29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask for leave to make a brief announcement about the appointment of an Assistant Opposition Whip.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
-Mr President, I inform the Senate that the Opposition this morning elected and appointed Senator Chaney Assistant Opposition Whip in this Chamber.
– I present 2 petitions, identical in wording and from 7 and 8 citizens of the Commonwealth respectively, in the following terms:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned Citizens of the Commonwealth, by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
That the inclusion in Sub-section 54 (2) of the Family Law Bill of the Clause recommended in paragraph 67 (f) (2) of the Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, which will allow “any fact or circumstance” to be taken into account when considering maintenance, completely alters the whole concept of specific guidelines as now set out in Section 54, and we oppose it.
That the removal of the word “exceptional” in Subsection 92 (2 ) of the new Family Law Bill will result in a high level of bitter and costly litigation in ancillary matters, which the proposed sharing of costs with legal aid available, would otherwise minimise.
That Judicial discretion which allows fault in Property Settlement, the usual accusations necessitating defence in custody and access matters, as well as (a) and (b) above, will result in very much the same litigation in ancillary matters as under the present iniquitous Matrimonial Causes Act.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
First petition read.
– I present the following petition from 80 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the honourable the President and the Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That, we, the undersigned, are not opposed to the simplification of divorce proceedings, but have serious objections to the Family Law Bill 1974;
That, the concept of marriage contained in Section 26 subsection 2 is of marriage as a transitory, and temporary union dissolvable by the simple passing of a period of twelve months separation;
That, such a concept of marriage will destroy the contractual nature of marriage, undermine the total commitment of two persons to each other and threaten the integrity of family life which is the basis of our society;
That, a Bill with such serious implications deserves to be considered as a matter of public importance and be the object of the community debate which it warrants.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should vote against the Bill in its present form, allow public consideration of amendments and then vote to so amend the Bill asto strengthen and support marriage and the family in a manner acceptable to the people of Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 3 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
1 ) That we have examined the Family Law Bill and substantially support the provisions therein.
That the Family Law Bill takes into account the changing roles of women in modern society.
That the amendment to the Bill recommended by the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee will ensure that the rights of women who play the traditional role in society will be protected, as will the interests of the children.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill be debated and passed as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 27 citizens of Australia.
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That, in modern society which accepts divorce, the law of divorce should be fair to both parties. However, we are very concerned about proposals to alter the law in the Family Law Bill 1974.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this Bill be tabled for six months and that all sections of the community be consulted on marriage, the family and the long term effects of such a Bill upon our Australian society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 13 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate of Australia in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That, in modern society which accepts divorce, the law of divorce should be fair to both parties. However, we are very concerned about proposals to alter the law in the Family Law Bill 1974.
The Family Law Bill, 1974 would fundamentally change the institution of marriage itself; that is all existing and future marriages.
The said Bill does not protect the legal and social rights of women and children in the family.
3 ) The said Bill does not provide for either the training of suitable counsellors who can assist in conciliation procedures or for suitable initiatives to be taken prior to the breakdown of marriage.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this Bill be tabled for six months and that all sections of the community be consulted on marriage, the family and the long term effects of such a Bill upon our Australian society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present 2 petitions, identical in wording and from 41 and 257 citizens of the Commonwealth respectively, in the following terms:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Whereas the Treasurer of the Australian Government has proposed that the concessional deduction for education expenses be reduced from $400 to$150,
We, the undersigned, humbly petition the Senate to return any legislation which could give effect to such a proposal to the House of Representatives and request that the concessional deduction for education expenses be restored to $400 for each child attending a n approved school or college,
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
First petition read.
– I present the following petition from 63 citizens of Queensland:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the reduction of the allowable deduction of education expenses under section 82J of the Income Tax Assessment Act from $400 to $ 1 50 is£ 50 below the 1 956-57 figure.
That this reduction will impose hardships on many parents who have children attending school, whether non government or government; and particularly on parents with more than one child at school.
That this reduction will further restrict the freedom available to parents to make a choice of school for their children.
That some parents who have chosen to send their children to an non government school will have to withdraw their children and send them to government schools already over crowded and understaffed.
That the parents to benefit most relatively from educational income tax deductions, in the past and even more in the future, are the parents of children in government schools and this has a divisive effect in the Australian community.
That parents should be encouraged by the Australian Government to exercise freedom of choice of the type of school they wish for their children. The proposed reduction means an additional financial penalty is imposed on parents who try to exercise this choice and discourages them from making an important financial contribution to Australian education over and above what they contribute through taxation.
That an alternative system, a tax rebate system, could be adopted as being more equitable for all parents with children at school.
To compensate for the losses that will follow from the proposed reduction and to help meet escalating educational costs faced by all families your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should take immediate steps to restore educational benefits to parents, at least at the 1 973- 1 974 level either by increasing taxation deductions or through taxation rebates.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present 2 petitions, identical in wording and from 12 and 15 citizens of Australia respectively, in the following terms:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
That the reduction of the allowable deduction of education expenses under section 82J of the Income Tax Assessment Act from $400 to $ 1 50 is $50 below the 1 956-57 figure.
That this reduction will impose hardships on many parents who have children attending school, whether nongovernment or government; and particularly on parents with more than one child at school.
That this reduction will further restrict the freedom available to parents to make a choice of school for their children.
That some parents who have chosen to send their children to a non-government school will have to withdraw their children and send them to government schools already overcrowded and understaffed.
That the parents to benefit most relatively from educational income tax deductions, in the past and even more in the future, are the parents of children in government schools and this has a divisive effect in the Australian community.
That parents should be encouraged by the Australian Government to exercise freedom of choice of the type of school they wish for their children. The proposed reduction means an additional financial penalty is imposed on parents who try to exercise this choice and discourages them from making an important financial contribution to Australian education over and above what they contribute through taxation.
That an alternative system, a tax rebate system, could be adopted as being more equitable for all parents with children at school.
To compensate for the losses that will follow from the proposed reduction and to help meet escalating educational costs faced by all families your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should take immediate steps to restore educational benefits to parents, at least at the 1973-1974 level either by increasing taxation deductions or through taxation rebates.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 135 citizens of Australia.
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia showeth: that a capital gains tax applying as another death duty is unjust in its application and catastrophic in its effect.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that a capital gains tax be not levied in addition to death duties.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Family Life in Australia
-Mr President, I give notice that on the next day of sitting shall move:
- Mr President, I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Sessional Order relating to the days and times of sitting of the Senate be varied as follows:
1 ) That unless otherwise ordered, the Senate shall sit on 29 November, 6 December and 13 December 1974 at 10 a.m.
The Sessional Order relating to the adjournment of the Senate take effect at 5 p.m. on Fridays.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) Mr President, I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
To the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty: Most Gracious Sovereign:
We, the Members of the Senate of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, request Your Majesty not to alter the Table of Precedence of the Commonwealth of Australia (as contained in the Commonwealth Gazette of 30 April 1953 at page 1 107) in any way that would vary the precedence accorded to the President of the Senate in accordance with longestablished custom.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows statements made by the Prime Minister in Brisbane recently that Australia is going through its most difficult economic period for more than 40 years and that the figures for the next few months will be quite bad. I ask the Minister whether he believes this statement to be a direct contradiction of the Prime Minister’s admonitions of a few weeks ago that all was well and that it was only the Labor Party’s Nervous Nellies and the Opposition Parties which were forecasting economic problems. Has the Prime Minister now joined the ranks of the Nervous Nellies and purveyors of gloom?
-I think the Prime Minister of Australia is trying to draw the attention of the people of Australia to the difficult circumstances which face the world. We know that there is a world wide inflationary situation. There are all sorts of currency developments.
– What about New Zealand?
-Again I hear Senator Sir Magnus Cormack interject. He asks: ‘What about New Zealand?’ I must again inform the Senate that the greatest attention should be paid to the example of New Zealand where a Labor Government is able to carry out the policies which we would all like to carry out here. That Labor Government with the same philosophy as ours, the same kind of leadership and the same aims is able to produce a situation which is an example to the whole world of curbing inflation -not stopping it. No one can do that. New Zealand is curbing inflation and keeping unemployment down to a minimum. The New Zealand Government has the advantage of not being obstructed in an Upper House by the same Party which Senator Sir Magnus Cormack represents. There being no Upper House in New Zealand the Government is able to carry out its policies. Unfortunately, we have the obstructionists opposite who are doing everything that they can for political advantage to prevent the Government from carrying out its policies. I assure honourable senators that the Prime Minister is giving the leadership which the country requires. If the Opposition will let us carry out our policies we will achieve the same fine results as are being achieved in New Zealand.
– Some months ago the Postmaster-General announced the Government’s intention to negotiate the take-over of company coin telephones, commonly referred to as ‘Red Phone’ and ‘Easiphone’- Can the Minister give any details of the progress of these negotiations?
– A few weeks ago I gave some progress information about these negotiations. At present the Post Office and the Victa Red Telephone Company- owners of the ‘Red
Phone’- expect to have the agreement available for signature by both parties at the end of next week. Commencing from this week interviews will be conducted with the Victa staff who wish to seek employment with the Post Office. The Post Office is still negotiating with G.E.C.- Elliott Automation Pty Ltd- owners of ‘Easiphone’-and it is expected that those negotiations will be successfully completed within the near future.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence.
– Without notice?
-Yes, this question is without notice. The Minister will recall his recent answer to questions about naval and air patrols checking on foreign fishing vessels off the Western Australian coast. In view of the continuing build up of foreign naval power in the Indian Ocean, what other patrols, if any, are operated through Pearce and Learmonth bases by aircraft of the maritime reconnaissance squadrons? How frequent are the patrols? Does the Government intend to increase such patrols?
-I shall ask the Minister for Defence to provide a more precise answer to the first part of the honourable senator’s question than I can provide at present. I hope to be able to obtain that information during this week. However, I can provide some information relating to fishing activities about which Senator DrakeBrockman asked me recently and which adds to what I told him at that time. I have the information here because it relates to the current situation. On the basis of surveillance reports -
– Is this a Dorothy Dixer?
– It is not a Dorothy Dixer. I am answering in the same way as I answered Senator Poyser. Because of the interest in this matter I have information given to me regularly. On the basis of surveillance reports over an extended period it now has been assessed that there is no longer a need for intensified activity to locate and deal with the seasonal problem of intruding Indonesian fishermen and the normal patrol activity has now been resumed. A fleet of Taiwanese fishing vessels remains at work off the north-west coast. They have been in the area for some 18 months and no fisheries infringements have been reported since the arrest of the masters of 2 vessels in May 1973 and the subsequent forfeiture of their vessels. Current sighting reports confirm that the Taiwanese fishing fleet remains clear of the declared fishing zones and no request has been made by Australian fisheries authorities for special surveillance. In addition to the continuing normal patrol activity, the defence force remains ready to react to any need for special effort in any particular locality. For example, the naval patrol boat HMAS ‘Barricade’ was withdrawn recently from an international exercise for small boats off the Queensland coast and retained in the Cairns area to patrol and provide quick reaction to any infringement by foreign vessels fishing in the vicinity of the Great Barrier Reef.
-Has the Minister for Agriculture seen reports in the Queensland Press stating that the Country Party leader, Mr Anthony, disagreed with Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s attitude that Queensland should go it alone in seeking beef markets overseas? Did the reports further state that if the Country Party were in government Mr Anthony would be upset if Queensland sought markets independently of the Australian Government? Where does the Minister stand on this issue- with Mr Anthony or with the Queensland Premier?
– A similar question was asked last week. At that time reference was made to the Queensland Premier having said that if he had the power he would exercise some sort of mineral resources diplomacy with the Japanese, and if the Japanese did not buy more of Queensland’s meat they would not get Queensland’s coal. As I indicated at that time, it is a good thing that the Queensland Premier is a State politician and not a Federal politician. It would be a disaster for this country if a person with thoughts like those ever came into this Parliament and was able in any way to influence the policy of any government. Mr Anthony, although I have disagreed with him on many other occasions, on this rare occasion is taking the right line in saying that we have to look at this question nationally and export our beef on the basis of it being a national industry. A parochial petty attitude by any Premier or State politician which will damage our national approach to these matters is detrimental to the entire Australian community.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that the Industries Assistance Commission has advised the Government that there is increasing difficulty and confusion in the advice given to it by the numerous economic and social agencies set up to advise it? Is it further a fact that these agencies have grown from 8 to 26 in number? What does the Government intend to do to produce comprehensive economic planning guidelines in order that the people in industry will know what plans the Government really has for their prosperity and general security?
– I ask that the question be placed on notice.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport: Does he remember the Minister for Transport announcing last year, following the visit to Australia of the Chinese Minister for Foreign Trade, that the Chinese Government would be interested in the Australian National Line participating on a joint basis with Chinese flag ships in the ChinaAustralia trade? Can the Minister tell the Senate whether there are any developments from these discussions and what likelihood there is of such an arrangement?
-The Minister for Transport has shown some interest in reciprocal arrangements with China in respect of Chinese vessels and the Australian National Line operating in the China-Australia trade. These arrangements would develop as trade agreements developed between China and Australia and it is hoped that both countries can participate in this arrangement by having their own flagships operating. Representatives of the Australian National Line have just visited China, primarily in support of the Australian trade display at Peking, and while there took the opportunity to discuss such questions with their counterparts in China. Of course the question of the volume of trade is being considered and it is realised that considerable work will have to be done before this proposal can reach fruition. The Minister for Transport has continually stated that he seeks an expansion of the activities of the Australian National Line to other countries but that this must be done on a proper basis after study has been made of the matter.
– It cannot operate in Queensland.
– No. It is unfortunate that the Australian National Line is not permitted, through the action of the Queensland Premier, to trade between Queensland and other States despite the privations suffered by certain ports in respect of cargo operations. However, with respect to China there is a belief that with the development of mutual understanding and increased trade we can get to a position where we can have reciprocal arrangements between the Chinese shipping company and the Australian National Line on chartering rights.
– I ask the Minister for Agriculture whether he attended the much publicised but not well attended farmers’ protest rally outside Parliament House today. I ask him whether it is true that this rally was inspired by the Leader of the Australian Country Party, Mr Anthony, in his reported statement in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 6 November when he said:
I strongly support the proposed Canberra march. It is extremely important that it is very successful and effective. Farmers had to march to get their message across.
Is the Minister aware that the farmers’ rally today was attended by 6 members of the Government’s resources committee and was not attended by any of the Leaders of the Country Party who have sought to use farmers as a political football?
