Discussions did take place yesterday between the Secretary of the Victorian Football League and the Victorian Trades Hall Council. I understand also that the Victorian Premier had a discussion with Sir Maurice Nathan to see whether a satisfactory solution could be reached. The General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr Duckmanton, has advised me that the ABC is willing to televise the match subject to a granting of permission by the VFL and also the negotiation of a reasonable telecast fee. Negotiations are proceeding and the outcome of the discussions should be finalised some time this afternoon.
-My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs concerns the matter which was raised by Senator McManus, that is, the enforced displacement of a 7-year-old Aboriginal girl from the environment in which she was raised by foster parents in Darwin to a life completely foreign to her. Is it a fact that the foster parents, Mr and Mrs Athol Brown, appealed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to intervene? Did the Minister investigate the matter as requested? Did he authorise the Department to take forceably the child from her foster parents? If so, in the name of humanity, why did he give such authorisation?
-I have already said that I am awaiting a full report from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on this matter. We must not get emotional over Press reports. If the Press report was accurate there may be some reason for questioning the attitude of the Department. Obviously an officer of the Department was present on the occasion in question. A request has been made by the parents for the return of their child. It is not a question of the girl being taken into a strange environment for some ulterior motive. The right of parents to have custody of their child is involved in this matter. All these things have to be considered. I have told the honourable senator that I am awaiting a statement, and a full statement will be made. That being the case I do not think questions on this matter will bring out any further information.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Media been drawn to a report that there has been a delay in the completion of the seventh stage television development program which will affect Queensland stations at Roma, Miles and Emerald? What is the cause of the delay and when is it expected that the 3 stations will commence operation?
– It was originally contemplated that television stations would be established at Roma, Miles and Emerald some time this month. But the radio section of the Australian Post Office, which is responsible for work associated with the provision of national broadcasting and television stations, has advised me that there has been unavoidable delays in the delivery of television transmitting equipment from overseas suppliers and as a result a delay of some 2 months is involved. It is now unlikely that these stations at Roma, Miles and Emerald will be able to go to air before about November next.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware and concerned that the interest rate policy of his Government has placed the home building and building society movement in a state of uncertainty. Does the Minister realise that it has been calculated that a person who has a loan of $15,000 to pay off on the purchase of a house may now have his mortgage and interest repayments increased by $20 a month? Does the Minister know that in New South Wales alone there are 82,000 people paying off loans from building societies who will now, it is understood, have to pay at least $5 a week extra to buy their own homes?
– I am concerned that so many people are trying to create a great deal of confusion over this matter. As honourable senators know, a decision will be made on it shortly. Everybody will then be made aware of the decision.
– I direct a question to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the reopening of communications with Chile and the presence of Australia’s Ambassador to Chile in Canberra, can the Minister now state, firstly, whether approaches have been made to our offices in Chile, either on a diplomatic or immigration basis, from Chilean political refugees for sanctuary in Australia and, secondly, whether Australia has at a United Nations level sought to activate the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which always appears to roll rapidly in the face of left wing totalitarianism but never in the case of right wing totalitarianism?
-Australia’s Ambassador to Chile has not yet been able to leave Chile because of the restriction imposed on international flights. Our permanent Commissioner in Geneva keeps in constant touch with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. It has not felt it necessary to do anything about Chile at the moment. The mandate of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees really extends to those people who are crossing borders. For instance, it has done a lot of work on the Palestinian refugee problem. No representations have been made to our Embassy in Chile.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to statements that the Australian Government will support sanctions against South Africa in the same way as it has supported sanctions against Rhodesia. I ask: Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that South Australian exports to South Africa amounted to $12,900,000 in 1971-72 and $2 1,945,000-odd in 1972-73. Is he also aware that the car manufacturing industry in South Australia exports a large number of vehicles to South Africaamounting to nearly half of the total vehicle exports? As the car industry and general exports to South Africa have a great impact on both employment and the general economy in South Australia, did the Prime Minister have discussions with the Premier of South Australia before the Government made such statements? What assistance will be given to that State in the event of this export trade being lost?
-I have no doubt that some of what the honourable senator has put is correct. I am not able to say whether the Prime Minister has had discussions with the Premier of South Australia, particularly with regard to any recent announcement. Of course, the Premier of South Australia is in concord with the Prime Minister, as are the other members of the Australian Labor Party, whether they be Premiers of States, members of the Houses of Parliament or ordinary members of the Party. They represent the overwhelming majority view not only of Australia but also of the world, which disapproves of the racist policies which are being pursued by the Government of South Africa and which have been repeatedly condemned in the United Nations.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I understand that the Minister has received a detailed submission from the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation on a new 5-year wheat stabilisation plan. Can the Minister indicate when some announcement might be made about any new stabilisation plan?
– I have received a detailed submission from the Wheatgrowers Federation on its views on the forthcoming wheat stabilisation agreement. Its proposals are being considered along with other suggestions which have been made and which I have indicated in the past in answer to previous questions along these lines. I will be having discussions with the various State Ministers at a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council towards the end of next month, I hope, and we can then formulate more clearly our intentions. But I will be discussing the matter again with the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation before any final decision is taken.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence. Is it the intention of the Department of Defence to close the Tropical Trials Establishment of the Australian Army near Innisfail in north Queensland? If it is to be closed, when will this take place?
-It is clear that there will be no cut backs in respect of the Department of Supply establishment at that location. As the honourable senator probably knows, Mr Barnard will attend there in the week after next to open extensions. Regarding the Department of the Army I have not been able to find out clearly what is the position but I can give a general assurance that nothing will be done until after the general review that we were talking about the other day- that is, the intervention of the trade unions in respect of civilian manpower and the promise by the Minister that he would hold all retrenchments for the time being. If I can get more positive information in that area for the honourable senator, I will do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it correct, as reported in the Sydney ‘Daily Mirror’ of yesterday, that the Australian Government intends to pay more than $5,000 for a coffee table which depicts woman in a most degrading and abhorrent way? If this report is correct, will the Minister take immediate steps to prevent such a purchase from taking place? Will he also ensure that the person or persons responsible for the negotiations are instructed that they are not to enter into any further purchases of this abnoxious nature in the name of the Australian Government?
– I have seen the reports in the newspapers and the representation of what is said to be the ultimate in pop art sex symbolism. I suppose that throughout the years there has been such representation. As long as it is confined to non-living females I suppose it might be acceptable to some. Living women certainly ought to be engaging in activities that are far better than being used as furniture. But I think it is not really for someone in my position to say that we should stop what is a movement in art. I think there are far too many attempts in the world to prevent persons from expressing their wishes and their artistic bent in various ways. This is one of the criticisms we have of other countries.
If people want to do this, if it is acceptable to others and if it represents some theme in society, those who are in a position to purchase forms of art which represent the trends in society no doubt will use their discretion. I do not think any Government, because it disapproves of some particular form of art that may appear to the honourable senator or to others as degrading, in some way should say; ‘This must stop, it must not be purchased’. It is an easy step to extend such restrictions into other spheres and ultimately into political affairs. I would say that, whether it is the honourable senator’s cup of tea, we ought to observe and express our views, but I do not think we should go so far as to involve ourselves in some form of government censorship of what is apparently acceptable elsewhere and perhaps pleasing to some although probably not to the majority of people.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether it is true that in a speech by the Prime Minister, the Honourable E. G. Whitlam, to a Master Builders Association function in New South Wales on Friday, 14 September- and I quote from the officially circulated transcript of the speech- he said:
That is, the Government- have introduced a graduated form of tax deductions of interest rates for home buyers.
Is it not a fact that in reality this aspect of the Government’s housing policy has little likelihood of coming into effect until the year 1974-75 at the earliest?
-The form of the question amuses me. The honourable senator quoted from a document circulated by the Prime Minister as a copy of his speech to the Master Builders Association’s centenary parade of homes. The honourable senator took a quotation out of it and asked: ‘Is it true?’ I would be a courageous Minister if I said that it is not true. It is true that the Prime Minister said that there has been endorsement of our policy to allow as taxation deductions interest payments on home loans. He was referring to the statement in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech, which is tabled in this Parliament, that the Treasurer would introduce in the August session of this Parliament legislation in relation to interest payments on home loans. The legislation will be discussed by the Parliament. Final details have yet to be considered by the Government. They will be presented in legislative form and discussed by the Senate. I think I can say definitely that the commencement of deductions will be on 1 July 1 974. This is in keeping with Labor’s policy to introduce such concessions during the life of this Parliament.
-Is the Minister for Primary Industry able to advise the loss per annum that apple growers in Tasmania will experience resulting from the removal of the sales tax exemption on carbonated drinks containing 5 per cent of Australian fruit juice? In view of the concern that has been expressed in Tasmania in regard to this matter, has the Minister made any efforts to have the decision to remove this exemption reconsidered?
– I am not aware of the actual amount involved. I have read Press reports which give figures of about $500,000, but I have not been given any precise figures. I do not know whether the industry is capable of giving them. The answer to the latter part of the honourable senator’s question is that I have not taken any steps to have the Government’s decision reversed. The decision has been taken and I think it will stand. Part of that decision was an undertaking by the Government to assist those industries which may be disadvantaged by these decisions. We have already indicated that we are prepared to assist the lemon industry. I have said that we will stand by that commitment insofar as the apple industry is concerned. It is a matter of our being clear in our minds as to the actual effect of the removal of the tax benefit. Once that matter has been clarified the Government will be in a position to take specific action.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Yesterday, in response to a question, he enumerated 2 industries to which he would give attention during his forthcoming visit to Japan. He did not mention the apple industry. Will he consider the urgent need to get apples accepted into the Japanese trade? Will he consider making that an important part of his negotiating program during his forthcoming visit? Will he accept the view that the matter is urgent, in view of the declining opportunities for the trade in Europe owing to costs and revaluation practices?
-As I indicated yesterday in answer to another question about my forthcoming visit to Japan, the time factor will limit the number of industries about which I can have discussions in Japan. Naturally, because of the time factor, the industries which are of most concern to Australian primary producers must take priority. With respect to the apple industry, I think that the honourable senator is aware that the inhibiting factor is a technical matter. It is not a matter that can be discussed by ministers. The technical requirements which the Japanese Government has laid down can be resolved only on a technical basis. As I indicated a week or a fortnight ago in answer to a similar question from Senator Wright, it is my belief that every reasonable step has been taken by my Department and by the Department of Health, as was taken by the previous Government, to overcome the objections the Japanese have to the admission of Australian fruit to Japan. I do not think that any more steps can be taken. I will take up the honourable senator’s suggestion that I should perhaps see the latest position in Japan for myself. If my Department can advise me that I should do this- if there is some purpose in it- I will do so.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to yesterday’s announcement by the Premier of Tasmania that his Cabinet has decided to change its previously announced policy of providing grants to non-government schools on a so-called needs basis and has decided to accept the principle of the entitlement of all children attending nongovernment schools to a basic per capita grant? Will he ask his colleague, the Minister for Education, to have the Commonwealth Government follow the lead given by its fellow Labor Government in Tasmania and reconsider this Government’s decision to discriminate vindictively against some Australian children by cutting off grants previously provided? Will the Government restore per capita grants together with extra assistance to disadvantaged children?
– I have seen the article referred to by the honourable senator. Doubtless, my colleague the Minister for Education also has seen it. I can assure the honourable senator that the Government received a mandate from the people to implement an educational policy. That is now being done. This year we have made available an additional $440m for education.
– I direct a question to the Special Minister of State who represents the Foreign Minister. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to reports that the Chilean military junta is executing and torturing supporters of the late constitutional head of State, President Allende? As these persons support social change by constitutional means, does not the persecution of” Chilean citizens offend democratic procedures? In the circumstances, would the Government give serious consideration to breaking off relations with this illegal military Government?
– I have seen the reports. I think that it is always to be regretted when we see from outside the sort of things that have happened in Chile. There has been a government upset. I do not know whether these persecutions are taking place or not. Sometimes these things are very hard to prove. We will be in a better position to know the facts when our ambassador returns from Chile- when we can get him out of there. I answered a question the other day regarding the recognition of the Chilean military junta and I repeat that we are withholding recognition at the present time. I understand that at the present time we have made no decision on it. Very obviously, a key person in this matter will be our ambassador when he returns to Australia.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. It adverts to a statement by the Minister for Defence some days ago which indicated that Australia had entered into and, I think, completed an agreement with the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration for an additional launch program at Woomera? Will this new agreement, which I think we all hail as a good thing for Woomera, have any bearing on the decision which has been taken in regard to defence retrenchments which, as I understand the position, also involved some retrenchments at the Woomera station?
– I do not think the arrangements which Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has mentioned strengthen the position which existed previously when it appeared that there would be some retrenchment as a result of the cutback by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In fact generally the NASA budget for the operations of the space tracking station has been cut to some extent, as the honourable senator knows. As a result the employees in our area were concerned and had some disputes with subcontractors over possible redundancies. I do not think the Woomera launchings can have any of the good effects about which the honourable senator spoke. However I will find out how the situation can be improved. The position other than at Woomera is that there could be a slight reduction in the work force and the Department of Supply is now considering, together with those concerned, whether some new arrangements might be made whereby the Department might come into the situation more directly than it does now.
-Has the Minister for the Media, as the Minister responsible for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, received any complaints about the inadequacy of facilities for rehearsal at the Sydney Opera House?
-This week I received a telegram from the Secretary of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Musician’s Association advising me that it had carried a resolution to the effect that it considered the Opera House rehearsal studios unsuitable for use by the orchestra. The Association requested the Australian Broadcasting Commission to roster all future rehearsals of the orchestra at the ABC studios at Chatswood pending the construction of permanent rehearsal and recording studios. The matter has been discussed with the General Manager of the ABC, Mr Duckmanton, and he has withdrawn the orchestra from the Opera House rehearsal studios and it is using the Commission ‘s studio at Chatswood. I understand the difficulty so far as the Opera House rehearsal studios is concerned relates to the general inadequacy of facilities and amenities. The provision of other facilities is to be the subject of further discussions between me and the General Manager of the ABC.
Senator DAME NANCY BUTTFIELDHas the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen an article in today’s ‘Australian’ which states that a woman Labor Party member of Parliament in New South Wales created parliamentary history when she became the first woman to take the Chair in Committee proceedings in any Australian Parliament? Will he agree that Senator Dame Dorothy Tangney acted in this capacity from March 1962 until November 1963, and that Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood was a Temporary Chairman of Committees from August 1962 until June 1971?
-Yes I would agree. However it is pleasing to note that the New South Wales Legislative Council is following the precedent set here. It is a reflection upon the status of women in our society that any such questions should arise. It ought to be the most natural thing in the world for women to occupy the Chairs of our legislative bodies.
– You would have trouble providing one.
-That is right. Women ought to be on the bench in our courts. It is disgraceful that there has been no woman appointed as a Federal Judge or as a permanent head in our Public Service. I am open to correction but I understand from what I heard the other day that of about 800 officers in the Second Division of the Public Service only one is a woman.
– What about the Labor Party caucus? There are none there.
– I am not excusing any political Party, my own included. It is a grave reflection on the status of women in our society, without exception or exclusion, that such questions should arise in this field. I thank the honourable senator for the information she gave.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State and it relates to the situation in Chile. I seek assurance on behalf of people in Australia concerning their relatives in Chile. Can the Minister give to the Senate any information concerning the position of relatives in Chile of Australian citizens? What measures have been or will be taken to ensure the safety and protection of these people and, if circumstances require it, their repatriation? Is the Minister able to give any assurance to those with relatives in Chile that the position is being closely watched and that appropriate action will be taken should the need arise?
– The answer to the last part of the question is yes, very definitely. As we understand the position about 8 Australians are in Chile and none of them is in any danger.
-My question which is directed to the Minister for the Media relates to his answers to several questions about the telecasting of the Victorian Football League final and grand final games. I note that the Minister has spoken only about negotiations which are currently taking place between the Victorian Football League and the Australian Broadcasting Commission for television relay. I ask the Minister: Is he the Minister for the Media? Are all private enterprise television companies to have an ongoing and substantial interest in televising all the Victorian Football League matches? What steps has the Minister taken to see that Victorian- based channels GTV9, HSV7 and ATVO are given an equal opportunity with the Commonwealth-owned station to broadcast a direct telecast of the Victorian Football League games?
-The honourable senator will know that commercial stations, as private entrepreneurs, have a right of their own to determine whether they want to put on a program of any type. If these stations see fit to negotiate or to attempt to negotiate with the Victorian Football League they may do so. I cannot say whether they are keen to televise the games. However, I know that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is keen to televise the games. That indication has been given to me by the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– I ask the Minister for the Media whether he is aware that the South Australian Government has appointed a Canadian, Mr Richard Smith, to its Film Corporation, his function being to cut foreign film monopolies down to size. Will the Minister explain to the Senate the difference in function between the South Australian Film Corporation and his own Australian Film Development Corporation?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDFirstly, I understand that a Mr Smith, a former officer of the Canadian Film Board, has been appointed by the South Australian Film Corporation to arrange the distribution of film for and on behalf of that Corporation. I am given to understand that Mr Smith arrived in Australia last week. The Australian Film Development Corporation, which is a statutory body coming within my Ministerial responsibility, was established by Act of Parliament in 1 970. It was established to encourage the production and distribution of Australian films. It is there to give assistance by way of loans, investment and, in some circumstances, grants. As I understand it, the South Australian Film Corporation is an organisation which has been established by the South Australian Government to try to develop within South Australia a film industry. While it does not of itself invest in the production of films I understand that it gives assignments on behalf of the South Australian Government to film producers.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property or to the appropriate Minister. Is the Minister aware that Commonwealth Hostels Ltd in the Australian Capital Territory is sharply increasing tariff? Is he also aware that employees in the hostels are among the lowest paid groups of workers in Canberra? Will the Minister institute an inquiry into the organisation of Commonwealth hostels generally, with a view to assisting urgently those hostel residents in the lower income groups who cannot afford the increased tariffs? Is it possible for the inquiry to be extended to cover wages and working conditions of hostel staff and the need to provide a government subsidy, if such is found to be necessary?
– The main point in the question asked by the honourable senator, as I understand it, is whether I will ascertain whether an inquiry should be held. I am not sure whether this matter falls within the responsibility of the Minister for Services and Property or the Minister for the Capital Territory. But, as I represent both Ministers, I will see that the question is referred to the right quarter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. I refer to Press reports today that the Minister’s Department proposes to commence work tomorrow on the Black Mountain tower project and other installations. Is it a fact that currently there is a hearing before the courts relating to this matter? If so, why does not the Minister await the outcome of this hearing and avoid the possibility of unnecessarily damaging the environment? Can the Minister tell me what the position will be if he proceeds with the work and judgment is given against the Government? Why is the Government proceeding with this work in the present circumstances?
– Although the question was directed to the Minister for Works, I think it is appropriate that I answer it. The court case to which the honourable senator refers was instituted with my authority in the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. I say with my authority’ because the persons who desired it sought to bring it in the name of the Attorney-General. Curious though it may seem, it was proceeding nominally in the name of the Attorney-General, at the relation of certain persons, against the Minister for Works, the PostmasterGeneral and the Commonwealth of Australia. In order that this incongruous position should not misrepresent the realities of the situation, an ordinance was introduced so that it was possible to show the persons who were interested in pursuing the matter- that is, the relaters- as the plaintiffs in the case.
One of the conditions under which I gave the fiat to the relaters was that they promptly make an application for an interlocutory injunction so that the question whether the work should be allowed to proceed could be decided very early. Of course, if the work on the mountain were held up it would involve an extremely heavy cost- to the extent of many thousands of dollars per day- to the Commonwealth. Such application was heard and determined by the Court, by Mr Justice Fox. His Honour declined to grant the interlocutory injunction. The honourable senator will appreciate that it was important to everyone that a determination be made immediately as to whether the Commonwealth ought to be proceeding with the work while the case was being heard. That question was heard and determined by the Court approximately 2 months ago. The application that the work should not proceed while the case was being heard was rejected. It was therefore open to, and quite proper for, the Minister for Works or the Commonwealth to proceed with the work during the pendency of the case. Does that sufficiently answer the honourable senator’s question?
– Are the plaintiffs asking for a substantive injunction?
-The plaintiffs are asking substantially for an injunction to prevent the work from continuing. But, as the honourable senator who interjects will understand, it was a proper and appropriate course for them to ask for the interlocutory injunction pending the final hearing of the case. The application for that injunction was refused. So, the Minister was perfectly entitled- indeed, one might say obligedto proceed according to the decision of the Government.
– I direct my question to the Special Minister of State. As the Government has now decided that no Australian, including members of Parliament, may travel to Taiwan on an official passport, I ask the Minister: To what other countries does this restriction apply? What action will the Government take against members of Parliament who defy this outrageous restriction of their rights?
– Although Senator Sim explained the position correctly, it was a little difficult to hear. What we have said is that there is no restriction on people going to Taiwan in their private capacity. What we have said- and this was contained in a letter that I wrote to Senator Sim recently- is that people will not use diplomatic passports in going there. I do not know what other countries this restriction applies to, but I will find out. At one time during the previous Government’s term of office, 16 countries were banned. On one occasion I was travelling to a country and just before I got to the border I realised that it was already on the passport and I had to have it rubbed out.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. I refer to today’s announcement that the cost of building government homes in Canberra has risen by about 4.8 per cent in the past 1 1 weeks- an additional cost of almost $600 for a 3-bedroom house, which is a rise, incidentally, of about $2,000 on such a house in the lifetime of this Government. I refer also to the statement by the National Capital Development Commission, which is the body controlling home-building in Canberra, that the latest increase is due solely to adjustments of award wages. Do these facts not demonstrate clearly that a power to control prices without the power, and the exercise of that power, to control incomes would be a total failure? Further, how does the Government justify these record rises in housing costs in the Australian Capital Territory where it has total power to control the prices of land and building materials and indeed other prices?
– I again thank the honourable senator for the information but I remind him that I am speaking in continuation in a debate on prices which is presently before the Senate, and I think that that would be the appropriate time to reply to the question. We should not anticipate discussion.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry. Yesterday I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question regarding the purchase of public company shares by government corporations. I was informed by his office that this question had been referred to the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry as the Minister responsible for the Australian Industry Development Corporation. As this question seeks information which could have an effect on the market of the stock exchanges of Australia, has the Minister any information to supply as a matter of urgency?
-No, I have not. I ask the honourable senator to place the question on the notice paper and I will get the information if it is available.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to Government business, orders of the day Nos. 25 and 26 on the notice paper- the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill 1973 and the Seas and Submerged Lands (Royalty on Minerals) Bill 1973. 1 ask: Does the Government consider that these Bills require the early consideration of the Senate? If so, when does the Government intend to bring them on for debate in this chamber?
-I understand that these Bills were brought before the Senate some time earlier this year. The Senate dealt with the Bills in a way which appeared to me- I indicated this to the Senate, as I recall it- to be a failure to pass them. Legislation in the same form has been brought into the House of Representatives and it will be brought into this chamber, there having elapsed the time required under the Constitution which might invoke the deadlock provision. It is proposed to present the same measures to the Senate when they arrive from the House of Representatives and to ask the Senate to pass that legislation.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I preface it by referring to a letter which I received from Mr B. G. Dexter, Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, in which he informed me that he had only limited supplies of the following publications: ‘Aboriginal Art of Australia’, ‘Aborigines of Australia’, The Australian Aborigines’, and ‘After the Dreaming’. Will the Minister ensure that the Department has sufficient numbers of these publications to distribute to schools as they are important in educating the non-Aboriginal people towards a better understanding of Aborigines and the Aboriginal culture?
– I appreciate the contribution these documents make to educating school children and society towards a better understanding of Aborigines. I will take this matter up with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I was not aware that there was a shortage of such documents. Perhaps there could be a reprint to remedy this situation. While on the question of Aborigines, I would like to give some further information to the honourable senators who asked questions about Nola Brown, the 7-year- old Aboriginal girl from Darwin. The Minister informs me that he first learnt of the matter when he received a letter from the girl ‘s foster father, Mr Brown, on 27 August this year. He sent a telex message to his Department in Darwin on the same day to have inquiries made. He has not yet received a full report. The Department and the Minister are trying to determine whether any departmental officers were involved. A departmental investigation is under way into the circumstances in which the child was returned to her natural parents. The Minister is not aware that she is to become a bride of a middle aged tribesman, as suggested in newspaper reports this morning. He has been informed that she is happily placed with her natural parents. It is a dispute between the real parents and the foster parents and so far as can be determined the Government has no legal power over the child. The Minister can only say that whoever removed the child showed great insensitivity in the handling of the situation.
-Can the Attorney-General inform the Senate whether he intends proceeding with legislation to control firearms in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory? If so, what measures does he propose? Is he aware that the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia is critical of proposals that have been foreshadowed in the Press recently? Is he also aware that the Victorian branch of the Association has suggested that a mandatory 8 years gaol term should be ordered for the criminal use of firearms? Does the Minister agree that a toughening of the law in this regard would be an effective measure against the irresponsible use of firearms? Will the Minister confer with the body I have mentioned and consider its views before proceeding with legislation?
-There is no doubt that there should be more stringent controls over possession and use of firearms than there are at present. I am not impressed with the suggestion that there should be a mandatory 8 years term for the criminal use of firearms. That is hardly the policy of the law which in that and other fields endeavours to fit the penalty to the circumstances of the offence rather than providing mandatory terms for that or other offences. I would be pleased to hear the views of the Association. I have no doubt that the Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory also would be pleased to hear them. I think it is clear from the confusion which exists all around Australiathe differing laws and expressions by police officers and others- that there is a need for more stringent controls over firearms. It is evident from the misuse of firearms in many areas that the law needs to be reformed.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I ask it because of the apparent uncertainty in the Government as to who has responsibility in this matter. I ask: Is the Treasurer aware that a Sydney firm of stockbrokers, Bernard Curran McHugh and Co., has recently and quite openly purchased shares on the stock market in a number of Australian public companies for an expenditure estimated by observers to be in excess of $4m? Is he also aware that an unusual feature of this concentrated buying has been that it has enabled sellers to secure higher prices than ordinarily they might have been able to secure? Is he also aware of the prevalent rumours that this buying is on behalf of either the Australian Industry Development Corporation or sources for which the Government is answerable or which are under Government control? Is he also aware that yesterday the buying ceased and the prices dropped, which has given rise to further speculation? Will the Minister state whether any of this buying has come from the Australian Industry Development Corporation or Government sources and treat it as a matter of urgency and in the public interest?
– I have no idea whether Mr Crean is aware of these things; I have no idea at all. How am I to know what Mr Crean is aware of, which is the question that is asked? Do not be plain ridiculous. Get a bit of commonsense back into yourself. So the answer to the question is no, I am not aware of what Mr Crean ‘s knowledge is on this matter. I saw an article in which Mr Bernard Curran said that in his view the shares were good buys. I imagine that he, as a stockbroker, would be in the business of trying to buy at the bottom of the market if he possibly can and sell at the top.
– That is a socialist attitude.
– I do not know whether Mr Bernard Curran is a socialist. I have no idea about that. As I have said, I saw Mr Bernard Curran ‘s statement on this matter. I do not know whether he will reveal who his clients were. I should not imagine that he would if he is a responsible stockbroker and I imagine that he is.
– Is this Parliament not entitled to know whether the Government is behind it?
– Just keep quiet, sonny boy. Senator Greenwood talks about speculation. I thought the stock exchange was the heart of speculation. I thought it was worse than Randwick races. He wants to know whether this is buying for the Australian Industry Development Corporation. As I understand the way that Senator Greenwood and his cohorts wrote the charter of the Australian Industry Development Corporation, it is shrouded in secrecy and I do not think anybody can make it reveal what it is doing.
- Mr President, may I ask a supplementary question on that point?
– The senator who asked the question may ask a supplementary question, but you are not in the act.
- Mr President, may I draw your attention to the fact that that question was already on notice and you permitted it to be asked. I think it is reasonable that a supplementary question be asked.
– Order! The honourable senator says the question is on notice. If he can give me an assurance that it is on notice, then his question now is out of order.
– I direct my question to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Senator Willesee in reply to Senator Sim indicated that a person may not make a visit to Taiwan on an official or diplomatic passport. I ask the Minister: Does this mean that parliamentarians who travel on official passports are not allowed to go to Taiwan? If that is so, what authority has this Government to stop parliamentarians from going to any place that they desire to visit?
-The situation is that we do not consider the Taiwan Government as the Government of China; that is quite clear. Therefore we have broken off official connections with that country. The point is that, having done that, one does not use a diplomatic or an official passport to go there. We do not stop people from going there but they are not to use official or diplomatic passports because those passports are issued for very special reasons. They are not issued to permit visits to a place which is part of a governed country. In the peculiar circumstances which exist on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, as I have said in answer many, many times, we have made our decision and it is flowing on quite smoothly. We regard Peking as the capital of China, not Taipei. These things flow from that.
– May I ask a supplementary question?
– Do you claim that you have not received a satisfactory answer?
– You may ask a supplementary question.
– Since official passports are given automatically to parliamentarians, how can a parliamentarian visit a place such as Taiwan for private reasons if he wishes to do so in view of the fact that the Government, which has given him an official passport, can prevent him from going there? By what authority does the Government impede the rights and privileges - of parliamentarians as opposed to ordinary individuals in this community? Are we considered to be second-rate citizens?
-Sometimes I think some of them are, but I do not consider them second-rate citizens. The fact is that the honourable senator could use an ordinary passport. That is what people are being asked to do. If Senator Wood is thinking of going there and has any difficulties about it, I could get more information to clear it up for him if he comes to see me about it.
-Pursuant to section 314 of the Bankruptcy Act 1966-70, I present the Sixth Annual Report on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30 June 1 973.
-For the information of honourable senators I present the Executive Agencies Joint Report on activities under the United States-Australia Agreement for scientific and technical co-operation during the period October 1968 to June 1972.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty- fifth (Maritime) Session of the International Labour Conference 1970.
– I present the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare on the petition relating to the transfer of social service entitlements.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I ask for leave to make a brief statement in relation to the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The report sets out the terms of the petition and states that the Committee referred the petition to the Department of Social Security for comment. The Department’s subsequent comments, which are set out in the report, state that legislation to allow transferability of pensions came into effect on 8 May 1973. Further, negotiations have commenced on reciprocal agreements to cover a comprehensive range of social security payments. The Committee has concluded, therefore, that these developments adequately cover the terms of the petition.
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-72, I present the report relating to the following proposed work: Off-shore high security animal quarantine station.
Motions (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That Business of the Senate, Order of the Day No. 1 be postponed until the next day of sitting.
That Government Business, Notice of Motion No. 1 be postponed until the next day of sitting.
– I move:
The purpose of the motion is to allow the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill 1973 to be proceeded with. It is a serious matter to ask the Senate not to deal with General Business. I am aware of that. I am aware that honourable senators may wish to bring forward and do bring forward under General Business private business for the Senate’s consideration. The Government is seeking to press on with a Bill in order that the people of Australia may express their views on the ultimate document- the Australian Constitutionwhich is always a matter paramount even over what might be called the business of either House. I am asking that we proceed with the business of the people in order that the people may be asked to express a view. The Government’s proposal, which has been acceded to by the House of Representatives, is that the people should be so asked. The message which was forwarded with the Bill requests the Senate to concur in the view that the people should be asked to express an opinion promptly on a constitutional alteration.
Therefore, it is on grave and weighty grounds that the Senate is asked to forgo General Business this evening in order that the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill- Government Businessshould proceed if it has not been dealt with already. If it has been dealt with I would be quite agreeable to the Senate reverting to General Business. I suggest that if General Business is to be forgone in these circumstances it would be reasonable for additional time to be made available to make up for any loss of time on General Business. Therefore, I put it that there are very strong, grave grounds for the Government’s action. I say this in the light of what we know was the practice followed for many years of the previous Government’s moving and the Senate’s accepting virtually automatically the displacement of General Business at 8 p.m. That practice continued for many years unopposed up until 1967. 1 think that almost invariably the practice was for that motion to be put and passed on a Thursday. Since that time on many occasions the motion has been put and passed by the Senate for far less reasons than those advanced on this occasion. So notwithstanding the importance of general business and the importance of preserving it, all of which I concede, and notwithstanding that it should be conducted at a regular time I ask the Senate on this occasion to forgo proceeding with General Business at 8 p.m.
– On behalf of the Opposition I advise honourable senators that we will oppose the motion. I say at the outset that I understand the argument put by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy). But I think that some things ought to be put in their context. Before I do so, I suppose that we ought to make up our minds whether we are to have a debate on this motion for the next 2 or 3 hours instead of getting on with the debate on the Constitutional Alteration (Prices) Bill. I would hope that we could all speak briefly and to the point and get this matter over with.
– Some of us speak briefly.
– Yes. If we become involved in a general debate we will be arguing this matter until 8 o ‘clock tonight. I think that the first point to be remembered about this is that there is some sort of myth attached to the Bill which the Leader of the Government considers to be urgent. The Government is entitled to have certain things. As I understand section 128 of the Constitution, it is the Houses of Parliament, not governments, that present referenda to the people. Therefore, I regard a Bill concerning a referendum to be particularly the business of both Houses of the Parliament and not necessarily the business of the Government. I think that that ought to be said at the start.