– I did attend the meeting at lunch time and, as far as I know, no member of the Australian Country Party was present although Mr Anthony had indicated his support for the protest. I can understand why no member of the Country Party would be there. It was rather embarrassing to go out and find oneself confronted by 2 people. One can understand the difficulties faced by anyone calling a protest meeting on a working day but I am sure that the embarrassment would have been greater to Mr Anthony or any of his colleagues had he been out there.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence: Is it a fact that the Army is occupying homes in the township of Woodside in South Australia when there are vacant homes in the Woodside Army camp area nearby? Is it also a fact that young couples are being refused occupancy of these homes in Woodside, which, incidentally, are very scarce, and are being told the Army needs the houses when at the same time the locals are also being told that the Army intends to leave the Woodside Army camp? Can the Minister say whether the Army intends moving out of the Woodside area?
-The latest information I have about Woodside- it applies also to
Smithfield where the defence Services are holding various homes- is that the homes are required for the operations there and for the personnel who are now stationed there. The last information about Woodside is that it is probable that various units will be in occupancy there for some time and because of that these homes will be required. The surplus homes at Smithfield, for example, which were not required by the Royal Australian Air Force, will now be occupied by the Army. While the position at Woodside is in some state of flux as to which unit will occupy the area I think I should get an answer to the question from the Minister so that I will be sure in giving the correct details to the honourable senator tomorrow.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s declaration in May that inflation was on the downturn and would drop to 8 per cent by the end of the year, I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Does the present inflation rate of nearly 30 per cent prove that the Prime Minister was deliberately deceiving the electors? Or, does it prove, in the light of his current statement, that inflation and unemployment will worsen in the next few months and that he is merely inconsistent and incompetent in economic matters? Has the Prime Minister considered cancelling his European visit so that he can remain at home and guide Australia through the tough months he tells us to expect?
-Of course the Prime Minister was not deliberately deceiving anyone. The assessment that he made and announced to the country was made on the basis of figures which were publicly available. Everyone could judge what the figures were showing. This was open to the Opposition as well as to the Government and to the public generally. One could draw inferences from them and make prophecies. Honourable senators opposite ought really to understand what the public of Australia understands and that is that inflation is world wide. What is happening here, as is happening in various other countries, to a great extent is outside the control of Australia as inflation is outside the control of any other country. Even the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was congratulating New Zealand because it had an inflation rate of one-third less than Australia. As we know, countries which have been a by-word for efficiency over the years, such as Japan, have a very much higher rate of inflation than Australia had at the last figures.
The one good thing that has come out of Senator Lawrie ‘s question is the recognition that the Prime Minister would help if he were in Australia. He recognises, as we all do, that in going overseas he is also helping to advance Australia’s cause. The plea from the Opposition that the Prime Minister should bend his every endeavour and be here is certainly a welcome recognition of the capacity of the Prime Minister, but I think that honourable senators ought to recognise that he ought to be the judge of where that capacity can best be used, whether in discussing with the leaders of other nations how to cope with international problems or whether staying here. I think that the Opposition ought to accept the judgment of the Prime Minister. He undoubtedly is doing the best that he can to manage the affairs of the country.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the attack on Mr Charles Jones, the Minister for Transport, by Sir Reginald Sholl, the Royal Commissioner inquiring into airline services in Western Australia? Is he the same Sir Reginald Sholl who, in the infamous Sir Richard Stawell Oration in 1970, expressed the view that the anti- Vietnam war movement in the United States of America was a plot by the Jewish supporters of Israel and who, in that oration and at meetings sponsored by the League of Rights, consistently expresses opposition to liberal attitudes generally? Is it not likely that his criticism of the Minister is based on political and philosophical differences rather than legal reasons?
– I recall the criticism of the Minister that was referred to yesterday. I am not aware of the history of the person who made the criticism. I think that it was based on ideological grounds rather than on a solid foundation. It was not a logical criticism.
-Is the Minister for Agriculture aware of the volume of telegrams and letters being received by members of Parliament from wheat farmers, urgently seeking an increase in the $1.20 first advance payment for the current crop to $ 1.80? Has the Minister himself received many such representations? In view of the numerical strength and the logic of the request, would he care to revise his statement made in answer to my question to him yesterday that wheat growers have never been better off in terms of cash in the pocket? Has the Minister overlooked the fact that wheat growers are not exempt from the economic recession brought about by his Government and that $1.20 a bushel represents a significant decrease rather than an increase in real money terms?
-In reply to Senator Scott’s question yesterday I referred to a reply I gave to Senator Young a week ago in which I spelt out in detail the cash flow to wheat farmers this year. Either Senator Scott does not understand the mechanism of payments by the Australian Wheat Board or he is simply bypassing and ignoring the facts. It is not simply a question of the level of the first advance, as I tried to point out a week ago; it is the succession of pool payments that follow the payment of the first advance on delivery of the wheat. The payments to the industry this year are vastly in excess of those of any previous year. They are double the amount of last year, which was a good year. I do not like to repeat myself and I am really not going to answer this question again at question time.
– Were any wheat growers outside the building a couple of hours ago?
– Not one. They are too busy harvesting, because they know full well what good returns they will receive. By February average payments made will be in the vicinity of $14,000 per grower.
– What about other years?
– It is absurd to suggest that, simply because of the final return. That was the basis of an interjection I just heard. If we were to maintain the relationship between the first advance and the final payments of, say, 3 years ago we would have a first advance payment commitment by the Reserve Bank of about $2,000m. There would not be a government in this country that would make such a commitment as a first advance payment. The Leader of the Australian Country Party knows as well as I do that that is the essence of the whole question. If he does not know that, with respect he has not the faintest understanding of the way in which the wheat industry is financed. The fact is that this year the industry has obtained more cash for preparation of next year’s plantings than it has ever had before. I have received a lot of telegrams. I know that this is a campaign organised by the Country Party. Everyone who sends me a telegram will receive a detailed reply pointing out exactly the details of the wheat industry at the present time and what this Government has done for it.
-Mr President, my question is addressed to you as the Presiding Officer of this House. In view of recent Press statements, would you consider the possibility of installing a bed of hot coals on the Opposition side of the chamber to enable Opposition senators to reaffirm their loyalty to their Leader, Mr Snedden, on each occasion they enter the chamber to vote on a division?
– I recognise that it is the responsibility of the Presiding Officer to provide facilities within reason for honourable senators. I think that if the honourable senator’s suggestion were adopted it would keep some honourable senators on their toes but I think I would have to consult with the Leader of the Opposition to ascertain whether the members of his Party would follow any decision I made in this respect. I should think too that perhaps we may have to have other amenities for some honourable senators so they can hot-foot it down to the first aid department. Perhaps we could get Senator Steele Hall to assist us in solving this problem. I will consider the honourable senator’s question.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. No doubt the Minister realises that a good deal of the present rate of inflation is caused by increasing food prices and no doubt he also realises that the pensioners in our community are the hardest hit by inflation. I ask: Because of the very high inflation rate we now have, will the Minister ask the Government once again to look at the pension rates and to increase them to an amount in keeping with the present cost of food?
-The only answer that I would give to that question is that of course the Government is aware of the rate of inflation, and of course it is aware of the problems of the pensioners. No government in the history of this country has done more for the rights of pensioners than has this Government, and in fact whatever may be the rate of inflation the rate of pension increases under the Labor Government has been greater than any increases in the consumer price index. We, unlike the previous Government, have acknowledged the problems of pensioners and not only have we maintained their relative position but in fact the relative position of pensioners within this community has improved during the period of Labor government since 2 December 1972.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Can the Minister obtain an up to date assessment of the number of Australians who sought mediation by Australia House when the manpower authorities in the United Kingdom declined to extend their stay in Britain in view of Britain ‘s Common Market obligations and the changed status of Australians in comparison with Common Market nationals?
– I have not those details in my mind but I will obtain them for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it correct that the Federal Conference of the Labor Party, to be held in February, can negate any decision or action already taken by the Labor Government?
– I suppose that strictly speaking the answer would be no. If something has been done, I suppose it has been done. I do not think the Senate needs another lesson in how the Labor Party works. We know that there is a democratically elected Federal Conference consisting of delegates elected by the Party congress in each State, the Labor Premiers or the Labor Leaders of the Opposition in each State and also now the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Senator Willesee and myself. I am reminded by Senator Wriedt that it is probably a far more democratic version of the Federal Council of the Liberal Party. Our Conference meets in the open, in the presence of the Press, radio and television, and its deliberations are conducted publicly. They are spread out all over the country in exactly the way one would expect a democratic political party to work. If the honourable senator can suggest some other way in which a democratic party should work, we would be interested to know what he has to say. I think the people of Australia are very satisfied that they have a great political party which is conducting its affairs in the way that it does so that the people know what it is doing and what decisions it is coming to. The whole country is aware, when the people go to vote for it, just what the Labor Party stands for. If we want to find out what the honourable member’s Party stands for we would have to get hold of the huge number of backers who are able to manipulate those opposite like a stack of dummies. It would be very difficult to find out the real power structure behind the Country Party and the Liberal Party. Those parties certainly would not be meeting in the open or in the presence of the television, radio and the Press and having its decisions put down where everybody can read them.
-Mr President, I have a supplementary question.
-Is it to seek elucidation?
– I ask the Leader of the Government whether the decisions of the Federal Conference of the Labor Party were binding on members of Parliament. That is what it amounted to. I want to know yes or no; that is all.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy seen claims that the supply of natural gas to Perth could be inadequate by 1980? Will the potential problem be exacerbated by court challenges to legislation passed by the Australian Parliament and by the stalling and delaying tactics of the Liberal and Country parties and the Court Government in Western Australia?
– I understand that there is a challenge from the States in respect of the Australian Government’s legislation. I am not particularly conversant with the subject. The only point that comes to my mind is that it was a decision of a Western Australian State government, if my memory is correct, that transferred the method of production of electricity in Western Australia from coal to imported crude oil. No doubt that decision has not assisted the development of the coal industry in that State and has meant the State’s greater reliance on imported crude. I think the question should be referred to the Minister for Minerals and Energy to obtain a fuller answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. In view of the reported high intake of Army recruits in the September quarter because of unemployment, has the Minister for Defence sought, by way of advertisement or statement, to attract recuits to the Services from the record number of retrenched workers? If not, will he do so as a means of providing jobs for some of these unfortunate people and for some of the 250,000 school leavers about to come on to the labour market? Are the high numbers of recruits an embarrassment to the Government in view of the low priority it places on defence?
– It is only a few weeks ago that Opposition senators were complaining about the Government not being able to attract recruits. For several months now the intake into the Army, as a result of revised recruiting procedures of the Services, has been satisfactory, as the senator notes. The recruits are people who wish to make a career in the Services. To try to turn that situation into a query about what the Government might not do about unemployment, to me, is a bit of a joke. Everybody knows that this Government has done more than any other government in relation to manpower policies. I have more than once recited the sort of attractions that the Minister for Labor and Immigration has had approved by the Government. These include the various training schemes, the structural adjustment schemes, the new career information centres in all the States and the retraining programs which for the first time were established by the Government. Yes, there is unemployment, as everybody knows, and it is not common to Australia, for the reasons that have been given by Mr Whitlam and our leaders. It is a matter which was well understood and recognised by the Minister for Labor and Immigration. He told the Parliament and the people about it. We are taking what measures we can in relation to unemployment, and we are providing specialised officers for the different systems. This year approximately 500 people have been specially recruited in the employment services, to cope with the situation about which I am talking.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation: In view of the Australian Labor Party’s announced policy to restore the war widows’ pension to not less than its 1949 value, can the Minister say whether this value has yet been reached? If not, when will it be reached? Can the Minister give an assurance that these pensions will not be allowed to drop to the unrealistic levels experienced during the 23 years of Liberal-Country Party government?
-As I think all honourable senators would be aware- 1 hope they would be aware- and certainly all war widows would be aware, there was a steady deterioration in the level of the pensions available for war widows after the election of a Liberal-Country Party government in 1949. An undertaking was given by the Australian Labor
Party to restore to the 1949 level the position of war widows’ pensions in this country. I am pleased to be able to say that not only are the war widows of Australia better off now than they were under the previous Liberal Governmentmuch better off than they were under that government- but they are in fact better off than they were in 1949 under the Chifley Labor Government. Not only has this Government excelled its Tory predecessors but it has excelled even the efforts of a previous Labor Government. Before the Australian Labor Party was elected to office in 1 972 the war widows ‘ pension was $20 a week and the domestic allowance, which is received by most war widows, was $8.50 a week. In the time since then the consumer price index has risen by about 20 per cent and the total pension and domestic allowance paid to war widows has increased by over 50 per cent. A 20 per cent increase in the consumer price index has been matched by a 50 per cent increase in the pension and domestic allowance payable to Australian war widows.
At the present time the war widow’s pension, including the domestic allowance, is well ahead of the 1949 value if it is compared with movements in the consumer price index and if it is compared with the then basic wage and the present minimum wage. If the 1949 war widow’s pension had kept pace with the consumer price index its present value would be $22.96 a week; it is now almost twice that figure under the Whitlam Labor Government. If the 1949 war widow’s pension had kept pace with movements in the former basic wage, now the minimum wage, its present value would be $37.07 a week; again, the pension at the present time is well above that level. It is interesting to note- and I believe that the Senate should be reminded of this-that war widows who also qualify for an age or invalid pension can receive up to $62.50 a week tax free.
– A point of order, Mr President. Is the Minister correct and in order in debating an answer which he is purporting to be giving? If he is in order, is it proper for him to ignore in the figures he is giving the enormous rate of inflation at present?
-As Senator Greenwood has raised the question of inflation, I should say that that is precisely the point I was making. I was comparing the increase in the pension with the increase in the consumer price index. Of course, Senator Greenwood is one of the people who talk about inflation without really knowing what it means. One of the ways inflation is measured is through the consumer price index, and as Senator Greenwood has not grasped that point I will explain it to him. When I was comparing the pension with the consumer price index I was comparing it with inflation. That is what it means, and I hope Senator Greenwood has now learned that lesson. If he has not, there are a number of elementary text books on economics for first year high school students which he may be able to understand.
To come back to the serious question that has been asked by Senator Primmer, I believe that these facts should be made known because Senator Townley earlier asked a similar question on this matter. That is, war widows who also qualify for an age pension can receive up to $62.50 a week tax free, and that is equivalent to a taxable income of $72. 1 5 a week or $3,752 per annum. A war widow with 2 children can receive up to $104.40 a week, which is equivalent to $128 a week if taxation is taken into account. In addition, war widows receive all of the free medical, hospital and dental treatment and a onethird reduction in their telephone -
– A point of order, Mr President. I wish to take a point of order, namely, that standing order 98 and subsequent standing orders have been violated by the Minister. The Opposition will afford him an opportunity to make a statement after question time.