Secondly, I wish to deal with the surrender of time. One of the arguments advanced by the Leader of the Government was that for many years the discussion of general business was suspended automatically. That was prior to 1967. Let us deal with what has happened since that date: The practice of the Senate has been that general business has been the normal matter to be proceeded with on Thursday nights until the last several weeks of each sessional period when the Opposition, both prior to and since 2
December, has conceded that Government business ought to take precedence over general business on Thursday nights. I imagine that that would be our attitude as this period of parliamentary sittings comes to a close. It was certainly our attitude during the last sessional period. We have not been difficult in this matter in the past. Honourable senators on this side of the Senate have surrendered their rights to almost 1 hour 45 minutes of debate this morning which had been allotted for the consideration of committee reports. I think we also did this last week or the week before. Also, I call to the attention of the Leader of the Government that last Thursday night the Opposition surrendered the time for general business quite willingly to allow Government business- the Address-in-Reply debate- to proceed. We thought that after 8 or 9 months that debate ought to be concluded.
So we have not been unwilling to co-operate. But we take this point: A bill to amend the Constitution is not like any other bill that comes before the Parliament. It is not a Government bill. We take the parliamentary objection that these sorts of bills ought not to be rolled through the Senate like other bills fixing some of the minor matters which we allow to pass through the Senate quickly. This sort of bill cannot be recalled. Once it passes through the Parliament, it goes to the people. Therefore, honourable senators are entitled to deal with it in a deliberative way. I do not see why, merely because certain supporters of the Government- I gather that the voting was 42 against 38- got into a panic at a Caucus meeting held recently and demanded of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that this Bill be shoved through the Parliament, we on the Opposition side are bound by that Caucus decision. We believe there is ample opportunity for the Senate’s business to be conducted in a normal, sensible and parliamentary fashion. It is somewhat ludicrous to talk about putting a proposal to the people while upsetting the total parliamentary procedures in the meantime. We believe that the reasons I outlined are substantial.
We are prepared to co-operate with the Government. We surrendered 1.75 hours this morning but I do not see why we should give up 2.5 hours tonight. I believe our attitude has been reasonable. This chamber should not be taken over merely at the whim of 42 people as against 38 people in the Labor Party caucus.
– I support the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). I see no need for the Senate to give up General
Business tonight. As the Leader of the Opposition said, until today the Opposition has operated in every sense with the Government. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that not only are we giving up consideration of the reports of standing and select committees but that at a very early stage of this sessional period we already are sitting longer hours to deal with Government Business. I do not think anyone can accuse the Opposition of trying to delay Government Business. I believe the Opposition is entitled to put forward its business during the period allowed for General Business of the Senate. For those reasons, and the reasons stated already by the Leader of the Opposition, I oppose the motion.
-The Democratic Labor Party sees no reason why we should be called upon to give up the arrangement made and which has operated in the past. On other occasions the Labor Party was the first to protest against interference with General Business. We feel that there is an unpleasant atmosphere of high pressure about the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill. Last Monday it was regarded as an important constitutional matter by the Government and it was forced through the House of Representatives in a couple of hours. I understand that the Speaker’s fingers are so worn down by pressing the button for the bells that it is questionable whether he will be able to play snooker for a couple of weeks. When thai Bill was brought into this chamber a motion was moved almost immediately for the suspension of the Standing Orders in regard to the procedure under which it was to be considered. I heard whispers yesterday that the Government was considering going on with some other measures but that it then decided that it was so important to bring this Bill on today. Now we are asked to give up our right to deal with General Business this evening. Everybody here knows that no vote will be taken on that Bill until next week. Nobody is under any illusion that the vote will not be taken until next week. Under those circumstances, and knowing that there is going to be a good deal of debate, I see no reason for interfering with the processes of the House.
– Why cannot the vote be taken until next week?
– I have heard rumours. I have heard some people mention rumours to the effect that the anxiety to get this Bill through is not for the purpose of going to the people but rather to enable some people to get a trip abroad.
Government senators- Oh!
– I notice that not everybody on the Government side denies that that is the case.
-We have never given any thought to such a suggestion.
-I am pleased to see that honourable senators on the Government side believe in playing a straight bat and that they never resort to tactics. Getting back to the point, everybody knows that no vote will be taken until the middle of next week. Under those circumstances there is no reason to interfere with the forms of the House.
– I would like to mention one point. It is my view at any stage that we should help the Government to get through particularly important measures. The advice that came to me yesterday from my Party Whip was that there were important matters on the Senate notice paper which should be dealt with before the House rose for the weekend. Those Bills relate to social security matters. Perhaps the plea did not come from the Government but the information from my Whip was that every endeavour should be made, at the request of the Government, to pass those measures because the computer is waiting ready to process material in order that pensioners and others in this community could receive their just due. The advice I received was that the Opposition today would be required to pass 3 social security Bills and, I understand, another Bill relating to repatriation.
My view about that request was that under the circumstances I would be anxious to assist the Government to pass those Bills through the Senate. But what has happened? The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) said today that the important thing was for the Senate to pass the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill. The argument over that Bill could go on for a great deal of time. Apparently the current advice from the Government as to which measures should be passed by the Senate is that the social security Bills are unimportant. It is not important that the pensioners should receive their just due. What is going to happen to the poor computer over the weekend? I was told that it was standing ready and waiting and that these measures had to be passed today. Does the Government not want the pensioners to receive their just due? Government supporters are very quiet. I can only say that I am terribly disappointed. I place some of the blame on my own Whip. He came to me yesterday with a plea for the social service Bills to be passed. I think that the Opposition would have made every facility available for the Government to achieve that purpose. Why the Government is now reneging on the benefits due to the pensioners I do not know.
– I shall be very brief. I thought the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) was right when he said that there is no need for long debate on the motion before the Senate but 1 want to make one or two observations. I think the Senate is getting into a pretty bad state. During question time this morning we heard phrases such as ‘it is rumoured’ and ‘I understand’. That is the way that this debate has proceeded. Speakers have said that somebody told them something. I point out that there is an official way of finding out what is going on.
Senator McManus said that a vote could not be taken today on the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill. I would have thought that by now every honourable senator knows how he will vote on the question of putting a referendum to the people relating to the Constitution. Honourable senators could talk for another six or seven weeks and the vote would be exactly the same. Senator McManus also said that he had heard stories to the effect that the real reason for this motion is that some people wish to go overseas. It is true that some people are going overseas. I have already told the Democratic Labor Party and other people that I am due to appear, on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Whitlam), at a South East Asia Treaty Organisation meeting and at the United Nations in New York next week. There is no secret about these things. I have told some of my friends in the DLP and they have said that they are unable to tell me what might happen. That is OK. I am not complaining about it. However I think it is my duty to make the position clear. Ministers have attended these meetings over the years and I do not believe that we should cease attending. I shall be attending on behalf of this Government and this Parliament. Honourable senators well know that this Parliament has sent other members of Parliament overseas and they have had to be recalled because of this Bill. They have had to be recalled because of this legislation.
It is to their convenience and the convenience of this Parliament that they go back to the jobs we elected them to do. I do not think that there is anything suspicious or sinister about this. I do not want to leave it on that level. It is in the hands of the Opposition because it has the numbers. If it wants to frustrate us and if it decides that I cannot be in New York next week, that is that. There will be no skin off anybody’s nose. But I agree with Senator Withers that this is an important subject. Honourable senators should not forget the decisions they are going to make. If they make these decisions we could run very close to the Christmas period. The motion which is coming on tonight has been the subject of many questions and answers. It has already been debated by, I understand, five or six speakers. I do not think honourable senators opposite have a very strong case to say that the motion which is coming on tonight is of such tremendous importance. There is nothing more important than a constitutional decision in Australia and there is a time limit because of the Christmas period.
– I wish to speak just briefly in answer to Senator Webster. Last night I indicated to him that he had no real concern about inflation or prices. It is fairly evident, from the responses opposite, that neither have any of the Opposition parties. If Senator Webster is concerned about the social security legislation he ought to be concerned about prices which take the value out of payments which are made. If he and the Opposition parties are so concerned let us pass that legislation today also. There is no reason why we should not expedite it as honourable senators opposite want. It can go through in about an hour if the Opposition is so keen to get it through. It is also necessary to get the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill through as well.
– So that we can maintain the value -
– The Government could accede to our more sensible request for a referendum on prices and incomes.
-That matter can be decided upon. I merely suggest that the criticism which Senator Webster has made can be quickly answered if the Opposition parties are prepared to co-operate in getting that legislation through. We can do both things today. But surely general business must run third in this situation. If the Opposition were honest about this it would forgo general business under the terms which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) has indicated.
-This matter is being advanced upside down. It is traditional that a constitutional alteration proceeds with great patience, forethought and preparation. There is even some irritation at the fact that I speak for one or two minutes on the matter. The position is that this whirligig notion came into Caucus last Wednesday. It was foisted on the Prime Minister. He, behaving as usual like a young steer, reacted next day and said: ‘We will have this thing through on Thursday’.
– The honourable senator acts like a silly old moo.
– The mopoke croaks up about the silly old moo. The mopoke is the no poke now. Ordinarily a prudent government would enter into consultation with elements of the Parliament to see what degree of support was forthcoming for a constitutional proposition, which should be above party politics. Any prudent Prime Minister who had the capacity to act according to his judgment, as distinct from being compelled by an intransient Caucus, would have had consultations by now on possible alternative and additional subject matters. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) not so insistently to concentrate his mind on the one little word ‘prices’ as to exclude the possibility of other considerations. I rise to protest against a Bill dealing with a constitutional alteration being shovelled through as if it were sand on a cart to be dealt with by the workmen of the Caucus. It is a matter of high constitutional consideration for all elements of Parliament. It demands at least delay until next week before the Bill is allowed to go to the second reading stage. Our Standing Orders, very thoughtfully prepared by wise men -
– Yes, I emphasise ‘wise men’ to suggest that some should think of the alternatives that operate today. The Standing Orders provide that before the third reading of such a Bill there should be an interval to ensure that every honourable senator has been given ample time to consider, in this particular case, not only the passage of this prices legislation but also any other alternatives.
– I rise very briefly to say that when I came here I was under the impression that the Senate was a house of review and a chamber of deliberation. That I should be asked-I speak only for myself- to jazz this Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill through at this speed is most repugnant. I will have no part of it.
– The Senate is being asked merely to displace general business this evening in order to consider whether it will concur with the House of
Representatives in putting to the people of Australia the question whether they should decide for themselves to alter their constitution in order to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate in relation to prices. This is in a context where every day the most pressing problem facing the people and the Government is inflation. It is evident that the people ought to be allowed to have their say as to whether Parliament should have powers to pass whatever legislation is thought fit on that subject in an endeavour to curb inflation. It may be a matter for levity to honourable senators opposite, but that is an indication that because the Government lacks a majority in this place a frivolous view might be taken by some honourable senators opposite in their approach to these matters. I put it on grave and weighty grounds that the Senate is being asked to pursue a course which, in the past, has often been taken for far less reason. I think that it was a proper and reasonable request.
It has also been said that there is other legislation which is extremely important to which the Opposition has no objection and that it could be passed virtually without debate. If that were the view taken that could have been done immediately on the second reading of the legislation. That could have been done to give it a speedy passage. There is no reason why that legislation ought not to be given a speedy passage and we hope that it will be passed by the middle of next week so that the pensioners will not be deprived of some payment which they would otherwise receive. I have put the proposition to the Senate. I think the Opposition’s attitude simply indicates that it intends to embark upon a policy of frustration. I see no reason why the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill should not come to an early determination. Honourable senators opposite may have reasons for engaging in a filibuster. We would like an early decision on that Bill because, even it it were to be passed through all stages today and all the necessary steps including the suspension of Standing Orders taken today, there would be certain constraints on its implementation in that the Constitution provides that this proposal cannot be put to the people by the Government- I repeat ‘by the Government’ because it is put by the Government -
– It is put by the GovernorGeneral.
-It is put by the GovernorGeneral acting on the advice of the Government. But, under the Constitution, it cannot be put until 2 months after it passes through the Parliament. Notwithstanding the Government’s view that this proposal ought to be accepted by the people, their opportunity to pass judgment on it must be delayed for at least another 2 months. In the present inflationary situation the Government takes the view that the people ought to have the earliest possible opportunity to decide whether they will arm the Australian Parliament with the power which is sought. Every day that the Bill is delayed here not only means a delay of a further day before the proposal can be put before the people but also takes us a day closer to the Christmas period, when the holding of a referendum might be impractical, thereby involving a further delay. I have put the proposition to the Senate. It is obvious that the Opposition parties, which have the numbers in this chamber, are intent on pursuing some kind of filibuster. That has been indicated. Government senators have made their position clear. The arguments have been put. It is a simple proposition. We are determining whether the people will be able to decide this matter. In order to give the Bill the speediest possible passage, senators on this side of the chamber will refrain from participating in a debate which obviously is intended to be a filibuster.
That Government Business take precedence of General Business at 8 p.m. this day.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Pursuant to contingent notice of motion, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Notice of motion No. 1 1 stands in the name of Senator Hannan and order of the day No. 19 is related to atmospheric nuclear testing.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 19 September (vide page 720), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– It will be remembered that last evening I received the call from the Chair at a quarter to eleven. I was on my feet for a quarter of an hour before the Senate adjourned. During that quarter of an hour Senator Little addressed the chamber by way of interjection and then it was time for the Senate to adjourn. During the short time I was on my feet I advanced the proposition that the prices of commodities should be fixed by controlling the factors which influence the upward and downward fluctuations in the prices of those commodities. I pointed out that this Government has never followed the practice of the previous Government of creating a pool of unemployed in an effort to decrease demand for goods.
– I am sorry; I cannot hear you.
– That is not my fault, and I cannot do anything about it. The fact is that we are not prepared to create pools of unemployed for the purpose of taking money out of the workers’ pockets as a means of decreasing the demand for commodities. So we are left in the position of seeking other alternatives. One of the alternatives that we are seeking- I agree that it is not the panacea to all of the problems created by inflation- is price control. I had an argument to develop in order to justify this proposition, but I will not do so in view of what was said this morning, that there is a determination to take a vote on this measure next week. I never knew about this until the Opposition suggested that the vote will not be taken until next week, and I know of no reason why it cannot be taken today. Nothing will be done on this side of the chamber which would prevent a vote being taken today. If we are to give some protection to the huge shopping activities that will take place during the Christmas period, it is important to have power to control prices prior to the Christmas shopping period. Therefore, the Government believes that it is urgent to proceed with this Bill.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) has informed us that the Bill will be opposed by the Opposition at the second reading stage, the Committee stage and the third reading stage, so there is no question of any alteration of opinion on this matter. The only hope rested with the Australian Democratic Labor Party, and I commended the speech by Senator McManus who knows that it is necessary for the Government to control prices. But the members of the Democratic Labor Party have made up their minds. So it is only a question now of wasting time so that a vote cannot be taken this week. The Government sees the urgency in holding this referendum in order to get the people to indicate whether we should be controlling prices, but the referendum will be delayed in the hope that it cannot be held this year. If the Opposition is afraid to submit the question to the public it will use other methods to ensure that the question does not go to the public or that it does not go to the public in the time in which the Government desires it to go. The Government believes that the question would be carried successfully at the polls. In view of the determination to delay a vote on this measure and not to assist its passage in any way, I will limit what I have to say on the matter.
– I indicate at the outset that the Australian Country Party will oppose this measure to the best of its ability at all stages of the debate and, if the question happens to go to the people, out on the hustings. We believe that this is a gigantic confidence trick in order to secure from the people centralist powers for other purposes, particularly for the Marxist type doctrines on socialism. The Government is using the false argument that the Commonwealth needs the powers in order to control prices and therefore to control inflation. I believe that the Australian people must be made aware of the fact that this is not the old style Labor governments that we have known in the past- those led by men like Ben Chifley and John Curtin, and a lot earlier by Andrew Fisher. This is, without a doubt, a reactionary type Government. It is controlled from within by socialist theoretical academics and from without by those who believe in the Marxist type socialist doctrines.
I think it is most important when issues like this come before the Parliament that we, the Opposition, should stress to the people the importance of any action that they may take and indicate what action we may take in this Parliament on their behalf and the effects of that action. What is the real aim of any left wing pseudo Marxist type government? Obviously it is to implement at the earliest opportunity the socialist doctrine of the complete socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange. I can well understand a few remarks from some of those old type Labor members of Parliament who must shudder every time they get a hiding in the Caucus from the socialist academics who are putting forward this socialist program. In order to control the means of production, distribution and exchange -
– You have your facts wrong.
– You might not be allowed to run your hotel when they get the full power.
– The academics lost.
– You may know your Party better than I do.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Poke)- Order! Senator Maunsell, will you please address the Chair and forget the interjections?
-Yes, Mr Acting Deputy President. Any Marxist type government wanting to implement this policy of the complete socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange must have the necessary power vested in the Commonwealth to enable it to carry out this policy. Anyone who has followed the history of referenda in Australia will know that in normal circumstances it is almost impossible to have power such as that sought in this Bill granted by the people. The people hold the view-quite rightly, I believe-that the old masters who drew up the Constitution did a very good job to protect the States, particularly those States that have not the population and therefore the votiong strength of some other States. Those lesser populated States, in particular, are very careful not to give to the Commonwealth Parliament powers which they believe may not act in their interests. So we find on this occasion that the Government, and particularly the left wing academics, see an opportunity through this problem of inflation to hoodwink the people into changing the Constitution. The people are very much concerned about inflation.
– Who are the left wing academics? What are their names?
-Senator Wheeldon is one of them.
– Who are the others?
-Give me time. I will make my speech. Do honourable senators opposite want to delay the passage or the defeat of this Bill?
– Apart from myself, who are the other left wing academics?
– I have an hour in which to make my point and, if necessary, I will take that hour. The power to control prices would be difficult to obtain through normal channels. People are very much concerned about inflation, but they are being hoodwinked into believing that the cure for inflation is to give the Commonwealth powers over prices. I hope before I resume my seat that I will explode that theory. If the Government gets away with this, if it is able to get this measure through the Parliament and take the question to the people, it is quite possible- although highly improbable- that it will be able to hoodwink the people into agreeing to the proposal. That is why we see this great rush to get this measure passed. The Government can see that this is an opportunity for it to gain power which otherwise it would not have. The first thing we must ask ourselves is where is the need for this power. We have heard Government senators say during the course of this debate and in other debates that inflation ran riot during the 23 years in which the previous Government was in office. I think Senator McAuliffe mentioned the figure of some 22 per cent which applied back in the Korean war days. But the previous Government was able to build up the economic future of this nation tremendously with the powers that already exist by using strong and responsible monetary policies. We were prepared as a Government to not only attack the problem of prices but also to attack the problem of incomes and wages, which after all are in the long run responsible for increases in prices.
The Government cannot get away from the fact that labour in some way or another is responsible in the long run for prices. This is so whether it is direct labour engaged in a particular industry or whether it is labour engaged in other industries of which the particular product that is being produced requires materials, transport or something else. It all gets back to labour in the long run. If wages and incomes are increased it is only sensible to say, unless there is an increase in productivity which will allow increased wages to be absorbed, that prices must go up. But this Government will not face up to these problems.
– That is your philosophy, the same as Mr Chapman’s in the South Australian Parliament, who said: ‘Starve them into submission ‘.
– It is an amazing thing that when we were in Government for 23 years we had the lowest unemployment rate of any country in the world.
– Well, the honourable senator’s Party has been in office only for a while. He should wait until the effects of his Government’s inflationary policies and other policies of dampening down development in this nation and killing the primary industries of the nation are felt to see what the unemployment situation will be like then. We left the Government with a sound economy, and a good, sound and progressive nation. The Government is trying its hardest to destroy the economy because, let us face it, the productive industries of this country have made it what it is today. It is the productive industries of this country which have brought about the present standard of living of this nation. Everyone knows that the standard of living of any nation, or for that matter any family, is dependent on the income derived or brought into the nation or the home. Although Australia in numerical terms is a small nation it is the 12th largest trading nation in the world. Because of the productivity of our exporting industries this nation has been able to withstand a high standard of living and has been able to maintain high employment rates. But these achievements will go by the board very smartly if this Government stays in office.
Great urgency has been expressed about this legislation being passed. Yet, the previous Government combatted these problems for 23 years without the power sought by the present Government. Incidentally, the States have statedat least those States that are controlled by
Liberal Party and Country Party governmentsthat they are prepared to assist in attacking this great problem. They have said that they will give the Federal Government the necessary powers for a period in order to control inflation. So why the urgency?
- Senator Marriott said that they would not give it to the Commonwealth Government.
– Not permanently.
– Honourable senators opposite want this power to be given to the Commonwealth Government permanently so that the Government can use it against the people. The Government wants to control the price of homes, the price at which cars are sold and even the price at which employees sell their labour. This is the sort of control that the Government wants. This is Marxist type control; the type of control which is practised by pseudo-Marxist type nations all around the world. Fortunately the regime in Chile which is one such nation was recently overthrown. Many countries throughout the world are following the doctrine of complete power where all the initiative and incentive for people to produce has been taken away. In his speech on this Bill Senator Cavanagh said that the cost factor should be taken into account and then there should be a margin for profit. I suppose if a person is so efficient that the cost factor can be cut by half his margin of profit has to come down accordingly. This is what happens in all socialist countries. I would like to take honourable senators opposite on a trip to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I had the privilege of visiting this country only a month or so ago and I was able to have a look at what goes on in a socialist country which has been functioning for over 50 years. It was very interesting to see the lack of initiative and interest of the people there. I suppose that if one is not paid extra for initiative, hard work and extra work one will not do that work. It was obvious that this attitude had been accepted by the whole nation which says: ‘We will just go along quietly’. The standard of living of the Soviet people is low compared to that of Australia. I was very surprised to see that because one would have thought that a nation of such military and technological strength which has been able to put up Sputniks would have had a higher standard of living. But the Russian people freely admit that they not only lack the technology required in the ordinary industrial life of the country but that also they lack the know-how and that they are quite happy to engage in joint ventures with other nations. In fact they welcome joint ventures with private enterprise countries which they encourage to come into the USSR and assist them in developing their resources.
This great philosophy which destroys initiative and efficiency is the one that many members of the Government uphold. This is why the Opposition does not want to give the Commonwealth Government or anyone else the power to enable it to carry out these socialist philosophies. But the Government must have that power in order to implement them. That is why the Government of the day is .trying to rush this legislation throughto try to panic everyone into believing that the only reason why inflation is going so badly is that the Government does not have power over prices. The Government wants to have the whole thing finished by Christmas so that people will be able to settle down and have a nice Christmas box. What utter rubbish! There is no urgency about this. If there had been urgency to introduce this legislation why has the Government embarked upon a policy to let inflation run riot? It has fanned the fires of inflation ever since it has been in office. The Government cannot raise wages, lower working hours and increase leave, however fine these policies may be. But this is what the Government is trying to do. The Government cannot do all this without putting up costs unless there is a corresponding increase in productivity. But we have had exactly the opposite influence. Since the Government has been in office there have been more strikes and more lost man hours than before. Inflation must run riot if the Government implements these measures.
We have only to look at the Budget, which we are still debating, to see that this document outlines measures which are putting up prices in this country. For example, the Budget increases the price of petrol by 5c a gallon. People who live in Longreach or some other places where I happen to come from will have to pay 7c a gallon extra. Transport is the life-blood of rural and mining industries and any increase in petrol charges must put up transport costs. Increased transport costs will have a marked effect on the economy of Australia. On the one hand the Government is quite happy to jack up the price of petrol, which will have pronounced effect on transport costs and which will eventually increase the prices of most commodities, and on the other hand it is trying to panic the Opposition into giving it authority to go to the people and seek from them the right to control prices.
– We are asking the people and not the Opposition for the power.
-The Opposition wants to give the people an opportunity to understand what is on the other side of the coin. It is important that the people be told what they will be in for if they hand over such a power. If the Government is interested in controlling inflation, why did it do the things to which I have referred? Why did it introduce an inflationary Budget? The Government has introduced the most inflationary Budget to be introduced in the Parliament for years. The Government is not interested in controlling inflation, otherwise it would have accepted the offer of the Premiers. The Government is not interested in curbing inflation before Christmas. The interesting thing is how the introduction of price control only will curb inflation. How is the Government going to do it with price control only? Every country in the world which has tried some stopgap measure to control inflation, including the United States of America and Great Britain, has imposed not just a prices freeze but a prices and incomes freeze. The Government is running away from the control of incomes. Its masters outside of the Parliamentthe trade union bosses- have told the Government to lay its hands off the control of incomes.
– They are controlled now through the arbitration court and the honourable senator knows it.
– What rubbish. When people like Mr Halfpenny are encouraged by the Government to make agreements outside of the arbitration court what rot it is to say that the arbitration court pegs wages. What about the Government’s offer of salary increases to all Commonwealth public servants? Let us face it that whatever is given to the Commonwealth Public Service flows on naturally to the State public services and eventually to private industry. So what rot it is to talk about wages being controlled at the moment.
The Australian Country Party will fight this measure right to the bitter end. My Party can see the dangers in it. In talking about this matter in the other place Mr Whitlam said that if the Government had the power it seeks it would be able to control land prices. It may be a good idea if the Government were able to control the price of the land that is being sought by young people for the building of a home. But the ramifications of the controlling of land prices must have a far reaching effect on every farmer and grazier in Australia. It has always been accepted that one has to meet one’s market. Anybody who has been on the land will know that there are bad times and there are good times. There are times of bad prices and periods of drought in which people on the land are unable to continue and are forced to sell. The Government is trying to tell the people on the land that they will not be able to receive the best market price but that they will have to accept an arbitrary price determined by some so-called expert in Canberra. This nation has been built on private enterprise and the initiative shown by individuals who wanted to better themselves. It has not been built on some great doctrine which says all people are equal but some are more equal than others. I know that that is the way the system operates in the Soviet Union. If you happen to be one of those who run the country under that socialist system you are not too badly off, but you would not like to be one of the 85 per cent who do not run the country.
– You are a disgrace for having accepted their hospitality and then come back and said that.
– Honourable senators opposite should go and have a look for themselves and see how the system works. They may believe that that system is a great one, but I do not. I do not know why those who believe it is the better system remain in this country. I believe that Australia is a better country to live in than Russia. I turn now -
– Have you lost your place?
– I have not lost any enthusiasm for having a go at this measure. There are a few things about it that I want to get into. Reverting to the Budget, I ask: What is in it for not only the farmers and the rural producers but also those who happen to live in country towns? It provides for increased postal charges. I hope that events which will take place in the next few days will mean that they will not be given effect. It also provides for increased excise duties on certain commodities. The price of cigarettes and of the different alcoholic beverages will go up as a result of the Budget. That will affect the working people. It will have a particular effect on those who live in the remoter areas of Australia. Senator McAuliffe would well understand that in those parts of the country the profit margin is added to the transport costs and the purchase price of the product. Not only will the increase in excise and the increase in transport costs go on to the price of a product but also there will be another percentage on top of that. The ordinary worker in the western areas is certainly going to suffer. He will not have to pay any more for his cigarettes and tobacco because the price for them is the same right throughout the country, but he will have to pay more for certain other products.
A matter of interest is the proposed export tax on beef. The Government has the power to impose such an export tax, but it does not have the power to control the price of meat products sold within the nation. It will be interesting to see what happens. Certain supporters of the Government who regard themselves as being experts in the subject of primary industry have expressed views about this matter. Mr Whan is one. I saw him being interviewed on television the other day. He said that a very high export tax should be imposed to bring the local price of meat down. A figure of as high as 20c per lb was mentioned. That must have been very interesting to the cattle producers in the Northern Territory and in northern and western Queensland, where there are large cattle numbers but very small local populations. As much as 90 to 95 per cent of the meat produced in those areas is exported. Those cattle producers are apparently to have a tax of 20c per lb imposed on their exports.
– Who said it would be 20c per lb?
– Rumours again. He did not say anything of the sort.
– All right; what does Senator McLaren think it will be? There is no doubt that an export tax is going to be imposed, and a high one at that, in order to try and bring down the home consumption price. Those people who are fortunate enough to be able to produce meat for export, particularly for the United States market, are the ones who will have to bear the brunt of the whole of this tax and who will have the price of their product reduced accordingly. It will have very little effect at all on those who are fortunate enough to be in closely settled areas and near the densely populated areas of Sydney and Melbourne. The proposed tax will have little effect at all on the price of beef on the home market. The price will still be determined by the demand. Until there is increased production to meet the demand the price will not come down. This academic Government is going to bring down a measure which will have a crippling effect on people who live in remote areas but which will not bring about the desired effect. The Government has tried various things, but it has failed because it has no practical knowledge of the operation of the industry. Despite that it is asking us to give it the power to control everything around the place willy-nilly. Thank God those who wrote the Constitution of Australia have been able to prevent that sort of thing from happening. It is the responsibility of honourable senators on this side of the House- the only ones in this Parliament who have knowledge of these things- to inform the people of Australia that they should have no part of this measure.
– Put it to the people and then put your case to them. Do not prevent them from having a say, which is what you are doing now.
– It is amazing. When did it start? It started on Monday. When did they have that Caucus meeting?
-‘ Revolt’ is the word.
-A Caucus revolt and by a very close margin they decided they would do this thing. It was only last Tuesday that the Government even thought about this measure. It did not think about it for long; it did not think about it before it brought it in. Now, without having given any thought to something that came off the top of its head on Tuesday, it brings it in here and without any thought of what the ramifications might be, asks us, trying to panic us, to rush this question to the people and to let them decide. The people did not elect us to this place to make such irresponsible decisions. It is our responsibility to investigate this measure before we involve the Australian people in another spending spree. A referendum will cost moneydo not have any doubts about that. Before we start squandering the public purse we should sit down here and thoroughly investigate all the possibilities. If we are able to control inflation without wasing money on a referendum, by taking up the offer of the Premiers and taking the powers temporarily -
– What offer?
– Tell us about the offer.
– I know that Mr Whitlam has said he is not interested in it, so he has probably not told the honourable senators about it. I know that they made offers to him. He hates so much the idea of these terrible States having a little say in the running of this country -
– Tell us what the offer was.
– He probably has not told the Minister, but every State Premier has agreed to join with the Commonwealth in producing a plan to combat inflation and, if necessary, to hand over temporarily to the Commonwealth those powers necessary to make operative any plan that is drawn up.
– When was that done?
-The Minister should go and ask Mr Whitlam, for obviously he has not been prepared to tell everyone.
Senator Cavanagh- Did Bjelke-Petersen make an offer?
– Yes, he has made an offer too. I come back to the matter of meat prices. This measure is a typical example of the off-the-cuff, shooting-from-the-hip type of administration of this Government. It would be disastrous if we lost the export income that has been built up by our meat exporters and by the meat industry over the years. It has taken a long time, but when we can get these industries into full gear and full production to earn for this nation a tremendous amount of overseas exchange, this Government wants -
– To keep some of it at home for our own consumers.
-You will not keep it, because production will not be sufficient. The Government is just deterring people from producing, and if it does deter them from producing, the demand will not be met. The Government must help these people to produce and to produce quickly. I admit that it takes a while to increase cattle numbers and to increase beef production; but it does not take a long time to increase mutton production. This can be achieved in a short time with a well thought out plan. The amazing thing is the when the Government mentions meat prices today anyone would think that what they were in 1968 or 1955 or 1 949 were just way out. As a matter of fact, a graph shows the price of beef- this is the one we are mainly concerned about- since the previous Government came to power in 1949 to be pretty well parallel with average weekly earnings. But there is a great hue and cry that beef prices are too high. If one looks at the graph of the prices for mutton, pork and chicken- these are some of the meats that people eat- one sees that the prices are well below average weekly earnings. Why should one industry be picked on when it now has an opportunity to develop? It has built up markets all around the world and it has now an opportunity to develop a terrific export market, to get itself organised and so do something for this country as the wool industry did for 100 years. But this Government wants to kick it in the pants.
What is the use? It makes me sick to think of what has been done over the years to develop this nation and its industries and the way that many people have battled through droughts, fires and floods- for there is a lot of adversity in those remote areas under very trying conditions. And now that these people have an opportunity to stabilise their properties and their assets and to do something worth while for the future and for their children, they find that this Government has no interest whatsoever in the rural areas. It has made that quite clear ever since it has been in office and particularly in this Budget. This Government wants to destroy these industries on the assumption that meat prices have gone mad. They have not gone any higher than other prices in the community. They did jump quickly in a matter of one or two years but they have been slow getting to that point. I can remember selling mutton for 5c a lb only three or four years ago. Sheep were selling at 5c a lb and mutton was very cheap. The producers are now getting only what they deserve, the prices they are entitled to receive. Some of them will admit: ‘In the long term interests of the beef industry in Australia we do not want prices to go higher too quickly.’ Most producers admit that. But the way to prevent that happening is to increase production and to increase the flow to the market and therefore to satisfy the demand. I want at this stage to get on to another aspect.
– It is time you got on to something.
- Senator Cavanagh last night gave us a great dissertation on how a business should be run: Firstly, you work out the costs and then you add a reasonable margin for profit, and that should be the price. If you happen to put on twice as many people as are necessary and they are half as efficient as they should be, you take that cost and you add a margin to it. If it is a percentage margin it would pay to have the most inefficient group you could find, because the margin would be based on those costs. It was an amazing dissertation; I had never heard anything like it in my life. Many Australian industries, particularly primary industries, have been built through hard work and efficiency and have been able to produce at prices lower than those in any other nation in the world despite the high standard of living in Australia. Why is it we have been able to meet world prices in wool? Another interesting thing about beef is that the beef industry and the meat industry generally have been looking for years for this opportunity to create a bit of a boost in their economy so that they can develop their properties. But the actions of this Government in the last 9 months through revaluations of the dollar have cut prices on the United States market, our main market, by 25 per cent. If we had not had these revaluations, the price that producers back here were obtaining on the American market would be 25 per cent higher. The Government is not satisfied with giving producers a kick in the pants to the extent of 25 per cent; it now wants to bring in other measures to reduce further the incomes of these people.
We on the Opposition side will fight this measure. There is no question that it is a panic measure. It is a smokescreen, an endeavour to secure for this socialist Government powers to bring about its socialist program for the control of the means of production, distribution and exchange. The Government knows that it cannot control prices unless it has the power to do so. It knows that it cannot get that power from the elected representatives of the people, so it uses the back door method of seeking a referendum in the hope that the people, who are very concerned about inflation and who have been sold this great pup that the be all and end all and the cure of inflation is for the Commonwealth to have power over prices, will carry the referendum. What rot. The Opposition will fight this Bill. I hope it ends up in the waste paper basket so quickly that it does not matter.
– I wish to direct some remarks to this Bill which proposes a referendum to alter the Australian Constitution, and I wish to talk in general about price control and some of the measurements of Government policy which have affected our economy during the past few months. Firstly, I ask: What is the definition of ‘prices’ as envisaged by the Government? I wonder whether it includes Government charges for services, power, communications, postage and all those things which it is within the power of the Government to vary, I wonder whether prices of that sort are envisaged in the Government’s definition which would be affected by this constitutional alteration. I also question the type of machinery the Government would find it necessary to use if this power were given to it and if it started a system of Government control of prices in Australia. I refer to some comments which were made in the report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development with regard to experiences of price control, and the administrative difficulties which are encountered. The report states:
Experience has tended to confirm the judgment that a comprehensive system of price control in the strict sense raises almost unsuperable administrative difficulties and over a number of years it would have harmful effects on efficiency.
Professor John Nevile said:
Nothing that has happened in the United States of America or in the United Kingdom in the last few years would cause one to change that judgment.
Indeed, in the Australian experience in the time when we had wartime price control, we will reflect and accept that there was considerable administrative difficulty in the system. The OECD report used the word ‘insuperable’. If we have a power over prices and a power to control them, within the ambit of the Australian Constitution, for the Federal Government to use, does this mean that the Government will use that power as a price freeze control or will it use that power as a price rise justification in terms of the Prices Justification Tribunal which it has already set up? Will it consider that prices ought to be at a level of some specified date or will it accept that productivity gains, and commercial forces, as they operate, have an effect on prices? These are some of the administrative difficulties which would need to be faced, and I am wondering how the interpretation of that simple word in the Bill would be developed by the Government.
I think I am able to say quite sincerely that I agree that inflation is the most important factor to which Australians should be directing attention at present. I think it is of such tremendous proportions that it should no longer be a matter of petty Party politics but rather a great national question. We must have different philosophies as starting points on seeking to control inflation and we have different levels of responsibility which we accept. Opposition speakers, both in the House of Representatives and in this chamber, have stressed our overall responsibility. It is not just one that relates to a price level, but one that seeks to interpret the cause of a price and the factors which refer to it. In this sense I think that we have to broaden the extent of our thinking and not just look at commodity prices in isolation but go a step behind that point and find what has caused prices to reach the level at which they are at present.
We have seen and heard attitudes expressed that prices and incomes are related to one another. I wish to direct some remarks to this. If we are talking about policies of prices and incomes, it seems to me fundamental that any income policy has more chance of success if both employers and unions consider it reasonably equitable and agree to support the criteria for price and wage rises embodied in it. So an essence of co-operation is required before we can talk about an incomes policy or something that would be related directly to wages as they affect prices. I believe it is fair to say that all governments must now realise that any anti-inflationary proposal to curb prices, without a corresponding check on wage increases would be futile and would be doomed to failure. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has consistently given an impression that he understands the relativity between incomes and prices, and that is why we accept, with some degree of question, why this amendment is in the form that it takes in the Bill. It would be unrealistic to state that the wage spiral in Australia has not been a real boost to inflation. The reason is inherent in the nature of cost inflation. It concerns the ability of those involved in increasing pay and prices to do so independently of the level of aggregate demand, but the situation which we face is one in which a long period of increasing wages and wage demands, without relating them to growth in productivity and efficiency, has meant that we have a relationship which is causing the inflation which we are experiencing.
I have some figures which are taken from the report of the Victorian Employers Federation and which relate to a study undertaken between March 1967 and December 1972. They show that price and productivity increases would have justified a wage and salary increase as high as 38.7 per cent for that period. The actual increase has been 61.5 per cent. That is an excess of 22.8 per cent over the actual rise in productivity for that period. In contrast, we have a position in relation to the period from the March quarter 1963-64 to the March quarter 1966-67 in which the combined rise of 10.4 per cent in the consumer price index and 8.7 per cent in constant prices of the gross national product per member of the labour force yielded an implicit wage rise of 19.1 per cent. This was only slightly less than the 20.9 per cent rise in average weekly earnings actually earned. These facts would strongly rebut the Government’s previous contention that wage movements have simply been an adjustment to reflect both losses due to inflation and gains due to productivity increases. That contention simply cannot be sustained, and the figures which I have quoted show the true relationship to those movements.
However, the Australian Council of Trade Unions has rejected the suggestion that there is any relationship between wage increases and inflation. That is evidenced by statements made recently by the President of the ACTU. A recent article in the Melbourne ‘Age’ quotes Mr Hawke as having said:
The claim that the inflation is being caused by trade unions is spurious.
The article continues:
Instead he threw the responsibility for the inflationary situation onto company profits.
At this point I think that we should reflect for a moment on attitudes. It seems to me that with Government measures to make price increases justifiable, to seek information with regard to price movements and now to place the power of control over prices with the Federal Government we have an attitude on price and profit that does not seem to show the relationship that we would see as people who understand the working of the commercial forces. The Government, in wishing to control prices or to have price rises justified, seems always to relate this to movements in profit and to contend that control of movements in profit would enable a reduction of price levels and inflation to a satisfactory level.
I have some figures which relate to the gross operating surpluses of companies during the years 1948-49 to 1971-72. These are the latest figures available to enable us to measure the total of wages and salaries and the supplements in the gross national product. We see from those figures that wages increased 9.28 times between 1948-49 and 1971-72. During that time, the gross operating surplus of companies increased 9. 1 5 times. Of course, the Australian Council of Trade Unions would want to divert attention from the obvious fact that our inflationary problem is the end result of an abandonment of a wages policy tied to productivity in the face of direct action by certain hostile unions. This is the inescapable fact that we are talking about at the present time. There is a lack of co-operation at a national level between the trade union movement, the community and government in the way in which we should seek to work together to arrest this inflationary spiral.
Perhaps the first step we should be looking at in order to achieve price stability, even in the short term, would require the curbing of the power of trade unions to pursue higher and higher wage levels. I speak from experience as a member of a parliamentary committee. It is a matter of public record that a manufacturer stated to that committee that if union demands at present on his desk are all upheld and achieved there will be an increase of 30 per cent in the cost of the product he produces by April of next year. It is unreal to think that he will have a profit increase that would relate proportionately to those union demands. It is also unreal to think that price levels and movements would not be affected by these demands now in the hands of this one Australian manufacturer. Honourable senators of the Opposition continually contend that until wages of Australian workers are related to productivity gains we will always have increasing inflation and increasing price levels which diminish the purchasing power of all of us.
I want to relate some of my remarks to one government policy which was described as one of the attacks on inflation. That was the tariff cut of 25 per cent on imported goods. It was taken as a measure by this Government to increase the flow of imported goods into Australia and reduce the price of domestically manufactured products. I have figures which show the effect that the steady increased inflow of imported goods could have on the employment situation in some of our manufacturing industries if there are no changes in the present supply and demand situation. These figures were taken out only in relation to industries in which there is likely to be more than a 5 per cent reduction in employment. I shall not be relating my remarks to other industries in which movement is likely to be below that level.
I shall commence by dealing with the clothing manufacturers and by isolating some section of the industry. There could be a reduction of 8 per cent in employment opportunities in those industries engaged in the manufacturing of women’s and girl’s blouses and frocks. In general women’s and girl’s clothing there could be a reduction of 7.6 per cent in employment opportunities. In hosiery manufacturing, the reduction in employment opportunities could be 6.9 per cent, in household textiles 5.9 per cent, in textile floor coverings 4.6 per cent, in men’s trousers and work clothing 8. 1 per cent and in men’s suits and coats 9.6 per cent. I could cite a whole range of reductions in employment opportunities at about the 6 per cent level which could be a direct result of the 25 per cent tariff reduction. This action was taken without consideration of those industries which may need special protection and which may have provided opportunities for decentralised employment for which there is no alternative if employment opportunities are reduced.
Honourable senators know that the tariff reductions were made by a government which seeks the control of prices. The claim is advanced that a reduction of prices would be achieved by the tariff reduction because of the increased competition from imported goods. When we understand that there is inflation in so many of the comparable countries at the present time we wonder whether that, too, is an unreal contention and whether price levels in other countries may not assist us but may distort our own employment patterns. It would be realistic to deal with food prices which concern us very directly when we look at the consumer price index. Again, we find that the sensible approach in this direction would have been to remove all restraints on imports of foodstuffs. Perhaps we could have drawn additional supplies from New Zealand and other countries where price levels may have assisted us to lower our prices. Such direct action could have an immediate and certain impact during the remainder of this year. Then, with the wage demands that would come from within Australia, there would be an employment distortion and long term lack of confidence which would flow into our own food production industry. There would then be a spiral of a different nature altogether. The results would be a long term lack of direction which would have resulted from a short term measure which would have achieved long term disastrous results.
I find that the sort of policies which have been introduced give us concern as to how the use of such wide ranging power as the power to control prices would be determined by this Government. We have seen the experience of short term prices and incomes policies adopted in other countries. This was put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) as an alternative at the present time to combat the inflation experienced in Australia. The Premiers of Victoria and New South Wales have indicated a willingness to cooperate as a matter of national importance to combat inflation. They were prepared in the short term to refer powers to the Federal Government so that a whole economic and fiscal policy could be adopted that might be of assistance in reducing the spiral of inflation which is of concern. If we were to consider that as an alternative to the present measure of referring the power to control prices permanently to the Commonwealth by altering our Constitution we could be adopting a more realistic approach and doing something which could have an immediate effect and which would have the co-operation of the people of Australia.
Unless there is a measure of co-operation and understanding in any of the measures that we take that together we must attempt to improve productivity and to have wages and movements of prices related to productivity gains it seems that it will be very difficult for us to attack the inflation we are experiencing. I find that the power which is sought needs a great deal of definition and a great deal of time for the Australian people to consider exactly what this power may do and the way in which it could be used. It seems to me that the way in which this Bill is being dealt with in the national Parliament does not permit consideration of the lack of information which has been given to the Australian people at this time. I know that there would be a campaign putting forward points of view for and against any alterations to the Constitution.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– If the Senate is to be used as part of the process of educating and informing the Australian public about the proposed alteration to the Constitution, opportunity should be taken for a full and developed debate on this subject. I was somewhat dismayed earlier today when an attempt was made to suspend the Standing Orders in order to rush this Bill through the Senate by this evening. The Government claimed that the Opposition is delaying the referendum on prices. Therefore I would like to draw attention to the program relating to the passage of this Bill. If the Bill were passed today the earliest that a referendum could be put to the people would be 20 November this year. The first Saturday after that date- a Saturday is the usual day for an election or a referendumwould be 24 November. If this Bill is not passed until next week, say 25 September, the earliest day on which a referendum could be held would be 25 November, and the first Saturday after that date would be 1 December. Therefore if this Bill passed through the Senate in the normal fashion and we voted on it next week the referendum would be delayed by only one week. So it was extraordinary that an attempt was made to suspend the Standing Orders in dealing with a Bill as important as one seeking to alter the Australian Constitution.
The other thing that concered me about the program put forward by the Government was the fact that important legislation relating to social service payments was to be set aside by the Government while it endeavoured to rush this Bill through this chamber. I am concerned about that when I consider the number of Australian families who expect social service benefits as a result of the Budget. Those benefits are held up because the Government has altered the program it had undertaken to pursue today.
I want to summarise my remarks about prices and inflation. I think there are 4 important factors to be considered when we relate inflationary conditions to the principal industrially developed countries of the world. In the last 25 years there have been different developments which were not present before. New conditions are now apparent and they affect many countries as well as our own. The fact that prices have risen greatly during that period of 25 years has created certain difficulties for all those countries. The rate of productivity growth in them has varied and this has had some effect on domestic prices. The rate at which the total demand for goods and services has risen throughout developed countries also has had a marked effect. There has been a remarkably rapid growth of output and productivity compared with the pre-war period and some countries have had different expectations and development in this sphere. Some countries have had a remarkable increase in growth and output while others have achieved less. However in most developed countries there has been rapid growth.
Secondly, there has been an even more rapid growth in manufactured goods, in particular, between industrialised countries, together with a continuous growth in the number and size of multi-national companies. This has had an effect on the growth and output of industrial manufacture throughout the world. Another important factor since the end of World War II has been the expectation of workers as to their living standards and the improvements which have been achieved. This is something we all applaud. The fact that there has been an increase in the standard of living and the expectation which a worker may have for his effort is something that we feel has been of advantage to many countries as a result of industrialised development.
One other factor which has had an effect on inflation in many countries has been the growth of the public sector. This is notable in our own country. That is why when we talk this year of a national effort to combat inflation we need to draw attention to the responsibility of government with regard to the activities of the public sector and the consequential effect which that has on the internal economy. To conclude my remarks, I stress my opposition to any alteration to the Australian Constitution seeking to give control of prices in isolation to an Australian Government. I stress the fact that it is a Government responsibility to have sound economic management which will allow the control of inflation to be such that we do not diminish the expectation of the worker of the spending power which he has as a result of his labour. We should seek a healthy economy and allow growth consistent with productivity increases and all the aspirations that we have for each individual Australian.
– At the moment the Senate is discussing the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill under which it is proposed to ask the people to alter the Constitution in order to give the Commonwealth
Government the central power to control prices. I believe that this is not an answer to the problem of inflation in this country. It seemed quite ironical to me that the Government, claiming to have the confidence of the people following last year’s election should now be admitting that its course of action has created absolute chaos in the economy. It is unable to manage the economy by proper businesslike fiscal measures and is now asking for power to control prices. The history of price control as a means of controlling inflation demonstrates that it always has been a miserable failure. I have been told that this has been the case since the days of Diocletian. Price control was a failure even in his time. Not being a great historian like my colleague Senator Wright, I took the trouble of finding out who this character Diocletian was and discovered that he was a Roman Emperor. I went to the trouble of looking at Chambers Encyclopaedia. It provided a bit of a story which I would like to read to honourable senators. It is headed ‘Diocletian’s Experiment’.
– Webster may have had a different reference.
-It could have. This is the reference that I believe is interesting. It states:
A typical experience, the first about which we have much information, was the edict of the Roman emperor Diocletian (A.D. 284-303). Diocletian has been described as the first totalitarian ruler. He succeeded to an empire economically on the brink of ruin after 50 years of virtual anarchy.
In Australia, after 9 months of a Labor Government, we are in the same situation.
The currency had depreciated to an alarming degree and only heroic measures could stop the general rot. Diocletian ’s edict of A.D. 301 was the third instalment of a general reconstruction program which comprised a thorough reform of taxation and currency.
Diocletian realised some of the difficulties of price control, above alt the temptation to producers to shift their activities to commodities remaining outside control. He met this by making his list of maximum prices as comprehensive as he could; we can identify 1,069 separately priced items . . .
Moreover, as no control of prices could be effective unless it included control of the remuneration of those needed to produce the goods, wages and services fees formed part of the edict: it was a wage as well as a control decree. Yet although among the fees prescribed were those chargeable for transport services, it did not allow in the prices of goods for the cost of bringing some of them to their markets; nor did it provide for a wholesale margin. These imperfections, added to the government’s expenditure on war, on expanded public services and spectacular building operations, doomed the edict to failure. In spite of the threat of death to those who either sold or bought at prices in excess of the maximum, and to those who withheld goods from the market rather than trade at the prices prescribed, a black market developed; the business community demurred; the edict had to be withdrawn.
That is the experience of the first proponent- according to history- of this scheme which the Australian Labor Party has decided will rescue it from its own irresponsibility. I now cite a recent experience of the Israeli people. I have an article which was written by Carol Greenwald in the New England Economic Review’ of JanuaryFebruary last year. It states:
Israel has experimented with incomes policies under conditions of both excess aggregate demand and underemployment. When price and wage controls were used during the late stages of a recession and early in the ensuing recovery, they were successful in moderating wage and price increases. In terms of demand pressures, this period shares a strong similarity with current conditions in the United States. Some economists have suggested that an incomes policy should become a permanent policy tool. Israel ‘s experience with wage-price controls in a period of full employment illustrates some dangers of controls as a long-term policy device. Because prices serve an allocative function, suppressing their movements can damage economic growth.
Despite Israel ‘s considerably smaller size and different institutional structure, its economy responds to economic forces in ways similar to industrialised western economies, so that generalisations based on Israel’s experience with incomes policies are relevant to the US economy. Since labor unions in Israel are both politically and economically more powerful than ours, this study demonstrates the limited effectiveness of incomes policies even when they enjoy significant labor support.
The first section of this article illustrates the futility of using wage-price controls to restrain inflationary pressures where there is general excess demand in the economy. While it is tempting to seek a less painful way than restrictive monetary and fiscal policies to reduce inflationary pressures, with excess demand, wage-price controls do not effectively restrict wage increases and may also, as in Israel, produce the unwanted results of increasing the trade deficit and causing undesirable shifts in industrial structure.
Israel also decided to take action to forestall a cost-push spiral which might have erupted when new contracts were negotiated in 1963. This is when Israel applied a freeze on wages and prices. The article continues:
Unions withdrew demands for an increase in basic wage rates when their contracts expired in late 1962 and early 1963. Cost-of-living payments, however, were to continue. In turn, the Manufacturers Association again agreed that employers would absorb increases in the cost-of-living allowance without raising prices. The government, for its part, pledged not to raise direct or indirect tax rates in fiscal year 1963-64. The agreement thus inhibited the use of fiscal measures as an instrument of anti-inflationary policy.
The article goes on to list the detrimental effects of price controls. For the information of honourable senators I read some further paragraphs which state:
While the danger that controls may be unfair to particular groups is well known, the danger that it can distort the economic system, with subsequent painful re-adjustments, is less obvious. In Israel, price controls increased the trade deficit and led to the overexpansion of the construction sector. Furthermore, speculative overbuilding was instrumental in bringing on the severe recession of 1 966.
The effectiveness of price controls in the industrial sector created the illusion among policy-makers that inflationary pressures had been contained. In fact, excess demands were expressed through a rapid increase in imports and a diversion of exports to domestic consumption. Price controls led to a rise in the trade deficit in two ways. First, without price controls, rising domestic prices would have absorbed much of the excess purchasing power which resulted in a larger volume of imports. Second, variations in the effectiveness of price controls caused a decline in the quantity of goods exported. Prices of industrial goods rose much less than those of consumer services, increasing domestic demand for manufactured goods. In industrial goods the volume of exports slowed since it depends on the difference between production and home demand. The proportion of total industrial output allocated to exports fell during the period 1962-1965, after having risen rapidly in the years from 1958 to 1962. The use of price controls, rather than restrictive monetary and fiscal policies, to stem inflationary pressures thus completely undermined any effect the devaluation could have had on expanding exports.
– From what is the honourable senator quoting?
– I am quoting from an article in the ‘New England Economic Review’. It is the January-February 1972 issue and it is headed: ‘Price- Wage Controls: The Israeli experience ‘. It is by Carol S. Greenwald.
-Just to clarify that, is it New England in Australia or is it New England, United States of America?
– I could not be sure about that. I cannot identify it from the publication.
– I just raised the point for the information of honourable senators who may wish to identify the article.
-Thank you. There are other examples of what has happened in the United States. We know that President Kennedy introduced voluntary measures to deal with the situation in that country at that time. The first report of the Council of Economic Advisers of the Kennedy Administration in January 1962 elaborated a basic policy that the general guide for non-inflationary wage behaviour is that the increase in wage rates in each industry is equal to the trend rate of overall productivity increase. In its 1 964 report this Council tightened the guide posts by noting that exceptions it had previously allowed- that is price increases which assisted efficient resource allocation and the correction of inequities arising from varying amounts of market or bargaining power- were expected to apply only in a very few cases. The guide posts were designed to perform principally an educative function in the economy. But they provided also a basis for occasional Government intervention, principally by applying pressure through publicstatements and private consultations in specific bargaining and pricing situations. After mid- 1965 excessive demand began to raise prices more rapidly than the guide posts allowed and confrontations with the Government increased in frequency. The guideline policy was recognised as having come to an end in 1 966 in the airline mechanics dispute. Thereafter the Government confined itself to tentative suggestions from time to time on appropriate wagesprices behaviour.
This contrasted with the measures introduced by President Nixon in 1971. He decided to apply a prices-wages freeze for a 3-month period. This had to be followed by phase 2 which provided for the application of mandatory controls indefinitely, thus restricting price and wage increases within the limits established by the Cost-of-Living Council. Phase 2 seemed to be successful; but I understand that phase 3, which currently is in operation in that country, is not meeting with the success that the presidential advisers felt it should. The price freeze of August 1971, as I said, certainly was successful, and a continuation of the controls applied in phase 2 did prevent dramatic price rises at the end of the freeze. Although this contrast favours a policy of compulsory restraint, it should be borne in mind that the voluntary policies attempted in Canada in 1970 and in the United States during the period of the Kennedy Administration were extremely low key and a more vigorously applied voluntary program might prove more successful.
I think that in essence this is what we are facing today. We have been conditioned to think that we are in a state of tremendous inflation. We certainly are. The public must be desperate about the situation that has been created by the present Government. I believe that it is necessary for us to recondition the public so that they think along the lines of exercising restraint themselves, particularly in relation to increased wage demands. We have to encourage industry to resist the temptation to increase prices. / believe that these things could be achieved by proper consultation with the State Premiers. This is the policy advocated by the Leader of the Opposition in the other House, Mr Snedden. He maintains that the answer to inflation is not in taking action in relation to prices and wages- not in the long term, anyway. He has advocated the freezing of prices and wages for a short period so that we can have a breathing space in which to call together people such as the Premiers of the States. They are equally concerned about the matter and would co-operate in helping the Commonwealth to arrive at some reasonable fiscal measures to apply in the critical situation which we are experiencing in Australia.
A number of good articles have been written on price controls. I have two or three of them with me here. I believe that it would be of interest to the Senate if I read an extract from each of them. The first article appeared in the 3-13 May 1972 edition of the ‘National Times’. The article is headed ‘Price Controls: Do They Work?’, and it reads:
Faced with inflation they have been unable to control, more and more governments in the past few years have resorted to some form of prices policy.
The pace has been set by the most conservative administrations, especially those which originally said that they would introduce no such thing.
The most dramatic example was the Nixon Administration, which turned round in its tracks last summer and introduced a three months’ freeze on prices and wages, before setting up the watchdog mechanism still in existence.
Attempts at statutory control have been made by liberal or conservative governments as far apart as Canada and New Zealand, but the great proliferation has been in Europe.
The German Ifo economic research institute recently counted a dozen European countries which imposed statutory price freezes or controls during 1970-71; most of the rest, including Britain, have also introduced prices policies, but not with mandatory powers.
The usual excuse for these price controls is that it will bc impossible to operate even a voluntary incomes policy unless the unions believe that they are in effect. The big danger behind them is that they might reduce profit margins below the economic level, and cause an investment recession.
The major European country with the longest experience of a statutory prices policy is France. The last contrat antihausse ran from mid-September last year to the middle of March, based on a frame agreement between the Government and the employers to keep the rise in manufacturers ‘ prices down to 1 .5 per cent during those six months.
This was more or less achieved for manufacturers’ prices (which always are the easiest prices to keep down), but total French consumer prices rose by more than the projected 2 per cent in this period; in February alone they went up by 0.6 per cent.
In the longer term, French policies can hardly be called a wild success. Although there have been price controls of one kind or another since 1939, French inflation rates have almost invariably run ahead of most of the rest of Europe.
That article tells of the experience of another country which since 1939 has been trying a policy similar to that with which this Government is asking us to agree. But the inflationary trend in that country invariably has run ahead of that applying in most other countries in Europe. That is one very good reason why we should not have a bar of the Government’s proposal. Another article to which I wish to refer appeared in the 3 April 1973 issue of the ‘Financial Review’. It was written by Samuel Brittan of the ‘Financial Times ‘, and it reads:
Medicine and economic policy have more in common than many of the practitioners of either would care to admit. One similarity is that they both often prescribe cures which are worse than the disease.
Nowhere is this more true than in prices and incomes policy. Indeed, the so-called policy in this sphere is reaching a stage where it may do more harm than tolerating a certain amount of inflation.
The best hope of avoiding some of the extravagancies now being planned in the name of prices and incomes policy is the probable failure of that policy to achieve anything like its longer run objectives, whatever may happen in Phase Two.
It is unlikely that the notion of controlling individual prices and incomes will ever be abandoned, as it was for long periods in the 1 950s and again at the beginning of the present decade.
But there is a good chance that the control machinery may atrophy through disuse (as it has done in France) after this year’s burst of activity.
These optimistic hopes are, however, for the future. The greatest present danger from the price control mentality is paradoxically enough that the whole point of having any prices at all will be forgotten.
Yesterday Senator Willesee said that the inflationary problems being experienced by this country today are due to the policies of the former Liberal-Country Party Government. This, of course, is typical of the tactics adopted by the Labor Party in attempting to distract the public from the facts of history and from its own mismanagement while it has been in government. Certainly inflation was of concern to the Liberal-Country Party Government. But we came to grips with the problem by good management and sound fiscal policies. The facts speak for themselves. I now refer to a table which I consulted recently. It indicates the increase in the consumer price index between 1968 and 1972. It also gives a picture of the unemployment position during that period. We find that the consumer price index rose by 3.1 per cent in 1968, 2.9 per cent in 1969,3.5 per cent in 1970,5.5 per cent in 1971 and 6. 1 per cent in 1 972. Taking the rate of unemployment during the same period we find that it was 1.35 percent in 1968, 1.13 per cent in 1969,0.96 per cent in 1970, 1.12 percent in 1971 and 1.76 per cent in 1972.
The average price increase in the decade from 1962 to 1972 under the Liberal-Country Party Administration was 3.4 per cent, and in that same period the level of unemployment was 1.23 per cent. This is what I suggest the Australian people ought to consider when they hear Senator Willesee say that the present inflationary problems were created by the previous Government. Admittedly last year the rate of inflation was higher than in the earlier years to which I have referred, but during last year there was a downward trend in the inflationary graph. During the year it was about 4.5 per cent. What has happened since the Labor Government took over the management of Australia? It has used inflation to implement its extravagant policies which were promised during the election campaign last year. It has used an extra 27 per cent from the taxation pool. This additional amount of taxation flowed from the inflationary trends in wages of Australians. This addition from the taxation pool amounts to almost $1 billion.
The Government also has failed to do anything about reducing the rate of taxation, which is something that I understand the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was keen to do. It has directly contributed to inflation by introducing measures such as those to provide for Commonwealth public servants, an extra week’s annual leave, 14 weeks maternity leave and 1 week’s paternity leave. I am not opposed to Commonwealth public servants receiving an extra week’s annual leave, but we should exercise more responsibility before creating a competitive situation where Commonwealth public servants are leading the field in these matters which, in fact, are very costly to the Australian economy. At this critical time it is inevitable that these additional concessions will flow into the State public services. It is also equally inevitable that they will flow into private industry.
I was talking to a small business man recently and he said that when this maternity leave provision flows through to private industry, as he employs mainly women it will add an additional 15 per cent to his wages bill. Of course, this must contribute to his temptation to increase his prices. The Budget will inject into the economy no less than $1,8 16m- almost 20 per cent more than last year- and people already are finding that it is becoming harder to get goods. This Government is compounding the problem. In the short period of 9 months we have seen food prices rise to an unusually high level. I think that they have increased by 15 per cent. Of course, inflation will rage on because of the irresponsible approach of this Government.
I find it quite incredible that the Prime Minister, having created all this turbulent chaos in the economy, should ask the Australian people to put into the hands of politicians the power to control prices in Australia. All the evidence that I have presented demonstrates the dismal failure of price control in other countries which have taken this action over a number of years. Obviously the Australian people have learned their lesson. They opted for a Labor Government. They are suffering from the judgment that they made. They would certainly not agree to place price control in the hands of the members of the Labor Party.
– What book are you reading that from, Senator?
– These are my own words; I am being quite philosophical. Incomes are an essential feature of the inflationary problem. I should like to look back two or three years in order to demonstrate what I mean. I think it was two or three years ago when this national wage case was being discussed. At that time the Australian employers decided that economically they could afford to increase wages by, I think, 3 per cent, or something like that, without resorting to increased prices. The trade union movement- I suppose that psychologically this was the thing to do- claimed increases of up to 14 per cent before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission at that time. The end result was that the Commission decided that the national wage should rise by 6 per cent. This had the end result of increasing prices.
I can speak from personal experience in my professional capacity. As honourable senators will know, I am an optometrist. At that time I experienced a cost increase of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent in the price of spectacle frames. The higher increase applied to metal frames because of the different flow-ons that occurred at that time. That is a classic example of what happens when the capacity of the economy to pay is ignored. If the employers’ recommendations of 3 per cent had been accepted, the Australian employees would have got a real 3 per cent increase in their pockets; they would have paid no more for consumer goods. In my view this is the classic difference between the mentality of good business management and irresponsible demands such as those advocated by the Labor Party.
– We will get the Prices Committee to look into the price of spectacle frames for you.
-I might tell my dear friend, Senator O’Byrne, that I did not see fit to pass on that increase to my patients. I resisted the temptation to do so. In fact, I absorbed no less than 5 such increases, believing it was not fair that the patients should be burdened with these excessive increases created by unreasonable demands from the various sectors of the community.
In conclusion I should like to advert to what Senator Guilfoyle said. I believe that she made an excellent contribution to this debate. She referred to the need to look at the productivity angle of the economy. What are we going to do about that? Are we going to persist with the system that has prevailed for a great number of years, or should we not start to look at ways of encouraging people to work a little harder? I will tell honourable senators a story in order to illustrate what I am saying. Not long ago I was in the Riverland area in South Australia. As is my custom I had a look at the factories, the dried fruit sheds and so on to see what the people were doing in that area and to discover what problems were being experienced. During my visit I talked to a young fellow who had taken over a fairly well established dried fruits business. He told me that he and his partner- they were both keen and enthusiastic people- had gone overseas to establish markets for their product and that they had a good hold on the domestic market in Australia as well. He said that provided they could get their product onto the market quickly they were assured of receiving good prices.
He said he had devised a scheme in their factory which provided an incentive for the 30 to 40 single and married women employed there. This fellow told me that under this scheme women who might otherwise expect to receive a wage of something like $40 a week would in fact receive an average wage of $80 a week. He said that he was not only able to pay the extra money which was twice the average salary but he was able to put on 2 inspectors to ensure that the quality of the product was maintained. But this scheme failed because of the union approach to this type of incentive. The trade union objected to the fact that Mary Jane on one bench earned only $65 a week- although previously she had earnt $40- whereas Suzie Wong on the next bench earned perhaps $85. Because of the attitude of the trade union movement these people were deprived of the opportunity not only to increase their productivity but also to increase the money in their pockets. This is the type of thing that makes me cross.
This action by the trade union resulted in a decision being made by this young enterprising fellow to put in an automatic machine which displaced about half of his employees. I believe this sort of approach to our way of life that we are experiencing at the moment is completely wrong. We have to encourage people to work. We have to encourage them to become more productive in their industry. We have to make sure that they are able to continue working efficiently by offering them incentives. Perhaps we ought to introduce a scheme whereby we can retrain employees from time to time, refresh them, to create more incentive to carry on. I reject entirely the concept of price control, particularly prices control placed in the hands of a centralist socialist Government. I support the attitude of the Opposition to this Bill.
-Although this Bill is a short and simple piece of legislation it has very wide implications. Senator Jessop in speaking to this Bill referred to the days of Diocletian and the Roman Empire. Of course Diocletian did not have an economy to administer based on the same concepts as we have. To begin with he had recourse to slave labour which is a very trenchant economic factor. However, we are indebted to Senator Jessop for reminding us that the problem is as old as those times when currency was in an entirely different form, the credit structures were in an entirely different form, and even the supply of labour to the market was in an entirely different form to what it is today. Yet, people who lived in those times had problems of inflation.
The present Government must have been well aware, not because of the long history of inflation but because of statements made since it gained office and in particular in the fortnight before it sought election that one of its great problems would be to control the economy of the nation. It must have known that it would have to counter the inflation that was in existence before it took office. Comments have come from both sides of the House as to what degree inflation existed before the present Government took office. I think we can only judge the Government’s approach to the problem from its actions immediately it took office. Of course, we all know that the Government took control with a form of dictatorship for a short period of a month in which 2 men were practically able to do almost anything they wanted. If this Government now wishes to proclaim that it has always been aware that the people who were previously in government had created factors which were likely to cause inflation surely the first steps taken in those days of new government should have been steps to control inflation to some degree.