-Standing order 98 says:
After Notices have been given Questions may be put to Ministers of the Crown relating to public affairs; and to other Senators relating to any Bill -
And certain rules shall apply. I think that Senator Wheeldon has given a very adequate answer to the question, and I understand that he is now concluding.
-The only concluding remark that I make is that as the Opposition likes to talk about inflation but does not like to hear about the positive measures that have been taken by the Government to counter inflation, I feel that there is no point in pursuing the question at this time.
Honourable E. G. Whitlam on 13 November 1972
-Order: Is this by way of a preface to your question?
-Yes, it is a preface to the question that I will ask. The preparatory statement refers to what Mr Whitlam said in his address. He said:
Will you again entrust the nation’s economy to the men who deliberately, but needlessly, created Australia’s worst unemployment for 10 years? The worst inflation for 20 years?
My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, is as follows: Has he noticed the curious parallel between the economic disruption that occurred when the Bolsheviks took over in Russia in 1917 and the introduction into Russia by Lenin of what is known as the new economic policy? Is it fair to say that the situation in Australia today is that which faced Lenin in 1921 and that we are now involved in a new economic policy?
-Mr President, I think -
- Mr President, I will repeat the question.
– No. Senator Wriedt is about to reply to the question.
-I think that Lenin’s new economic policy of 1924 belongs in the history books.
– Nineteen twenty-one.
– No, 1924. 1 think that is where it should stay, and I do not think that it is analogous to the present situation in Australia.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. The Minister will remember keeping the Senate informed from time to time over the last financial year of the Government’s activities in the field of road safety. Can he advise at this time details of any major projects that the Department of Transport intends undertaking in 1974-75 for road safety research and promotion?
– This is a continuing activity of the Department of Transport and the Road Safety Council. It is undertaken for the purpose of trying to do something about the road toll which is causing so much havoc in Australia. This year more than Sim is provided for road safety research and promotion. This includes the sum of $150,000 granted to the States. In regard to research and promotion, the sum of $140,000 has been allocated for a study of the human elements in road accidents. There is now planned an in-depth investigation of road accidents in 3 States. It is also planned to undertake an evaluation of the various national publicity campaigns that are conducted.
In 1974-75 the types of programs will include an investigation into the effectiveness of the various types of penalties, particularly that for the drinking driver, and the proposal to develop guidelines for town planning with an emphasis on greater road safety. In conjunction with the Commonwealth Department of Transport, the State research departments on road safety are introducing planning programs to try to evolve something which will reduce the toll of the ro.-.ds.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I refer to an answer which he gave to a question in the Senate on 30 October concerning the attitudes of unions whose members are employed by the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. In the answer the Minister stated that only one union with about 16 members in fact was opposed to the merger. I ask: Is it not a fact that the Professional Radio Employees Institute of Australasia which has as members by far the largest number of employees of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and the Australian Association of Professional Engineers were opposed to the merger when they gave evidence before the Vernon Commission? Is it not a fact that the Association of Professional Engineers is still opposed to the merger and that the Professional Radio Employees Institute, having been opposed to the merger, now says that it accepts the decision of the Government and will cooperate in bringing about the merger, but favours the retention of the present OTC system as a separate division and favours merger only at board level?
– I have explained to Senator Durack the real situation in relation to the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and the 2 new commissions. For some reason somebody in OTC is resisting being absorbed into the new telecommunications commission. Because of that there is some agitation among the staff who fear the future. These people have been reassured by myself in public statements made at regularised meetings which have taken place between the unions and the people concerned in the arrangements for the transfer. We have told the staff that they are guaranteed that their promotion rights, and so on, will be protected. With respect to Senator Durack ‘s question about the Professional Radio Employees Institute of Australasia and the Australian Association of Professional Engineers, I explained before that the Professional Engineers are opposed to the merger. That Association has a membership of about 20, to my knowledge. *As far as the PREI is concerned, initially it was opposed to the merger but it is now taking part. Its Federal Secretary and President are taking part in what is called JUG- that is the Joint Union Group- in consultations with officers who are carrying out the preliminary arrangements. The PREI now accepts the takeover by the commission.
Because of some events somebody is trying to maintain that the OTC should stop outside the telecommunications commission. It would be wrong for the Government in those circumstances to give way to these sorts of persuasions. The Vernon Commission decided and recommended that the OTC should be absorbed. On 2 occasions the Government was asked by me about its position. Cabinet determined that OTC should go into the commission. As Senator Durack knows, since that time I have arranged for him to talk to the leaders of the Post Office. Shortly he will be invited to talk to the Board of the OTC. We have had an unfortunate range of events with the OTC. Some members have retired and, unfortunately, Sir Arthur Petfield has recently died. He has been replaced by Mr Bill Gibbs. This may be a subject for discussion later on so I mention here that the Government and myself are very grateful to Mr Bill Gibbs for assuming these positions. He has made it a condition that he do so without remuneration. That is the position. I hope that when Senator Durack meets these people he will be able to persuade them to take part in the joint discussions in a constructive way. As far as I am aware the officials of the unions concerned are doing just that.
-I ask the Minister for the Media whether Mr Nicholas Johnson, a former Commissioner of the United States Federal Communications Commission is in Australia at the invitation of the Australian Government and of the Minister. What is the purpose of Mr Johnson’s visit? Was not Mr Johnson, when a member of the Federal Communications Commission, a controversial figure in this area of activity in the United States?
– It is true that Mr Nicholas Johnson, a former member of the Federal Communications Commission of the United States of America, now chairman of that country’s National Citizens Committee for Broadcasting, is in Australia at the invitation of the Australian Government and, in particular, at my invitation as Minister for the Media. The honourable senator will recall that some 10 years or more ago there was a select committee of this Senate which commonly became known as the Vincent Committee and which was charged with the responsibility of inquiring into the encouragement of Australian productions for television. One of the recommendations of that Committee was that an annual seminar should be held in Australia to bring together people of international repute throughout the media so that all aspects of the media could be publicly debated and discussed. The Australian Labor Party eventually adopted in general principle the recommendations of the Vincent Committee as part of its Party platform. In accordance with that section of our platform there is to be held in Sydney tomorrow an international media symposium which has been organised by my Department. Mr Nicholas Johnson, who has taken such an influential place in United States media activities, has been invited to participate. It is true that Mr Johnson has a reputation for being a very forthright personality in the United States, particularly in the time that he was a member of the Federal Communications Commission. His views are respected throughout the whole media world. Certainly I, and I know those attending the symposium, are very much looking forward to his contribution to it. It will be a very important gathering of some of the leading identities in communications in Australia.
– My question, addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, follows a question asked a little while ago by Senator Lawrie. Have preliminary figures relating to the cost of living been received by the Government in the past 2 days? Do these indicate an accelerating rate of inflation in Australia? Is the indicated rate of inflation now of the order of 30 per cent per annum?
– The question will have to be placed on the notice paper.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I refer to recent statements by the Prime Minister that current unemployment would worsen in the months ahead and would not show any reversal of trend until at least after June 1975, some 7 months ahead. In view of this confession of abject failure by the Government, and in the face of predictions by reliable authorities that unemployment will reach between 300,000 and 400,000 in the early new year, what precise advice does the Government have to offer to the 230,000 school and college leavers who will be seeking employment in the vocations of their choice in the weeks now immediately ahead? Is their only prospect the dole for the next 7 months? If not, and if unemployment is to increase as the Prime Minister has said, what are the alternatives available to these young people?
- Senator Carrick knows that general economic information has been given by Mr Whitlam and by Senator Murphy in this Senate. They have explained to the Senate that the ratio of unemployment in Australia is not unusual in the Western world. They have pointed to countries with similar economies to ours whose rates of unemployment are much higher, even double and treble that of Australia. They have pointed to the remedies which this Labor Government has taken and it is not for me to repeat what has been stated by Senator Murphy or the Prime Minister.
– They have said nothing.
– Of course they have said something. They stated what we have done as part of our economic policy to stop inflation. We have applied correctives when irregularities have occurred in relation to tariffs, in relation to the motor car industry, and so on. In addition, as I explained earlier, when we came to office we became the first Government to establish a correct manpower policy and to gear immigration to manpower policies.
– You caused unemployment.
-OK, we accept. Mr Clyde Cameron- I have made the same statement in this House- assessed that there would be rising unemployment because of the world problem of inflation.
– Because you created it.
-Created it? The honourable senator knows as well as I do that it is a characteristic of the western world.
-Of course it is. What was the position when the Opposition was in power and introduced the various horror Budgets? It never cared about retraining. It cared nothing about placing young people in student jobs and educating them for technological change. Did it provide a scheme like the National Employment and Training Scheme? No, it did not. Did it set up a careers information centre in all the States? No, it did not. Did it increase the number of apprenticeships within the government services? No, it did not. We have done so.
– Where are the jobs now?
-I am about to tell the honourable senator. The Government is doing whatever it can to provide avenues of employment in its own services. It is attempting to take as many school leavers as possible into the government services. If the Government carried out the policy that was put forward by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday it would have to make cuts throughout the whole range of government departments of up to 8 per cent. For example, at a time when people want telephone services, if the Government did what the Opposition wanted and cut expenditure by 8 per cent I would have to sack 1,000 people from the Post Office and that would add to the unemployment problem. Whatever is possible and practical within the organisation that we have we are trying to do. We are attempting to remedy a situation which is not unique to Australia. I have strong memories of all the bungling of the Opposition while it was in power without any attempt being made to establish training schemes, retraining schemes or structural assistance policies. Did the Opposition provide those things? Of course not. When a man got the sack he was finished under the Opposition’s policies. The argument no doubt will be sustained but the facts are, as Senator Murphy has said more than once, that if the Opposition had played a constructive role in this Parliament from the time that we became the Government half of the troubles we have now would not be with us.
– I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Is he aware of widespread reports alleging that the People’s Republic of China is a major producer of and trafficker in drugs? Is he also aware of a report that in 1952 the UN issued a warning to the People’s Republic of China following reports of her involvement in drug trafficking and that since that date evidence from many countries continues to implicate the People ‘s Republic of China in this trade? In view of the seriousness of the drug problem, will the Minister take steps to have these allegations investigated?
-I am informed that the Department of Customs and Excise has no evidence of these activities but I will take on board the general question and make inquiries for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade and the Treasurer. Does he recall that I directed to him during the week before the Deputy Prime Minister’s latest overseas trip a question relating to his reported intention to seek overseas investment in Australia, which appeared to be a reversal of Government policy? Does the Minister remember telling me that Dr Cairns was not going overseas for this purpose? As Dr Cairns on a radio program referred to the interest of American investment in Australia, can the Minister now give details of the type of investment the Government has in mind and the amount of capital that the Deputy Prime Minister has attracted or hopes to attract from foreign sources to Australia? Finally, if the Government is still interested in encouraging Australians to invest in Australian enterprises, will the Minister ask the Treasurer to abandon the proposed tax on unearned income and re-create the incentives necessary for Australian taxpayers to assist in the development of this country?
– I did answer a question which Senator Jessop asked a week or a fortnight ago. I said then that Dr Cairns was not going overseas for the purpose of discussing those matters which the honourable senator has just talked about, and that was quite true. Dr Cairns went overseas to attend a conference in the Caribbean area, as I indicated at the time, and was going through New York and Washington on the way home, as I also said at the time, and that is exactly what he did. I understand he had discussions on financial matters in the United States. I have no doubt that the discussions he had were based on telling any potential American investors of the advantages of investment in Australia on terms and conditions which the Australian Government is prepared to accept and which have always been the policy of this Government. There has never been any desire or intention to prevent overseas investment in this country in the last 2 years. Certainly we have been more selective. We have guarded Australia’s interests a lot more effectively than our predecessors did, and we will continue to do so. If there is any further information Dr Cairns is at liberty to give on his actual discussions in
New York and Washington I will have it conveyed to the honourable senator.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction aware that there appears to be confusion within the ranks of the Returned Services League as to those persons eligible for housing grants? Will the Minister inform me whether all those people, men and women, who enlisted in the forces are eligible for a housing loan? What is the maximum loan available?
– I would not think there is any confusion among returned services organisations about the availability or the conditions of housing grants. The organisations are continually meeting and sending on to the Minister for Housing and Construction proposals to extend the eligibility for loans or to extend the time for payments. This seems to indicate that they are quite conversant with the present position of eligibility. The brief answer to the question of whether all men and women who enlisted are eligible for a housing grant is no. The eligibility in respect of service in the forces is limited to persons who were members of the Australian forces and nursing services enlisted or appointed for or employed on active service outside Australia or on a ship of war during the 1914-18 or the 1939-45 wars and, subject to the prescribed conditions, persons with service in connection with the warlike operations in Korea or in Malaya, including Singapore, or who served in ‘special service’ as defined in the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act or who, on or after 1 December 1972, completed a specified period of normal peacetime service. This last category applies to national service trainees who completed their national service. The present housing grant is $ 12,000. The Treasurer announced in the Budget Speech that this amount would be raised to $15,000. It is anticipated legislation increasing the grant from $12,000 to $15,000 will be introduced during this session of Parliament.
– By way of short preface to my question I should like to say that a judge of the New South Wales courts to whom I was speaking some time ago said that whenever Senator Murphy appeared before him as counsel he always had a very well prepared brief. In view of this I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is it not a fact that this ability of his to prepare a good brief is being stretched to the utmost in presenting a hopeless case that the Government did not create inflation and unemployment in Australia? It has been stated that some of the economic mess in this country is due to the obstruction of the Senate. Can the Leader of the Government mention one Bill of an economic character which has been thrown out by the Senate? In view of the statement that New Zealand is a perfect example of a Labor government’s running a country without obstruction, has he seen the Bank of New South Wales Review’, No. 12, of October 1974, which states that indicators now point to a sharp contraction of the New Zealand economy in the second half of 1974, that business confidence has been declining steadily in recent months and that signs of weakening in the labour market are apparent?
-Order! Standing order 99 provides:
Questions shall not ask-
for an expression of opinion;
for a statement of the Government’s policy: or
for legal opinion.
If Senator Murphy can answer the question without transgressing the standing order he may proceed.
– I will endeavour to do so. Senator Wood first disarmed me with a compliment and then said that it is an impossible brief. I do not think that there is any difficulty about the matter at all. However learned a judge the honourable senator spoke to, there is a greater judge in Australia. That judge is the Australian people. Recently the Australian people had the opportunity to judge the value and capacity of the 2 contending political parties in Australia and decided that the Australian Labor Party ought to be entrusted with the future of the Australian people for another 3 years. As the honourable senator would be aware, the people of Australia are entitled to have everybody observe the umpire’s decision. They are also entitled to have those who are in there batting given a fair go. The honourable senator’s Party had the chance for 23 years and did so badly that it was tossed out when international difficulties were arising. Senator Wood put that it was incorrect that the previous Government was responsible for inflation. In one sense the international difficulties were already arising. There was some inflation all around the world. I have referred before to what was said by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development- I think that the quotation is in Hansard- about the onset of inflation in Australia which occurred well before the Labor Government came into power.
The honourable senator referred to New Zealand. Only yesterday the Deputy Leader of his own Party held up New Zealand, which has a Labor Government, as an example of how well a country could be run, how well inflation could be curbed and how well unemployment could be kept to a minimum. All this Government does is to ask the Opposition to give it the same kind of opportunity as is given to the New Zealand Government; that is, for the Government to be allowed to put through the legislation it wants, without obstruction, and to receive co-operation from those who are sitting in Parliament. I am asked for instances of legislation that has been obstructed by the Opposition. There is a whole series of it. The Opposition opposed the proposals to amend the Constitution to enable the Government to deal with prices and incomes. The Opposition fought against it outside and in this chamber. It fought against and delayed for 12 months quite unnecessarily the trade practices legislation although everyone knew that effective trade practices legislation is one of the best weapons against increasing inflation. The Opposition fought against the attempts of the Government to achieve amalgamation of unions to prevent demarcation disputes and to bring some real rationalisation into the industrial area. In these ways and in many other ways we have been obstructed. If one wants to know about the obstruction all one has to do is turn up the record of the Senate to see an unparalleled performance of frustration and obstruction of a duly elected government of the people. I now ask that further questions be placed on notice.
- Mr President, I take a point of order. I draw your attention to standing order 100 which provides:
In answering any such question, a senator shall not debate the matter to which the same refers.
I submit that today there has been an excessive amount of debate by Ministers in their response to questions, and honourable senators have been prevented from seeking information.
– I shall bear that in mind next day.
-Mr President, I would like to correct some union membership figures I gave in answer to a question by Senator Durack in respect of those unions operating in the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. The numbers are small but I think that they should be corrected. I think I said that the Australian Association of Professional Engineers had only 20 members. I meant the Professional Officers Association which, as far as I am aware, has 16 members. That was the organisation which opposed merging with OTC. The Australian Association of Professional Engineers has a membership of about 85; PREI has 1,266; the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association has 140; and the Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen has a membership of 35. That is the membership of the main unions involved out of a total of 2,067 staff members.
– For the information of honourable senators I present an exchange of notes between the Australian and United States governments providing for amendments to the agreement of 9 May 1963 relating to the establishment of a United States naval communication station in Australia, together with a statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) on those amendments. Due to the limited numbers available, I have arranged for reference copies of these papers to be placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– On behalf of my colleague the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), for the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Commonwealth Scholarships Board for 1973.
– On behalf of my colleague the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), for the information of honourable senators I present schedules showing the position, as at 18 November 1974, for programs under the States Grants (Schools) Act 1972-1973 including amendments proposed by the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1974 which is currently in course of passage through the Parliament.
-I present the report from the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare on the petitions relating to the proposed national health scheme.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to make a very short statement on the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
-The Committee has noted the expression of opinion contained in the petitions and has decided to take no further action on them.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That the report of the Committee be adopted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
-I would like to take a few minutes of the time of the Senate to discuss under standing order 190 some of the things that were said by the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, last week. Some people say that Mr Whitiam ‘s moves are going to do a lot to restore business confidence. Some people feel that his actions represent a permanent change of heart by those who are presently running this country. Some people feel that others like Bob Hawke and Dr Cairns have changed their aim of total control. These moves will do practically nothing. How can a very small reduction of 2Vi per cent in company tax boost business confidence? How can a very small reduction in income tax for the quarter of a million people who are presently running small businesses throughout Australia con them into expanding and employing more people when, on Mr Whitlam ‘s own admission, the Government could again change course in its political and economic stream in a little while? Will the business people of Australia really believe that Mr Whitlam, Dr Cairns and Mr Hawke have changed? We must remember that this mini-Budget which was brought in last week was brought in only about 6 weeks after the Budget. In my opinion, we could easily see another change in a few weeks ‘time.
– How are the profits in the chemist shop?
-What was that, Mr Minister? If honourable senators wish to have a go I am quite willing to answer them.
– I ask you to address the Chair.
-Mr President, I will keep very strictly to your ruling if that is what you insist upon, but I would ask you to request other people to speak through the Chair.
– I will do that.
-Thank you, Sir. The moves that have been made do very little for the employers in this country. They do quite a lot to feed inflation. None of the small business owners to whom I have had time to talk are very confident that these moves will prove to be their salvation. The Government has fed inflation by not reducing Government spending. In England Mr Harold Lever, who is the financial adviser to the British Prime Minister, said that an international calamity in 1975 was more probable than possible. Bob Hawke has said that next year could be our worst year since the first depression. Yet Mr Whitlam gaily travels all over Australia in his VIP jet at the taxpayers’ expense. He goes overseas in his specially chartered Qantas Airways Ltd jet with all the attendants that one could imagine. He gives me the impression that he is making the most of his position while he can. While he is flitting back and forward around the world those people who remain here and who may have devoted their lives to one particular job and are now earning $11,000 or $12,000 a year have virtually been attacked by the Prime Minister’s mini-Budget. I do not usually weary the Senate with figures, but I believe that the reduction in taxation for a person who has a taxable income of about $7,000 is approximately $260 per annum. Yet somebody who has a taxable income of approximately $12,000 would be entitled to a reduction of only $32.
What will happen to incentive in this country? Why will people work harder? Why should they work overtime? What will happen to the creative talents in this country if this is the way we treat those people whom I would class as middle income earners? Obviously people will not be bothered working any harder. People will quit short of their best. Once they do quit it will be pretty hard to get them started again.
– What percentage of people earn above $12,000?
-Is it your turn to speak?
– You cannot answer the question.
-Here comes the rabble. Feathers is flapping his wings over there.
– Order! I ask the honourable senator to disregard interjections. I will deal with the interjectors.
-Mr President, will you deal with them or shall I?
-Continue your speech.
-Mr President, I did not mean that to sound the way it did. It was not meant to be disrespectful, but I am quite willing to deal with them!
– You will observe Standing Orders and address the Chair.
– I was about to make the point that any tax that takes more than 50c out of any dollar that any person earns reduces rapidly a person’s desire to do any more work or to accept any more responsibility. I have contended for several years that the maximum tax rate for individuals should be the same in this country as it is in places such as Canada and New Zealand where I believe it is approximately a 50c maximum. When the philosophy is one for me and one for the government people will continue to work, they will continue to build businesses and they will invest and thereby create employment opportunities. The idea of giving small business owners a bit of a go is not acceptable to most members of the Labor Party. I can remember Bob Hawke, when he was asked a year or so ago where the money would come from for all Labor’s plans, saying essentially: We will increases the taxes on the rich’. I wonder whether he has yet learned that that will not work. He is reputed to be intelligent, but there are none so blind as those who will not see. I do not think that Mr Hawke wishes to see that to get business going again in this country the Government must give employers and small businesses a go. The Labor Party and the people of Australia must see that we need incentive in this country. They must be made to realise that middle income earners are by no means rich and the present policies of the Government are making them poorer by the minute.
It is hard to realise or to believe that the Australian economy could have collapsed over the space of just a few months. We now have the highest level of inflation that we have ever had.
We have widespread and increasing unemployment, liquidity is acute and there is a general feeling of uncertainty and pessimism in the whole community; and the community generally feels that things will get worse. This pessimism is contagious. I think business people have taken a long time to realise that Labor was out to get them, but business has gradually realised that this Government wants central and total control. Business has seen a government so preoccupied with creating the welfare state that it did not care how much business was hurt. I think we are very rapidly approaching disaster. We are approaching disaster mainly because of inflation. 1 think I have said previously that unemployment follows inflation as surely as night follows day. The higher the rate of inflation, the higher the rate of unemployment that eventually will follow.
It is true that we are not the only country with inflation, but our inflation could very well be tagged, as I saw it the other day, ‘made in Australia’. Our economy should not be compared with that of some countries with which we are being compared. No doubt the Senate will remember that earlier in the day Senator Murphy said things are going very well in New Zealand because it has a Labor government. What he said sounded to me like a lot of rubbish. In New Zealand the rate of inflation is quite high. As Senator Wood said, the most recent commentary on New Zealand, which is on the back page of the Bank of New South Wales Review which I think is No. 12 of October 1974, points out that the standard of living in New Zealand is rapidly decreasing and that there is a serious capital outflow problem in that country. I would like to read to the Senate a couple of the comments from the Bank of New South Wales Review’. The commentary on New Zealand in the ‘Bank of New South Wales review’ states:
Indicators now point to a sharp contraction of the New Zealand economy in the second half of 1974. . . . Business confidence has been declining steadily in recent months. . . . Falling meat and wool prices are expected to reduce farming incomes by more than a third in the 1974-75 season.
– Whom do you blame for that?
-The Labor Government. The article continues:
Signs of weakening in the labour market are apparent. Press advertisements for labour are declining in volume, and the fall in unemployment this August from its winter seasonal peak was less than half the fall in the corresponding period of the previous year. The actual number of unemployed in August, too. showed a perceptible increase after allowance is made for seasonal factors and rising numbers employed cn special works.
– How many unemployed are there in New Zealand? Give us the figures.
-Would you like a copy of this, senator?
– Yes. Give us the figures. The figures released this morning show approximately 900 unemployed.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Order!
-The feathers are flapping, Mr Acting Deputy President. Subject to the ruling you gave earlier, I do not know whether I should respond, but I am quite prepared to give the honourable senator from South Australia, who sits in his place and snarls most of the time that he is here -
– I am here more often than you are. The record proves that.
– Now, here we go.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTPlease disregard that, Senator.
– Thank you very much, Mr Acting Deputy President. I will return to quoting some of the information from the ‘Bank of New South Wales Review’. The article continues:
The fall in business confidence reflected in the progressive decline of the share market since mid- 1973 is closely linked with the growing deficit in New Zealand’s balance of payments.
If Senator McLaren wants figures, there are some following, but I am not going to weary the Senate with figures. So it can be seen, I think, that under Labor New Zealand is starting to go the same way as Australia has gone under Labor. In Australia we are almost self-supporting in fuel and food and most of our raw materials. We had a secondary industry that was strong and capable of meeting the greater part of our requirements for manufactured goods; and there is a demand overseas for our minerals and most of our primary products. I admit that as a world trading partner or nation we must be slightly affected by economic conditions elsewhere, but we are not in the position of having to import most of our raw materials or food.
Local inflation in this country is locally made. If we want to keep prices down it will be necessary for us all to work a bit harder. It will be necessary for the Government to defer some of its planned expenditures. Admirable though some of its social programs may be, they will have to be delayed until the growth of the economy enables us to afford them without destroying the economic structure of the nation. We have plainly reached the point in the economic life of this country where disaster is within easy grasp of the Government of this country. We have reached the point where people are saying that the DLP is back- not the Democratic Labor Party but the Depression Labor Party- because I think this Government will be remembered as Australia’s true DLP- the Depression Labor Party. We have plainly reached the point where the Caucus that runs this country should be asking about every bit of expenditure: Can we really afford it? It should be asking: Is it really necessary or can it wait just a little bit longer? That is the way ordinary citizens have to act. They have to see what they can afford to buy before they go out and spend. It is time the Government of this country adopted the same kind of philosophy. Examples of where this could be done are in the new hospital scheme- and I have said before that I am in favour of that scheme if we can afford it, but I do not think we can afford it. There can be some delay in some of the social programs that the Government has instituted, and of course we can put off such extravagances as $US2m for ‘Blue Poles’. I do not really think that that was something we could afford at that price, even if the price were fair. I ask: Can we afford another $A1m for a painting that is going to be called ‘House under Construction’ while the economy of this country -
– There was a great cost in lives in Vietnam. You never said anything about that.
-Do you think that was comparable with a painting, senator?
– I am talking about casualties in Vietnam. You sat there gloating about them.
– I did not sit here gloating about them.
– Yes, you did.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder!
-Mr Acting Deputy President, I have been accused of something and perhaps I should be allowed to say something in reply. I do not think the honourable senator is making a very reasonable comparison when he compares the cost of a painting with the cost of a war.
– With the cost of lives.
-No, you are not making a reasonable comparison at all. Comparisons are often made by these people, who say that if we are going to cut down expenditure we will not be able to build hospitals and schools. That is what they always say, but why do they always pick on those things? Why do they not pick on the areas where they can cut down, such as the $4.5m that is going to be allocated for works of art during the economic crisis that we are going through? I say: Can our Prime Minister afford to be overseas for weeks, almost months, while the country is in the mess that it is now? Maybe the Prime Minister finds that he can afford to buy things better overseas and so he goes overseas to buy them. Can we afford to have the Prime Minister floating back and forth across Australia in VIP aircraft? I was talking the other day to a quite old pensioner lady who came into the shop. She asked if it were true that Mr Whitlam was going overseas again. I said that I thought it was true and she quietly shook her head and said: ‘I wish they would all go away’. To her, the present economic situation is somewhat of a -
– How can you spend time in your shop when you are being paid by the electors you represent?
– You are paid to be a senator, not to have a second job.
– You ought to be working in your electorate instead of working in a chemist shop. Two incomes! You are a great one to be talking about the economy.
– We have got a 24-hour job. You are making profits on the side.
– He ought to set an example.
-That pause was brought to you by the Australian Labor Party. The comment by this lady was, I think, typical of so many comments that I get as I go around Tasmania and speak to people. It is typical of the comments I receive.
– You are serving in the shop, not going around Tasmania.
– If some of you people -
-That does not matter. One at a time. We know the rules.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! Senator Townley, if you address the Chair and do not engage in this crossfire you will find that you will be able to deliver your speech uninterrupted.
-We have been told at odd times that people should not have other jobs. I was going to say that if some of the people in this Senate had a point of contact with the public, which they obviously need, they would realise just what is being said.
– Yours is a profitable contact.
-That is something you would never run, mate.
– Have you lost your place?