Let us have a look at what the steps were so that we can get into perspective precisely the awareness of the present Government which now wants urgent action in relation to this problem. One of the first steps the Government took on gaining office was to abolish the sales tax on contraceptives. This was of such major importance in the affairs of the nation that the Government raced in to make this change. The Government also conceived the idea of making divorce easier by tampering with the rules and regulations of the Act instead of tampering with the Act itself. That, of course, wasted a lot of the time of this Parliament and delayed the opportunity for it to get down to the essential matters of inflation in the economy. But it did not end there. There was, of course, the very urgent matter that had been going on for years of the recognition of Red China and East Germany. This was given enormous priority. However, such matters made no contribution to the control of the economy or inflation of this country. We also saw the absolute urgent necessity of excluding Taiwan and its Embassy from Australia although only 2 short months before half of the Labor Party presented themselves at a celebration dinner at the Taiwan Embassy to show how great was the friendship between Taiwan, the Australian Parliament and members of the Labor Party. Apparently this move was of paramount and urgent importance.
The Government also abolished national service in fulfilment of an election promise. Here, for the first time is a glimmer of something which may effect the economy in terms of controlling inflation. It could be expected that if national service training is terminated a source of labour would be made available to the labour market that was denied to it before. This is a source of labour that can produce goods to meet extra demand on the market. So there is one decision which can be put on the credit side. However, I think that this was an accidental decision from the point of view of helping to control inflation because the Government took this action not with the idea of doing this at all. We are examining the facts now and not a lot of political jargon.
The Government also increased the level of pensions and social service payments in accordance with another election promise. I agree that this matter should have been taken care of as soon as was possible but one cannot suggest by any degree that such a step was anti-inflationary.
– The pensioners did not get the Christmas box.
– Well that is a side line which perhaps may or may not have affected minutely the problem of inflation. But the general increases could not have been said to have been looking towards the major problem of inflation in the nation. I agree, before honourable senators try to tell me something that I already know, that if this matter is urgent it has to be done irrespective of steps that may cause inflation. But a sensible government conscious of its responsibilities towards inflation would take counter steps at the same time to cushion the inflationary aspect of spreading an enormous amount of new purchasing power amongst the deprived section of the community. A sensible government would have taken the counter measures necessary to at least cushion the inflationary effects of such a step. It was not done by this Government.
-What would you cut down?
- Senator McAuliffe should wait until he has heard my speech. He will then know all about it and will not be left with a question to ask. I am prepared to avail him of my knowledge on this subject if he is prepared to sit in silence and listen to what I have to say. I do not need any help from him.
Another matter which absorbed almost the whole of the attention of the first sessional period of this Parliament was the raid on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. It had nothing to do with the problem of inflation. But it was said by somebody in the dark of night that a threat had been made against a visiting dignitary and ASIO was raided. That raid prompted a great deal of discussion throughout the length and breadth of Australia. A great deal of the time that was spent by the Parliament in discussing that issue could have been better spent on an examination of the economy of the nation and of the steps necessary to rescue it from the abyss of inflation into which it was rapidly sliding. The Government should have been aware of its responsibility to try to control inflation in every step that it took upon assuming office. It was aware that inflation was a major problem throughout the world. The measures the Government introduced upon assuming office were ones which were more likely to produce inflation and in fact did produce inflation. The Government should have taken counter steps to prevent those measures from having an inflationary effect.
The stage came when ultimately the Government had to try and balance its Budget. It had an enormous opportunity in the Budget to take up the slack in relation to inflation. I have some sympathy for the Government for the predicament in which it finds itself. Perhaps it was reckless in the promises it made to the community to enable it to be elected to office. But that does not mean that the Government should have implemented all of its promises straight away. The Budget was highly inflationary. Indeed, some of the Budget measures which were designed to help pay the bills that were accumulating were in themselves inflationary. The increased tax upon cigarettes was not so important. The increased taxes upon beer and spirits were not so important. But the increased tax upon petrol was of enormous importance because petrol is one of the main ingredients upon which the transport industry is based. That industry carries goods produced by other industries but does not itself produce goods. It is largely designed to provide a service. Any increase in transport costs is highly inflationary.
Another promise the Government has honoured- a promise which may have been well founded- is the improving of conditions in the Public Service. Public servants may have been staggering with exhaustion because they were entitled to only 3 weeks’ annual leave, one week’s sick leave and 7 to 10 public holidays a year. The Government promised that it would grant an extra week’s leave to the Public Service and it honoured that promise. Nobody could suggest that in an industry which is productive only of services an increase of leave- quite apart from increased wages- does not have an enormous inflationary impact because it drains the labour market still further.
The Australian Democratic Labor Party is a Party which believes in the family and which believes in maternity leave. But a government which introduced maternity leave should also have introduced other measures to counter its inflationary effect on the economy. This Government did not do any of those things. Indeed, the introduction of maternity leave in the Public Service alone must place extra demands upon the labour market of this country. It must prevent labour from flowing into productive sectors because someone has to make up the time lost by those who receive the benefit of such reform in the Public Service. The introduction of such a provision at an injudicious period- honourable senators opposite have admitted that this is a period of highly inflationary tendencies- must aggravate the inflationary situation if some counter measures are not introduced at the same time.
All these things are starting to catch up on the Government. The Government has just realised that there is an inflationary crisis. After having introduced a Budget which contained very few if any measures designed to counter inflation the Government has just begun to see the pathway ahead. As the criticism of the Budget continues to build up the Government has decided to take panic action. This includes a futile measure in which even the Government does not believe. The Government wants the people of Australia to confer upon it the power to control prices. One would think that this is a new idea, but it is not. One would think it was new if one listened only to the Australian Labor Party. Twelve months ago the Democratic Labor Party produced a Bill in this Parliament that had something to do with inflation. It was based on sound economic grounds. That Bill was introduced during the tenure of office of the previous Government.
– It did not receive much support.
– Honourable senators opposite may base all their political philosophy on getting votes and winning of elections, but the Democratic Labor Party is above that. The Democratic Labor Party stands for what is of benefit to the nation. We have demonstrated that we are prepared to pick up any cause, however unpopular it may be, which we are absolutely convinced is in the interests of the nation. We do not give a hang whether the people decide to elect us to the Parliament. It is their right to judge us on our performances. We are not concerned about the aspect that is of concern to members of the Australian Labor Party. The Bill we produced provides the answer to one of the problems the Government is faced with. The Government says that it needs power only to control prices because wages are already controlled. Has it not said that?
– If only a few more of its supporters were present they would be able to learn that that is not the truth. Wages are not controlled in that sense. The Bill which the DLP introduced in this Parliament over 12 months ago related to an area in which there was a need for control over wages. Agreements were being made outside of the jurisdiction of the tribunals which have been set up to do what the Government says they do, that is, control wages. Of course, the trade union movement has never complained about prices increases which have emanated from wage agreements which were made outside the jurisdiction of the wage fixing tribunals of this country. The DLP’s Bill was a simple one. My colleagues and I requested the Parliament to accept it because it was in the interests of the nation. The Bill was refused. The refusal was based on a failure to believe in the need for such controls. But the Government does believe in the need for controls because it has requested that this referendum be held.
When the present Government was first elected to office the Democratic Labor Party wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and recommended to him that he implement the provisions of the Bill introduced by the DLP. If an employer said to a union: ‘We will give you the wage increase you asked for’, the union would shut its eyes to what happened subsequently and say the increase it received had come out of the profits of the employer. But the Democratic Labor Party had its eyes open. It saw that a wage increase invariably caused an employer to put up his prices. It said that under the corporation powers it was not necessary to conduct a referendum of the people. The DLP recommended the provisions of its Bill to the Government. The Government could have controlled the inflation that emanates from those sorts of things if it had implemented the DLP’s Bill 6 months ago. But the Government did not choose to do that.
– That would have created a lawyers’ paradise.
– If you think it would have created a lawyer’s paradise, I suggest that you wait until your Government starts trying to control prices. Then you will see the machinery that will be needed to control prices. If the honourable senator does not believe me, I suggest that he recall the wartime controls and aquaint himself with the facts, if he is interested in them, and not blind himself to the whole question. So we reach a point where we can show quite clearly that this Government is not enthusiastic about the proposition that it has placed before the people. Certainly it is not unanimous, because only yesterday -
– You are not unanimous.
– Of course, I do not expect all senators to be unanimous. I respect honourable senators opposite more when they are not. It is when they are unanimous that I despise them because, having regard to the number of honourable senators on the Government side, it would be impossible for them all to think identically. They are not men if they do. They must certainly have varying ideas on all subjects, and, on this one by 45 votes to 43 or 42, they made a hairline decision.
– A good one, though.
– The honourable senator was apparently among the 45 and he won. Whether that balance of power of 3 in the Labor Caucus necessarily illustrates that the Australian nation is getting what it hoped it would get when the Labor Party was elected to office- that is, the control of inflationary tendencies in the community, and at least control the ones which it has added in the period in which it has been in office- is another question. I doubt that the 3 geniuses who supplied the majority are themselves sufficiently well equipped to deal with this problem. Unless all the senators who are here now were among those on that particular side, the majority who voted for the proposition are not even interested in improving their knowledge of the question because they are not listening to the debate that is now taking place in this Senate. But whatever their limitations are- and we are all aware of one another’s limitations- they have been charged by the people of the nation with the responsibility of trying to solve the problem of the control of the national economy. I am talking about ourselves, we who are now discussing inflation- yet some here are not prepared to listen.
– They cannot listen.
-Then they can read in Hansard what I say. I am trying to help. We have reached a stage in the debate at which those honourable senators are denying us the privilege of listening to their wisdom on the problem because they will not even get on their 2 feet and talk. They have nothing to talk about, apparently. Let us consider what are the real questions of inflation. A real question at the moment is: What do we do at a time of crisis? The Government of course has recourse to the expert advice of the Treasury officers and other people on what the trends may be and it advises us that there is a national crisis. Indeed it was suggested today that the Parliament should not take as long to consider this proposal as did the Labor Caucus. That was the proposition, so great is the emergency. But the Parliament was wiser than was expected and did not let the Government do that. We want time to consider the proposal. We in the Democratic Labor Party want time to help the Government get over its problem in the interests of the Australian nation. This problem is more important than politics. When the question was first mooted people were sectionalising the political parties and everybody knew where the DLP would be- but nobody knows it even now.
– You yourselves do not know.
-We do know. We have introduced a Bill about which I will say more in a moment. It is on the notice paper of this House. It is a Bill which is a more logical proposition than the one we are now debating. It will give the Government the right to try some of its ideas to control inflation and will give it an opportunity to support a sensible suggestion which many of them- most of them, I suspect- support. Why do I say that, Mr Acting Deputy President? I can go only by the newspapers because I am not privy to what happens in the Labor Party Caucusalthough it seems that the political journalists of this country, to their great credit, have access to almost minute to minute reports of what actually goes on inside the secret conclaves of the Labor
Caucus. If by quoting the newspapers 1 am wrong, I apologise. I have no doubt that the Treasurer (Mr Crean), the key figure in the whole of this question, carries on his shoulders this enormous responsibility, and that every politician, whatever his political creed, should be anxious to help him in the interests of the nation- and we are anxious to help. The Treasurer voted against the proposition that incomes should be considered, and incomes do not necessarily mean only wages; but that is another question and I will deal with it. The Treasurer, Frank Crean, in his statement after the meeting, according to the newspapers, said he really believed that incomes should be added but that the Labor Party could add incomes only when the unions would accept that addition.
– Who is running the country?
– Who is running the country? Who is it that says that incomes as well as prices should not be under the control of the Federal Government when the Government is trying to do something to control inflation? ls it the Government that was elected in the last election? Or has it had to send for Mr Hawke on every occasion when this question of governing the nation or controlling inflation is brought up? We deprecate the fact that Mr Hawke has twice been sent for in the last couple of weeks. But we pay this tribute to Mr Hawke, that he has acted as an honourable man. It would have been easy for him to have deceived the people of this nation. It would have been easy for the leader of the trade union movement of this country to have come here with 2 hats and to have changed them so rapidly as to confuse everybody, being with the Labor Party and also with the unions. He is President of the Labor Party and President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. But he came here and wore his trade union hat, and he said he would not co-operate when the Government endeavoured to abdicate responsibility for the control of incomes. He said he would not guarantee the co-operation of the trade union movement. And if that is the case, most certainly -
– That was very honourably done.
– That was very honourably done, but accepting it in the context that it is an honourable statement it is most necessary that the Government of this country should immediately say: ‘If we are to control the economy, if we are to control inflation, we must control prices and incomes’. What is the sensitivity, one asks oneself, about controlling incomes? True, wages is a form of income but so are profits, rents and many other things. Why is it that the trade unions do not want incomes to be included? Have they thought about it sufficiently? I do not know. It is for them to answer. But it is most certain that the mere control of prices will not control profits. I have heard people here argue that if one controls prices one can control profits. Many people are selling things at a price and finish up by going broke, because their prices do not meet their costs. That is how people go bankrupt. Controlling prices does not control profits. One must control many things in order to control profits.
– Is that the trouble with the turtle farm?
– I am not concerned about such a little, fiddling thing, as is one member of the Labor Party, be it a turtle farmer or anything else. We are talking about the national economy. None of us in this Senate is important; our political careers are unimportant, whether we get votes is unimportant compared with the question with which we are trying to deal. The wellbeing of every Australian, and the opportunities for them, not only today but for generations to come, are involved in this question, which has rightly been said to have defeated most of the thinking people of the world. In the last quarter of a century inflation has spiralled in countries such as France, Italy and Japan. In many instances their internal currencies have been revalued, in many cases by anything from 100 per cent to 1000 per cent. This has brought about the complete impoverishment of the people whom the Labor Party says it represents- the little man. The big man can unload into property reserves and other channels to escape the consequences and emerge wealthy again in the new financial structure which is created, but the little man has to start again from scratch. His children, who have had no opportunity, start a long way behind the scratch mark in the race for a decent standard of living. That is what we are discussing.
The Government says that it will find a cure in one day or in 5 minutes. It has had the view of 45 out of the 98 or 88 members of Caucus, or whatever number of members of Caucus are entitled to vote, and that is it. The Government says: ‘Let us put the Bill through the Parliament’, without any advice or any assistance, ignoring the views of other people who have also been elected by the people to help run this country. It is wrong in that concept, and we are telling the Government that it is wrong. It is wrong in its approach to the whole question. We have put before the Senate an alternative proposition which, we hope, will be discussed. It can be discussed. It is the open door to the solution which the Government wants. If it is not politically stupid it will see beyond the vote of the 45 and the fact that the unions are all-powerful in the Labor Party’s internal discussions. The unions have not even threatened the Government as yet, unless they have done so privately, yet the Government is frightened of union reactions if it dares to venture into the field of incomes, including profits and everything else. The Government says: Here is the proposition. It provides solely for the Federal Government to control prices’. We say to this Government, based on the things which I will not reiterate but which I have already stated in debates on this economic question, as we have said to this Governments’ predecessors in government over the years: ‘It is our judgment and our advice to you that an attempt to control the economy of the nation by controlling prices alone is doomed to failure and is sheer stupidity, almost to the extent of hypocrisy’. Many Labor leaders have admitted that the proposition will not work. They know that it will not work. Even the Treasurer has said: ‘We would like to have control of incomes too, but we cannot have that control while the unions object’. Are the unions in a position to look at both sides of the question, in the interests of all Australians? Do union officials do so even for their own members? I say that they do not, and I have been a union official. They have a specific job to do, and they do it very well.
– Has not your Party put forward a Bill which would give the Government the power to control prices?
– I am telling you what my Party has put forward. Do not interrupt me with futile questions. Listen and you will learn a lot.
– Does not your Bill give the Government the power to control prices?
– Yes. We are putting that forward in our Bill.
– You are arguing against that proposition now.
– I am arguing that control of prices alone is sheer stupidity. That is not all that we propose in our Bill. Your mind is closed. Open the doors and let in the light and you will see what we are driving at. Listen to your leaders.
– Listen to Father Divine.
– Listen to Gough Whitlam and Frank Crean; do not worry about Father Divine. You have experts closer to home.
– Clyde Cameron.
– Yes, Clyde Cameron. They are telling you that the control of prices alone is futile. If you will not listen to any of them, listen to the people who have so often been proven right in the Senate- listen to the Democratic Labor Party.
– You were wrong on Vietnam; we were right.
– The history of Vietnam is not finalised yet. Do not divert me to a subject on a matter on which we have had so many lengthy discussions, simply because you are beginning to lose the battle on this one. If I have been defeated 1,000 times previously, I am headed for victory on this occasion, and you know it. There is only one sensible proposition that the Parliament can come up with, and it is the proposition which the Democratic Labor Party has put forward. I have read the newspapers. They are full of predictions about what the Democratic Labor Party will do and what will be the consequences. Regardless of what happens in the Senate, nobody can prevent the Government of the day having a referendum on anything on which it wishes to have a referendum, provided that the Bill can pass the House of Representatives. But there is a time factor involved. The referendum cannot be held immediately unless the Government can convince the brains of the Senate that what it is putting forward is in the best interests of the people. It can never be said that the Democratic Labor Party is a Party which could be subdued when its ideas were not popular with the majority. We will not be subdued on this occasion.
– What is happening to your Party in Queensland?
– I look at the honourable senator, who comes from Queensland, and I lose my confidence in the thinking powers of the people of that State.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Senator McAuliffe, I must ask you to abide by the Senate Standing Orders and keep silent while a senator is speaking.
Senator Cant- I rise on a point of order. Mr Acting Deputy President, I request you to ask Senator Little to address the Chair and not provoke Government senators if you want us to cease interjecting.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! A speaker is entitled to use forceful arguments which may sometimes appear to be objectionable to honourable senators on the other side of the chamber. Very often this type of speech is prompted by interjections fromthe other side. I think that if everybody listens to the senator speaking the speeches will bemore to the point and more effective. It is the right of every senator to be heard. I must ask for silence. If I do not get it. I will take action.
- Mr Acting Deputy President. I thank you for your advice. For perhaps the first time I was about tostrayand answer the inane interjection about somethingthat is occurring in Queensland. It seems to be a Partypolitical matter which is irrelevant to this great question, and I thank you for drawing me back to the subject before I had the chance to reply to the distraction that was offered by interjection. I am certain that nothing that I havesaidcouldhave in any way prompted the question.I was saying that the Democratic Labor Party has thought about this matter for years. It has producedaBill which is still on the notice paper.That Bill was rejectedby the previous Government and by this Government. We will not bebrow beaten into accepting a futile and stupid propositionas something that will solve or make any contribution towards solving the problem of inflation in the community, especially when the leaders of the Party which has introduced the Bill have made public statements to substantiate ourcondition. We stand for the principle that Government elected by the people of this country should be given the powers that arenecessary to arm itself to act in the interests of thepeople. So we have introduced a Bill into thisParliament.
I have read newspaper predictions astothe fate of the Government’s proposition. Notallthe newspaper articles are accurate, although the reporters are particularly well informed. It is not true to say that the vote of the Senate at this time will prevent the Government having its referendum. It may delay the referendum. It is not true to say that the Democratic Labor Party’s decision will decide the fate of the Government’s Bill. Why, the Government nearly decided the fate of its Bill today. This leads one to question the Government’s sincerity. We have read in the newspapers about the numbers that are supposed to be lined up in the Senate. But Government supporters want a decision today when they know full well that a member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party is absent due to illness and is not even in this city. They cannot obtain 31 votes under those circumstances. Do they want the vote to be taken during a period when they cannot win? Are Government members that hypocritical? Then let them not suggest that the Australian Democratic Labor
Party in its attempt to help is in any way without lacking in sincerity.
We do not close the door on this issue, whatever happens in the Senate on the Government Bill, because there is another Bill. There is our Bill. It is a Bill which contains a more sensible proposition. It would be subscribed to by any economist in the nation as being more sensible and, I suspect, it would be subscribed to by a majority of members of the La bor Party if they were not scared of the unions. We open that door to the Government. We not only point to the fact that it is open and that the opportunity is there; we also point out that the Government could have its referendum within the specified time it wants- before Christmas. The Government could take up that Bill. We will give it to the Government. It is our idea. It is much better than their Bill. It is there for the asking and for the taking.
– It is your Bill.
-What a stupid, fiddling, trivial, childish approach; because we add a couple of words that makes such a magnitude of difference, honourable senators opposite are not big enough to admit that our Bill is better than their Bill. Surely they cannot govern on that precept. Why do not they be statesmen instead of politicians. Wherever the idea comes from in the Parliament, honourable senators should reject them if they do not believe in them. But if ideas are in the interests of this nation senators should not reject them, saying: ‘ It is not ours. It is yours ‘. Honourable senators should not be here if that is their approach.
When I was again interrupted, I think unfairly, I was making the point that we had opened the door to the Government to make a common sense approach. Even if the Government wants to treat our Bill only as a framework, it could get everything that it wants from it. The Government could get more than it wants. It could obtain control of prices and the right to administer the control of incomes- even profits. Surely that attracts Government supporters. We have placed the Bill before the Senate. We are offering it to the Government. If it does not want it, then it does not want price control. If it does want to control the economy of this nation and to fight inflation, I make this offer to the Government: Provided that the Government retains the principle that incomes should be controlled, it can move an amendment to the Bill. We will look at the propositions that the Government put forward. That is our contribution to this debate. I hope that members of the Australian Labor
Party, even those who are not in the Senate chamber will read Hansard and know where we stand because this is a very great chance to do the things that they believe themselves are in the interests of this nation.
– I took note of the statement made by Senator Little that even if a vote were taken today the Government could not obtain the required 31 votes. I was intrigued by reports and by Senator Little’s statement that there were members of the Labor Caucus who advocated a prices and incomes policy. Yet those members of Caucus who advocated that incomes should be included in the referendum proposals have not spoken in the Senate this afternoon advocating the inclusion of what is to some people that very necessary word incomes’. Surely this represents regimentation of opinion in extremis. It is reasonable to expect that in regard to such an important matter as the changing of the Australian Constitution there should be a free and unfettered discussion in the Senate on the subject.
I could not help but notice a peculiarity in the debate this morning in regard to the Labor Party’s approach to changes in the Australian Constitution. It is that speed is the very essence of the proposition- that discussion must be scouted as much as possible. I cast my mind back to 1 944 and to what was known then as the ‘Powers Bill ‘. It was proposed that the Australian Constitution be changed by acts of all the State parliaments. It would be done by a reference of power under 14 heads. Billy Hughes said: ‘If there is anything left outside of these 14 points give it a name’. The Labor Government in my State of Tasmania adopted the same attitude as the Labor Party all over the Commonwealth. In spite of the fact that the proposals were so far reaching- in fact, they swept away the Constitution- the Labor Government laid down that those measures had to be carried before the members of Parliament returned home at the end of the week. Standing Orders had to be suspended and it had to be agreed that power would be referred to the Commonwealth Parliament in that way.
I could not help but think this morning that all possible speed has been engendered in regard to this proposal, so much so that anyone who dared to speak to it was accused of engaging in a filibuster. We heard that word used this morning. It seems to me to be a disgraceful concept to be adopted in regard to an important change in the Constitution. It is an important change, although I do not think anyone knows very much about how far it goes or how embracing it is. The legislation has been introduced. We have been told:
There is the word “prices”. We want the principle adopted at once. There must be no delay and no discussion in regard to it’. It is a strange concept for a major, governing political party in the Commonwealth to take up.
Of course, I have been informed that this is the position: If the Bill is passed today- it cannot be- the earliest date on which the referendum could go to the people would be 20 November. If it is not passed until the first sitting day of next week- that is 25 September- the earliest the referendum could be held would be 25 November. Of course, the first Saturday after that is 1 December. Therefore, the only delay that is involved by waiting until next week to take a vote on this Bill, if it were to be carried, would be a delay of less than one week. I cannot see where the vital urgency is in regard to this matter which concerns the Constitution of the people, something that many people in this country still regard as sacred, to be treated in this cavalier fashion and for discussion to be denied. I took particular interest in what was said by Senator Maunsell about the beef industry. It is notorious that when a Government attempts to interfere unnecessarily with industry- a socialist government simply cannot help doing this; it must tinker with industry- it retards production and nearly always makes things very much worse than they were.
I was a member of the Tasmanian Parliament during the time price control was operated by the States. That was after the time the late Mr Chifley put a referendum to the people asking that price control be permanently reposed in the Commonwealth Parliament. Price control then was motivated by a shortage of goods due to the war through which we had just passed. A shortage of goods is not the trouble today; the troubble is due to a very different reason. However at that time we were in trouble because there was a shortage of goods throughout the Commonwealth and demand was very much greater than supply. Mr Chifley had been exercising price control under his wartime powers and before those powers had lapsed he brought down a referendum aimed at reposing price control powers within the ambit of the Commonwealth government for all time. The people turned it down because they were sick and tired of the continuous frustration, the black market, and every other problem brought about by wartime price controls. The States took up the leeway and operated price control. I have a file at home full of correspondence from nearly every organisation in Tasmania complaining about the torment through which they were passing because of price control. They were all in trouble.
I well remember that Mr H. S. Baker, a most estimable man in Tasmanian politics, was chairman of a committee that inquired into price control. I have never forgotten 3 things he said in his report. He said price control eliminated competition, which is obvious. Because people got the same price there could be no competition. The price was fixed and therefore it eliminated competition. He said that in a lot of cases it reduced the quality of the article. Of course that must be so. People could not charge more than the prices commissioner set so they made up the leeway by reducing the quality of the article. The third thing Mr Baker said was that price control created a black market. That is just about the story. Those are the things it does.
I turn now to the case referred to by Senator Maunsell. In common with other members in this place, I suppose, I received a letter from the Australian Cattle Council which read:
For the first time in many years the Australian beef cattle industry is in a state of total confusion and uncertainty as a result of recent Government actions and current suggestions of export taxes, export quotas or selective embargoes. Political opposition to those suggestions is greater in rural areas than for any other major rural issue in recent years. This memorandum has been forwarded to every Federal Parliamentarian in the hope that the arguments advanced will be seen for what they are- a rational and responsible consideration of a complex and controversial problem.
The Council went on to list a number of disabilities brought about by Government interference.
. the Government has:
We have heard a bit about that question over the past few days- which will raise the cost of new and existing investment projects, making them less attractive and again lessening the incentive for expanded beef production.
Those are some of the things that happen when Governments pledged to socialisation of industry start tampering with the industries of this country. The proposal before us is to have a referendum on price control, and only on price control. But with price control you simply control the resultant addition of many different factorsor you try to. After all the ingredients have been added up, after all the costs of producing an article have been focussed, you attempt to control the result. The proposition is completely and absolutely absurd. It is perfectly obvious that if you try to do that and let wages and conditions of employment run riot, all you do is provide a means of indexing price rises. That is all that was achieved previously. Nothing else was achieved.
The idea of holding a referendum got off to a very bad start. If one can take notice of newspaper reports, both the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) said that wage and price freezes had been tried in other countries and had not worked. They said that at a conference held at Terrigal. The Prime Minister was quoted as having said:
In anything short of a totalitarian society, governments are restrained in their ability to adjust wages and prices as they please.
In this statement the Prime Minister seems to be completely adverse to both wage and price control.
– What date is that?
– I do not have the date but it was during the past few weeks that he said that. The newspaper is the Tasmanian ‘Examiner’. Now the Prime Minister comes to light with a proposal that this same prices power be vested in his Government, after disclaiming any intention at all of trying to acquire such power. It looks as though there is a lot of truth in the suggestion that the Prime Minister was logrolled by Caucus. I believe it is a fact that in reply to questions which were asked of him in another place only yesterday he would not come down on the proposition that he would operate an incomes policy even if he had the power to do so. We can go back a bit further in relation to this proposal which is before us. Let us examine the proposition that was agreed to at Surfers Paradise when the Australian Labor Party’s Federal Conference was held there. It was incorporated in the Party’s platform and, as such, in binding on the 3 State Labor governments in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. A newspaper report stated:
The conference move is certain to lead to increased tension between the Federal Government and the other 3 non-Labor States in particular-Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
This reference of power if decided on by the Federal ALP Conference is binding on all State Labor Governments, and in fact, on all Labour members. That means that if the Federal Labor
Government, through the ALP Conference, decides that a certain power shall be referred by State governments to the Commonwealth Parliament, if they are State Labor governments that referral must be made. What a way to alter the Australian Constitution. These are the very people who in this place have prattled incessantly over the past few weeks about one vote one value. Yet here we have a partisan conferencewe could not get a more partisan body in the Commonwealth of Australia- setting itself up as a means by which the Australian Constitution shall be altered without regard whatever to the big percentage of the Australian population which has nothing to do with the ALP Conference. One cannot stand up and justify a proposition like that.
Price control as we knew it, as it operated after the last war, was brought about by a shortage of goods. Too much money was chasing too few goods. Those conditions today have gone by the board. I believe that a lot of our trouble which has not been mentioned in this place for sometime is brought about by complete and absolute industrial chaos. I have an article here headed: NZ Shows Way ‘. It states that Mr Kirk said that because of the unsatisfactory labour conditions, because of the strikes and holdups, he had decided to bring in a wage and price freeze. As I said here yesterday, the strange thing is that with the advent of a Labor Government in New Zealand industrial chaos increased, and with the advent of a Labor Government in this country it jumped here. It has been encouraged surely by our Prime Minister who stated that without a Senate majority his Government would not be able to repeal the current Act amendments, although he expressed the opinion that administratively it could do a great deal. He said that without the Attorney-General no prosecutions could take place and stated that there would be no prosecutions.
I believe that until we have industrial law and a government in office in this place which will enforce that law we will still have industrial chaos. I call to mind that the Liberal-Country Party Government took some teeth out of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That showed a certain weakness- or I think it did. I might say in passing that I heard the expresident of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission- I think he has resigned- say that the penal clauses in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act were worth nothing because they did not prevent industrial stoppages and all the rest of it. But I have here a statement from a man who is on the other end, that is the receiving end. That man’s name in Mundey. It was after the Liberal-Country Party Government repealed some of the penal clauses in the Act that he is reported to have said this:
The CPA line of industrial activity is clear in the ‘Left Review ‘ published interview with Mr Mundey.
That is the Communist Party line of industrial activity. The report continues:
Having restated the warning issued to employers during the strike against the use of ‘scab’ labour, he says that arising from this, private property was smashed where arrogant employers ignored the democratic decision of mass meetings.
It was this destruction which struck fear to the very hearts of the employing class. ‘
It is only a few weeks ago that I heard this same Mundey say- and so did others- that one thing that has to be done is that the employing class has to be confronted by strikes and all the rest of it. He said that only in that way could it be destroyed. They are the words of a man with great influence. He is the secretary of one of the biggest unions in Australia. While those conditions pertain, how on earth is it possible to prevent prices from rising? Surely it is reasonable to think that when those kinds of conditions apply in industry prices must rise for the obvious reason that somebody has to pay for these things. Mr Mundey is reported also to have said:
If a relatively small union could successfully mount such an attack, what would be achieved by the more powerful unions with more resources if they acted in a similar way?
The article continued:
Predicting longer strikes and total stoppages, Mr Mundey says that tactics in strikes, particularly since 1949, have been so tailored as to give a high priority to the penal powers threat and thus the need to ‘get them back to work’ to avoid fines.
That is what Mr Mundey said. So the imposition of fines must have had some effect, even though the Liberal Government did not have the guts to collect the fines thoroughly and completely and to enforce the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Mr Mundey is reported to have said further:
The general idea among officials was to try to win strikes quickly. -
This is because of the fines that could be imposed upon them under the Arbitration Act - and, failing that, to beat a retreat and make the best of it.
– What has that to do with the Bill?
-It has a lot to do with the Bill because it is one of the big factors in rising prices. We are not suffering from a condition of too much money chasing too few goods. We are suffering in the main from a wage-push inflation. That is what is happening. Mr Mundey is reported to have said further:
With the removal of some of the teeth from the penal powers in May 1969, longer strikes including general strikes are likely to become the order of the day.
In my opinion, that statement is proof positive that the penal provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, in spite of the agitation to have them removed, were an impediment to industrial chaos. I say without any hesitation that in most countries there is a coterie of men whose aim or objective is to seize control of the trade unions. It happened in Britain. It happened in New Zealand, but the New Zealand Government was able to cope with the situation. On more than one occasion the New Zealand Government has said to communist controlled unions in New Zealand: Unless you get rid of so-and-so we will deregister your union and we will freeze your funds’. And the New Zealand Government did just that. It was able to clean out these people whose objective was not to confer some benefit on their members but to go to war with what they called the employing class or the capitalistic system. Their aim was to break it down and smash it in order to make it easier for their ‘ism’ which in my view is a living death, to be brought into existence. The position we have reached was spoken about in the ‘Economist’, which is an English newspaper. The editorial in its 24 February issue suggests that, if the wave of strikes in Britain in pursuit of huge increases in wages and salaries continues. Britain will have proved to be ingovernable under its present democratic system. That is exactly right. The editorial continues:
Amid a Latin American rate of inflation and increasingly unacceptable industrial disruption over the whole country . . . Britain would be bound to move towards a more extremist government of either right or left.
I believe that that is the position with which this country is confronted. It is one of the biggest factors in the inflationary spiral we have been experiencing. Back in 1956 ‘Canberra Comments’ was still being published, and the words written in an article in that publication at that time are as true today as they were then.
– They probably were not true then.
-Well, I think they were and I think any man who had any common sense would accept and realise the complete truth of these words. In dealing with price control the article stated:
This ‘solution’ to inflation which seems so easy is really no solution at all. Everyone would like an easy way out but there is none. An increase in output and higher individual productivity are possible only through hard work, sustained effort, and efficient management. An increase in output- more goods- is the way to beat inflation. Since import restrictions severely limit the supply of consumer goods from abroad, the principal increase in the volume of available goods must therefore take place within Australia itself.
The cure of inflation lies in the hands of all Australian producers -
That includes both managers and trade unionists-
Government price control may at best alleviate only a few of the symptoms, and this only temporarily; it would prevent, not promote, a cure.
I believe that those words are completely and absolutely true. Speaking of all sections of the community and not blaming just one section of the community, I suggest that we can never get away from that old fashioned idea of good, hard, honest toil. I believe that a lack of it is what we are suffering from. That is why prices are being pushed up. Until there is a realisation that an increase in incomes has to be accompanied by an increase in productivity and that any increase in income over and above the increase in productivity is purely and simply inflationary, we will only be in trouble.
Britain, only a couple of years ago, found itself in an awful mess- a mess which closed down the Clyde shipbuilding works because no one could be sure when a ship would be delivered. This same disease practically ruined the British motor industry which found itself in the position in which the Ford Motor Company in Melbourne found itself a few weeks ago. While there are those conditions, while there is that kind of industrial chaos, surely it is elementary that there must be rising prices and inflationary conditions, and the whole community must suffer because of it. Surely that is obvious to anybody; it is not a matter of argument at all.
- Senator, what did your Government do about inflation?
– The rate of inflation under my Government was about half of what it is now. My Government kept the rate of inflation steady. It could have kept it steadier if it had not been so weak. But when the Opposition goes back into government, as it will -
-Soon, and I will tell Senator McLaren why. His Government has trodden underfoot the susceptibilities of too many people to remain in office for long. You cannot attain government and go to war with as many of the people as this Government has done. You cannot attain government and create divisions, as this Government has done, and expect the people to roll up and vote for you. Wherever I go the story is the same. People say: ‘This goddam awful
Government, what are we going to do about it’? That is true. There is one activity from which a socialist cannot abstain: He must tinker with industry, He cannot help himself. What I am about to quote was said when we were in office, and it buttresses what I have been saying about the industrial condition in Australia. This report states:
At that time he was the Labor spokesman on Treasury matters- said that delay in the national wage case had helped to improve the March figures. Wage rises put up costs and higher costs put up prices’.
That is obvious and simple. That is what he said when he was in Opposition. Surely it must be apparent to anybody that that is true, and that is what I have been saying. Exorbitant and unreasonable demands for wage increases are being engineered and activated by people whose main object in life is to break down the Australian way of life, the Australian economic system and to bring in some form of socialism; it is not so much to confer a benefit on the working man. The aim of the Communist Party has been to get control of the trade unions. I conclude by saying -
– What journal was it that you quoted from?
– It was from a leading article in the Launceston ‘Examiner’, which is not a bad newspaper. I would like the honourable senator to read it. What I was going to say when Senator McLaren interrupted me was that there is this great fetish to interfere with industry. Some people have said that the Government has gone to war with industry, especially the mining industry and similar industries. Can anyone imagine what a man like the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) would do if price control were in his hands?
– Or Mr Connor.
-Or Mr Connor. Would not those 2 Ministers have a wonderful time? They would not use the power to help industry or the economy, not a bit; they would use it to torment and override the industrial people on whom we depend almost absolutely for our own prosperity. Yesterday Senator Marriott referred to the imposition of an extra 5c a gallon excise on petrol, but Mr Enderby, through his Prices Commissioner in the Australian Capital Territory, said that the oil suppliers were not to pass on the increase. Mind you, the Government could do it, but the unfortunate oil suppliers in the Australian Capital Territory could not pass it on. The oil suppliers passed on the increase all over the Commonwealth, but in this one secluded spot where the Commonwealth Government has complete and absolute power, they were not allowed to pass it on and, as far as I am aware, they have not passed it on yet.
– It is a tax.
– They can live off their economic fat.
-Yes, it is a tax. The oil suppliers in the A.C.T. have not been able to recoup themselves. They have had to charge the same price and still pay the extra tax. The thought has struck me that if these much abused oil companies- and they have been abused throughout the years- were activated with the same sentiments as some of the militant trade unions are, they would have said without any hesitation: ‘Right, your whole supply is stopped ‘. That is what the Transport Workers Union has said on many occasions. If the oil companies had been as bad as honourable senators opposite imply that they are, that is one thing that they would have said. They would have said: ‘Right, no more oil. If that is what you are going to do we will stop your supply. ‘ It is a wonder that they did not do that, and I do not think that anyone could have complained if they had done it.
I take pleasure in supporting the stand that was taken by my leader, Senator Withers. I think that this is a vain, foolish, empty and ridiculous proposition. I do not think that the Australian people should be divided; that they should be put to the humbug and worry of a referendum on such a frivolous thing as the control of prices.
– You tell that to the housewife, that it is a frivolous thing. You will not convince her too easily.
– This same question was put to the people once before and they overwhelmingly kicked it out. Housewives are not as dumb as the honourable senator thinks they are. They think about these matters and they know what is causing this continuous upsurge in prices. This proposition has got off to a bad start. No one knows where the Government stands in regard to it from day to day. There are reports that Mr Whitlam was log rolled into having this referendum. A week or so ago he said that he would not operate it, but of course he changes his mind overnight.
I am glad to vote against the proposition. I will vote against the Bill. I do not think that it would be a very much better proposition to include income control- to put the economy in such a straitjacket as to control prices and also incomes. The way out is the old-fashioned way I spoke about a little while ago. If people did a little bit of hard honest work instead of participating in continuous industrial strife and unrest, prices would regulate themselves without the need for this awful proposition. Can you imagine giving power to a socialist Government to control aif monetary transactions throughout the Commonwealth if it should wish to do so. Just imagine the vast army of bureaucrats that would be necessary to carry out such a scheme. What a frightening proposition that is. It is no wonder that 25 years ago the Australian people, having experienced these conditions, overwhelmingly rejected such a proposition.
– We have just heard a lot of plain common sense from Senator Lillico who made reference in his concluding remarks to the fact that vendors of petrol in the Australian Capital Territory have not been allowed to impose the 5c a gallon increase on petrol outlined in the Budget. At that point Senator Mulvihill made a very significant and revealing interjection. He said: They can live off their fat’.
– Economic fat.
– Exactly-off their economic fat. This underlines the terrific dangers of having price control in the hands of people who have said without any consideration of the facts that the price of petrol will not be increased in the Australian Capital Territory. On the other hand, we have a situation where South Australia has been allowed to increase the price of petrol by 5c in spite of the fact that that State has price control and can determine the retail price at which petrol will be sold in Australia. But in the Austraiian Capital Territory, which is under the arbitrary dictation of one person and where an inquiry has not been undertaken to look into the background of whether the price should be varied or not, the oil companies have been told to ‘live off their economic fat’. This is most certainly a frightening attitude and it illustrates what would happen if a bureaucracy was in charge, able to murder industry and incentive and to impose a most unfair situation on the economy and its components generally.
The urgency with which this Bill was introduced clearly shows that the Government has suddenly realised that inflation is out of hand. Even though the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has said that price control on its own is not the answer and the cure, there has to be found quickly some sop to the public to show in a very unreal, insincere and hyprocritical way that the Government cares about the inflationary situation. As price control may be a popular word in the minds of many people the Government has put this forward as a cure for the whole bad situation. But price control on its own cannot have any real effect on prices. It is totally ineffective in holding down prices for any length of time. It is completely artificial as a method of determining prices because in the final analysis all price control does is to put the seal of approval by a arbitrator on the validity of a price increase claim. It is the last and final operation after a long time of cost assessment to find someone who says: ‘Right, that shall be the level of prices’.
The basic cost of any article or service determines its price. When we come at the end of the line to impose a certain level, all the forces behind that moment of determination have their effect and all price control does is to defer maybe momentarily or temporarily the increase and then give it the blessing of government approval. Then the maximum price allowed by price control authorities becomes the minimum. This is what happens in reality. It has happened whenever price control has been imposed. The moment we have the maximum price allowed becoming the minimum lethargy is generated both in the customer’s attitude and in the provider’s attitude. Very soon we find in practice that price control becomes profit control and people say: Why shall I run my business efficiently because if I show I have made a good return applications for price increases are rejected on the basis that I am doing pretty well now’. So business tends to slumber and to be slothful and prices continue to rise. Again the stamp of approval is placed on the increases by government and all in the garden is lovely. Price control just is not something which has any real impact or value so far as structures of costs and prices generally are concerned.
I would like to ask and then answer this little question: What has led to the furore and clamour for price control? I have no hesitation in saying that it is directly attributable to mismanagement of the economy by the present Government since it assumed office last December. At that timethis is an irrefutable fact- inflation was running at 4.6 per cent.
– But what was the unemployment figure at the same time?
– Do not think for a moment, Mr Acting Deputy President, that we are not deeply concerned about the employment of every person who is employable and desires to work. The fact is that for the good of the whole community it is vitally necessary that savings bank deposits and superannuation pensions retain their value. We can do much more harm by allowing the economy to run away than by applying measures of good demand management.
– That will create unemployment.
– No, I would not agree with that for one moment.
– You did it.
-We did not do it. The facts are that when we were in government money was buying much more than it buys now. I regard the present rate of inflation of 13.2 per cent as a reflection on the budgetary measures of this Government. How irresponsible it is in a time of very buoyant conditions and an overheated economy for the Government to introduce a Budget which provides for a deficit. The Government has budgeted for an increase in Governmental outlays to $12,618m, an increase of 18.9 per cent over the amount of expenditure for last year. So the Government has added an extra $ 1,938m to the inflationary pressures. But it still is not satisfied and is pumping more and more into the economy to worsen the situation which we now experience generally. Let us examine what is happening in the Australian Capital Territory. An article in today ‘s ‘ Canberra Times’ indicated that government house construction costs were up by 4.8 per cent. It states:
The cost of building government houses in Canberra has risen by about 4.8 per cent in the past 1 1 weeks, representing an increase of almost $600 for a 3-bedroom house.
– This has happened under a government which was going to reduce the cost of dwelling houses by $400.
– Cheaper houses was one of the main slogans of the Australian Labor Party at the time of the last election. The article continues:
It brings the increase in the past 14.S months in the cost of building a standard 3-bedroom government house in Canberra to $2,67 1 , or more than 26 percent.
The latest increase follows a 20 per cent rise in cost of building government houses over the previous year.
So there has been a 46 per cent increase in a little over a year. That is a frightful escalation.
– And the Government has price control powers in the Australian Capital Territory, too.
– Yes. After the damage has been done insofar as costs are concerned it is impossible to do other than put the seal of approval on increases. One must prevent from arising in the first place the situation which has been allowed to arise here. It is very salutory to note the National Capital Development Commission’s comment in respect to the large increase in the cost of building government houses in Canberra. I wish to quote again from the same article. It states:
The National Capital Development Commission, the controlling authority for construction of the houses, blames the latest increase solely on an ‘ adjustment ‘ of award wages.
I believe in the highest wages that industry can afford to pay being paid. I am not by any means a low wages man. But, unless there is some correlation between productivity and earnings, we will continue to be faced with this deadly incidence of inflation. Inflation hurts the very people whom it is sought in the first instance to assist by the provision of better conditions. That is the tragedy of the whole situation. I would like to pose a further question. I ask: What is basic to a sound monetary position? There simply has to be realisation of the fact that once one gets away from the relationship to which I have just referred of productivity and costs nobody in the world will be able to hold back the inflationary spiral. It is an absolute economic and business fact that that is so.
It is far better stringently to impose fiscal provisions in the first instance and to have a continual improvement in the economy. It is possible that one will not be able to avoid some degree of inflation in the process. But one can by sound management of the economy- this was shown during the last 23 years- control the economy despite the economic influences being exerted upon it by overseas situations of higher prices and inflationary conditions. One can so organise, as has been proven, the holding of a steady encompassable rate of inflation. In my opinion that that is not being sought to be done by the Government. The Government reminds me of a young fellow who inherits from his family a very sound business proposition which for years has been properly conducted, which has reserves behind it and which is a viable proposition and who says: ‘Now that I have it I will begin to spend’ and ignores the bases from which wealth has been generated in that business. I am fearful that we are forgetting at the present time in Australia that we have to make our money before we can spend it. We have to nurture and look after those sources of national wealth which we have.
I have been disturbed by the rejection of the idea that we need overseas participation in our development. Mr Acting Deputy President, where would your State of Western Australia be in respect to its overall economic well-being but for the many skills and know-how which were brought to it from outside for the development of its iron ore deposits?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wilkinson)- I assume that that is just a rhetorical question and that you do not expect me to answer it, Senator Laucke?
– I certainly do not. I am giving it as an example of the need for overseas capital to assist us in our development. I was very pleased to see Sir Alan Westerman ‘s reference in an article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ a couple of days ago to the point that there is a big future for the participation of overseas capital in Australia’s development.
As I have said, price control is not in itself the answer to the present rate of inflation. There is a need for all political parties and the whole of the nation to co-operate in overcoming it. It should be borne in mind that we are now in a real state of emergency because of the high inflation rate in the economy. It is therefore essential that policies be determined urgently on a national level in cooperation with the States. Something has to be done quickly. There should not be a deferment of action when there is at hand so much facility for- if properly pursued- the attacking of the problem and the overcoming of the increasing menace of inflation. I refer to the offers which have been made by those States which are led by Liberal and Country Party governments to cede certain powers temporarily to the Commonwealth Government- I understand that the Labor governed States have also expressed their preparedness to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government- provided an incomes and prices control policy is adopted. It could be operative within a very short period of time pending a far more definite investigation and probing to find ways and means of getting out of our present adverse financial and economical position. We could have a period in which to work out these policies collectively in a spirit of national cooperation between the States and the Commonwealth. I feel that we could achieve in that way all that is being sought to be achieved at the present time.
– But the States have refused to give the power.
– That is not the case.
– When have they made such an offer?
-The Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia, Mr Snedden, has indicated in the other place the preparedness of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland to confer with the Commonwealth for the very purpose of working out the best approach to the problem. If that is not background, I do not know what it is. And if the Labor Government States are equally prepared to get together and to work out a scheme which could be applied quickly to arrest this great, urgent problem, we would be getting somewhere.
- Senator, Mr Whitlam said on Tuesday in answer to a question that if Victoria and New South Wales offered that, he would withdraw this Bill immediately.
– This is a matter for exploration and final determination by the Prime Minister asking for the conference which has been offered. I see in the Government’s attitudes the increasing movement towards attracting to itself greater powers based here on Canberra, this centralist policy of the present Government. A major danger to Australia is that these centralistic policies may be pursued in a way that would not be in the overall best interests of the nation. We are a federation in Australia; we have the Commonwealth Government, now described by the Government as the Australian Government, and the State governments. We can maintain this system which has been proven through the years to be good if there be shown a preparedness to retain and promote it. But I can sense in the movements now going on in this matter a desire for centralised control in a way which would dominate the 3 basic elements- production, distribution and exchange, the financial matters of Australia- under an authority from Canberra. That I regard as something which would not allow the progress that we have made through many years to be continued.
When we come to consider price control, it must be done from an actual noting of how it operates in other places. In South Australia where it does operate in a selective way, it has not achieved the holding down of prices- that is obvious- in many areas where control is applied. It is an unfair system because of its selectivity of certain industries and services. It is in itself tending to make industry inefficient. I cannot see any great merit in a policy which says price control is the panacea for all the evils within the economy. I will not support this Bill. I have indicated the attitude which I feel is the right one, that is by rapidly moving to co-operation with the States to obtain a comprehensive background for a short period to meet this situation. Price control on its own simply will not achieve those things which are now being hailed from the rooftops by the Government Party as the means of putting our affairs back into good condition. I oppose this Bill.
– This is a Bill to alter the Constitution. In the first place, this alone means that one would describe it as an important Bill, and because it would appear to be an important Bill it requires a great deal of consideration. It must be repeated that this is a Bill which should receive the greatest possible discussion and promotion and the greatest possible use of public relations and the creation of public interest. Interestingly enough, having made that observation, I do not recall that when the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) introduced the Bill he described it as important. I wonder if he was expecting to rush it through so that it would come suddenly upon the Australian people and take them unawares and that they would be frightened into making some sort of snap judgment and a hasty decision. The Attorney-General did not spell out the Bill as important and maybe this is reflected in the fact that the Government is not prepared to support the Bill and therefore does not appear to regard it as important.
I do not think the Government regards the Bill as important. The Minister at the table, the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh), speaking in continuation before the suspension of the sitting today, admitted that there was no need to continue the argument; and he went on to say that the minds of Opposition senators were made up and there was no point in using persuasion or even continuing any degree of advocacy. The Minister surely would know that if the Bill were to be passed and a referendum were to be held it is not the minds of the senators on the Opposition benches that have to be made up. The Minister has to persuade the people of Australia about the validity of the issue. They will want to know what the Minister said; what the leaders of the Government said, what the Labor Party said and what the socialist party said in the Parliament. They will look in vain into the pages of Hansard for any degree of persuasion, advocacy or argument that the Government in the Senate used with any enthusiasm for the Bill or any arguments that it put before us to show that there is a need for a referendum. The Minister said absolutely nothing- no argument, no advocacy, no commendation. Whatever the decision of the
Parliament on this matter may be, the Minister has given the game away.
However, the Attorney-General lent some credibility to the importance of the measure and in spite of the fact that he may not have said so in so many words, he drew some inferences in the closing paragraph of his speech. He stressed that it is his belief that the measure will receive the endorsement and support of the Australian people. He stressed the point that the Government is asking for a chance for the people to have their say. He put to the Senate that the people should decide. He has expressed a belief that the national Parliament should have a power possessed by every State Parliament and that the national Parliament of Australia should have a power possessed by other national governments. But having said that, the Government has faded away on this issue and it knows that the people, if they get a chance, will by this performance not trust the present authority with price control.
I think the Government dismissed one of the best opportunities it possessed to persuade the people of Australia. I have a feeling that this is not so much a discussion about price control or even about inflation and I sometimes wonder whether it has much to do with the referendum. I think it needs to be spelled out that all of this is a device that is intended to change the whole tenor of the national life and economic policy. I reflect back to the speech made in this place by His Excellency the Governor-General on 27 February in which he said:
The program which my new Government proposes is designed to achieve basic changes in the administration and structure of Australian society in the lifetime of this Parliament.
In essence, this Bill is an endeavour to create a new direction for the Australian community. It is a direction about which the nation should be adequately and sternly warned. I warn that the Government is trying to lead the nation into a situation in which, instead of sound management, good business administration and an economic policy which will create a good standard and quality of living for the Australian people, the Government is seeking control that will be rigid and restricted. The warning takes on a dimension of urgency because, in the present circumstances, people may be attracted by some of the Government ideas. The rate of inflation is such that it is daily taking an increasing amount from the pockets of all Australians. For example, it is hitting the housewife with a force which is frightening. I refer to an article in the ‘Australian’ of a few days ago which stated that food prices throughout Australia have risen more than 15 per cent during the 9 months that the Federal
Labor Government has been in power. That is about 5 times the national average increase recorded in the same 9 months of last year. The article also pointed out that a housewife who spent $20 a week on food bills last November must now spend an extra $3 to buy the same goods. The figures which were released on that day show that food costs in the 6 State capitals and Canberra jumped another 2.8 per cent last August.
This state of affairs is frightening not only because it is depriving people of living standards and opportunities and because in some cases it may even be depriving them of food but also because there is not a glimmer of hope on the horizon. The Government has done nothing at all about the problem and has performed badly in letting the economy get into this condition. In my view the possibility of a referendum does not provide a glimmer of hope, an answer or the opportunity for an answer. In addition to hitting the housewife, in the last few months inflation has severely hit the home buyer, the home builder, the small businessman and has very severely hit the rural community and the person who is attempting to build up some quantity of savings. The proposed referendum does not promise a solution. All it promises is control. All that price control does is put power in the hands of some authority somewhere. For 1,000 different reasons, whether they be political, economic or personal reasons, the authority makes a decision which controls the lives, activities, vocations and habits of the people of the nation. The proposal for a referendum is a grand design to confirm and extend the fear which the people have concerning the future and inflation. The referendum could be a coating surrounding something in which I have no confidence and which I make bold to say is, in my view, dangerous and deceitful.
The Government is using inflation and all the damage that inflation is causing to get support for its plan for price control and all the other controls that follow in its wake. When the Government is putting forward a plan for price control it is putting forward its first step towards total controlcontrol of industry, control of business, control of profits, control of incentive, control of savings and control of life itself. The Government has let inflation rage and run riot, and it has not put down any constructive plan to stop inflation; it has merely said that it wants to stop it. The longer that the Government let inflation run on, the longer it follows a policy of inaction. The longer this inaction goes on, the greater my conviction that the Government has reached a point of desperation and has put down a plan for a referendum in the hope that the people, frightened by the situation, will respond in the way in which the Government wants them to respond. After all, this extraordinary escalation of prices of products and services may be to some people an attractive reason for saying: ‘Let us put the right to control into the hands of some authorityinto the hands of the central Government’. We warn very strongly against this.
I have referred earlier to persuasion and advocacy. I turn again to the Attorney-General’s speech when he introduced the Bill. He pointed out, almost apologetically it seems, that the Bill does not give the power but is merely designed to give the people a chance to have their say. There is repeated emphasis on the need for the people to be given their chance. In short, the Government is completely avoiding the responsibility that it should take upon itself to solve this problem of inflation. In so doing it is admitting to the Parliament and to the people that it is devoid of ideas and it seeks this way out of a dilemna. If, as the Attorney-General said, this Bill is designed to give the people a chance, it raises in my mind the very serious question whether such a referendum is necessary. The Minister does not convince me on this. Not only do I need convincing on this, but- I come back to the point- if a referendum is held the people need to be convinced. What did Senator Murphy say? In dealing with what he called runaway inflation, he said:
By vigorous and decisive actions on the currency, capital inflow and tariffs, by setting up the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Parliamentary Committee on Prices . . . and above all through the Budget -
He made bold to describe the Budget as a remarkable combination of economic responsibility and far-reaching reform- we have erected excellent defences against such a misfortune.
In short, he is claiming to the Senate and to the country that the Government has erected a defence against the misfortune of runaway inflation. Yet he has introduced into the Senate a Bill which seeks a referendum on price control. Because he has said that and because he has introduced this Bill I am not convinced of the necessity for such a Bill. I take a stronger view on the Government’s attempts to pressure the Senate into passing the Bill quickly, without due consideration, without adequate discussion and without adequate contemplation or reflection. The Government seeks to put to one side important Bills relating to social welfare, thus keeping a whole host of people waiting for increased pension benefits and advantages. Why would the Government endeavour to put this Bill through quickly? I do think it has persuaded the Senate or the people about the necessity for the referendum. It has been repeatedly pointed out, and I do so again, the program of the Senate is such that a vote would have been taken next week. If a vote is taken next week any possible referendum will be postponed by only a few days. I am certainly not convinced by the Government’s arguments even as to the necessity for a referendum.
When the Leader of the Opposition in the other place (Mr Snedden) spoke of this Bill he said that the inflation rate in Australia in 1 972 began to fall after the high December quarter of 2.3 per cent. For the 4 quarters of 1972, last year, it was 1 per cent, 0.9 per cent, 1 .4 per cent and 0.2 per cent. That made a total of 4.5 per cent. Mr Snedden observed that the Federal Treasurer (Mr Crean) had, in a statement, said that it was not a good idea to take any quarter of a year and multiply it by 4 just to get a figure. But he said that if we were to multiply any of these figures for 1972 by 4, we could still obtain a lesser figure as the rate of inflation than the figure so far this year. In the first 6 months of this year the rate of inflation was already over 5 per cent. It needs to be pointed out that Australia was one of the few countries where the trend of inflation during 1972 was downwards. What happened during this year, 1973? For the first quarter, the rate of inflation was 2.1 per cent. In the June quarter, it was 3.3 per cent. As I have pointed out, for the first 6 months of this year the rate of inflation was 5.4 per cent. The Treasurer expects it to be much higher in the September quarter. Clearly, the inflation rate has jumped to an alarming degree.
It is here that it is important to point out that for all of the years when the Liberal and Country Parties were in Government the inflation rate was kept within a limit that it must be agreed was reasonable and within in which the nation could live. The Government of those days did not need additional powers to carry out the plan of holding inflation within bounds. It was able to use sound management to achieve this. I remind honourable senators that it was able to provide a climate of business activity that kept the inflationary situation well within bounds. It was able to take into account the difficulties of seasonal fluctuations in the rural industries. It was able to sustain an enormous number of satisfactory and satisfying social welfare programs. All of these things gave people the opportunity to save and to endeavour to provide for themselves what I will call the ‘various facilities of life’.
Over these years the Liberal-Country Party Government was able to manage the economy which gave business the opportunity to grow and to progress. Yet, it gave many voluntary agencies within our community the ability to establish their own services and, through their own endeavour and considerable assistance from Government, to provide services required for the people and not be crippled by galloping inflation. I remind the Senate that the Liberal- Country Party Government was able, during its 23 years in office, to establish educational programs of an enormous dimension. It extended grants and scholarships and a score of other facilities and additional areas of assistance. It did all of these things and it did not have to resort to the kind of measure that the Government is putting so unconvincingly to the Senate this afternoon. It was able to make judgments that were sound, forward looking and practical. The AttorneyGeneral, in presenting his second reading speech to the Senate, said that he did not want the States to give up anything. He said:
We are not seeking to take a power from the States and transfer it to the national Government.
He went on to say that the Government was seeking power for the national Parliament which the States already have but which they refuse to use. I think that it should be pointed out that there are problems between the Federal Government and the States. There are also problems within the Government ranks between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Australian Council of Trade Unions on various matters, including wage restraint. I have come to the conclusion that the Government does not know what it wants in relation to this referendum. I am certain that the Prime Minister does not know what he wants in relation to this referendum. Indeed, sufficient has happened to convince me on this point. A prices referendum seems to have been forced upon him. He is trying to persuade us that it alone is the answer to the inflation problem.
In the meantime, inflation continues to beset us. The Government does not know how to control inflation and it does not know what to do with it. But if the Bill is agreed to and a referendum is held, what does the Government propose to do with the powers that might accrue to it? If it wants to persuade me and other Opposition honourable senators that it wants more power, I want to know, and in some detail, how those powers will be used. The Attorney-General’s second reading speech could be regarded as an introductory measure. One would have thought that it would have been backed up by some detailed spelling out of ways and means in which the control could have been exercised. Perhaps if the plans were not complete, the Government could have told the people and the Parliament what it has in mind. After all, one assumes many items and many goods would be the subject of control. But which goods, which items and which areas? We have no idea as to what these would be. How would the Government select the areas? How would it select the goods or the items which it might want to control? What criteria would it use?
Surely with inflation at the present rate, if the Government is trying to convince the people that it is strongly desirous of controlling it, we are entitled to hear from the Government some idea of the plans that it might have in mind for working out the problem. But the Government did not make this information available. The AttorneyGeneral did not mention wages, interest rates, housing or building costs. Surely, all these areas come within the control of prices. Could I obtain some information as to what the nature of the authority will be in regard to land prices? Who will tell us at what time we can sell our homes or buy our motor vehicles as the case may be? There has been no response on a program of what might be the maximum or minimum area in which the controls should work. Who will police the plan? Who will collect the multiplicity of forms that must be completed and collected and upon which a decision must be made?
I want to put it to the Senate very strongly that no case has been made out today by the Government either in this place or in another place. Certainly, no case has been made out in the Senate for the holding of a referendum. The Government has given no indication that it has any idea how it will control inflation. It is trying to use a bulldozing tactic in order to have the people agree to a panic measure- that inflation should be controlled by price control in this way. It is doing this when all around us there is continuing and overwhelming evidence that a price control policy has not been very successful. It is not the answer at present. I think that it was Senator Lillico who stated that an increase in incomes must be matched with an increase in productivity. The Government is flooding the nation with vast amounts of money, benefits and facilities and is calling for absolutely nothing in return. It has removed the incentives at the productivity end. It has eliminated taxation allowances which encouraged productive investment in various industries. It is increasing interest rates which will increase the cost of new and existing projects and make them less attractive and more difficult to achieve. It is abolishing incentives. All of this is having a very serious effect on production. So the Government’s case falls very heavily. It falls in the first instance for want of parliamentary support. Let that be spelt out. It falls for want of economic support. It falls completely and I hope that the Senate will reject it.
– The Senate is debating a Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so as to enable the Australian Parliament to control prices. The Bill itself is deceptively simple. It consists of 4 lines. What it seeks to do is to add to section 5 1 of the Constitution which sets out the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, a new paragraph ( XiVA.) containing one word- ‘prices’. Indeed, that is the total substance of the Bill. Not the Bill, nor the second reading speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) nor any information supplied as a result of questioning has elicited what will be the meaning of the word prices’. It is to me a supreme arrogance of a Government to come to the Parliament and to the people of Australia and say: ‘We want you to give us power over prices. But we will not tell you what we mean by the word “prices” ‘. Indeed, since the word ‘prices’ can be construed in such a variety of ways what, in fact, the Government is leading us to is an endless litigation in the High Court, an activity which it states in the second reading speech with regard to the use of corporation power, it deplores.
I want to emphasise this point. It is supreme arrogance to come before the people and say: ‘I want to centralise a particular power but I am not going to tell you, even though you ask- and you may guess if you like- what the word “prices” means’. Indeed, an honourable senator on the Government side asked a question about whether the Crown Law Office had given an opinion on the legal meaning of the word. The Government is prepared to let the people of Australia face the situation that in order to get an interpretation of that word, which obviously is an umbrella word, they will have to face continuous litigation over the whole lifetime of this Parliament. That in itself is a preposterous suggestion. Does the word ‘prices’ include dividends? Does it include rents? Does it include charges? Does it include the price of services? Does it include the price of work? These are matters about which it is imperative that the Government tell this Parliament if it expects any consideration of this measure.
I invite the attention of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) to my next statement. I can only regret that the Leader of the Government in the Senate- I recognise that he has other business and that he is also the Attorney-General- could not be present during the debate today to hear what is one of the most profoundly important matters debated in the Senate. I refer to the subject matter which is the very essence of the responsibility of this Senate to consider. In the absence of an explanation from the Chair as to the Attorney-General’s nonattendance in the Parliament I take his nonattendance as a grave discourtesy to the Senate. Again I invite the Minister for the Media to tell the Senate and the people of Australia the opinion of the Crown Law Office on the meaning of the word prices’. If what I say is so and that is the Government’s meaning, I invite it to insert a delimiting meaning in the Bill so that there can be no argument. If the Government does not do so, all falls to the ground when the Government argues that what it wants is to keep itself out of the High Court of Australia.
Having said that, having said how profoundly important it it, and having said what a great discourtesy it is for the Attorney-General not to be present after seeking to gag the debate and to railroad this Bill through the Senate, I want to say something else which is of great importance. This Government now has been in power for almost 10 months. Neither in the years before it sought power and came to power, nor in its policy speech, nor in its election announcements, nor in the 9 and a half months since its election has it ever mentioned its lack of power to control inflation or its need to seek a further power by referendum. Yet the Government tells Opposition senators that we are recreant to our trust in that we will not hurry through in a matter of hours something which it has said over the years is unnecessary. I will set out to demonstrate that point. For 9 and a half months the Government was silent about price control even though inflation was running more and more rapidly in geometric progression. Then the Government came to us and said that it had suddenly discovered that this is important and that this Bill must be railroaded through this House.
Before examining this point I want to say that this Government is guilty of the gravest of deception. One of the cruellest deceptions I have heard is the claim by the Government that unless we railroad this Bill through quickly the people of Australia will be denied the protection of this power in their Christmas shopping spree. There could be no greater corruption of the truth than that. It is now towards the end of September. The Government knows that the Commonwealth Constitution protects the people of Australia against hasty ‘ railroading of referendums by making it impossible for a referendum to be presented for at least 2 months and no more than 6 months from the time of the passage of the enabling Bill through this Parliament. The very essence of the Constitution means that if the Government is to discharge its proper duty it should allow not precisely 2 months but at least 2 months- somewhere between 2 and 6 monthsfor this problem to be ruminated in public. Even if the Senate debated this Bill for the next day or two with the greatest of haste, and by so doing it would fail to discharge its duty under the Constitution and its Standing Orders by deserting its full responsibilities, this power could not be granted to the Government until December. It could not be enacted to save the people of Australia during their shopping spree which, God help them, normally starts in October and finishes basically in November. That is known to everyone in every home.
This is a grave deception but the situation is even more wicked than that. I use those words strongly. The Government knows that its announcement that it wants power to control Christmas prices is the very incentive to commerce to put up its prices. The pattern throughout every country has been that such action invites commerce to put up its prices to combat what would happen as a result of blanket control.
– That has been the effect of the Prices Justification Tribunal.
– That is right. I share no great hope for the Tribunal. It can only act in regard to 300 or 400 institutions which have a turnover of $20m or more. The tens of thousands of businesses outside that dragnet are being issued an invitation by the Government of the day. That invitation is implicit and it is in this form: ‘We intend to clamp down on prices as soon as this referendum is through. ‘ Implicit in that statement is this invitation: ‘Put up your prices now’. As a result of this there will be a very black Christmas for the people of Australia. This is utter deception.