-No, I have not lost my place. I was just waiting to hear whether anything else would come from you. However, this comment that I got when the old lady said ‘ I wish they would all go away’ is typical of so many comments that I receive in the shop, and as I go around Tasmania, and by letter and telephone. Let us get back to the economic Budget that Mr Whitlam brought in last week. Somewhere I saw it dubbed ‘ Whitiam ‘s Do or Die Budget’. I have already pointed out that it has given very little incentive to business. Let us look at the trade union situation. A couple of the trade unionists that I have spoken to so far have said in effect: He is crazy if he thinks that he is going to keep me quiet for $6 a week’. That is not exactly what they say, but it is the gist of what they mean. Why should they take $6 a week when they should be getting at least $30? That is the way a lot of them are thinking. How long is it going to be before they all start doing their sums? Inflation is going up at a rate of something like 25 to 30 per cent a year. That is really banana republic stuff; maybe everybody in Australia should send Gough a banana for Christmas, because it is getting to the stage where he is just about president of the banana republic of Australia. With inflation at 25 per cent, which I think is an underestimate, the average worker will be expecting something like $30 a week extra after tax, which is about $40 a week before tax. How are the workers going to be satisfied with just $6? In my opinion, the Government with its aims of nationalisation has ruined the faith of the private sector in this country. When we have in this country a government that gets its priorities right and asks: ‘Can we afford to do this yet?’ and What value are higher pensions if food is much more expensive?’ and ‘What is the value of all the money we spend on education if the educated cannot get jobs?’ and ‘Do we need more government spending yet?’, and when we have a government that realises that private businesses will not work, invest and employ until they are given a go, and when we have workers, whether they be pilots or ditch diggers, who are prepared to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, then, and only then, will this country return to the non-nightmare conditions that we had a few months ago.
I do not believe that the Government has attacked the economic position from the right direction, and because of the action of those who control everything that is done in Caucus, I do not think that we will see this country get the right direction and the confidence it needs until after the next election. Just before I conclude, I suggest that 2 obvious ways in which the Government could have given the business area a go would have been to set a lead in reducing payroll tax- instead of which the Government raised the tax- and to reduce the maximum personal tax rate to 50 per cent which, as I said earlier, would have cost the Government only $130m a year, and it would have promoted incentive again. I will speak in depth about those 2 items at another time.
– Labor’s unsympathetic, ignorant and discriminatory treatment of primary industries has created unprecedented lack of enthusiasm for production throughout the farming community. It has stifled initiative, slashed incomes, and threatened the traditional means of livelihood in Australia. It has affected not only producers but also business people and the general community in all country areas. In the broader view it has led to disadvantage for all Australians and to the millions in less fortunate countries who suffer from malnutrition or starvation. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and his Government are condemned by their broken promises, their double standards and their abandonment of principles in almost every area of their administration. The result of 23 months of the Whitlam Government is a recession rivalling, if not surpassing, in severity the depression of the 1 930s.
– After 23 years of LiberalCountry Party Government.
– The honourable senator would not know the difference between months and years. The inability of socialist Labor to govern Australia is manifest in the highest inflation and the worst unemployment in Australia’s history. It is a record of government of which not only Labor but also Australia and its people should be thoroughly ashamed. In no single area is the Government’s deceit and failure more apparent than in primary industry. I shall quote extracts from a speech by the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) to the Farm Writers and Broadcasters Society of Victoria on 30 March 1973. I believe that these extracts illustrate that deceit and failure. He said:
Recently I said that we don’t want the rural sector to become one vast sheltered region soaking up scarce public funds that could be better spent upgrading vital community services that benefit both country and city dwellers. This statement has been wrongly interpreted by some people as meaning that a big axe is about to be wielded to top off all subsidies and other concessions to the rural sector. This is just not so . . . While the axe will not be wielded with gay abandon on existing rural subsidies, it will be my aim to have them critically examined as they fall due for renewal and even earlier, and see where modifications and indeed improvements are desirable.
In the same speech he said:
All Ministers are in Cabinet with an equal voice. If primary industry gets downgraded, it will be because I failed to do my homework or exercise a proper role in Cabinet when presenting my submissions. I have no intention of letting this happen.
When interviewed on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s program ‘This Day Tonight’ on 1 9 June 1 974 Senator Wriedt said:
I ‘ve initiated most of the moves which have been taken by the Government.
That statement was made in relation to the withdrawal of assistance to primary industry. I shall list the decisions adverse to the rural sector of the community in Australia which the Government has taken. As far back as December 1972 the dollar revaluation upwards of 7 1/2 per cent, the further revaluation in September 1973 and the effective appreciation when the yen was devalued in January 1974 brought total change to about 25 per cent. It would be impossible to calculate this effect on the rural community. On 3 April 1973 the tax on the value of shorn wool was increased from 1.4 per cent to 2.4 per cent. On 22 July 1973 it was announced that the bounties on butter and cheese would be phased out over the ensuing 2 years. The Budget of that year resulted in the discontinuation of the accelerated depreciation allowance on plant which had been set at a special rate of 20 per cent per annum to encourage primary producers to utilise new and upgraded equipment, modernise their production, and bring a lesser cost of production into that area of the community.
In that year the excise on brandy was increased, and it was stated that the duty would be raised in 3 equal annual steps. The Budget also resulted in the discontinuation of the immediate taxation deductibility of certain capital expenditure and the double deduction of expenditure on the clearing and development of land. The Budget also resulted in the discontinuation of the investment allowance, which was an allowance of 20 per cent of the capital cost of new equipment. The Budget also brought about the discontinuation of the annual taxation deductibility for a wide range of capital expenditures relating to primary industry, including internal fencing, the provision of water on properties, and the storage of feed. Those expenditures are now deductible either over 10 years or by way of general depreciation where the expenditure is in relation to a depreciable structure.
That Budget also brought about the discontinuation of the adoption of the special basis for the valuation of wine stocks, and the effect of that has been that wine makers are forced to pay tax on upgraded values of stocks at a nearer point of time. In that 1973 Budget private company tax rates were increased from 37.5 per cent to 45 per cent. In subsequent years private company tax rates apparently will be the rates for public companies. A survey has shown that 14.7 per cent of all properties in the rural zone are conducted as private companies. Of course, equating private company tax with public company tax creates a disparity. Large public companies are able to retain what they wish of their earned profits after taxation while the smaller proprietary limited company is inhibited in its growth due to the fact that it must disgorge at least 50 per cent of its retained profits after taxation. The 1973 Budget meant a reduction in the free installation of telephone lines within a radial distance of 15 kilometres from the local exchange. This distance was brought down from 15 kilometres to 8 kilometres or 4.5 miles. This will cost rural producers some $3m.
There has been an equalisation of charges for telephone rentals for subscribers in country areas. This means that the lesser service which people get in rural areas has been equated with the service given to subscribers in metropolitan areas. There was the introduction of a meat export levy of lc per lb to recoup the cost to the Government of the meat inspection charge. That Budget introduced the levy of 0.6c per lb shipped weight on the export of meat to recoup expenditure on brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication in this country. Also there was an increase in the margin on petrol prices in non-metropolitan areas from 3.3c a gallon to 5c a gallon. There was the loss of the petrol equalisation subsidy which had been paid on fuel distributed in rural areas. That has proved an enormous loss to country people, has inhibited decentralisation of industries and has made the cost of production of food and items which are produced in country areas much higher than it was previously. There was an increase in duty on motor spirits and diesel fuel of 5c a gallon. This cost the rural community some $20m. That Budget saw the discontinuance of the sales tax exemption on non-alcoholic carbonated beverages containing not less than 5 per cent of Australian fruit juice. The effect of that proposition has been quite devastating to certain areas of production, particularly in my State of Victoria. The free milk scheme for school children was withdrawn as from 1 January 1974. The effect of that is still being felt. Undoubtedly like myself honourable senators are getting letters from areas of the various States where there is a lack of proper nutrition asking for that scheme to be reintroduced.
On 17 September 1973 there was an increase in the trading bank interest rate by 1.75 per cent as it affected rural producers. This Labor Government sought and obtained the withdrawal of the concessional levy which had applied in relation to interest rates on borrowed funds for exporters and rural producers. On 30 September 1973 the removal of the export incentive payment and the abolition of the market development allowance for the export of fresh, chilled or frozen meat occurred. Earlier this year, in February, it was announced that the superphosphate fertiliser bounty would expire on 30 December 1974. As at 20 November that picture still continues. There has been no statement by the Minister for Agriculture or by the Labor Party that it sees any wisdom in supporting that type of incentive for production, for efficiency and for lowering the cost of production to rural industry and, henceforth, to food consumers throughout Australia. The estimated cost to the rural sector is well in excess of $500m in any one year.
This figure does not include the imposition, as we understand has been announced in the most recent Budget, of what is proposed as an illdefined unearned income tax, whatever that may be, and of a capital gains tax, whatever that may be. The definition of that cannot be other than a newly imposed death tax which, it follows, will involve the community. There are many other impositions which I could mention such as the reduced educational allowance for taxation purposes and the increased postal charges which have flowed. If one were to add the cost of inflation, which I believe has been a definite aim and objective of this Government to debauch the Australian economy- which it is doing so successfullyit is clear that these will all have an effect on the rural people whom I have mentioned. All these matters have an application to the entire Australian community. Indeed, they will have an effect on those in the world who are seekers of nutrition. We are led to believe that there is such a wide area of the population throughout the world which requires that aid.
Devaluation of the Australian dollar by 12 per cent in September of this year compensated a little for the various earlier upward revaluations. But in the light of the increased inflation during that period this was very insignificant. The September 1974 Budget confirmed Labor’s attitude to primary industry. The only significant guarantee in that Budget was that farm costs would increase as inflation worsened. We have seen a situation which the Government is not willing to announce but at least somebody has let it leak to the newspapers. The inflation rate in this community could be approaching 25 per cent to 30 per cent. That is devastating for the whole community. The November 1974 mini-Budget contained an 8-line reference to the important area of primary production in Australia and to an examination of representations seeking help for beef producers. There was no other reference to primary industry. That shows Labor’s interest in the rural community.
The damage which has been done by the socialist Labor Government will have repercussions which will be adverse to all rural people for many years to come. Two things must be done. While Labor remains in office the Prime Minister, the Minister for Agriculture and the Government must be encouraged to change their attitudes towards country people and to productive industry. I plead with them to take advice other than that which they have sought in the past years. When things are bad they go to Mr Hawke and come back with an announced policy of what Labor will do. A demonstration of what they have done is the situation in which they find themselves today. While the Minister for Agriculture continues to laugh on the front bench- as he does at the moment- he acknowledges that he has little sympathy for primary producers and little intelligence in the application of what should be done in the interests of the economy at the present time. I say to the people of Australia that at the next election Labor must be removed, never to be given the right to rule this country again.
-Taking this opportunity on the first reading of the Customs Tariff Bill 1 974 1 refer to a matter of which, I believe, there should be much more public knowledge in this country and more discussion in this Parliament. It is a matter which in my opinion concerns the honour of this nation. It concerns us very much because it demonstrates that the Government, and in particular the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee), are not taking a stand consistent with the long record of this country in matters of civil liberty. I refer in particular to certain matters I have raised previously in the Senate by way of question, namely, the relationship and condition of the Jewish community in Syria and the fact that Australia- the Australian Government- is unwilling to raise its voice in any way in support of that community and in an endeavour to reduce the travail it is now suffering.
Some months ago, on 1 August 1974, 1 asked a question on this subject of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I will read the question because it has quite a history to it. I asked:
Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of recent documented allegations made by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and other responsible authorities concerning the persecution of the Jewish community in Syria, including numerous murders, assaults, religious persecutions, confinement to ghettos and denial of normal human rights in defiance of the United Nations Declarations on Human Rights? Has the Government made any public statement or any representations to the Syrian Government concerning these allegations? If not, will it do so at an early date.
I say in passing that, as a result of further information I have since accumulated, the allegations I summarised in that question are more than justified. The Minister at that time replied that he had read something of the matter but did not have detailed knowledge of the allegations. He said, amongst other things:
It is always a very delicate problem to know whether, if you press these people, they will not act worse than they are already acting.
He went on to say that he would seek further information. I challenge whether, in a situation like this, the pressing of these people will make things worse. It is the force of international opinion which is likely to improve the situation for people who are being persecuted.
Nearly 2 months later the Minister supplied me with a further answer. Other honourable senators would not be aware of the contents of this answer. The Minister said yes, he was aware of the documented allegations, and he referred to the International Conference for the Deliverance of Jews in the Middle East held in Paris on 3 July 1 974. He went on to say:
The Syrian Ambassador in Paris reportedly denied the allegations of official anti-Semitism and added that such matters were internal Syrian affairs in which Syria could accept no intervention.
– Even genocide?
– Apparently even genocide is an internal matter.
– Syria said that, not me.
– Yes, I recognise that Syria said it but you, the Minister, chose to quote it. The Minister did not choose to comment on it or criticise it. I choose to reject it because I say that this type of behaviour cannot be put aside as being something about which we Australians are not entitled to express an opinion and to endeavour, by our interests, to cause some change. The Minister said that he had not made any public statement. He went on to say in further reply to my question:
The Government is always concerned with civil rights matters, both in Australia and other countries. As indicated above, it has been aware of the allegations in respect of Syria. In all such cases it has to consider a number of factorsthe difficulty of establishing the accuracy of reports and allegations, the need to avoid undue interference in what other countries may regard as their internal affairs, and what, if anything, can be done to improve the position of those whose civil rights are alleged to have been violated. Taking all the relevent factors into account, the Government does not consider that it would be appropriate at the present time for it to make representations to the Syrian Government on this matter. It will, however, keep the situation under review.
He went on to complete his answer by telling me that there was no mission in Syria but that the Australian Embassy in Beirut had reported generally on matters affecting that country.
I challenge practically everything in that statement. I challenge that we should say today there is any difficulty in establishing the nature of the allegations. I will refer extensively to the document of the International Conference for the Deliverance of Jews in the Middle East- the conference to which the Minister referred- entitled The Plight of Syrian Jewry’. This document details the various allegations and quotes from individuals who managed to escape from that country. I do not accept, as I have said already, that when these civil rights have been violated, other countries can pass the violations off as internal affairs. Nor am I satisfied with the idea that the Minister will just keep the matter under review. I must say that that type of answer is the answer of a Pontius Pilate. It represents an attitude of washing your hands of the affair because it is happening a long way away, it is happening only to 4,500 people and it is not our problem. I reject that attitude.
I refer now to the document produced by that conference. In it there is graphic illustration of what has happened in Syria. We must bear in mind that when the Six Day War broke out in 1967 only about 3,000 Jews remained in Egypt of a community that had numbered 100,000 2 decades before. There were another 3,000 in Iraq, of 130,000, and about 4,500 in Syria, compared with 40,000 in 1948. Those communities, because of the hostility of the local inhabitants, obviously had been driven from the homes they had held for hundreds of years. These remnant Jewish communities were treated by the Egytian Iraqi and Syrian Governments as hostage communities open to every kind of mistreatment.