It is being suggested that if the Senate and the Parliament acquiesce to this referendum proposal, and if the public acquiesce by way of a yes’ vote, prices would be controlled. However the world knows that an application for this power was put to the people of Australia before and it was roundly rejected. That is point No. 1. The Australian people have said once before that they will not have a bar of price control. They voted against it before. The Government knows that only about 4 out of about. 40 questions asking for more power to be given to the central Government have ever been agreed to. Most of those carried have related to social services, the Australian Loan Council or something like that. The idea of giving a central power of unlimited magnitude to the central government invariably has been rejected.
Virtually what the Government is doing is abdicating its responsibility. It knows that it is likely that this proposal will fail. It is saying to itself that between September and December it will do nothing but rely on this proposition. The proposition will fail anyhow but it will get it over that period. The Government is practising a deception. It is saying to the people of Parramatta ‘I know we have a problem of inflation. But, pardon us, we just have not the power to deal with it’. It is trying to establish an alibi for the Parramatta by-election. It is trying to establish an alibi against the fact that in the not too far distant future it has to meet its masters, at least in a Senate election campaign. It knows that if it goes on with its reckless and irresponsible mismanagement of the economy it may well have to meet the electors of Australia in a lower House election. So it is building an alibi. I repeat that the fact is that this was not foreshadowed prior to the election in any statement by the Leader of the Australian Labor Party or any of his people. The contrary is the case. It was not foreshadowed at all in the policy speech. This power was not asked for. It has not been asked for in the last 9 and a half months in which the Government has been in office. It has suddenly been discovered in the last 10 days.
I think it was the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) who referred to the magic word mandate’. It can be said quite clearly that this Government has no mandate for such a power. That is quite clear. There is nothing about it in the policy speech at all. The very reverse is true. I hold in my hand extracts from Hansard of speeches of present Ministers and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when in Opposition. In these speeches the issue of inflation is debated. There are some very revealing statements. I refer to a speech delivered by Dr J. F. Cairns on 22 February 1972. He said something which ought to have been taken in to Caucus the other day. He stated:
Wage control without price control is contrary to common sense, a distortion of justice and an inevitable cause of conflict and a deep sense of grievance.
There seems to be a sense of twinning here which seemed to be lacking in the Caucus of a day or two of unhappy memory ago. He went on:
An Australian Labor Party government will bring the big corporations under effective scrutiny and will not permit price increases unless they are proved to be justifiable and unavoidable. Does the national Government in Australia have power to do this? It cannot ever be a national government unless it has this power. The McMahon Government and its predecessors have always been pleased to say that the Australian Government has no such powers. This is not because the power is not there; it is because the Government has no desire or intention to use it. Hence the easiest course is to lead people to believe that there are no powers. But there is in fact ample power.
Dr Cairns, a senior member of the Australian Labor Party, said to the people of Australia: ‘We do not need any more powers. We will not be seeking any centralisation of powers. There are ample powers to control inflation. ‘ I ask honourable senators to bear in mind that one of the great arguments of the election campaign was the centralisation or abuse of powers or the decentralisation of powers. Dr Cairns continued:
There is now a strong probability that there is full and adequate power, even in the Constitution itself. In the concrete pipes case the High Court of Australia recently appears to have reversed and invalidated the doctrine established in 1909 in the Huddart Parker case . . .
He then stated:
It is the first responsibility of the national Parliament fully to test and apply these powers. We challenge the present Government to do so. A Labor Party government will do this.
So what Dr Cairns said on behalf of his Party was that it would use the powers which it believed existed in the Constitution and that it would test those powers in the courts. But he said this:
But even if this constitutional power was not there, the national Government has full and adequate powers of other kinds.
In another part of his speech Dr Cairns stated:
An Australian Labor Party government will never permit inflation or unemployment to become established in Australia.
One needs a sense of humour to live with that. But I go on. Many times Mr Whitlam referred to the fact that the Government had powers. At one stage the Australian Labor Party would have been happy to have this little document called Prices: It’s Time’ drawn to its attention. Surely it is time now. Here a promise was given to the people of Australia on what the Labor Party would do about prices. It did not put forward an alibi. It did not say: ‘We have not the powers at all.’ The Labor Party said: ‘Put us in. We will deal with inflation. ‘ It said:
Inflation cannot be ignored in the hope that it will go away as the Government seems to believe. The Australian Labor Party sees inflation control as the Government’s responsibility, not yours.
– What is that from?
– That quotation is out of a little pamphlet called ‘It’s Time’. But the tender leader of the then Opposition was full of highminded ideas. Let me quote some of them now in terms of his speech of 22 August 1972. He stated:
A Labor Government will be calling upon both sides of industry to participate and co-operate in planning the future of Australia, in the creation of full employment, in the containment of inflation. Co-operation, not confrontation, will be our watchword.
Where is Mr Whitlam today when the Opposition in both Houses says to him: ‘Your responsibility is to convene a national conference of employers and trade unions, of Federal, State and local governments. Your responsibility is to put that to them and ask them for their wisdom and for their restraint.’ I ask honourable senators not to forget that there was a promise by the Leader then that this is exactly what he would do. But he went on:
My Party’s policies are totally committed to full employment and reduction of inflation, to Government expenditure and planning, always bearing in mind that one must curb inflation.
And the 1973 Budget is fresh in our minds. But let us look at the choicest statement of the lot. When Mr Whitlam does not see himself in other roles here he sees some virtue in a late President whom he denigrated when he was in America the other day. Both sides of the chamber will enjoy what he said in this speech in August 1972. In effect he said: ‘But all these mechanistic things are not as important as leadership ‘. He went on:
In conclusion, quite apart from any legislative or administrative matters there is the sheer leadership which can be given by a national leader such as President Kennedy.
Of unhappy slander recently by Mr Whitlam when he was in America. He continued:
In 3 days he brought the biggest companies of the world to heel by exposure and by leadership.
The only people that this proposal has brought to heel in this country have been the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard), the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) of this Government by the Caucus, a non-elective body. These are the words Mr Whitlam used to put himself and his Party on the line:
We want to go to the people of Australia-
– How are we non-elective?
– I invite Labor senators to answer this: Is it not true that at no time prior to the election did they say they wanted centralised price control?
– You said we are a nonelective body.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)-Order!
-Is it not true-I speak through you, Mr Acting Deputy President- that in the policy speech, in the pamphlets and in the speeches no such -
– You did not answer -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator McAuliffe, I must ask you to refrain from interjecting because we cannot have honourable senators firing interjections in that manner. Nobody objects to a simple interjection at any time, but it is impossible to allow you to keep on interjecting so that 2 people are making speeches at the same time. If you do not desist, I will take action.
– May I also suggest, Mr Acting Deputy President, that the honourable senator should be in his own seat it he is going to interject.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! I call Senator Carrick.
– I have no objection to the interjections. It is a matter for the judgment of the Labor senators whether they wish to interject when I am on my feet. All I can say is that they are enormously helpful to my case. I therefore thank them and acknowledge their help. If I wanted help I could not get it more gratuitously than from Senator McAuliffe who, however unwittingly, is my great friend when I am on my feet.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! Senator Carrick, before you proceed any further I must say that as Acting Deputy President it is my job to see that the decorum of the Senate is maintained on a satisfactory basis.
-I think you will agree, Mr Acting Deputy President, that while I have been on my feet I have kept within those bounds. I have addressed my remarks to you and I have, in my own way, tried to respect the decorum of the Senate and your role in the proceedings.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator Carrick, I meant no reflection on you. When I said that there must be decorum I was referring to the interjections. Honourable senators must resist interjecting.
– Thank you, Sir. I repeat what I said, because obviously Labor senators are sensitive. The Labor Party sought no mandate or power, either before or after the election, in relation to this matter. It went to the people not only seeking no mandate but also saying specifically: ‘We will not need any further centralised powers’. For it now to go seeking further centralised powers is to reject the whole thesis of its argument on inflation in the past. In my view, it is deception to say to the people: ‘This has to be rushed through by Christmas’. As I have said, this is wishing upon the people of Australia a black Christmas.
The Government is grossly misrepresenting the position by failing to tell the people of Australia that almost always a ‘No’ vote is recorded. Therefore, anybody in this country who rests on the assumption that this power will be carried will be resting on something which is contrary to what has been shown by history. Therefore, this is a gross misrepresentation. It is also a gross temptation to commerce and industry in this country to put up their prices before the gag. This is a very serious situation indeed. Knowing the likelihood of failure, knowing the record of price control in the war years and the post-war years and knowing that one of the major reasons for the Chifley Government’s removal from power was the mess that it made of price control- there was a black market atmosphere of goods under the counter, shortages, spivs, wheeler dealers and corruption in the nation created by the continuance of price control far beyond its need- but hoping that the generations affected by those things have short memories or a total lack of memory, the Government is coming along with what in fact is a serious deception.
But, quite apart from the fact that Mr Whitlam, Dr Cairns and others have said that they could do these things without further powers and that the Labor Party went to the people saying: ‘Put us in and inflation and industrial unrest will subside’, I put this to honourable senators: We are now being put in a ludicrous situation. Mr Acting Deputy President, Senator McLaren and Senator McAuliffe, I do not object to interjections but I do object to bad manners. The Government is going to the people of Australia and saying, in effect: ‘For Lord’s sake get us out of the mess we have got ourselves into’. Never let the people of Australia forget that the problem of inflation which now exists has been created by the Labor Party’s misuse of centralised powers.
– Whom are you kidding?
– I will demonstrate my point in one moment. If the honourable senator will help me by acknowledging these things, I will be grateful. The Government is saying this: We are in a mess. We got into a mess because of our abuse of the centralised powers that we now have. We have aggravated inflation in recent weeks. For Lord ‘s sake help us out of this mess by giving us more centralised powers’. Does anyone really believe that the people of Australia will willingly give more powers to a government when the mess that it is in has been created by its abuse of existing powers? Does anyone on the Labor benches deny that inflation ran at 2.5 per cent for almost all of the time we were in office? Does anyone deny that industrial unrest was at a record low? Does anyone deny that wealth, in terms of real wages and real purchasing power, was shared better in Australia than anywhere else in the world? Senator McAuliffe has a pained expression on his face. The other day he invited me to invoke Professor Henderson as an authority. I am now giving him Professor Henderson as my authority. In his book Professor Henderson said: ‘Australia has no real poverty. It, along with the Scandinavian countries, shares its real wealth, its real wages, better than any other country in the world ‘.
When we left government inflation was running at 4.7 per cent and falling. Does anyone deny that now it is running at between 12 per cent and 13 per cent and rising? Does anyone deny a statement made today by the National Capital Development Commission about a rise of $600 in the cost of a house in 1 1 weeks and a rise of some $2,000 in the cost of a house in Canberra in the period of the life of this Government? I now respond to Senator O ‘Byrne’s interjection: ‘Whom are you kidding?’ Is it not a fact that this Government suddenly imposed indirect taxes which put up prices, and do not increased prices aggravate inflation? Is it not a fact that this Government cut immigration and reduced the available work force? Is it not a fact that this Government transferred 10,000 people out of the productive work force into the Public Service? Is it not a fact that under this Government industrial unrest is running at its highest level ever? Is it not a fact that this Government has applauded wage rises to the extreme and has set out to destroy margins for skill by encouraging flat rate instead of percentage increases? Are these not facts? Whom was the honourable senator who interjected kidding? His silence is wondrous to listen to.
So we have this incredible proposition that a Government which has created inflation and which has aggravated inflation and has done so by the most gross abuse of its powers, says to the people: ‘We want you to give us more powers to abuse’. This is the proposition that is solemnly being put to us. Then a weekend or so ago the Government said: ‘By golly, we have to get out of the mess of this Budget, so we are going to put up interest rates’. So, further to aggravate inflation, the Government raised the base overdraft interest rate by 1.75 per cent. As I have said in this chamber, the effect of this has been to put up very significantly the price of every commodity in Australia. A deliberate act of the Labor Government has been to put up prices. It was an unnecessary act; an act which puts up the price of every home being bought or about to be built and of every commodity on hire purchase, from television sets to washing machines to refrigerators to motor cars and to furniture- every item that a young couple setting up a home wants. The silence of honourable senators opposite now is equally wonderful to listen to. Every one of these families has to face up to these increased prices.
I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy): ‘Would you please explain to the people of Australia a simple thing- how does an act of government putting up prices reduce inflation?’ I am waiting to hear someone on the Government side answer that. I repeat the question to Government supporters: How does an act that puts up the prices of houses, television sets, refrigerators- every item that a couple wants to set up a home- reduce inflation? Are honourable senators opposite game to say that what they want to do by this is to reduce people’s purchasing power, because this is the fact. They are going to say: ‘There is a shortage of goods and too much money. We will not set about increasing the number of goodsthat would be the Liberal and sensible way. What we will do will be to creep into the bank accounts and wage envelopes of the people and we will take money from them by the cheating device of higher interest rates’. Honourable senators opposite will not answer me, the AttorneyGeneral will not answer me, and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) who is sitting at the table will not answer me.
– You should have listened to me last night. You had your answer last night.
-I listened very hard but failed to be enlightened because the Minister directed himself not one whit to the question. I ask him, when he comes to speak again, to answer this simple question: How does the putting up of taxes lower prices? I am asking the Minister to give me an answer later to this question. How does the putting up of interest rates and the price of a home and of every commodity lower prices? Is not the Government’s answer the one given to me by the Attorney-General, when he said: ‘This is the classical technique of the economist- and that is to reduce the purchasing power of people? Is not the device for which the Government has fallen a device which is aimed at reducing the purchasing power of every person in Australia? Let anyone deny that that is the classical economic weapon of higher interest rates- to reduce liquidity, if honourable senators opposite want the economist’s term and I speak as one who had some little training in that discipline.
– You could have fooled us.
– Yes, I could have fooled Senator McAuliffe and it would not have caused any difficulty or taken any skill so to do. I pass to the next step on this journey, having said that the Government has said: ‘We have made a mess. For God’s sake get us out of it. Give us power, although we have abused power’. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) now puts this proposition. It is true that some 10 or 12 days ago Mr Whitlam, on his own say so, did not want a referendum of any kind at all. So 12 days ago the Leader of the Government did not want a referendum at all. It is true that at that time he believed, as did most of his colleagues, that there was no solution to this problem by seeking a referendum- none at all. It is equally true that he was forced against his will by his Caucus to change his mind.
Some of those who are articulate only in interjections have said: ‘But is not a caucus democratic?’ Let us have a little look at that. I want to tell honourable senators about the mathematics of majority rule. There are some 185 senators and members in both Houses of the Australian Parliament. Forty-five of them, or 24 per cent, have thrust a referendum on prices upon the Prime Minister of Australia. I repeat the figure- 24 per cent- a minority government. It is true that the Government has supported a minority government in Chile, and it has a tendency to support minorities except when it suits it to go to the people, as it will on another referendum, and say: ‘ We want to oppose minorities ‘. Is it not a fact that there are 1 85 senators and members in these 2 chambers of Parliament, and that.only 45 senators and members can be assembled to support this proposition of a referendum power?
– Operating in secret in the back room.
– That is right. And this is the voice of democracy. Of course, 4 times in 4 Caucus meetings the Prime Minister has had his tail tweaked. This is the man who said those cherished words and who set President Kennedy and the 3 great days of leadership up as an example of what he would do by direct action. He said that President Kennedy was the man who did more to fix prices in America than could be done by all the legislation in the world. Here was the man who then went to Caucus and by abject abdication of leadership put himself into the situation where he is now going to the Australian people with the most preposterous proposition that has ever been put by any Prime Minister.
I recite the proposition to the Senate. What, in effect, Mr Whitlam has to say is this: He has to admit that he wanted no part of any referendum at all. He has to admit that he did not see any solution to inflation at all in the control of priceswhether separately or jointly. He has to admit that he went to Caucus saying: ‘I am fighting a totally losing cause if I only have prices. For Lord’s sake twin wages, twin incomes and we might get somewhere.’ He has to admit that he failed to do that. He is going to the Australian people to say: ‘I want you to put in our hands a great centralised power of one word. True, I am not even going to tell you what it means- I know better, Gough knows better. I am not going to tell you what it means at all. Let the lawyers fight it out. I will use it to the full extent I can, with every overtone of meaning I can. I am not going to tell you. True, I do not even want this referendum; it will not be workable. Even if it were twinned with incomes, it is not going to be very workable. ‘ Indeed, he is on record as saying elsewhere: ‘This kind of thing is only one of the instruments of counter inflation.
This is the proposition that the Leader of the Government in the Senate suggested to us today should be railroaded through in a few minutes. We, the Senate, are charged by the Constitution and by our Standing Orders to be a House of review and to respect the terms of the Commonwealth Constitution and specifically to respect standing order 242, which is conceived in the very nature of the Senate, which is the child of the Constitution. It says: ‘When you have a great and important matter, do not hasten. There must be some 2 1 days between the second reading and the third reading.’ In the same vein, the Constitution says that between 2 and 6 months must elapse between the time when the Bills are passed and when the questions are put to the people. The Leader of the Government in the Senate says that there is an urgency about this matter, yet we have the cynical situation where the Prime Minister himself does not want it. Only 24 per cent of honourable senators and members of the House of Representatives are demonstrated as wanting it at all.
– It was a unanimous decision.
-I can understand Senator Gietzelt interjecting because he has been a leader of lost and disastrous causes within his own Party and his own Caucus over recent months and I commend him to continue them because if his Party encourages him there is nothing surer than they will have total destruction. So I commend him to interject as strongly as possible. His own Party is articulate in this situation.
We have a situation in which a Caucus has thrust a decision on Cabinet. Here again there is a very important question of the whole principle and philosophy of Parliament- the question of sovereignty and the centring of power in the democratic institution. As Parliament has evolved so Parliament, having the sovereignty of the people transferred temporarily to the parliamentarians on the floor, also transferred much more temporarily to the Cabinet or to the Executive sovereignty, but to no one else. In the whole history of the British parliamentary institution the temporary transfer of sovereignty is from the floor of the chamber to Cabinet and back to the floor of the chamber. In other words, if the executive wing of government is to be called to answer for its decisions, under the whole tradition of British Parliament, it must make its decisions independently and free of outside pressure and has a duty to report not to Caucus, not to a news conference, not with clever and cynical things at all, but to the floor of Parliament as to its decisions it is the servant and not the master of Parliament.
It is very timely when we are debating a subject matter of great importance regarding the vesting of powers in Parliament that we remind ourselves that the whole business of democratic government is the business of the vesting of powers. We should remember that we. being the servants of the people with only temporary sovereignty from the people, have the responsibility to look to the executive arm and to demand of the executive arm that it makes its decisions freely and independently of anyone; having made its decisions that its master is this Parliament- the Senate and the House of Representatives-and that it is answerable to us and it is recalled by us. If honourable senators have a taste for the protocol of the Parliament, because this is what we are here for, they will know that every text book sets this out. But what has happened, of course, is that the Prime Minister of Australia is no longer Prime Minister de facto. He has abdicated and he is today the spokesman and mouthpiece of the Caucus.
– What are you talking about?
-We will test this. If the Prime Minister is the leader of Australia, if he is the acknowledged President Kennedy in embryo of Australia, surely what he decides and what his Cabinet decides shall carry. But neither what he decides nor what his Cabinet decides carries even to the floor of this Parliament because on the way his masters intervene; his masters call him to account.
We are left with the outrageous proposition that not only did the Prime Minister yesterday or the day before seek to get the twinning of powers over prices and income but so did the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), the man fundamentally interested in this question. We have a situation in which there is division amongst Ministers. What we have is the complete breach of Cabinet solidarity. We have Ministers making a decision in one place and running into part of a conspiracy inside Caucus to demolish a decision of Cabinet made in another place.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement relating to future meetings of Senate Estimates Committees.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-1 wish to inform the Senate that, due to the urgency which the Government attaches to the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill and certain other legislation relating to social services and repatriation, it has now become necessary to cancel the meetings of the Estimates Committees which were to be held next Tuesday, 25 September. I also wish to indicate that if consideration of this legislation has not been completed by next Thursday, 27 September, it will be necessary to cancel the Estimates Committee meetings which were scheduled for that day.
The moving of this motion gives the Senate an opportunity to strike a blow for real freedom, to break a lance with the controllers of a totalitarian dictatorship and to provide real and genuine help to men whose courage and fortitude almost defy description. It will be recalled that 8 days ago I asked the Government to refer the question of the persecution of Soviet dissidents to the United Nations. It would have been following the splendid precedent set by the LiberalCountry Party Government, which was successful in obtaining some small benefits for Soviet Jewry by referring that question to the United Nations, just on 11 years ago. So far I have had no response from the Government to my appeal.
On the question of human rights, honourable senators might think it strange that a Government whose numbers rush in to wail about Chile before the facts are properly known, as Senator Willesee conceded this morning- I will have something to say about Chile on some other occasion- can raise no interest in the incredible position in 1973 of Soviet society. A Government which can welcome to our country such terrorists as Tariq Ali, Herbert Chitepo and Eddison Zvobgo can become almost apopleptic about excluding Rhodesian girl guides. I ask honourable senators opposite to imagine how indignant they would become if injections of halopiridol were being administered by wicked South African doctors to the black residents of that country. The Whitlam Government has become a whiffler for communist nations throughout the world. It must, it seems, of necessity be selective in its indignation. It rightly condemns the aspects of apartheid and decides that it is not an internal matter for South Africa; then it runs away from the question of Russian tyranny on the specious ground that it is an internal matter for the Soviet Union. Unfortunately it swallows all the diplomatic nonsense which is put out by the Soviet Union in respect of detente.
To recapitulate briefly my remarks of last week- I do not want to go into them in detail again- Alexander Solzhenitsyn is a leading Soviet writer who is under almost unbelievable attacks in the Soviet Government controlled Press, radio and television. His stature is so great throughout the world that the Communist Government has hesitated to give him the normal treatment, that is, put him away. A Nobel
Prize winner, he issued last year a series of statements criticising Soviet society, its tyranny and its conformism. His colleague, mentioned in this motion, one Andrei Sakharov, is the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb. It might well be thought strange that we in the Australian Parliament seek to do something which could result in freedom for a man who gave the Soviet its most powerful weapon; and yet Sakharov has indicated clearly in his statements from behind the Iron Curtain that he is disgusted with Soviet society and the way in which it controls men’s minds, and for that reason I have no hesitation in bracketing him with Solzhenitsyn in the resolution which is before this chamber.
Sakharov has given some pretty remarkable interviews to Western journalists and because of his stature in Soviet society the Government has been afraid to silence him either. Here I must pay some tribute to the Australian Press and to the Press of the free world generally which has given these interviews pretty remarkable publicity. Almost all of the newspapers in Australia that I have checked have carried very large articles and very large excerpts from the interviews with Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov. The gravamen of these interviews is that intellectual freedom is nonexistent in the Soviet Union and anyone who criticises the Government is liable to imprisonment and, in many cases, to torture, the favourite method being the injection of excessive amounts of the drug halopiridol to cause depression and ultimately madness. Halopiridol is not a new drug. We have been using it under careful medical supervision in Australia for at least 15 years. Its effect is substantially that of a tranquilliser when it is administered in the proper fashion. Then when the psychotic has calmed down, the effect of the drug normally wears off. But administered in excessive quantities it brings about depression and lethargy and ultimately turns a man into a vegetable.
I think that this is a new method of dealing with dissidents. In the past they were perhaps imprisoned or executed. But to turn men of stature into vegetables, to make them things of pity, is a new method which only the communist mind seems to have seized upon and to have regarded as more effective than actual execution. It is a particularly well recognised fact that in dealing with their citizens, communist governments concentrate particularly on writers and artists and those people who are capable of influencing public opinion. This happened in Czechoslovakia when Russian tanks rolled in there just over 5 years ago. The writers of Czechoslovakia where the first to be pilloried. In the Soviet Union we have seen the degrading spectacle of Dimitri Shostakovich, a name that will be familiar to all senators in this chamber as a very distinguished Russian composer, being compelled to write a letter to ‘Pravda’ in which he attacked his colleagues and his friends. One would have thought that Shostakovich might have shown the same moral fibre as Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn did but this was not to be.
Solzhenitsyn, as I mentioned last week, in one of his interviews said:
If I am killed or suddenly dead, you can infallibly conclude that I have been killed with the approval of the KGB.
For a man known for his staid courage in the face of official isolation and propaganda hounding, these words are considered to be the words of almost final despair. We in this chamber tonight, one of the 2 chambers of the Australian Parliament, have an opportunity to register a protest that may ring around the world. The dissident community in the Soviet has been subjected to house searches and close surveillance and has seen its members dismissed from jobs, arrested, tried and committed to mental institutions or prisons. Two of its most distinguished members, Valery Chalidze and the biologist Zhores Medvedev have been allowed to travel outside Russia. When they left the country they were deprived of their citizenship and so prevented from returning. 1 will have a little more to say later about Major-General Pyotr Grigorenko. At the age of 65 he is slowly going blind in a prison mental hospital. According to Sakharov, he is receiving excessive doses of the drug halopiridol The writer Andre Amabrik was sentenced to 3 years in July of this year for anti-Soviet activities, consisting largely of writing what might be called a Russian ‘1984’ predicting what the Soviet Union would be like in the future. For that he got 3 years. As if the 3 years was not enough, before his sentence was finished- I think only a few months of his sentence had run- he was given an additional 3 years for anti-Soviet activities inside a prison. A person has to be good to carry on anti-Soviet activities inside a Soviet prison, but that did not stop him getting an additional 3 years.
The historian Ivan Dzvuba after having been held incommunicado for 1 1 months was sentenced in March to 5 years of forced labour and 5 years in exile. The biologist Vladimir Bukovsky, after having served 24 months in prison, was moved in the spring to a forced labour camp in the Urals. They do not go there for the sake of their health. Pyotr Yakir and Viktor Krasin are two of the intellectuals who had a certain amount of criticism to utter of the Soviet society. They have been tried for anti-Soviet utterances, and they have retracted what they said. They have confessed that they were naughty boys and that they spoke to correspondents from the West. They are serving a 3-year sentence.
I think it is pretty obvious that lesser figures than Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn would not have been left at liberty for so long. The mere fact that they are still both out of prison- they are not actually free men- is due to some degree to protests from the West and is one of the matters which should encourage us to make sure that our protest is lodged. It should not be thought that the Soviet Union is entirely impervious to criticism from outside. It does not take much notice of criticism from inside, but criticism from outside is a matter which may well determine Soviet policy and Soviet activities. As the Manchester ‘Guardian’ said:
If detente means that the West shuts its eyes to totalitarianism then the price is too high to pay.
I come back to Grigorenko. He had a distinguished war career and is now a MajorGeneral. He did not quite accept the Soviet view on the conduct of World War II nor the amount of freedom which was available to people of intellectural attainments in the Soviet Union. For no valid reason he was slapped in prison and given excessive injections of halopiridol. I quote Solzhenitsyn on Grigorenko. He said:
When from the ranks of our glittering and decorated Generals this lone Grigorenko appeared and was brave enough to express his non-conformist view about the course of the last War and about today’s Soviet society- a view which was in fact strictly Marxist Leninist- then this view is declared a psychiatric insanity.
The astonishing thing is that the mere fact that the man is in disagreement with the establishment in Russia is taken as grounds of insanity. This happened in 1969. It is only recently that the story of his imprisonment has come out. Previously, I mentioned Bukovsky who is serving 7 years in a psychiatric hospital. It is extraordinary that dissidents in the Soviet Union who receive treatment are not placed in an ordinary prison. One might think this would be the normal place to put people who break the law. But often they are put into mental asylums in order to degrade them and to make them a thing of pity- an abject vegetable. Amalrik, whom I mentioned earlier, and also Bukovsky were offered their freedom if they would confirm the convictions of 2 intellectuals, Yakir and Kruson. Both refused to accept the offer. I think that we must be very humble in the presence of such courage. Solzhenitsyn gives a list of names. I will not weary you, Mr President, by attempting to pronounce a whole series of Russian names of men who have suffered or who were persecuted for their dislike of Soviet tyranny. The list includes the names of Gabril Suferfin, Alexander Gorlov, Mstislav Rostropovich, Yakir, Kruson and Medvedev. Solzhenitsyn says that there are thousands of innocent, lesser victims who, because of the fact that they have no great standing in Soviet society, are not known to him by name nor to the outside world.
One of the things that concerns people who worry about this type of matter is that so often when a complaint of a legitimate nature is brought up in this fashion some reference is made to some other country in which there is some evil. It is not necessarily as great an evil but it is some form of evil. If the Senate will bear with me for a while, I will go on to read from Solzhenitsyn ‘s comments on this type of person. He says:
When at the end of the forties we were choked with 25-year terms, we only read in the papers about the unprecedented reprisals in Greece. Today in many of the statements from the Western Press and Western personalities even from those who are most sensitive to oppression and persecutions in the East, in order to create an artificial balance in the face of left-wing circles, there must always be the reservation: The same thing happens in Greece, Spain, Turkey.
He goes on to say:
I dare to declare that there is no such ‘the same thing happens’. I dare make the observation that in all these countries violence does not reach the level of today’s gas chambers, the prison psychiatric clinics.
I dare observe that Greece is not surrounded by a concrete wall and with electronic murderers at the border, and young Greeks do not pass in hundreds over the lethal line with faint hope of ever reaching freedom.
He continues his remarks. I will not read them in detail because they are rather lengthy. He outlines how horrible it is to live in a country where the radio broadcasts from foreign countries are jammed. He says:
What jamming of radio broadcasts means is impossible to explain to those who haven’t experienced it themselves, who haven’t lived under it for years. It means daily spittle into your ears and eyes, it is an offence and degradation of man to a robot’s level … It means that grown persons are reduced to infants.
Having read Solzhenitsyn ‘s views on those who attempt to equate the horrors, dangers and tyrannies of Russia with what happens in other countries it is interesting to note that when I raised this matter last week Senator Poyser came rushing in, boots and all, to talk about the Chilean situation and to suggest that Soviet Russia was not so bad after all because there may be something wrong in Chile. This is precisely the type of thing that Solzhenitsyn criticises and which he so rightly condemns. Even the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, did exactly the same thing during his Press conference last Tuesday. He passed a mild criticism of the communist system in Soviet Russia. But he had to drag in the Czars and say how bad things were under them. The Czars have been gone a long time. I think it is creating a most artificial situation to drag them in to this context. As some encouragement for the proposition that we are not beating the air in this motion I quote from one of these remarkable interviews. Solzhenitsyn said:
However, international information, the ideas, facts and human protests that slip through after all have an influence. It is important to understand that the East is not at all indifferent to protests from public opinion in the West. On the contrary it has deadly fear of them and only of them. But this is the case only with the united mighty voice of hundreds of prominent personalities with the opinions of a whole continent.
Mr President, Australia is a whole continent. We are given an opportunity this evening to raise such a mighty roar that it will resound around the world. Solzhenitsyn then said:
The Soviet authority may falter- but when timid isolated protests are heard without every belief in their success and with the compulsory reservations ‘the same happens in Greece, Turkey and Spain’, then this evokes only laughter of the aggressors.
Later he said:
One cannot accept that the disastrous course of history is impossible to undo- that a soul with confidence in itself cannot influence the most powerful force in the world.
I do not think Government senators should allow Solzhenitsyn ‘s criticism of Australia’s protests over nuclear testing to influence them adversely in any way. True it is he said that those protests were hypocritical and that our approach to the Chinese tests was in marked contrast to our approach to the French tests. But in this he was only expressing a point of view which many democratic people in this country hold. Talking about Australia, he said:
They protest and support one side (the left) whatever it does and kick always the other side, the one which nourishes them.
I want to go back and refer to that last sentence which states: ,
How true that has been, unfortunately, of the foreign policy of this Government since 2 December. Because I do not want to be diverted from the main train of my argument I will not run through that foreign policy. But is not what Solzhenitsyn has been saying exactly what we have been saying since 2 December? I understand from Press reports that Sir Keith Waller is visiting Moscow to discuss the Soviet plan for collective security in Asia. What an opportunity this would have been for any worthwhile Government to raise with the Soviet the question of the Soviet dissidents. One of things which the Western world has- I am not referring specifically to Australia in this connection- is an abundance of advanced technology. In our case we also have considerable quantities of raw materials. We have many things-I use the word things’ in a generic sense- which the Soviet needs and covets. Perhaps it would have been an exercise in statesmanship if we, or the Americans or the British has said: ‘All right, we will go along with you but we want to see that human rights are freed inside your country.’ We have said it, and in many cases said it justly, to countries where the black population is subjected to indignities and injustices. We have rightly criticised those countries. It seems to me that we should also take this view not only in regard to the Soviet dissidents but in regard to the 148 million people locked at the moment behind the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe.
On 1 1 September Sakharov telephoned London Television and I want to quote from the television program. He said:
It was important that people in the West should help. It is my duty to speak out. It was easier for me than for others. I know the risks I am taking.
I want to repeat that last sentence:
I know the risks I am taking. I know where I am going. It is important that the West should know what is happening in the Soviet Union.
His final sentence was:
It is important that the West should help.
At least this evening the Senate has some chance to offer some help. The ‘Sydney Morning Herald ‘ of 1 1 September also points out that there is plenty of evidence that international criticism is taken seriously inside the Soviet Union. Firstly, there is the speed and strength of Soviet replies to foreign and domestic critics and, secondly, there is the decision to allow thousands of Soviet Jews to migrate. The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ says that without foreign pressure this could never have happened. This confirmation makes Sakharov ‘s claim that sane political prisoners are being treated with drugs in mental hospitals to impair their mental efficiency of greater than normal significance.