In fact it is now only in Syria that Jews are still held as hostages in their own land. They are refused permission to leave the country. If they have managed to leave the country their relatives have been persecuted. If they are caught they often face death.
None of the 4,500 Jews in Syria, of which some 3,000 dwell in Damascus, 1,200 in Aleppo and the rest in Kamishli, a small town near the Turkish border, is permitted to depart. The conditions under which these Jews must live constitutes a permanent offence to the principles of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Let me read from that Declaration two of the most relevant articles in this respect. Article 13 states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Article 14 states:
Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
These articles have been defied and denied time and again.
What is the ordinary living situation of the remaining Jewish community in Syria? As this report says, Jews must not move more than 2Vi miles from the quarters in which they live without special authorisation. They must carry special identity cards bearing the word ‘Jew’ in red letters. They have no rights such as that of the vote, cannot hold a job in any government office or in Syria’s nationalised sector, to say nothing of the police or armed forces, be it the most insignificant. For the past 4 years no Jew has been admitted to a university. With a couple of exceptions, Jews are not permitted to have telephones, do not get driving licences, and must comply with special curfew regulations. At Kamishli, Jewish houses bear a distinguishing mark. Moslems are advised officially not to buy in Jewish shops and government and military personnel are expressly forbidden to enter them. The mail of Jews is censored, and they are under constant police watch.
That is the normal life of the Jewish community in Syria. It reminds one of the 1930s in Germany. It is very significant that the leaders of a number of these countries were very sympathetic with the German attitude during the last World War. Apart from this being the normal situation, in addition there are only 3 Jewish schools left in the country and they are under the direction of Moslems who draw up vexatious limitations of all kinds. The few synagogues are constantly threatened and constantly damaged.
The Syrian Government has seen fit to place many Palestinians in the Jewish quarter so constantly there are cases of assault and robbery. Quite apart from this, many examples are given in the report of the extent to which people have been murdered and injured as a result of the violence of the local inhabitants. The report states:
Certain recent attempts by Jews to flee, given Syrian repression and unflexibility, have brought still more persecution. Should a Jew manage his escape, the Syrians take vengeance on his family. In March 1 974, eleven Jewish mothers of Aleppo were tortured for two days and nights as the Syrians sought the names of persons who had helped their youngsters leave the country.
Then appears one of the most graphic examples and it has been mentioned even in our Press. The report continues: In March of this year three young Jewish women of Damascus by the name of Zebah and a friend of theirs named Saad slipped out of Damascus together with 2 Moslems supposed to guide them across the Lebanese border. Instead, they were forced into a cave, robbed, raped and killed. Apart from the deaths there was the humiliation caused to their families and the inhumanity shown by the Syrian Government when some days later the Syrian authorities delivered the bodies of the girls to their families in a sack for burial. Demonstrationsdangerous demonstrations in that countrytook place among the Jewish community and the result of them was that the Syrian Minister for the Interior alleged that the murderers and smugglers who had confessed, so he said, had been arrested. They arrested 2 respected members of the Jewish community, one of” them being a brother-in-law of one of the victims. The Syrian authorities accused them of murder and they are to stand trial before a State Security tribunal. We can imagine what sort of justice will be obtained in that case.
Those are some of the examples which are given in this publication of incidents which are known, I should imagine, to many members of the Government and these examples should indicate that we as a free community ought to take a view on these matters. In the publication I have quoted are examples and illustrations of the type of pass, showing the holder’s Jewish faith, which persons in that country have to carry around and produce. Also there are lists of businesses that are boycotted by the local Syrian authorities.
I say to members of the Labor Party present and to the Foreign Minister that they have some duty to express a view on this matter. They should have a view, I suggest, because, apart from anything else of what has been said by the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party,
Mr Bob Hawke. In an excellent article which he wrote and which appeared in the ‘Herald’ on 18 November, he had a lot to say about the allegations which Mr Hartley, one of the Federal Executive members of the Labor Party, had previously made. Mr Hawke drew attention to facts concerning the Jewish Arab situation which surely must be known to all members of the Labor Party and said:
Looking around them at the institutions and practices within the Arab states which have sought to destroy them and which Mr Hartley so mightily extols (‘the spendid militancy of socialist Libya and Irak’- the latter which has ruthlessly suppressed its Kurdish minority and invited its citizens to come and enjoy the feast’ on January 27, 1969, when it publicly hanged 9 Jews in the squares of Baghdad), the Israelis should have nothing but the utmost dread at the thought of being handed over to the tender mercies of these people.
He also quoted President Sadat of Egypt, a leader in the Arab community, and said:
President Sadat of Egypt could not have made it any clearer when he said on 25 April, 1972: ‘The Jews must be relegated to a position of humiliation and misery’.
I am not today talking about the whole situation or of the whole threat to Israel. I am not talking about the very massive persecutions of Jews which still occur in the Soviet Union but which have been lessened somewhat through the force of world opinion and through the influence of countries which are prepared to express hostility to this type of action because the Soviet Union is sensitive to world opinion. What I am saying to members of the Labor Party here is that if their Federal President is capable of seeing the problem, the Foreign Minister and Government supporters also should see the problem even though it concerns only 4,500 people obviously persecuted beyond any hope of redemption, save the effect of world opinion.
There are 3 things which I hope to achieve by making these facts known today. I want to know what inquiry the Minister has made. He said that the Government was going to keep in touch. I want to know what has been found out about this. Is the Minister satisfied with these allegations which are put forward by a highly respectable World conference, chaired by the President of the Senate of France and comprising people from all over the world? I have referred to their publication. Is the Minister satisfied that this persecution is occurring and is he also satisfied that he can make some statement on this matter? Secondly, I hope to achieve today by mentioning this matter some further rousing of world opinion, something which might affect the sensitivity, if not the conscience, of an Arab country like Syria and which might lead to some lessening of the persecution of the people who live there.
Thirdly, and importantly, I hope that Australia’s national honour will be improved. I do not know whether Australia is silent because of hope for funds from Arab sources or because of hope for positions we might obtain in the United Nations as a result of Arab votes. I do not know what the reason is that we stay silent on the subject, but I urge the Foreign Minister and the Labor Party to remember that this is an important area of conscience. The Government should act in accordance with the position that Australia has taken and the way in which it has many times expressed its view about other countries and persecutions. In respect of South Africa, Chile, Greece and other countries we have expressed views. I am not concerned today to examine them in detail, but we have on other occasions made our feelings felt. We have expressed our belief in the civil liberties of the people of the whole world. I urge the Foreign Minister to stop this course of saying nothing and come out and express the views which I am sure the Australian people hold strongly in this matter.
– I intervene at this stage firstly to thank Senator Missen for raising this question in an unemotional way. Secondly, I want to deal with some of the points that he has made. He has dealt largely with the subject of the question which he asked me and which I answered on 2 occasions, firstly off the cuff, and secondly when I got later information for him. He has asked whether I have any further information. Yes, I have. I have been replying to some letters dealing with this subject and I think he might be happy to know that there is some interest in it. I have signed lately two or three letters so at least there is some movement in Australia on this. In these letters which I have written, mostly to members of Parliament who have raised the matter on behalf of their constituents, I have agreed with several of the points that Senator Missen has raised. For example, I said in one letter I sent:
We do not have access to direct information on the matter as there is no Australian mission in Syria. Bui advice available to us indicates that Jewish people residing in Syria are subject to a number of special restrictions. These relate to such matters as internal movement and travel, the holding of government posts and, perhaps most importantly, the right of emigration. Jewish people are also required to carry special identity papers. The Syrian authorities maintain that these restrictions, particularly on the right of emigration, relate to the state of war which they consider still exists between Syria and Israel. Beyond these restrictions our information does not confirm allegations of systematic persecution of the Jewish community in Syria although it does appear the incidents of harassment and violence have occurred.
There is no denial and the Government is not trying to became an advocate for the Syrians in this matter. It is a question of what one can do in these circumstances. Senator Missen acknowledged at the end of his speech that we have taken stands in certain areas. As he was speaking I jotted a couple of them down. I made probably the strongest statement on Solzhenitsyn of any foreign minister in the world. I condemned the Greek action in Cyprus. I later condemned the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The question of atomic testing we have taken up with everybody that we thought we could possibly have any influence on. Every time I have visited countries which have political prisoners I have raised the matter at the highest possible, level, and so has the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Our advice to people who write to us about these matters is that where the countries concerned have embassies in this country they should go to those embassies and to the people who can do something about their problem- that is, the respective Governments. In many ways those people can say and do things and use pressure probably more effectively than a government can. Other governments can always say to us: ‘Look, mind your own business. This is an internal matter. ‘ To give credit to a lot of the people to whom I have talked, they have not taken that angle. But we know it is in back of their minds and it is their final weapon against us if they wish to use it. If they started to criticise certain types of people in gaols in Australia, I think we would very quickly say that those people have been placed there because of the due process of law in Australia as unhappy as we may be with some of the types of people in gaols in Australia and some of the due processes of law.
I refer now to the question of why we are remaining silent. Senator Missen asks whether it is a matter of getting oil money or getting votes in the United Nations. Neither is true. Oil money will not be recycled, which is the modern word for anything done at this level, but will go where long term investments and that type of thing can be made. The money will go to politically stable countries in which the oil producing countries can see a great return for their money over a long period. They have so much money- $69 billion extra this year- that they will be able to pick and choose as they go along. Senator Missen raises the question of lining up votes in the United Nations. Anybody who goes to the United Nations and studies it will find that that just does not work, even if they wanted it to work. At times delegates will have to vote against very old friends and at times will be disappointing people who look to the new stands that Australia has developed during the last few years. Lining up votes is just not on. It just does not work in that way.
If honourable senators look at some of the votes we have taken in the last session they will see that we have disappointed everybody at times. Sometimes it has been our own Western European and Others Group. At other times on the South African question we have disappointed black Africans. On other votes we have disappointed some of our friends in the WEO Group. This is inevitable. This is what I believe meetings are all about whether they be meetings of a political party, a cricket club or the United Nations. People must stand up in their own way, doing their best with all the information in their hands at the time. The very next day they may regret it or wish they had taken a stronger stance. That is all anybody can do. I think that all any politician can do at the end of his life is to look back and to say that he did what he thought was right at the time with the information he had. Maybe he will make mistakes. He will certainly make mistakes.
I want to make it very clear that the more interest I see- there is a great interest throughout the world- in the question of the denial of civil liberties in other countries the happier I am. There is a great interest, particularly in those countries close to us, in the question of prisoners. I think there should be a great interest in it. I think people should feel embarrassed, they should feel slighted by it and they should express their opinions. I am all for that. The matter comes to the question of what a government can do. As I say I always tell people who come to me to talk on matters of this nature to go along to the embassy involved or to any other avenues there may be to make their views known. It is the governments which deny civil liberties which can give civil liberties if enough pressure is put on them.
As I say we have made statements on such things as Greece, Turkey, Chile and Solzhenitsyn, because we believe our voice has some weight. But I think we have to be careful, particularly in the area we occupy in the world, to be helpful and to stand up on moral issues and principles but at the same time not to get the name of being meddlesome by meddling in the affairs of other people. Senator Missen makes the point that we have not made a statement on a situation on which he thinks we should make a statement. It is just a value judgment that we have made. 1 do not say we will adopt this attitude for all time. The situation touches on the most sensitive area in the world and in my view the most dangerous area in the world today. We are going through a special time. Only a few days ago it looked very much as if yet another war could have broken out in that front. We are dealing with a very sensitive and very delicate position. It is a very difficult thing to say whether our voice will make any difference. It is not as if the world is ignoring the situation. As I said in my answer to Senator Missen, which he quoted, a meeting took place in Paris of no less than 29 countries. At the meeting the countries were pretty forthright. They did what they thought. As I stated in my answer to Senator Missen they called on people like President Nixon, Mr Brezhnev and the Syrian President, President Assad, to take some action on this matter. They are the people who have the leverage here. What sort of leverage would we have in Australia? We are a long way from the situation. Apart from making a stand and saying that we condemn this sort of thing, what leverage do we have?
– I think you sell us short.
– Yes, maybe. As I say, this is not the end. The matter can be looked at in the future. I feel we are in a very delicate situation at this stage. Things happen in the world of diplomacy that do not always become public headines, and thank heavens they do not. We have a lot of friends, a lot of powerful friends, who I do not think would hesitate to ask us if necessary, to do anything in this regard or in any other regard as they frequently do. To my knowledge we have not had any pressures from our friends in this regard.
I do not think I have much more to say. I have answered Senator Missen ‘s second point concerning the rousing of world opinion. I have said that people have to put as much pressure as possible on the governments concerned. Senator Missen referred also to the Jewish communities which have had a history of persecution, I agree. Unfortunately it is not only the Jewish people in the world today who are suffering the loss of civil liberties. It is happening, as I say, in many countries. I repeat that people ought to be affronted and should raise the matters. Senator Missen has raised this matter again today in an unemotional way. I appreciate that. He has put to me that he disagrees with the line we are taking at the moment. He thinks we should be taking another. His words will be listened to and they will certainly be studied. I promise him that.
– I wish to raise a matter which is of very considerable importance to Australia generally. It is of prime and immediate importance to Western Australia and in particular to the metropolitan area of Penh. I refer to the situation which is developing in oil and gas exploration in the off-shore areas of Australia and in particular on the north-west continental shelf off the northwest coast of Western Australia. I refer also to the exploitation of the very large reserves of natural gas which already have been proven at very great expense by the companies that have been drilling on the north-west shelf for some years. One company alone has spent $ 1 50m or thereabouts in the process of proving the reserves. The problem which has been apparent ever since this Government has been in power is that exploration activity has declined to such an extent now that shortly there will be, in fact, only one drill operating on the north-west shelf of Western Australia seeking to find oil or gas.
The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) keeps talking about his plans to solve this problem. They all seem to boil down to the establishment of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority. He has always said that that is the Government’s solution to the problem. Now that the Authority has been established the Minister says that the Government is unable to get on with the job because of challenges in the High Court of Australia to the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill, which claims sovereignty by the Commonwealth over the continental shelf, and also to the Petroleum and Minerals Authority itself. This attitude of the Minister and of the Government is just not good enough at all. It is not good enough to say that as a nation we are now frustrated in our efforts to find oil and gas or in our efforts to exploit the finds because the legislation is being challenged by the Western Australian Government. I understand that all the State governments are challenging the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill, by which the Commonwealth is claiming sovereignty over this area.