We are not alone in our endeavours in moving this motion. The United States Senate is debating the matter. We do not know what conclusion it will arrive at. I am informed that the British psychiatrists visiting Georgia, Russia, next month for the international psychiatrists conference have been asked to demand inspection of these mental detainees. Two American Cabinet Ministers- that is the nearest approach I can get to their status- have indicated to Russia that arrangements, presumably made with President Nixon when Brezhnev was in the United States recently, might well not be carried out unless there was some liberalisation of the condition of dissidents inside the Soviet Union. In Sakharov ‘s interview on 9 September which he gave in defiance of the Soviet authorities he listed a dozen sane dissidents who are being held in asylums. Of course he also asked the visiting psychiatrists to be allowed to inspect these dissident mental patients. He claimed that they were being treated with the depressant drug to which I have already referred which impairs their mental faculties. He said that he could not hear without horror of the fate of political dissidents placed in mental asylums. He accused Professor Snezhevsky, head of the Psychiatric Department of the Soviet Academy of Science, of taking part in the committing of these crimes. Yury Shikanovich, a well known dissident, has been put into an asylum as well. Sakharov called for a Red Cross inquiry to examine his case. He wound up by saying: ‘Let their presence result in the removal of the inhuman shutters on the windows of Soviet prisons’.
As I mentioned earlier all sorts of moral pressures have been exerted on these men. I have referred to the case of Shostakovich. There was another writer whose name, for the moment escapes me. They were compelled to write to Pravda’ denouncing their fellow intellectuals. I do not want to get too political on this but I think it is impossible to conclude this subject without contrasting the Government’s refusal to act in this matter with what happens when Marxist communists are in trouble. Earlier in my remarks I referred to the Allende-Chile matter. A little over a month ago I received a handbill in my mail. I have it here. It states:
Protest the Repression in France
On June 28 the French Government banned the Ligue Communiste and so on and so forth. One does not have to be Mandrake to guess the names of the sponsors of this protest against French repression of the Communist Party, the Fourth International. I will not offer a prize but obviously Dr Jim Cairns is one of the sponsors.
– Is that not character assassination?
– His name is here. I am not assassinating anyone.
– Is that the Peking Minister?
– I understand that he is a Minister in this Government. I thought that Senator Brown would have had more sense, but, regrettably, his name also appears on this handbill as one of the sponsors. But no one will be surprised -
– You ought to be in the CIA.
– I would rather be in the CIA than in the KGB or the UDBA. The third sponsor of this attempt to help the Fourth International Communist Party is that gallant fighter for civil rights around the world, Senator George Poyser- the gentleman who came rushing into the chamber the other night to defend the Marxist President Allende of Chile. I think I have said enough and adduced enough to indicate that there is at least a prima facie case of repression and torture of dissidents in the tyranny that is known as the Soviet system. Maurice Latey is a political commentator who would be well known to honourable senators opposite. He was formerly head of the British Broadcasting Commission’s East European service and he is now editor of the British Broadcasting Commission’s talks and external services department. I am indebted to him, and I shall quote from him fairly copiously when he comments on the communist system. He said:
For freedom remains, as it always has been, the main revolutionary force in the world today. For a time this was obscured by the appearance of communist dictatorship as the main source of revolutionary ideas; but communism has only been able to extend beyond the tanks of the Red Army where it has allied or identified itself with a national liberation movement. As a social doctrine it has become reactionary. The Metternichs of the twentieth century who attempt to stifle ideas with censorship and secret police are to be found above all in the communist States. A twentieth century Karl Marx would, if he were honest, have to say in his manifesto-
Honourable senators opposite will be familiar with the way in which the communist manifesto begins; it was written in 1848 and begins with the words ‘a spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of communism’- a spectre is haunting Eastern Europe, the spectre of freedom”.
I am indebted to Latey ‘s recent work entitled Tyranny- A Study in the Abuse of Power’ which was published earlier this year. Finally, no one knows better than you, Mr President, that history does not support the view that truth and justice always triumph. If these courageous Soviet dissidents receive no help or encouragement from outside they will simply perish, and to that extent all mankind is diminished. I appeal to honourable senators in the Government Party to join with us in registering a mighty and indignant protest- a rising crescendo of challenge- that will ring around the world and be taken straight to the heart of the United Nations. Do not let us muddy up this issue with political arguments. I have been as restrained as it was possible for me tobe.
– A superb performance.
– I would not have put it that way, but I accept the accolade. I appeal to honourable senators opposite to join with us in something -
– Who are ‘us’?
– These are the united parties of Her Majesty’s Opposition, if it interests the honourable senator. Please do not be flippant. Do not dismiss this as some idle curiosity. It should appeal to the heart of any democrat that he is given the opportunity, through the safety of these plush red seats, to issue a protest and a challenge that may well result in benefit to courageous people many thousands of miles away. Please God, this protest will ring around the Soviet Union and may spring the traps which imprison so many courageous men.
-Is there a seconder of this motion?
– I second the motion.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 13 September (vide page 60 1 ), on motion by Senator Sim:
That the Senate deplores the Government’s double standards in respect of atmospheric nuclear testing by China and France.
– The Senate is in continuation of a debate on a motion of importance, the text of which is:
That the Senate deplores the Government’s double standards in respect of atmospheric nuclear testing by China and France.
In my earlier comments I drew attention to some 6 main double standards. I pointed out that the nature of the message transmitted to each of the countries, China and France, was different. The fact is that China and France both exploded nuclear devices. The fact is that Australia has led a resolution in the United Nations condemning all atmospheric tests. Nevertheless, the Labor Government decided to make a timid note of protest to the Chinese and then to sustain a roar of protest against the French- a roar of protest which continues. In my earlier remarks I reminded the Senate that in fact we have not bothered to follow up very strenuously our protest to the Chinese and that we had not even sought too many details about their tests, but that we had continued not only to pursue in the World Court the case against the French but also to send a Minister to France to seek out the French Government and to attempt to talk the French Government into dropping its tests. No Minister was sent to China to do the same thing.
So, firstly, we had a difference in approach of message. Secondly, we had an entire difference in terms of ministerial approach to governments. Thirdly, we had the question of a trade pact with China, on the one hand giving her most favoured nation treatment and, on the other hand, urging, on the part of Dr Cairns and others and certainly supported by the Government, a ban on trade and communications with the French.
-That is a bit like Uganda and Mozambique.
– That is exactly so. I pointed out the tremendous double standards of the Prime Minister (Mr Witlam). First of all, he did not understand, or pretended that he did not understand, the nature of the Chinese tests. He said that they had no discernible effect, that the winds did not blow this way and that only the French tests could affect us. Then he had to correct himself, and even after his correction he gave technically inaccurate figures. I pointed out that the Prime Minister then embarked upon a course throughout the world in which his double standards were totally marked. In Mexico he sought to get condemnation of the French alone, and failed. In Ottawa he sought to get condemnation of the French alone, and failed. Wherever he went his only concern was the French.
During my previous remarks honourable senators opposite asked me for my source for a number of the Prime Minister’s statements. I referred to the fact that the Prime Minister was quoted- and I quoted him- as saying that the French tests were more monstrous than the Chinese. Indeed, in this I put the clear test of double standards. I draw the Senate’s attention to a report in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of 3 August 1973, and this report is repeated in many other newspapers. The report from Ottawa under the heading ‘Monstrous Nuclear TestPrime Minister’ states.
Mr Whitlam agreed that his criticisms of the French program were in sterner language than his response to China’s atmospheric tests. He said that the French tests were ‘more monstrous’.
They were not under any military threat and they were using territory far from their homeland to conduct the program’, he said.
He said he considered China was under threat.
The Chinese themselves got most of the radioactive fallout’, he said.
That report has been quoted in many, many papers. If there were no other evidence to prove the double standards of the Prime Minister and the Government, here it is. He admits in his own words that his protest against the French was in sterner language than his response to the Chinese atmospheric tests. He then proceeds to attack the French and to defend the Chinese, and, I repeat, to suggest that there was some justification for the Chinese embarking on nuclear tests. I repeat the sentence:
He said he considered China was under threat.
I also said in my previous remarks that if this is so, everything that the present Government says about the existence of threats and the predictability of threats at a world level and at our level falls to the ground.
The whole of the Federal Government’s case on foreign relations, the whole of its case on defence or non-defence and the whole of its argument for dismantling defence are based on its statement that in terms of predictability of threat -a concept which I reject totally- there is no predictability of threat in our region for the next 10 to IS years. But in the halls of nations our Prime Minister has gone on record as saying that China is under threat, and by that there can be only one meaning: He is saying that China is under threat from Soviet Russia. If that is so, what he is saying to the world is that there is a danger- a real danger and immediate dangerof world turmoil and strife. If that is so, and evidence is building tragically to support this view, what this Government is doing in terms of dismantling its defences at this moment is not only another ghastly double standard but also a treacherous act in terms of Australia’s security, because on the one hand it knows that threats are mounting and on the other it seeks to disarm.
The Prime Minister sees France as being monstrous when that country explodes trigger devices over the sea from a balloon. He sees no great harm in the Chinese exploding a device over the land at Lop Nor in the Sinkiang Province in north-western China. It is I think of some significance that perhaps the greatest of our nuclear scientists in Australia, Professor Sir Ernest Titterton, is on record as saying that if we are to rap anybody we should rap China because in his words the effect of the Chinese bomb is exposed immediately to 7 times more people in terms of world population than that of the French. It is worth quoting Professor Titterton on this. He is on record on this subject. He said that the Australian Government has been silent on any fallout from the Chinese tests. It has been vocal about fallout from the French tests but of course has been unable to say that they have caused any harm. But an article which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ under the heading: ‘We Get the China Bomb Fallout Says Scientist’ states:
Australia is getting fallout from Chinese nuclear tests, leading Australian scientist, Sir Ernest Titterton, said today.
The article went on to say:
Mr Whitlam said at a Press conference later that winds from the Chinese nuclear testing did not come within thousands of miles of Australia.
But Sir Ernest said today that Mr Whitlam evidently did not distinguish between latitudinal and global fallout.
Short-lived radiation from the tests at Lop Nor in western China did not reach Australia’, he said.
But long-lived radiation, such as strontium 90 and caesium 137, covered the whole of the globe. ‘
Strontium 90, which is taken up by bone, has a half-life of 28 years. Caesium 137, which is taken up by muscle tissue, has a half-life of 30 years. The half-life of a radio-isotype is the time required for half a quantity of the radio-isotype to decay or break down into a condition of stability.
Here we have a leading nuclear scientist, one whose views are upheld by his colleagues, refuting what the Prime Minister has said. In the Brisbane ‘Courier-Mail’ of 16 August, under the heading ‘Chinese N-tests “Worse” ‘, the following comments appeared:
Australians who wanted to vent their indignation about nuclear testing should direct their emotion against the Chinese nuclear tests, Professor Sir Ernest Titterton said yesterday.
The fallout from Chinese explosions reached 7 times the population cover of the French tests, he said.
Why is it that we get none of these things? Why is it that the only time the Prime Minister or Senator Murphy open their mouths is to rail against the French? Why is it that Australia’s Ambassador to France, having returned to Australia, was allowed to say that he was going to stay in Australia for some 6 weeks or more to protest against the French nuclear tests but our Ambassador in Peking was encouraged to stay there and do nothing by way of showing resentment against the Chinese? Here we have double standards in everything we do.
It is interesting- I have already pointed this out- that there has been a conspiracy of silence on the part of the Australian Government about telling the people of Australia the facts about nuclear fallout and man-made fallout. Why is it, for example, that the Senate was not told about what was reported in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 26 July of this year under the heading ‘Radiation Levels Down, NZ Report Says’? The article stated:
Unless there is some technical flaw in the methods of New Zealand Government scientists the incidence of extra-natural radiation fallout is decreasing in an almost inverse ratio to that of political opposition to Chinese and French atmospheric nuclear testing.
Here we have fascinating stuff. We are told the things that are melodramatic and we have withheld from us the rest. I have been at pains to seek information- I am still trying to obtain it by way of a question that I placed on the notice paper 6 months ago- about basic, simple scientific matters. The Government has made no response. The fact is the Government has been unwilling to accept the advice of its scientists, however eminent those scientists are. So much has it been unwilling to accept the advice of its scientists on the National Radiation Advisory Committee and the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee that in order to remove the necessity of having to listen to their advice it has abolished those 2 bodies and is reforming them, leaving off those scientists who do not give it information of a politically satisfactory nature.
In what I thought was one of the most important speeches I have heard in this chamber in many days, Senator Hannan tonight drew attention to what is happening in Russia in terms of selective propaganda, the repression of dissidents and the telling of a half truth and a half lie. He instanced Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a Nobel Prize winner and the author of many books. He is a man whose word and judgment are respected. He is also a man who understands the double standards of the totalitarian propaganda. I wish to quote what he is reported to have said in an article which appeared in the ‘Australian’ on 1 3 September of this year. The article states:
Nobel Prize winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn has called Australia ‘s protests over nuclear testing hypocritical.
He said Australia’s and New Zealand’s approach to tests by China in contrast to those by France illustrated this.
He said: ‘They protest when this is not dangerous, when it can be expected that one antagonist will yield and when there is no risk of condemnation from left circles (it’s of course always best to protest together with them).
They support the one side whatever it does, and kick always the other side ( the one which nourishes them ). ‘
What a terrible thing it is that this should be said by one of the great men of this world- one of the most courageous voices in contemporary history, a man who is speaking out at the risk of his life. He is not only speaking out against the double standards, the tyranny and the repression in Russia; he is also saying that in Australia and New Zealand similar techniques of propaganda, of the retention of information and of double standards are being applied. Against the background of Senator Hannan ‘s remarks, nothing could be more vivid indeed. I say that the Government has been unwilling to bring forward the information which has been sought because it has been unwilling to accept publicly the advice which has been tendered to it. I want to canvas that for one moment. I, in common with other people in this Parliament and in Australia, am opposed to increasing man-made nuclear fall-out where it is possible to stop it. I am also thoroughly opposed to the distortion that has gone on in this chamber where scare tactics are evinced.
I have pointed out that the normal radiation from cosmic rays and rocks that an ordinary person experiences is of the order of 100 millirads. I have pointed out that the total additional manmade fall-out from all atom tests- from the Bikini tests through to the British, American, Russian, French and Chinese tests- is an extra 2 millirads or less in Australia. I wish to point out, so that it will be put in perspective, that wherever one goes in the world the natural radiation varies. As one goes to a higher altitude, as one goes to areas that are more subject to radiated rocks, so one increases one’s natural radiation. So that the increase of 2 millirads is put in perspective, I want to point out that millions of people live in this world not in a state of 100 millirads, as we do, but in a state of 200, 400 or 600 millirads and, in the case of some, 1,200 millirads and there is no proof at all that it has done them any physiological damage, that it has created in them any malignant neoplasms or that it has produced any genetic defects. I want to spell out to this Parliament, because I think it is important to put it in perspective, the dilemma of the scientists in relation to this matter. Nobody can say that very small doses, as have been experienced from man-made tests, spread over a period have any effect; equally no scientist on this earth can prove conclusively that they do not. That is the dilemma we are in.
All people of good heart and humanity will oppose extra radiation, but to put this in line it is also important to point out that the kind of statistical information the Attorney-General has been attempting to use is in no way accepted by scientists. It is known that massive doses- of the order of 50,000 rads and not millirads- exposed at once to a person or to animals can in fact cause cancer and can in fact cause genetic changes. Most scientists agree that as we get down to smaller and smaller doses and spread them over a period it is utterly wrong to make a mathematical formula to calculate downwards. Most scientists are not willing to say that beyond a particular threshhold small doses over lengthy periods have any effect at all; but whilst mathematically one can extrapolate an answer, that in itself proves nothing. I want to try to say to the Senate, against the background that we should be striving to stop one extra person from suffering under this, that the kind of mathematical formula is an impossible one. The kind of formula says this: Because of all the kinds of tests that have contributed to the atmosphere in recent times, in the next 30 years some 25 people perhaps will suffer malignant neoplasms as a result of those bombs. In that time between 700,000 and 800,000 people will, sadly enough, suffer malignant neoplasms from all other causes. So in perspective, whilst to talk of the suffering and death of one man is ugly, nevertheless this is the kind of thing we are talking about.
These are the kind of figures that the Labor Party will not table because if it did table them they would show in perspective that it should have been warning people, if this man-made fallout is real, of many things. What it should be talking about is people flying at high altitudes, and flying continuously, bearing in mind that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers), who is sitting at the table, said that one return flight to Perth exposes a person to more cosmic fallout than all the man-made fallout of the tests. Does the Attorney-General come into this chamber and warn against these things? What he says is: ‘These are elective things, you can elect to do them. ‘ But he does not tell the Senate of the danger in the air, the danger from X-rays, the danger from altitudes or the danger from -
– Luminous watches.
– Even luminous watches when exposed to the genitalia, when exposed to the human gonads, can cause more danger than all the testing that there is. What he does not tell us, for example, is the experience of those workmen who have been working at the atomic power stations in England and who have been exposed to massive amounts of fallout. What he does not tell us is that their rate of malignant neoplasms, their rate of illness of that kind, has been substantially lower than the same average cross section of people in the rest of the community. I am not saying this with complacency. With every breath in my body what I am trying to say is that we should stop atomic fallout. What I am referring to is the dreadful double standards which bring the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister into these chambers and by melodrama scare people wrongly and unnecessarily. I asked the Parliamentary Library to produce for me a paper on the results that have been proven following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I felt that here was a test of direct radiation of massive doses on people and because several generations have lived since then. It is too long to read, but I commend that document to honourable senators. Copies of it can be obtained from the Library. I had a subjective reason too for seeking it because many of my colleagues, who were with me in my units during the war, were there at the time and I discussed it with them many times. So it is more than a little real to me and there but for the Grace of God went I.
What I want to plead is that the Government should now present to this Parliament a White Paper setting out in true perspective the whole basic background of the ordinary natural fallout and of peoples exposure to it; the elective fallouts from altitude or travel, luminous watches and X- rays; the elective fallouts if we are to have civil atomic power stations; the elective fallouts if we are to bring in civil atomic ships- and this will be real in the future because of the energy crisisand also the fallouts from atom testing.
I want to conclude by putting what is perhaps the greatest of all the double standards. It is the vacuum that causes the dimension of this. The only comments that the Labor Government has made in recent days about nuclear tests is to think aloud whether the French have stopped or have not stopped their nuclear tests. That is all - whether they have stopped or have not stopped. Have honourable senators seen a statement by the Government querying whether the Chinese have stopped or have not stopped? Here we have a marvellous double standard. I want to put that to the Government because there is fair evidence that the French, having tested small trigger devices with very little long range radiation fallout and therefore very little long range damage from it, have probably finished. There is no evidence at all that the Chinese have finished. There is every evidence that the Chinese will continue. Incidentally, the total volume in terms of megatons contributed to the atmosphere from Chinese tests has been greater than that from the French tests; that is over the period of testing. But nobody queries this. May I ask the Australian Government to inquire of the Chinese Government- politely, if it wishes- whether it has finished its tests and whether it is going to have more. And could I, please, on behalf of the Opposition and in the name of all humanity urge that the Government make a major protest to the Chinese that they cease atmospheric testing.
There never has been a greater test of double standards. It is sad that a great man, a Russian, should have spoken out about the tyranny of a country which I had hoped would have mellowed and would have moved to a detente. He is saying to us: ‘ For the Lord ‘s sake, if you are going to put the peace of this world in a compact between nations, do not be naive. If you are going to agree to this- and as you have open government what you are doing under your SALT Agreement and everything else is exposed to the world- then agree only if exactly the same thing is available from the other party to the compact, because if you are dealing with a person of double standards, that person could be treacherous and the whole peace of the world could be put at stake.’ When we are dealing with the totalitarian nations we are, sadly enough, although we want to move towards them in terms of understanding and in terms of open values, faced with the fact that they are a closed society and that therefore the bargain will not be kept. I do urge upon this Australian Government of ours that if peace is to survive on this earth it should not set the kind of double standards which such a great man as Alexander Solzhenitsyn saw fit to criticise- and to criticise justly.
– Because I was in New Zealand during part of the time when the tests were taking place in the western Pacific and I saw something of the reaction in New Zealand to the French tests in the Western Pacific, I would like to speak very briefly on the subject that was raised by Senator Sim. Before doing that I comment on the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), referred to just now by Senator Carrick, in which he said that the French were safe from attack and because of that fact their tests were monstrous. I very much question whether the French would have much faith in the statement of our Prime Minister that they were safe from attack, if they have regard to what happened to Czechoslovakia a few hundred miles from their border only a year or two ago. However, he said that. He also said, as Senator Carrick pointed out, that the Chinese were not safe from attack. He justified their conducting of nuclear tests on that ground. The Prime Minister said further that, anyhow, the Chinese took most of the fallout from their own testing. I do not think that the Japanese would find much comfort in that statement. I do not think that the Chinese, if they could put their views on the conduct of their affairs, would find much comfort either. According to the report that was furnished to our Prime Minister by the Australian Academy of Science, while deposit of the shorter-lived isotopes will come only from the southern hemisphere testing the longer-lived isotopes will also be deposited on Australia from tests conducted in the northern hemisphere. Apparently the fallout from the Chinese nuclear explosions in the northern hemisphere, in proximity to approximately one-third of the world’s population, is particularly potent.
I was in New Zealand at the time that the Otago’ was parading and patrolling very close to the French nuclear testing grounds in the western Pacific. Night after night it was shown on television. A New Zealand Minister was on the ship. He was shown on television. I have a certain amount of admiration for Mr Kirk because I verily believe that he is a Prime Minister in his own right. He does not have to do what he is told, like someone not far from here. I believe he is his own man. Mr Marshall told him: ‘Unless you can be reasonably certain of success and unless you can be reasonably certain that you will stop these tests, you can make a fool of yourself. Remember that the French are a potent force in the European Economic Community and that in 4 years’ time or less we must have our exports to that Community reviewed. There is no sense in stirring up anti-French feeling in this Dominion for no purpose at all, if it is unsuccessful, when we have to place the fate of our export commodities in the hands of these people ‘.
I went to the Auckland air terminal at the time. Twelve or fifteen Chinese arrived. They had New Zealands officials with them. I could tell that they were being treated as honoured guests. One thing that struck me was that they were all dressed in drab uniform clothing. It took my mind back to what Count Grandi said to Mussolini on the last night of the Grand Council meeting. He said: ‘For years you have submerged our individuality and our personalities in these funereal clothes. It is time that we gave it away and threw them off’. It struck me that the dress of the Chinese was typical of communiststhe same drab uniform clothing. There was the submerging of the individuality. The exception of course is the hierarchy who control the whole business. I said: ‘Surely to God this is a cockeyed business. It must be. The country that these men represent is nuclear testing on a scale infinitely greater than the scale on which the French are testing. Your people have one of your warships, the ‘Otago’ patrolling the French area and tormenting for all they are worth the French people in that area. You have welcomed these other people to your country. You have put down the red carpet for them and treated them as honoured guests’. Surely to God that is ambiguous morality if anything in the world is- the same morality that this Government practised in this country. I was not alone in thinking that. I quote an article from the ‘Auckland Star’. It reported a statement by the Mayor of Auckland. I salute him. I take my hat off to him. The article states:
I can ‘t receive Chinese either’, Robbie decides.
Auckland’s mayor, Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, told IS members of a Chinese travel group that in order to be consistent he could not receive any official Chinese Government delegation.
I cannot receive representatives of China or any other country so long as they continue to test nuclear weapons anywhere in the world’ . . .
My difficulty is that if I am not prepared to receive representatives of the French Government, what must my position be when it comes to my friends in China?
To be consistent I must say the same thing’, he said.
He would not receive them, and he would not give them an official welcome. That delegation, to the shame of every decent Australian, had previously been in this country.
– It was feted by the Government.
– Yes, it was feted by the Government. New Zealand television made much of the fact that the ship ‘Otago’ was supplied by an Australian supply ship. Surely to God we can throw away this ambiguous morality. If nuclear testing is wrong- and it is horribly wrong- it is wrong for A to do it, it is wrong for B to do it and it is wrong for C to do it. No other construction can be put on it. Thank the Lord that there are men in New Zealand- it is a pity that there were not a few more in Australia- with the same guts and the same forthrightness that the Mayor of Auckland has. I agree with him completely and absolutely.
-in reply- In closing the debate I am bound to say that there is nothing to which I need reply. The Opposition has behaved in this debate as it has behaved in other debates.
– You mean the Government.
– The Government is behaving in this debate as it has behaved in other debates. It is like the spoilt little boy with his cricket bat who takes it home and says: ‘If you will not do as I want, I will not play with you. ‘ The Government has made no attempt to defend its position. Perhaps it realises that it is a waste of time to defend the indefensible. Perhaps that is the most charitable interpretation that we can put upon its actions in this debate. I wish to speak only briefly. We heard 3 speakers in this debate on behalf of the Government. Of Senator O ‘Byrne, my generosity leads me to say very little. Obviously, he did not know what he was talking about. He ranted and raved for some 30 minutes and then became all confused at the end about what the motion meant. I think that the motion is quite clear. But in Senator 0 ‘Byrne’s muddling way, obviously he did not understand simple English. The motion merely says:
That the Senate deplores the Government’s double standards in respect of atmospheric nuclear testing by China and France.
I made it quite clear at the outset that we condemn both countries. But Senator O’Byrne started off, after giving us some historical dissertation for a few minutes -
– Yes, hysterical is probably a better word. He said: ‘Yet here we are in 1973, after the experience in 194S of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, with people like Senator Sim who come into this Senate and try to justify the extension of this wicked, animal approach to the solution of man’s problems.’ I suggested to Senator O’Byrne that he try to quote one word I have ever said which indicated my support of atmospheric nuclear testing. He did not and he could not. I think that the most noteworthy fact is that from the Government side not one of the 3 speakers condemned the People’s Republic of China specifically.
– Who were the other 2 speakers?
- Senator Mulvihill was one and Senator Keeffe of whom we take no notice whatever was the third one. Not one of you mentioned one word of condemnation of China.
– I referred -
– The honourable senator referred to it in general terms, but there was not one word that was specifically in condemnation of China. Not one word for Senator O’Byrne was -
– I mentioned China, Russia and France.
– The honourable senator mentioned them in a general way. There was not one word of condemnation specifically of China. I challenge him to point out where he specifically condemned China in a manner equal to his condemnation of France. China was mentioned. There was a passing reference to it, and that was all. I believe that this proves the point we made. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), by his own statements which have been quoted by Opposition speakers in the debate, has condemned himself and condemned the Government. Honourable senators opposite by their failure to condemn China have condemned themselves. It is quite clear.
– Mick Young is going to China.
– I am not interested in Mick Young. He can stay there. Let us look at one quotation that I used and which Senator Carrick used again tonight. It is from the Melbourne Herald ‘ of 3 August. This in itself is the greatest condemnation of the Prime Minister and the Government. The headline reads:
Monstrous Nuclear Tests: Prime Minister.
He went on to say:
The Australian Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, said today that France’s nuclear testing program was more monstrous than China’s.
We say that they are equally monstrous. But if we were to look at degrees of what is more monstrous, then I suppose one could argue that the tests of China are more monstrous than those of France. China is exploding a dirtier bomb that affects more people. But we do not accept this. They are both equally monstrous. The Prime Minister condemns one more than the other. Then he goes on to agree in the article that he has used sterner language in regard to the French than he has used against the Chinese. Right through every statement that the Prime Minister has made we find condemnation of the French and excuses for the Chinese.
I remind honourable senators of Dr J. F. Cairns visit to China when he said he took up with Chou En-lai the question of Chinese nuclear tests. Chou En-lai became somewhat irritated. Dr Cairns promptly ducked for cover. The final test is the trade ban against the French and the reception in this country given to the Chinese trade delegation. The members of that delegation were received by Dr Cairns and the Prime Minister as honoured guests. They signed a trade agreement with the Chinese. We can go through the matter step by step as we have done to prove the double standards of the Government. My final point relates to a matter raised by Senator Carrick. The Prime Minister is on record as having said that his excuse for the Chinese is that they are under threat. Yet we have had a statement from the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) that the reason for dismantling our defence forces is that the global situation is stabilising and that there is detente among the major powers. The Government cannot have it both ways. If China is under threat, it is under threat from one country. That is Russia. If China is under threat no stable world situation will develop. I ask the Senate to vote on this motion.
The Government has condemned itself out of its own mouth. It has failed to answer the charge in the motion before the Senate. Indeed, it is so demoralised and in such a state of despair that it made no attempt to defend itself. By putting this motion to a vote, we can show the feeling of the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I present the report of the Joint Committee on Prices relating to the stabilisation of meat prices, together with the minutes of the evidence.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- I move:
The report ‘Stabilisation of Meat Prices’, which has just been tabled, is the first report presented to the Parliament by the Joint Committee on Prices. The recommendations of the Committee are shown in front of the report. The major recommendation is that a special flexible tax be introduced on beef exports, with the proceeds from this tax being returned for the benefit of beef livestock producers.
The philosophy behind this recommendation is very simple. The average retail price of meat increased by almost 25 per cent in the first seven months of 1973, and all the evidence suggested that in the absence of intervention the upward pressure on prices would not be reduced until the autumn of 1974 at the earliest.
It is clear that the export of beef has been the principal factor in the large increase of the domestic price of meat. Meat is the most important single sub-group in the consumer price index. The increase in meat prices has contributed enormously to inflation. In the June quarter of this year, for instance, two-fifths of the consumer price index increase of 3.3 per cent was accounted for by the increase in meat prices. In addition, the rapid price increases have placed burdens on persons on low incomes, persons on fixed incomes, larger families and pensioners. In these circumstances the Committee considered it was desirable to stabilise meat prices. The Committee concluded that the only way to reduce meat prices was to increase supplies of meat to the domestic market by diverting supplies from export. The amount diverted need not be very large. In addition beef only would need to be diverted. Mutton and lamb are currently in such short supply that any diversion from the export market would not be significant.
The Committee was very conscious of the need for a proposal that would not be counter productive in the long term by deterring production or deterring the supply of cattle to the market. However, by returning the proceeds of the tax to all beef producers, any adverse effects would be avoided. The producer’s incentive to increase production would not therefore in any way be impaired. Indeed, in the circumstances of very strong overseas demand, as at present, which would necessitate a very high export tax, the producer’s incentive to increase production would be enhanced as total revenue to the Australian industry would be increased.
The second major recommendation is also brought to the attention of the Parliament, namely that the meat industry should do something itself to stabilise domestic prices pending the introduction of an export tax. If successful the Government might consider not introducing the export tax proposal. The emphasis on export which the industry has been pursuing is not in its best long term interests. The domestic market is the largest and most important and this is the very market that is not being looked after.
It is the view of the Committee that unless something is done to increase the amount of red meat available to the domestic market, the consumer could develop tastes for other meats to the permanent detriment of the red meat industry. In this regard, evidence presented to the Committee showed that in the last 10 years per capita consumption of poultry meat has increased rapidly and there is similar scope for increase in pig meat consumption. It will be noted that the report contains a dissent. Four non-Government members did not agree with the major recommendations. Mr Garland, the fifth, was out of Australia when the report was considered. I commend the report to the Senate.
The decision of the Parliament to appoint a Joint Committee on Prices came about as a recognition in the early months of the year that there was a need for the Parliament to establish some mechanism to deal with the general increase in prices. The Parliament decided to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices- a unique organisation; the first established by the Australian Parliament. The Committee was directed to consider as its first reference the stabilisation of meat prices. The Australian Parliament referred that reference to the Committee on 3 May. Since that date the
Committee has received a great number of submissions from residents of Australia, consumers organisations and other organisations. It fell to my lot to be appointed Chairman of SubCommittee B which had the responsibility of examining the rapid increase in prices of meat in Australia. The Government referred the matter of meat prices and their astronomical leap to the Australian Meat Board in April and subsequently the Board reported to the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt). That report became reference material for the parliamentary Committee.
It would be of interest if I made some reference to some of the matters that appeared in that report. I refer to page 8 of the Meat Board ‘s report. It had been asked to consider what action the Australian Parliament could take about meat prices. The Board said:
If the Government decides to attempt to control domestic meat prices, the complexities of the industry are such that a high export tax, capable of variation up or down would appear to be the only practicable method open, but this would not result in ‘stabilised prices’.
So the Committee was given some inkling by the Meat Board that that may well be worthy of examination but it took the view that it was not a practical step. The Committee therefore called evidence from a great variety of organisations. There was a very good response. Evidence was received mainly from producer and export organisations and to a lesser extent from consumer bodies. Witnesses from those organisations subsequently appeared before the Committee, as did representatives of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and State government agencies. The Committee had been informed by the Australian Meat Board that it should not consider the imposition of a domestic meat quota or seriously consider a meat export tax. However, as the evidence unfolded it became clear that government intervention in this area was very desirable.
I want to refer to the references that subsequently became the majority view of the Committee. Of course, many of the people who gave evidence before the inquiry were asked questions relating to domestic quotas, an export tax and government intervention, or what other schemes could be recommended to the Government as a means of stabilising meat prices in Australia. I refer the Senate to page 10 of the submission to the Committee from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The Bureau stated:
Imposition of an export tax on beef and lamb (in Spring) would lower average unit returns to exporters by close to the full extent of the tax, would divert supplies to the local market and would result in a fall in domestic prices.
The results of the empirical studies suggest that the initial impact of an export tax of 3c per lb. ( about 10 per cent ) on beef exports would reduce saleyard prices by about 2c per lb. A 10 per cent tax on lamb exports in the export period would tend to reduce Victorian saleyard prices by about 10 per cent (i.e. about 2c per lb).