What is the Government really saying? Is it saying, as it said and did in relation to Ampol Petroleum Ltd, that a State government is not entitled to exercise its legal rights and should not be exercising them, should not be appealing to the High Court and challenging legislation which it believes is not constitutionally valid? Is that what is being said? Recently the Minister attempted to browbeat Ampol and to prevent it from exercising its existing and proper legal rights in applying to the Prices Justification Tribunal. When he did not succeed in browbeating
Ampol into withdrawing its application, the Government at the last minute brought down a regulation to take away rights which the Government itself had created. That is how this Minister and this Government regard rights, even those which the Government has created.
Is it saying that the State Government should not dare to challenge the constitutional claims that have been embodied in this legislation which this Government has passed? Not only is it an arrogant claim, a claim to prevent people from exercising their legal rights; it is also a completely unreasonable and illogical attitude to take to these important matters. The mere fact that litigation is proceeding between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments in relation to ownership of the off-shore areas- the continental shelf- does not mean to say that by sensible co-operation between the 2 governments, the urgent requirement of oil exploration and the development of the reserves that have been proved could not be carried out. When 2 parties are litigating in a court over a business, the whole business is not brought to a standstill and allowed to die so that the victor in the action has nothing left and the fruits of his victory have completely disappeared. Nobody in his right mind would proceed along those lines. What private citizens do if they are litigating in that way about a business or an asset which will be destroyed if it is not properly looked after while the litigation is continuing is to make arrangements for the business to be carried on without prejudice to the litigation, without prejudice to either party’s rights as determined. There is no reason in the wide world- except the pigheaded, arrogant refusal of this Government and the Minister for Minerals and Energy- why the Government cannot enter into such an arrangement to enable this exploration to continue, and to enable new exploration and the development of existing reserves to be carried out.
What has in fact been happening? The Minister for Minerals and Energy has refused to confirm the renewal of permits which are held by a number of companies to explore for oil and gas on the continental shelf all around Australia. These companies have acquired the permits to explore under the legislation passed by all the parliaments of Australia including this Parliament back in 1967. The co-operative arrangement entered into by the Commonwealth Government of the day- a Liberal-Country Party Government- and all the State governments is a classic example of co-operative federalism. Under those arrangements and under the laws that were passed these permits were given to the oil companies for the exploration which has proved enormously successful, with the encouragement and the policies of the former Liberal-Country Party Government. These permits have been in operation for some years and under them vast areas of oil and gas have been discovered. But they have a limited life and they now have to be renewed. Some of them have already expired and others will be expiring shortly. Under the permits as they exist at least half the acreage, as it is called, has to be surrendered and then it becomes available to be issued to new explorers.
The Minister says that there are many companies which are interested in coming in and exploring, but he is refusing to agree to the renewal of permits. The Western Australian Government and the Victorian Government have granted a renewal which these people are clearly entitled to have under the legislation. There is the clearest right to renewal of the permits, provided that half of the area is surrendered. But the Minister for Minerals and Energy is refusing to confirm the renewals. So the companies concerned find themselves in a position where their agreements are not being honoured by the Commonwealth Government. How can we expect vast sums of money to be invested in such high risk exploration, in highly difficult and highly risky enterprises such as oil exploration offshore? How can we expect these companies to have any confidence and to be prepared to invest when the government is not honouring its obligations? It is not honouring its agreements. It is saying, ‘We cannot do anything about it because you have litigation going on. The States are challenging our rights in this area ‘ and so on.
As I have said, there is every reason why the Government, and the Minister for Minerals and Energy in particular, should agree to the renewal of these permits and then, whatever the outcome of the litigation in the High Court, the respective rights of the Commonwealth Government and the State governments can be adjusted between themselves. But in the meantime, why impede and prevent the companies from proceeding to have a renewal of their titles? Why not at least give them the encouragement to proceed with oil exploration?
There is another matter which I believe is of great concern. I mentioned last week in questions to Senator Murphy that the High Court appears to be delaying the hearing of these cases. There seems to be no indication that the High Court is likely to commence hearing them until next year. With the complex legal argument, the time the argument will take and the time it will take for reserve judgments to be considered and delivered, I would think that it will probably be this time next year at the earliest before the legal position is resolved. This makes it even more important that some sensible co-operative arrangement should be made between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments for the renewal of permits and even for the granting of new permits involving areas of land which are being surrendered to enable new work to commence. As I have said, the Ministers in the States have in desperation, because they could not get this agreement from the Commonwealth Government, renewed permits, as they should in accordance with agreements that have been made with exploration companies. It is only the attitude of the Commonwealth Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, which is preventing an agreement between this Government and the State governments. I have no doubt that if the Minister for Minerals and Energy and the Commonwealth Government would only adopt a sensible co-operative attitude towards the State governments arrangements could be made with them to enable new explorers to get in and take up under permits the new areas that are coming in and which Mr Connor says a number of the major oil companies are interested in exploring.
Another aspect of this problem of the attitude expressed by the Minister for Minerals and Energy, which I believe is the cause of the trouble, concerns the supply of natural gas to the metropolitan area of Perth. As I have said, on the north west shelf large reserves of natural gas have been proven. The reserves are estimated to be adequate probably for the needs of Western Australiapossibly even more than its needs- for a period of 30 years. The companies which have been exploring until now would have been prepared to go on with further exploration and prove further deposits. But what happened? About 12 months ago the Minister for Minerals and Energy set up, with the concurrence of this Parliament, the Pipeline Authority. Honourable senators will recall that the Authority was designed, according to Mr Connor, to build a great pipeline grid all over Australia. In fact, it is developing as I said then and which I think everybody is now recognising, into a pipe dream, not a pipeline. Shortly after that the Minister for Minerals and Energy told the companies which had sunk over $100m in high risk exploration and had proven reserves that they would not be allowed to develop their reserves from the wellhead. All he would let them do would be to bring the gas to the surface and then the Pipeline
Authority would take over. The Authority would buy the product and it would build the pipelines.
At that stage he was talking about a pipeline going from Dampier right across to Sydney. I think he has since been told, although he will not admit it, that that is a totally uneconomic and ridiculous proposition. We are not hearing so much from him about that. But he is still saying that he proposes that the pipeline should come ashore and should service Western Australia and the metropolitan area of Perth, and also should provide gas for the gold fields and the Pilbara. That, of course, is a sensible approach. I hope he has abandoned this ridiculous concept of taking the gas right across to the eastern seaboard and depriving Western Australia, which is so short of energy resources, of this wonderful resource which exists on the north-west shelf. But time is running out. Twelve months have elapsed since Mr Connor said that that is what he was going to do. He then effectively prevented the companies going ahead with their own development, companies which have or have access to the technical knowledge that is required to bring this gas to the surface and to build a pipeline over the sea-bed. It is a very difficult exercise.
The Pipeline Authority in its first report presented the other day said that the technical problems of bringing the gas from the north-west shelf to the shoreline are immense and indeed near the fringe of pipeline engineering technology. It said that these problems were likely to be both time consuming and expensive to solve. That is the problem which the Authority is facing. Obviously it does not have the technical knowledge itself. It is not provided with any money in the present Budget even to carry out a feasibility study. The secretary of the Authority made it clear in answer to questions asked at the Estimates Committee hearings that there was no money allocated for even a feasibility study to be made. Yet the private companies which found the gas and which were willing until 12 months ago to develop its production, to bring it to the surface, to bring it to shore and indeed to build a pipeline on shore to wherever the customers were, have been prevented from proceeding with their plans.
The situation is now one of complete stalemate. The stalemate is so serious that there is undoubtedly a real threat to the supply of natural gas to the metropolitan area of Perth from at least 1980 onwards. Although there may be supplies for a longer period for domestic consumption in Perth because of the resources at Dongara which supply Perth with gas, nevertheless there is already a great demand by industrial users in Perth for natural gas which cannot be met from the Dongara field. These people are desperately interested in obtaining energy sources from the north west shelf. So already there is a demand for natural gas which cannot be satisfied. That demand will grow and by the 1980s there will be a very serious shortage of natural gas for Perth, apart altogether from the rest of the State.
It takes many years to complete the process of bringing gas to the surface, building pipelines and so on. Indeed, the Woodside-Burmah company has said- nobody has challenged it- that it involves a lead time of about 6 years, and here we are at the end of 1974. If Woodside-Burmah, which as I have said has the technology and the ability to do the job, was told tomorrow to go ahead it would be into 1981 at the very earliest before the gas could reach Perth. The way the Minister for Minerals and Energy is frustrating the whole exercise means that it is going to be even longer than that. I repeat that even if a decision were made today or tomorrow, it would be 1981 before Perth received any of this gas.
What is the present position? In answer to a question in the House of Representatives yesterday the Minister for Minerals and Energy said that the people to blame for all this were members of the State Government in Western Australia because they are challenging his authority and his powers. That is absurd because there is no reason agreements should not be made between the governments to enable this work to be done and the respective rights of the State Government and the Commonwealth Government can then be resolved in the High Court in due course. With a willing spirit of cooperation, there is no reason these arrangements could not be made to enable this sort of work to continue. The Government does not have that attitude. The doctrinaire socialist attitude of the Minister is to tell the companies which have found gas that they will not be permitted to develop it themselves, they must wait until the Pipeline Authority develops it. The Pipeline Authority is saying that it does not really have the technology to do it. Only one person is responsible for the threat to Perth’s supplies of natural gas- that is, the Minister for Minerals and Energy. If it was not for the doctrinaire socialist attitude of the Government and the Prime Minister who keep the Minister in power and keep supporting him, the companies that have found the gas, have proven the reserves and have the technology to develop them would have been able to get on with the job a year ago instead of being completely frustrated by the
Minister. I believe that is a matter of very serious import to this nation, in particular to Western Australia. I hope, although it is probably a very forlorn hope, that even now the Minister may be persuaded to take a reasonable attitude, to be prepared to co-operate in making practical arrangements with the Western Australian Government and not to stand back and simply to blame that Government because it is challenging his cherished Pipeline Authority or Petroleum and Minerals Authority. It is quite ridiculous to say that none of this work can go on until the High Court resolves the legal issues of who has the actual sovereignty over the off-shore areas.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, firstly, I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to the atmosphere in which this debate has taken place. The debate began as a result of a money Bill being brought before the Senate. We know that it is legitimate for any senator on the first reading of a money Bill to raise any matter that he chooses. We know also that we are coming towards the end of this session. A great many Bills have to go through the Senate before we rise. Today we have been endeavouring to get passed by the Senate 5 very important Bills, all of which relate to very significant payments to the States involving tens of millions of dollars. One Bill alone, the Local Government Grants Bill, involves a payment of $56m to the States. Yet no indication was given of the Opposition’s intention to raise the various matters which have been raised during the course of this debate. It is still customary -
– There is still freedom of speech, surely.
-There is freedom of speech, senator, but there is also such a thing as courtesy. It is normal practice to advise the Ministers concerned. It always has been in this Parliament as long as the honourable senator and I have been senators, and he has been a senator longer than I have. I think that that should have been done. If we had been looking for work to do in this place, which would be unusual, we might have decided to engage in these debates. A great deal of work needs to be done. I think it was incumbent on the Opposition at least to advise the Government that this debate would be taking place. However, I shall keep my remarks as brief as I can.
– You know advice was given.
– In fairness to Senator Missen I say that he did advise me some minutes prior to his speaking, but with respect it is a good idea to advise a little earlier as the matters that were raised by the honourable senator must be dealt with by the Minister concerned- in that case the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee). The matters to which I wish to refer concern the comments that were made by Senator Townley and later by Senator Webster. There was the usual mixture of incoherent accusations of politics on both their parts, but in particular I found the remarks of Senator Townley to be of some interest to me. He attacked the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for the number of times that he has allegedly been out of Australia. He overlooked the fact that the Australian Prime Minister has established a stature in world affairs and given Australia a standing in world affairs which it has never enjoyed in the past.
-These interjectors of course have recently been overseas and have seen and heard the comments of various people in other countries. I have been overseas twice in the last 5 weeks, and I have talked to many representatives of other countries. All of them were of the same opinion- that Australia has never stood higher in the eyes of those countries than it does at present. This is very largely because of the efforts of the Prime Minister and of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Senator Townley ‘s comments concerning small businessmen were ironic. As most of us know, he is a small businessman. He describes himself as such. He owns some chemist shops. I do not doubt, if there is a downturn in the profitability of his chemist shops, that his income from that source in conjunction with his parliamentary salary would make it difficult for him to make ends meet. We noticed that during the last election campaign he spent $15,000 to $20,000 to be re-elected. It is interesting that photostat copies of his newspaper advertisements alone total more than $3,000 for pan of the campaign. Are we to believe that the costs of his television campaign will be 4 times as much? I suggest that that is the real reason for his concern about the so-called small businessman. If he has to run another election campaign he will not be able to pay for it out of his parliamentary salary so he must look to his income from his business undertakings. I think everybody ought to bear that in mind.
– Do you get yours from the margarine industry?
-We must consider that point in respect of politicians such as Senator
Webster, who is interjecting, and the incomes he receives in addition to his parliamentary salary. He nods his head in agreement. I am glad to see that. He is also one of those people who will try to be re-elected to this place so that he can earn a second income. These are the people who have the temerity to criticise people such as Mr Whitiam for his so-called VIP flights and the fact that the cost is met by the taxpayer. I would not believe any Australian would accept that anyone has the right to adopt the attitude that was adopted by Senator Townley and which was supported by Senator Webster.
Senator Townley said that the Government wishes to control everything centrally. I can remember when we had the prices and incomes referendum some time ago this Government recognised the need for some sanity and control over these 2 important facets of the economy. The Opposition and Senator Townley opposed the prices and incomes referendum. They said that this power should stay with the States. The real reason that they opposed it was that they knew that they were denying the Government a most effective and essential weapon to resist increases in inflation in this country. They realised that cost inflation is an essential part of the economy at present. This was one of the most effective weapons that would be available to the Government. The surest way to make it all the more difficult for the Government was to ensure that the referendum was defeated, simply because the States are not able to exercise these powers in an overall sense.
We are accustomed to Senator Webster’s ravings about the rural sector. I will come to that shortly. We are told that the economy is in a state of near disaster. It was only three or four weeks ago that he predicted that the greatest depression in the history of the country was about to befall us. I am quite sure that he would be glad if that happened, irrespective of the consequences, because from that he would be able to solicit a few votes in his home State of Victoria. If we look at the record we find that one of the most important barometers of economic demand in any industrialised country is the level of demand for the motor vehicle. We see that in September, only 2 months ago, motor vehicle registrations were running at record levels. In the housing sector we find that the savings banks are now strongly expanding their lending, and their loan approvals in the December quarter could be 50 per cent higher than they were in the September quarter. Incomes have risen strongly and are likely to continue to do so. The average minimum weekly wage for adult males increased by 27 per cent for the 12 months to the end of August whereas the growth rate of wage rates for females was 43 per cent for the same period.