Total returns to producers would be lower as a result of the tax although pan of any fall would be offset should the tax be redistributed to producers.
It was the suggestion from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics that caused the Committee subsequently to make part of its general recommendation that should the Government impose an export tax on beef- I stress the point that in the report we suggest that the only Government intervention that is necessary here is in respect of the export of beef- the proceeds of that tax should go back to the producers. As various witnesses gave evidence to the inquiry we were able to come to some sort of conclusion. For example, Mr Fitzgibbon, the General Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, said in his submission:
In the Federation’s view the pertinent points for consideration are these: Australia is a country that produces a surplus of meat which is available for export. World prices for meat are now sufficiently high to make the export trade more attractive to exporters than supplying the domestic market. If the Federal Government supports the concept that the export market will be supplied in preference to the domestic market then it is actively supporting the concept of imported inflation at a fairly high degree. It is surely a correct policy that the Australian consumer would be entitled to be supplied first in accordance with Australian costs of production rather than to overseas inflated prices imposed upon him because of the availability of the export market.
Dr Freebairn from the New South Wales Department of Agriculture gave very valuable evidence. The relevant portion of his answer in response to a question posed by me was this:
Personally I think the best way is a export tax, particularly a percentage one. It has the advantage that if meat prices go very high then you tax higher and higher; if the price drops very low, the tax becomes smaller and smaller. Perhaps you can have a tax that is variable, say set every 3 months; 3 months would give exporters sufficient time to tie up their arrangements.
Then I asked him:
You feel that that mechanism could bring about the desired result on the domestic market?
Dr Freebairn replied:
Yes. I say yes because it is based on the assumption that the wholesale and export industry are rational, and that they distribute meat to where they think they can get the best return. If you put a tax on, you effectively lower the per unit return they can get from the export market, and this should induce them to take some of their meat away and put it on the domestic market. As you do that, given our estimates of demand elasticities and so on, this will tend to reduce domestic prices and, of course, the amount they put on this domestic market will balance out, until there is a son of equivalence between the export price less tax and the domestic price.
A similar view was expressed by Mr O Toole on page 571 of the Hansard report. Mr O Toole is the Federal Assistant Secretary, Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union. The weight of the evidence substantiated the view expressed in the original report by the Australian Meat Board that the export of meat was contributing towards an inflated domestic price. However, I think we need to have some understanding of the sort of problem with which we were dealing. It should be brought to the attention of the Senate that in the United States of America the President, on 12 March this year, was forced to take certain actions in relation to the problem of meat prices in his country. He placed a price freeze on meat insisting that it not rise above the average price 30 days previous to his declaration. Such a price freeze was to remain in force for 6 months, concluding on 12 September. It was clear as the evidence unfolded before the Committee that it was the domestic meat situation in the United States which was the major contributing factor towards the demand for meat and the increase in the price in the United States and, consequently, the increase in the domestic price in this country. So it was not a matter of solidarity. It seemes to me that the Australian Meat Board would be diverting and encouraging the export of great quantities of meat to the American market. As to the problem of meat prices in the United States one would have thought that we might have expressed some concern at the dilemma which the American Government was in. But the Board took very energetic steps to see that the dilemma with which President Nixon was faced on his domestic market was offset by a very rapid increase in meat exports from Australia.
It is true that in the last week or so there has been some drop in the general price of meat in this country because already the cattlemen who withheld their supplies from the United States market are now beginning to sell their products to the saleyards. Of course in this sense there is less demand on our export beef. It is interesting to note that President Nixon- I think that most people, even honourable senators in this chamber, will accept that he has conservative views- saw fit to impose a price freeze on meat in his country. The report which I am presenting to the Senate this evening is not out of character with the sort of action which the American President saw fit to take. Likewise it is certainly not out of character with the action which was taken on 29 August by the Canadian Prime Minister. An official journal from the Canadian Embassy states:
The Trudeau Government came to grips with rocketing food costs at an all-day meeting last week, but once again rejected wage and price controls as the solution. Instead, the Government imposed export controls on beef and pork and announced an increase in old age pensions.
Prime Minister Trudeau insisted that . . . prices are a world-wide problem and although no shortages have developed in Canada, there were shortages in the United States as a result of that Government’s price freeze.
Similarly the New Zealand Government has seen fit to take very stringent measures to see that there was no export of meat- principally lamb and mutton- from that country, in order to meet the requirements of the domestic market. There is nothing really revolutionary or extraordinarily radical about the conclusions which the Committee reached. Of course we must have some regard to the Meat Board. As I have indicated it gave us some sort of a lead in this area. But as the inquiry proceeded we found that the Australian Meat Board which, it is interesting to note, was established some 37 or 38 years ago is, in fact, an export organisation. No authority operating in this country is concerned with meat production. That organisation belies its name. It should be called the Australian Meat Export Corporation because that is precisely the role which the Government has allotted to it. However, I stress that in the recommendations which members of the Committee have made to Parliament we have suggested the reconstitution of the Australian Meat Board so that it will carry out the task which it seems clear it needs to carry out and that is meat production over the whole area of meat and not just red meat. At the moment it has limited jurisdiction. Being a Board concerned solely with the export of meat one can imagine that it is principally occupied with meat export. We have suggested that the Board should be reconstituted in order to change the emphasis from the export of meat to meat production to meet both domestic and overseas demand. Because the Board is such an organisation we feel that it had a somewhat limited approach to this very vexed problem of concerning itself with the domestic market. Page 5 of the report on the Stabilisation of Meat Prices by the Australian Meat Board states:
Market conditions suggest that the upsurge in domestic meat prices have been temporary. While it would be too optimistic to expect any substantial fall in the near future because of recent cost increases in processing and distribution, the Board believes that the rising trend has been checked.
Perhaps the Australian Meat Board’s understanding of the world market situation as well as the domestic market situation needs closer examination, because since its report was presented to the Minister in April this year there has been a very considerable and continuing increase in the prices of all types of meat.
For example, the price of beef increased by 10 per cent from 1 July to the end of August when the last figures were taken out. I think we can take it that the Australian Meat Board would be dealing with the problem of increased prices as at the end of the March quarter. The price of a leg of lamb increased by 2c per lb from March to July. This is according to the official figures. The price of lamb short loin chops increased by 10 per cent, leg chops by 15 per cent, leg chump chops by 10 per cent, and so on. The pattern is a continuing upward spiral. So I think the Committee is quite right in coming to the conclusion that the weight of the evidence shows that the export market has been the principal factor involved in this spiral and that the mechanism should be established to overcome this problem. We are making no attempt to establish what rate of export tax should be placed upon the export of beef, and I stress the point that the tax is related only to beef exports. It is in that context that the Committee has made its various recommendations.
What are the principal recommendations? As 1 outlined in my opening remarks, the principal recommendations included the imposition of a special flexible tax on beef export. We do not say that the Government is obliged to impose that tax as from tomorrow. We suggest that the meat industry be requested to restrict beef exports voluntarily. It has been given the opportunity to do that. There is some evidence in relation to the domestic situation in the United States and of perhaps a recognition by the industry that it has to concern itself with the domestic market, which is the principal part of the productive process of meat in Australia. The industry has to recognise that the domestic market is the biggest part of its market. Therefore it is important for it to give consideration to the home market.
We say in our recommendations that if American livestock producers continue to withold stock from the United States domestic market immediate action should be taken to impose quotas on Australian beef exports to the United States. We say also that in order to create the other influences on the domestic market there is a need for the Government to encourage the expansion and production of the white meat industry by taking special steps and also by promotion as well as by giving an assurance as to supplies of stock feed. We heard evidence from the pig producers as well as the chicken producers, suggesting that Government action and encouragement in this area would lead to increased production and therefore more meat being available on the domestic market.
I have made some reference to the Australian Meat Board. It should be reconstituted to include representatives of the consumers, employees and retailers and should be charged with looking after the interests of the meat industry as a whole. As a result of our experiences on this Committee we have suggested also the establishment of a government sponsored and financed consumer organisation. We do this because it became very evident as the inquiry developed that the representatives of the cattlemen ‘s association and the various farmer groups, who came before the Committee well armed with documents, figures and statistics and accompanied by research officers and public relations personnel, were capable of presenting a very strong and cogent case on behalf of their organisations. On the other hand, the consumers had no organisation capable of producing the sort of documented evidence that is invaluable from the point of view of the objectivity of any parliamentary report. In those circumstances it was the view of the Committee that the Government should take special steps to establish an organisation to protect the interests of consumers generally- not just in relation to meat.
I believe that a number of things need to be stressed. It will be said- it is said in the minority report- that any government intervention in this area will produce a reaction and reduce confidence in the industry. I am not one of those who take the view that the rural sector is not entitled to every assistance in order to maintain its stability, but I put it to the Senate that at the moment the rural sector is enjoying most bouyant conditions. Having regard to the lessons that most farmers learned after the difficult year of 1969-70, there has been a great deal of diversification in rural industry. Because of the difficulties which they experienced, government assistance has been made available to the rural sector. Subsidies have been made available in great quantities. Great amounts of money have been made available over many years. But in the difficult years subsidies were increased to a tremendous extent. In the year 1971-72 the Government paid out $40 lm in subsidies in order to put the industry in a much better financial position to meet its responsibilities to the Australian consumer and to the world export market. The fact is that the Australian taxpayer has subsidised the rural sector to the tune of thousands of millions of dollars in the post-war years. I do not think any member of the Parliament would object to these subsidies being paid.
But currently we are living in good times and the Government has taken certain steps to reduce those subsidies.
I suggest that in this report there is very little for the farmer to be worried about. I say this not only because I believe that the producer will be the beneficiary of the greater amount of the revenue from the export tax, should the Government agree to impose it, but also because the government intervention would be at a time when the other sectors of the rural industry are enjoying very prosperous times. The year 1968-69 was a good year compared with the subsequent year when prices dropped. I think we are entitled to show that in the current situation the average price per kilogram for greasy wool is 223.89c, whereas in the year 1968-69 the price paid was 98.48c. The difference in price represents and increase of 230 per cent. Likewise, in the same year, 1968-69, the price of wheat was in excess of the price paid the following year when prices dropped. The price paid per bushel of wheat in 1968-69 was 123.7c; it has now gone up to 225c. This represents an increase of approximately 100 per cent. If we look at the situation in relation to meat, which is the subject of the report, we find again that taking 1968-69 as the base year the price of mutton has increased by 300 per cent, lamb by 225 per cent and beef by 160 per cent. For the same period average weekly earnings have increased by only a little more than 150 per cent. So, if there is buoyancy in the industry, I think we are entitled to cut down on the subsidies which have been made available by the Government in past times. Times have improved, and we have to give some consideration to the interests of the consumer who has nobody to turn to for assistance- except the Parliament.
I could talk at great length because this inquiry continued for a considerable period of time. But I want to refer to statements that have been made by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) which, it seems to me, do not do either him or the industry any good. For several months of this year- since March and April-he has been engaged in a great deal of calamity howling. He has made all sorts of statements throughout the country and city Press. In April the following report appeared:
The Country Party Leader (Mr Anthony), accused the Government yesterday of deliberately creating hysteria about meat prices to allow the introduction of price control.
Similarly, in April he predicted that there would be a Federal Government tax on meat exports. That was before the Committee even met.
When one examines some of the statements that the Leader of the Country Party has made, it seems that he does not know what is actually happening not only in his own country but throughout the world. For example, on 17 April 1973 in one of his official handouts he said:
President Nixon did not include meat in his wage and price freeze because he knew it was impossible to effectively control meat prices.
I can assure honourable senators that there is any number of Press cuttings here which show that that is precisely what the President of the United States did. In the concluding paragraph of that official handout Mr Anthony said:
It is true that meat prices have risen since December but they appear to have reached a peak and were now receding.
So Mr Anthony finds himself in the same category as the Australian Meat Board. All of this has been shown by conclusive evidence given to the Committee to be at variance with the facts.
Then I come to the minority report. Time will not permit me to deal at length with what the minority report seeks to do. But it is a most pathetic minority report. Endeavours have been made to present a picture which tries to create the impression that nothing can be done and that nothing should be done. It states:
Encouragement, rather than discouragement, should be the keynote of the Government approach. To encourage the industry the Government would need to consider the provision of long term low interest finance, input subsidies, financial assistance for disease control, breeding and pasture research, restoration of taxation concessions for rural investment . . .
These are precisely the concessions that existed prior to the current situation which caused the Government and the Parliament to examine the whole problem of meat prices in Australia. The Australian people have expressed themselves in no uncertain terms. Editorial comments in every newspaper throughout Australia have said that it is up to the Government to do something about meat prices. An editorial in the Sydney ‘Sun’ of 21 August last criticised the inactivity of the Government and said that the meat inquiry was taking too long. But we were attempting to examine the question, to get to the core of the problem and to make the sort of recommendations which we believed would be useful from the consumers point of view. The editorial continued:
What is wrong- infuriatingly wrong- is that beef prices in Australia are largely dictated by the demand overseas.
It also pays beef exporters more than $5m a year from Australian taxes to encourage them to sell still more meat abroad.
In our Budget the Government already has wiped out one of those incentives. That newspaper expresses the sentiments of the Australian people.
The Government is emboldened to do something about it. The report which we have presented gives the Government the means by which the domestic price of meat can be considerably lowered. The Committee has taken the step of suggesting that, whatever is done about the imposition of an export tax, it should go back to the producers, and those overseas should pay the greater proportion of the tax. We have asked the industry to put its own house in order. We have suggested steps which we think will contribute largely to the stabilisation of meat prices in Australia.
– In speaking as a member of the Joint Committee on Prices but not as a member who served on the Sub-Committee with Senator Gietzelt, I want to draw attention to the minority report of the nonGovernment members and to put into perspective some of the statements which have been made by Senator Gietzelt and also some of the recommendations and conclusions of the report itself. I should like to begin by referring to one matter which Senator Gietzelt raised. He said he thought that there was very little that the farmer has to worry about in this report. I believe I should assure him that for the first time in many years the Australian beef industry is in a state of total confusion and uncertainty as a result of recent Government actions and current suggestions of export taxes, export quotas or selective embargoes. These were decisions and suggestions which have been forecast or dealt with by the Government quite outside the recommendations contained in this report. While this Committee was in session, at the instigation of the Government, decisions were taken regarding the meat industry in Australia and the Government did not await the recommendations of the Committee ‘s report.
The real issue is that meat prices have been rising over recent months, but this should be recognised as being caused solely by one factor, and that is the world imbalance of meat supply and demand. No scheme will solve the problem unless this imbalance is corrected. But the only satisfactory way in which to correct any imbalance or to overcome any shortage is to increase supply. It is not done by coming forward with a string of recommendations or suggestions that create uncertainty in the industry which is producing and by adopting a conflicting approach, which this Government has adopted towards the rural sector. I have said previously that the Government seems completely to misunderstand the commercial sector. After reading the recommendations contained in this report I would have to conclude that the Government also misunderstands the rural sector.
For an industry which has the long term investment which the beef producing industry of Australia requires, it is quite unrealistic to take short term views and solutions which may be politically popular. Already the Government has taken actions which have disadvantaged the Australian beef industry, and perhaps I should cite some of them. These actions have created uncertainty. They have lessened the incentive to produce and expand. Specifically I want to note that the Government has eliminated taxation allowances which in aggregate have encouraged productive investment in the industry. The Government also has increased interest rates which will raise the cost of new and existing investment projects, thus making them less attractive and lessening the incentive to expand beef production. The Government has abolished export incentives, which will result in increased abattoir costs and total costs of meat production. I say that with the background that I understand that in Western Australia abattoir charges have increased by 51 per cent since 1971. These are cost factors which seem to be completely overlooked.
– Has the farmer or the exporter been getting this incentive?
– The incentive? These are the decisions that have been taken by the Government. Another Government decision has been the revaluation again of the Australian dollar, which is equivalent to a meat export tax of some 5 per cent. This has been a cost to the beef industry of $30m, again a cost to be borne by the industry as a result of the Government’s decision. These are the decisions which have been taken and their effect has been to reduce incentive to expand. This inhibition on expansion of beef production will worsen, not improve, the world supply situation. It seems to be overlooked that Australia is the world’s leading beef exporting nation and that Australia has a natural comparative advantage in beef production. In this current situation increased production should be encouraged, not discouraged or hindered by Federal Government decision.
Another factor that should be borne in mind as a matter of Government responsibility is that we are on the eve of the most important multilateral trade negotiations for many years and Australia would seriously compromise its position in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade by taking action to restrict meat exports. It would tarnish its image as a reliable trading nation and possibly it would invite reciprocal action from overseas countries. This is particularly important when taking into consideration such countries as Japan which heavily depend on imported food for local needs. I wonder whether the Government would agree that there is really an ethical attitude which ought to be considered with regard to food production at the present time. There is a world protein shortage. There is a nutriment shortage in many of the undeveloped and under-developed countries of the world. The discouragement of an efficient beef-producing industry in a country which has established sound export markets seems to me to place in question the ethical values of a government which ought to have wider considerations.
– To what does the figure of $30m which you mentioned relate?
– The $30m is the amount lost to the industry as a result of the effect of the recent revaluation decision. Australia exports meat to over 50 countries. The efforts of the industry in developing some of these markets over many years will be permanently lost if exports are restricted now.
I was surprised to hear Senator Gietzelt refer to the Australian Meat Board as being only an export body. His statement that its efforts had been directed towards developing exports seemed to question its value to the Australian market. I consider that the value of the meat market for Australia is something which has taken some time to develop. But the confidence because of the stability and encouragement given to the industry is something that we should value as a nation which requires export trade for our own healthy economy.
Comparisons of values are sometimes meaningless. I do not question the difficulty of the average Australian family at the present time adequately to provide for its needs in food and other essential commodities. But it is of interest to note that in strict statistical terms meat prices are still cheaper in Australia than in any other country and the work time needed to earn one kilogram of meat is less now than it was in 1966. As I said, these are just statistics but perhaps they place in balance a little the opening remarks of
Senator Gietzelt about the marked increase in the price of meat in Australia. The report of SubCommittee B of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices lists a number of recommendations. I want to spend some time explaining why we felt compelled to present a dissenting opinion to that expressed by the Committee. I also want to quote from some of the evidence because although I am not questioning the fact that Senator Gietzelt was selective in his quotations from the evidence, which were massive in volume, I would like to put some quotations on record to place in balance the reasons why this dissenting report was submitted by the non-Government members on the Committee.
The reference to the Committee was the matter of the stabilisation of meat prices. That in itself is somewhat obscure because we did not know at what level it was felt that prices should be stabilised or whether, as the honourable senator went on to say, we were talking about price freezes or the containment of price movements. In drawing a parallel between the United States of America, Canada and our own situation the honourable senator talked more of short term price freezes than the recommendations which have been provided by the Government members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee. If prices were excessive one would have thought that a situation would be produced in which consumers would react by reducing their consumption markedly. Yet in the year 1972-73 the consumption of beef was 87.5 lb per head of population which is close to the previous year’s consumption of 88 lb per head. Again I would not overlook the price levels of all of our commodities in Australia at the present time. But it is obvious that the Australian consumer realises the protein value of meat as an essential family item. The average consumer also realises the nutrition that is given to a family diet through the purchase of meat to the extent that the family budget will allow.
The thought has been expressed that there should be Government intervention in the operation of the meat market. It has been pointed out by the dissenting members of the Committee that the evidence which was given shows that the practical difficulties of Government intervention would pose an enormous problem. The evidence suggests that both taxes and quotas on meat exports are discriminatory and fraught with dangerous hazards for the meat industry with important long term consequences. The evidence shows that both taxes and quotas on exports would be counter-productive and would lower investment in the industry. It points out that this action would also lower cattle and sheep numbers and would result in higher prices for cattle and sheep.
I would like to quote some evidence which was given to the Committee in regard to the imposition of the tax. Firstly I want to quote from appendix 3 of the dissenting report which relates to evidence which was given to the Committee on 23 July by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. A representative from the Bureau said:
The first thing would be to impose the tax, and obviously the objective of the tax is to reduce the capacity of the exporter to pay the producer a sum of money. In other words, the return would be lowered. But we cannot be sure that the exporter will not pass some of that tax on to his customer in the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom, or in the European Economic Community. We cannot be sure that that will not happen and that some pan of it will not be passed on. For example-
This is an interesting point-
If a tax is imposed on petrol in Australia, it is not the producer who pays because the tax is passed on to the consumer. If the tax is imposed on exports we must expect that the effect of that tax will be passed back to the producer. But we cannot be sure that he will not raise his price to the consumer overseas.
Mr Honan of the Bureau gave evidence that he went through the indeterminate effects of the export tax and that the theory is there but there is no empirical evidence to suggest that there would be any way which would work in the way the theory might have supposed.
I would now like to quote from evidence which was given by the Australian Meat Board because some of the evidence given by this body has been quoted previously. On 22 June 1973 a witness from the Board said:
The Board believes that a levy of meat exports either with or without a subsidy to Australian retailers could be a means of reducing the level of retail prices provided the levy was sufficiently high but it would bring about a position of even greater instability than at present
I was interested in the remarks of Senator Gietzelt with regard to the fact that an indefinite amount has been proposed in the recommendations as a tax on beef exports. There was talk about a flexible tax on beef exports. There is now talk about it not being imposed immediately. It seems to me that second thoughts may be prevailing with regard to the way in which the imposition of such a tax may work. The evidence has shown that many difficulties would be encountered. The witness for the Australian Meat Board said that it would not recommend an export levy because it believes that a levy sufficiently high to reduce meat prices in Australia would remove the present incentive towards increased cattle and beef production and the recovery in lamb production. He also said that the levy would adversely affect livestock producers, the proprietors in the meat industry and the large number of people employed directly and indirectly by the meat industry. The Board’s witness spoke about the drive that would be taken out of the expansion of the industry and then said that there were some practical objections to the levying of a tax on meat exports. He said that the practical objections are as follows: Because of a variation in production and in the strength of the export market the levy would have to be varied from time to time, but because of the fairly lengthy notice necessary it would be a very blunt tool and again it would seldom exercise the correct restraint. He went on to say:
However, current export and local prices would be some guide and hence it would be more practical than quantitative export control.
The summary of the objections of the Australian Meat Board is in essence that the Board believes that although an export tax is the most practical measure that could be taken to reduce retail prices it will not succeed in stabilising prices, since the tax would need io be varied frequently. An export tax could only hope to achieve a temporary lowering of prices. The economic implications of an export tax are so adverse firstly for the meat industry and secondly for the economy generally, according to the Board, that it could not recommend this course of action to the Government. As the Board has made such a statement it is questioned whether it is simply an export body to expand the overseas market for meat.
The Australian Meat Export Council gave evidence to the Committee on 21 June 1972. It stated:
The concept of an export tax presupposes that world demand will not fluctuate widely or suddenly- particularly to strengthen-or must recognise the possibility of the tax being adjusted to keep livestock values at levels commensurate with what is considered the equitable retail level.
It went on to give some other reasons and then said:
In the final analysis such a tax would be highly selective in its effect upon individual operators, areas of rural production, States and the country community.
I want to refer to the reasons behind the dissent from the actual recommendations of the report itself. The first recommendation that a tax be imposed on beef exports is unacceptable to those members of the Committee who dissented because to be effective the tax would need to be at a very high rate or else it would be simply passed on to overseas consumers through higher prices. We have to realise that a high rate could cause a flood of meat on the domestic market thus forcing prices down to disastrous levels, creating uncertainty and damaging confidence. Such a policy is asking the producer to do what the Government is apparently reluctant to do, that is, subsidise the consumer.
The reason we dissented from the second recommendation, which was that the meat industry be requested voluntarily to restrict beef exports, is that it is completely impracticable. It seems to have been overlooked that the export producing meat market is one that is for a particular type of meat and that the meatworks producing manufacturing meat only could find no sale in Australia for their product and therefore would have to refuse participation in such a scheme. A broad sweeping recommendation, such as the one that the meat industry be requested voluntarily to restrict beef exports, does not take into account the type of production which has been established for the purpose of an export market only. It is quite an unrealistic recommendation.
The Committee’s third recommendation that if producers in the United States of America continue to withhold stock from the domestic market in the United States of America immediate action should be taken to impose quotas on beef exports to that country is another recommendation which drew dissent from the nonGovernment members of the Committee. We felt that such action would discriminate against our best market for beef and against the market that takes vast quantities of manufacturing beef not suitable for the local trade within Australia. That would also create a situation which the United States could point to should the market position change and should import quotas be reintroduced by that country. I can remember the disquiet in Australia when very stringent requirements were imposed on meat accepted in America when there was always a continuing threat of import quotas to cause uncertainty in a market which we had been developing during the past few years.
The fourth recommendation, which was to the effect that special steps be taken to encourage the expansion of the production of the white meat industry by promotion and the assurance of supplies of stock feed is one which could be difficult to justify if only on the basis that it is inequitable for the Government to spend public money on encouraging the white meat industry while simultaneously penalising the red meat industry. It is a discriminatory recommendation which has no realistic value to the situation in which we find ourselves.
The fifth recommendation, which relates to the restructuring of the Australian Meat Board, presupposes that the Board has been ineffective in its operations. This assumption has been unsubstantiated. The real argument seems to be that it has encouraged too much export and developed this remarkably strong export market which we now enjoy.
I do not quarrel with the sixth recommendation, which was to the effect that a consumer organisation should be established. The form of the consumer organisation which has been undertaken could only be in the interests of the Australian consumers in all commodities with which we are associated. It is certainly consistent with emphasis on consumer requirements. It is one which I do not question in any sense. But it would seem to make more sense with regard to this industry to have an organisation with which a meat authority could confer than to appoint a consumer representative to the meat authority itself.
The seventh recommendation, which was to the effect that the Australian Meat Board should collect information on all sales under forward contract, is obscure in its intention. It should be noted that the Australian Meat Board, in its evidence to the Committee, reported that its experience had been that information obtained on actual prices paid by foreign importers for Australian beef was neither useful nor meaningful. It relates to a market situation. The collection of information could be a fact finding exercise but not necessarily one that would have any effect on reducing the meat prices that the domestic market is experiencing at the present time.
For the reasons which have been mentioned and for the itemised information which has been placed in the dissenting report it was felt that the recommendations of the Committee were not always comparable with the evidence which had been taken. They were not recommendations which it was felt would be of assistance in stabilising the meat prices, which was the reference given to the Committee by the Government. The reaction of the Committee to the inclusion of other items in its recommendations which did not really relate to the reference perhaps could influence one to draw the conclusion that there had been some preconceived approach to the rural sector at this time. We question the value of some of the recommendations in relation to the actual reference to the Committee.
In making these comments, I do not disparage the diligence or the work which was undertaken by the Joint Committee on Prices during a very busy recess for all of the members of the Committee. I also pay tribute to the diligence and sincerity of the Chairman of the section of the Committee which inquired into meat prices, Senator Gietzelt. I feel sure that in undertaking the chairmanship of the Committee inquiring into this very valuable commodity to the Australian consumer he was attempting to find recommendations that may have assisted in the stabilising of meat prices. But I do suggest that the evidence which was heard and the variety of opinions which were given have not provided the basis for the recommendations which have been formulated in this report, and I question the value of the recommendations when they are compared with the evidence which should be supporting them.
I want to stress again the uncertainty and confusion within the industry itself at present and to point out to the members of the Government that short term decisions taken for long term investment in developed industries which are so valuable to the Australian economy are unwise political decisions in the long term. It seems to me that there is emphasis and focus on food prices in Australia. But if we place in perspective the rise in meat prices with the rise in prices of other commodities and place in perspective also the costs which have increased in all commodities in Australia in recent years, and particularly this year, we will substantiate the contention that meat prices have not risen out of proportion with other commodities. The value of the Australian beef industry is such that it should not be placed in a state of total confusion by short term recommendations as have been presented to the Government by the Joint Committee on Prices.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
– I have received letters form the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives and the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the House of Representatives nominating members of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory as follows: Mr Calder, Mr Fitzpatrick, Mr James, Mr Kelly and Mr Wallis.
Assent to the following Bills reported.
Australian Citizenship Bill 1973.
Death Penalty Abolition Bill 1973.
Publication ‘New Legislation of the Australian Parliament’.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to take this opportunity tonight to raise the matter of the credibility of some honourable senators on the opposite side of this House. The Opposition has resorted to many devices this week in an endeavour to discredit the Government. It has accused the Government of not honouring election promises and of misleading the Australian people. Yesterday Senator Lillico in an effort to bolster his agrument in the debate on inflation deliberately and knowingly misled the Parliament and the Australian people, and he diliberately -
– I take a point of order. I suggest that it is not in order for the honourable senator to canvass debates of this week or to reflect upon them.
– The matter engaging my attention at the moment is a personal reflection which seems to be arising. I do not think the point of order is capable of being sustained so long as Senator McLaren does not refer to matters that are currently being debated. I cannot remember whether the inflation debate is a current debate or not. I am told it has not been concluded; so the honourable senator must not refer to it.
– Thank you, Mr President. It is quite understandable that Senator Wright would want to gag me tonight. I will go right into the matter and quote from Hansard to show how Senator Lillico did mislead the Parliament. He said:
The Government has put out a publication entitled ‘New Legislation of the Australian Parliament’.
This publication that I have in my hand is the one he referred to. He went on to say:
I do not know whether it would be a fair thing for the Opposition also to put out a countermanding publication at the expense of the taxpayers. This publication contains an article by Mr Crean.
I want to say at the outset that this publication is not published by the Government. We see just how much attention Senator Lillico paid to the publication when he quoted from it. Firstly, he said that it contained an article by Mr Crean. Had he read the front page of this journal he would have seen that it says:
A full explanation of every piece of new and amending legislation introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament by the Labor Government from its inception in 1972 to the full life of the Twenty-eighth Parliament.
It does not say it has published any articles by any member. All that journal says is that it is a full explanation of every piece of new and amending legislation. When Senator Lillico quoted from what Mr Crean said, of course, he did not read that article either.
– Yes, I did. I read everything that was relevant.
– Order! I have been waiting to discover how Senator McLaren was going to develop his argument. In developing his argument he is trespassing on a matter upon which he has no right to trespass. He is dealing with legislation and debates that are current in the Senate. Senator McLaren has an appropriate opportunity in the debate to make declarations as to whether the statements to which he is now referring are substantiated or are untrue. Senator McLaren must not use the motion for the adjournment of the Senate to debate the issue.
-With due respect, I am not referring to legislation. I am referring to the urgency motion which was moved yesterday. That was not legislation and is not now before the Parliament.
– Very well. As long as you keep to the urgency motion, that is all right
– I rise to a point of order. Is it all right to have in the adjournment debate tonight a rehash of a debate that took place yesterday in this chamber? It seems to me to be a farcical proposition.
– On that point of order, I recollect sitting on the Senate Standing Orders Committee when it discussed the question of debates that are current or coming from the other House and the provision that there can be no permission to discuss them within, I think, that current session. I recall that an alteration was made to a new reference to a debate if it is pertinent to the point that had to be made. Whether it is current or not, if it is pertinent it is in order to raise it. Senator McLaren is claiming that someone has misinformed the House. I think he is quite within his rights in referring to the occasion of the misinformation, without raising the question of the subject of the debate. I think that under current Standing Orders you, Mr President, must rule that he is in order.
– Yes, I agree with that. But Senator McLaren must confine himself to the misinformation and not refer to the debate. That is all I am saying.
– I had to outline the debate first and all I quoted from the debate were the words of Senator Lillico regarding a certain publication which he accused the Government of printing at the taxpayers’ expense. What I want to explain here tonight is that that journal is not printed by the Government.
– You have said that. What more have you to say?
– Who puts it out?
– If the honourable senator will be patient and will cease interjecting I will tell him who puts it out. This is what I am going to prove to the Senate tonight. This is why I said that Senator Lillico deliberately and knowingly misled the Parliament.
– Knowingly? No, that is not correct.
– Is it proper in accordance with the forms of the Senate to accuse a senator of deliberately and knowingly misleading the Senate?
- Senator McLaren has not adduced any evidence to say that and he has no right to make the observation until he adduces the evidence.
- Mr President, I am going to produce the evidence now. Had Senator Lillico read this particular journal he would have seen that it is stated that it is printed by the Young Witness Pty Ltd of Young, Postcode 2594, for ‘Reporter’ Newspapers, Box 2757, G.P.O., Sydney. That is clear proof that this journal is not put out by this present Government at the taxpayers ‘expense. Had Senator Lillico read the -
– It is put out by whom?
– I said it is printed by the Young Witness Pty Ltd for ‘Reporter’ Newspapers.
– And who pays for it?
-Had Senator Lillico looked at the back of the journal he would have seen how to get this publication called ‘New Legislation’. It is obvious that what I am endeavouring to point out tonight is not very palatable to members of the Opposition. I shall now answer some of their interjections. They asked: Who pays for it?’ I quote from ‘New Legislation of the Australian Parliament’. The relevant part reads:
HOW TO GET’NEW LEGISLATION . . .’
ASK your newsagent for your copies- or ask him to get it inNational distributors are Gordon and Gotch, and leading book companies.
ORDER it (cash or charge) by subscription ($12 a year) from ‘New Legislation of the Australian Parliament’, Box 2757, GPO, Sydney, NSW, Australia.
I think that tonight I have proved conclusively, by quoting from this journal and the publishers of it, that Senator Lillico misled the Parliament. I think that in view of what I have stated tonight, if he is an honourable senator, he will withdraw his misleading statement and apologise to the Australian Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 September 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730920_senate_28_s57/>.