– Why are men being put out of work? Tell us why we have such high unemployment. It is total incompetence.
-Senator Webster, who is again interjecting, does not understand the relationship between that figure and the consumer price index and also, of course, the fact that the people who are today earning those increased incomes are better off in real terms than they were 12 months ago. That is a difficult thing for Senator Webster to understand but nevertheless, as Senator Wheeldon commented today, the reading of an elementary book on economics would help Senator Webster to understand.
Industrial production is up in most items from what it was last year. The output of most of our major minerals remains at very high levels. Even in the case of prices, which we all realise must be contained, the increase in the last quarter was 2.7 per cent. That is more than the Government would like it to have been, but it was the smallest increase since the December quarter of 1972. So it is quite clear that the Government’s measures, which are designed to arrest the very high demand, are taking effect. We also find that the increase in the wholesale prices of building materials in August, while still substantial, was the smallest monthly increase since March. So far as our monetary conditions are concerned, the Government has taken a whole series of measures to increase the liquidity in the community and certain signs are already emerging which suggest that these measures are also having their effect. The savings banks have stepped up substantially their rate of lending for housing. The money supply in September, after it had decreased in July and August, has increased. There was a further improvement in bank liquidity in that same period, and our balance of payment position shows that we have no less than $3.3 billion in reserves at the present time. Exports last month reached a record level of $7 15m.
All of these things add up to the general picture of an economy which is basically healthy but which has the problem, like the economies of all other advanced countries, of increasing inflation and increasing unemployment. As a major trading nation, Australia is caught in exactly the same position as are so many of the other advanced countries. I have heard it said in recent months that other countries are facing the same problems. Japan, Western Europe, the United
States and Canada are all worried about their inflation rate, which is approximately the same in those countries as it is in Australia. The rate of inflation is something which all countries are caught up in at the present time, but the figures which I have just quoted indicate that, with the measures being taken by the Government, we are slowly but surely getting ahead.
Senator Webster came forward with his usual disjointed diatribe of nonsense about the Government’s rural policies. It is not for me to take the time of the Senate unduly on this matter, but I do wish to deal with one single industry, our biggest rural industry, namely, wool. Before this Government came into office the wool industry in this country had for many years sought assistance from the Liberal and Country Parties to ensure the stability of the Australian wool industry. Its claims always fell on deaf ears.
– That is a lie. That is false.
-I am glad the honourable senator withdrew that remark voluntarily, otherwise he would have had to do it, with respect -
– I did not hear the interjection.
– It is always Senator Webster’s way. One can sit and listen to his speeches in silence but he can never take it when someone is giving it to him. In 1970-71, when the Australian wool industry was on the point of collapse, the Liberal-Country Party Government would do nothing to help it and Australian wool was shipped overseas at give away prices. Finally that Government decided that it would institute a reserve price scheme, which did not solve the problem, of course. Then when a similar situation arose under this Government it adopted a completely different approach. It recognised the vital importance to the Australian economy of a healthy wool industry and it stepped in and provided $150m to shore up that industry in its time of very great difficulty. The Government is not giving that money to the wool industry- we do not suggest that we are- but the Government is making available what is critically important money to the industry at a time when it needs it. Even today the Government has made an appropriation of an additional $200m; so in fact it is making available a total of $350m to ensure the stability of the wool industry. Even the world wool trade agrees that what the Australian Government has done is the greatest thing that has ever been done for this industry. It is an industry that earns this country $ 1,000m a year in export earnings. How vital it is that we maintain it as a stable and consistent earner of Australia’s foreign exchange.
Because of the tremendous amount of work that the Senate has on the notice paper I do not want to delay honourable senators any longer. I wish only to reiterate the point that I made earlier, that debates on motions for the first reading are obviously now going to be used by the Opposition as a propaganda exercise- no more than that. The Opposition’s propaganda is obviously more important to it than the legislation that this Government is endeavouring to get through in order to enable payments to be made to the States for vital State works. This is a tactic which one would think, in the circumstances, the Opposition would be prepared to forgo. In respect of the remarks made by Senator Durack on minerals, as the Minister in this place responsible for Mr Connor’s portfolio I shall ensure that the honourable senator’s remarks are conveyed to Mr Connor.
– Unlike the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt), I shall be very brief, but one or two things need to be said in response to that rather intemperate outburst by him. I was sitting here when Senator Murphy, who is ostensibly in charge of these Bills, came across the chamber to speak to the Whip. The Whip informed Senator Murphy that there were quite a few people who would be speaking on the first reading of the money Bills.
– I was not informed, as Manager of Government Business.
– You should run your own affairs properly.
– He was informed after question time.
-Senator, it is your job to run your own business, not mine to run it for you.
– If there is not going to be co-operation from the Opposition side there will not be co-operation from the Government side either. Senator DrakeBrockman, the Leader of the Australian Country Party, knows as well as Senator Cotton does that I have complained to him already.
-Please do not threaten me, senator; it will not get you anywhere. There is no point in it; there is no purpose. You must settle your own problems in your own house in order. May I also observe, if I am allowed to do so, that it has always been the right of senators to speak on any subject on the first reading of a money Bill, and nobody- but nobody- utilised that opportunity more effectively than the current Government when it was in Opposition. The Opposition is not going to be part of a process of denying its own people a chance to speak if they want to do so. Everybody knows that there is a lot of work to do, and the Government may be sure that the Opposition will remain here with it to conclude that work thoroughly and properly. But what the Minister did was to tell us about this and take up a lot of time dealing with irrelevancies of all kinds, shapes and sizes and puffing up a Prime Minister who needs no puffing up. What the Minister has said to us is that there are a group of indicators, which he nominates, that demonstrate to him, but not to me, that this country, its employment, its economy, are all on a steady rate of improvement. We shall wait to see the result.
- Mr President, I think it was Galbraith who once drew attention to the nexus between ideas and the environment of people who conceive those ideas. I recalled this to mind when I was listening to Senator Townley expressing concern about what he called the middle income earner. He defined the middle income earner as a person who receives a taxable income of about $12,000 a year. The thought which struck me was that pharmacy must be an extremely lucrative business, if the association between a person’s environment and the ideas that he holds and the way in which he interprets or conceives reality is valid. I do not have up to date statistics on this matter, but 3 years ago, only1 per cent of people received incomes of $12,000 a year or above. No doubt, because of rising incomes the number is now significantly higher than that. It may be as high as even 3 per cent or 4 per cent. But even at 3 per cent or 4 per cent it illustrates pretty devastatingly how the majority of honourable senators opposite are out of touch with reality. They imagine that people with taxable incomes of $12,000 a year and above represent middle income earners.
Senator Webster then followed with what the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) has described as a diatribe of distortions, or words to that effect. Although I did not take it down, I think he opened up by referring to the disastrous and discriminatory policies which this Government had pursued against rural industry. He once again demonstrated the Australian Country Party’s propensity to be very strong on prejudice, very weak on comprehension and sometimes very weak on factual knowledge. The gaps in its factual knowledge part of it were demonstrated clearly in the other place on 12 November 1974 when the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O ‘Keefe), speaking in the adjournment debate, followed the usual emotive rhetorical line of the Country Party when discussing the 1973 Budget. He claimed that the 1973 Budget had placed tremendous imposts upon the agricultural sector and concluded by saying:
It did this at a time when our wool, meat and wheat were difficult to produce and when we had unfavourable markets.
It just so happens that for the 6 months before and after that period meat and wheat prices had hit an all-time record high level, and wool prices had peaked at a level which had not been experienced for 2 decades. The honourable member for Paterson then stated that an export tax of lc per lb was imposed for meat inspection services. He stated that correctly. He went on to say:
In addition there was levied … a levy of 6c per lb for the eradication of tuberculosis and brucellosis.
The magnitude of his error is 1,000 per cent. In fact, the levy imposed was 0.6c a lb. Possibly he has corrected the record since, but he had not corrected it in time for the printing of the daily Hansard- or perhaps he does not know any better,
Senator Webster went on to repeat the stereotyped Country Party argument. He referred to taxation concessions, depreciation allowances and revaluation, and in the context of the last point I was interested to note that he stated it is impossible to calculate the precise effects of currency adjustments. At least that is a new twist for the Country Party. About 12 or 18 months ago the Country Party insisted on pushing the simplistic line that there was a direct one-to-one association between changes in the exchange rate and prices received by Australian exporters. I note with approval that the Country Party seems to have amended that simplistic idea. With respect to special depreciation allowances and special taxation allowances, on occasions there may be some justification for government intervention in some way in order to stimulate investment in a particular sector. But it is not possible to justify policies, which have become ossified or entrenched, of providing incentives permanently for particular areas of investment. I will not go into this matter at great length. The reasons behind this policy have been expounded many times by many people They are put very succinctly in the Green Paper on rural policy in Australia from which I shall quote an extract. Chapter 5.48 states:
Incomes tax concessions accentuate this problem much more . . .
That is the problem of unequal distribution. It continues: in that, as they have been operated in Australia, they provide the greater per unit subsidy to those with the highest marginal tax rate, i.e. those with the highest taxable income, and in this sense conflict with both efficiency and welfare criteria.
Without going any further into this question of taxation concessions and all the other imposts which the Whitlam Government was alleged to have placed on farmers in the 1973 Budget, the final test of the sincerity not only of the Country Party but also of the entire Opposition was demonstrated quite decisively in the election campaign in May 1974 when, despite having fulminated for the previous 8 months about the alleged injustice and the alleged unwisdom of these policy decisions, the Liberal and Country Parties gave no undertaking to reverse any of these policies, with the exception of the superphosphate bounty; and even then that undertaking was carefully qualified by the statement that the bounty would be extended for 3 years and referred to the Industries Assistance Commission for study. No commitment in relation to the superphosphate bounty was given beyond a period of 3 years. No commitment was given for anything else which the Liberal and Country Parties had said should not have been changed. That, I suggest, was a fair test of the sincerity of the criticism that they direct towards this Government.
– Do you think it was unreasonable to put it to the IAC?
– I certainly do not think that it was unreasonable to put it to the IAC. I suggest very strongly, though, that it is highly deceptive, to say the least, to grandstand in the countryside and say how necessary particular taxation concessions and rates of depreciation are, or are alleged to be, and then, when there is an opportunity of offering an alternative policy in an election campaign, to give no undertaking to provide some real backing for the empty rhetoric that the Country Party had been throwing around the electorate for the previous 8 months.
I was also interested to note that Senator Webster moved on to the old area of food production and raised the argument that we are under a compelling moral obligation to maximise the production of food. I find this intriguing in view of Senator Webster’s opposition expressed consistently inside and outside this chamber to the removal of margarine quotas, because it so happens that the imposition of margarine quotas is a restriction on food production and, moreover, a restriction, deliberately imposed, on a type of food production which is vastly more efficient in terms of land and other resource requirements than the alternative productbutter. If Senator Webster is sincere in his desire to maximise food production I trust that he will cease opposing, in the way he has constantly done up until this time, the removal of margarine quotas.
– He agreed to wheat quotas, too. That decreased food production.
– Yes. As Senator McLaren points out, starvation and malnutrition are nothing new in the world. In 1969 the previous Liberal-Country Party Government was in power and when Liberal and Country Party governments were in power in all wheat growing States they imposed wheat quotas. People were then starving in places like Biafra. They were starving soon afterwards in Bangladesh. Of course, people have been undernourished in half the world for the past 50 years ‘or longer.
– Those quotas were introduced at the request of the wheat industry.
– We now have the Opposition apparently putting its imprimatur on the notion that policy should be dictated to government from bodies outside Parliament. That appears to be the only reasonable interpretation that can be placed upon Senator Young’s interjection. Although it is true that the Wheatgrowers Federation made such a statement, it did so under extreme pressure, in fact under duress from the then Federal Government which had placed an absolute limit on the amount of money which would be made available for a first advance payment. That absolute limit was $440m. The Government said: ‘That is all the money there is.’ Then it asked the wheat industry: ‘What are you going to do about it?’ The wheat industry came back and said: ‘Well, maybe it would not be such a bad idea to impose quotas. ‘ That was supposed to have been a spontaneous decision arrived at by the Wheatgrowers Federation.
The argument that the Wheatgrowers Federation made the decision is advanced in this chamber by people who have maintained for the last couple of months that the level of the first advance is crucial in determining the volume of wheat which is likely to be produced. I also add that the Western Australian Government, which was a Liberal-Country Party Government at the time, moved to introduce wheat quotas before it received any request from the local wheatgrower organisations to do so. I shall say a bit more about the first advance payment, especially as the Opposition has seen fit to raise the subject. Over the last couple of months we have seen a sustained campaign with respect to the first advance payment for the coming 1975 harvest and for the 1975-76 harvest. The people who have been conducting this campaign fall into 2 broad categories- the political opportunists and the galahs. The galahs are those who either do not know any facts or who do not know how to interpret the facts which may be available to them. The political opportunists seem to be well represented in this chamber. It has been repeatedly said that the wheat industry has a liquidity problem. As usual no evidence has been produced to support that assertion.
If we examine the level of money which has been paid into the wheat industry over the last 3 or 4 years we see the sort of general picture which emerges. I refer to an article which appeared in the ‘Financial Review’ of, I think, Wednesday of last week. I do not have it on hand at the moment. I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the article. It discloses that between now and April- which is 5 months- $667m will be paid into the wheat industry. For the same period last year $540m was paid in. The Minister for Agriculture has provided figures over the last 2 weeks in this chamber in response to a succession of questions from honourable senators opposite. If we set the figure of $667m from the Financial Review’ which is to be paid into the wheat industry over the next 5 months alongside the payment for 1972-73 which amounted to $253m- that was for an entire financial year- we find that the payments to the wheat industry for the next 5 months will be 150 per cent in excess of the industry’s total receipts 2 years previously. Certainly there has been an increase in the cash cost of wheat production. I stress cash cost because it is a good idea to distinguish between the 2 costs. It is impossible to estimate that cost at this time. It may have been as high as 25 per cent.
– Did the honourable senator include a calculation for increased taxation?
-Senator Webster, 1 shall discuss taxation in a moment. Increased costs do not affect the industry’s increased cash flow up by 1 50 per cent on what the amount was 2 years ago. So to talk about a liquidity problem in the wheat industry on an across the board basis is utterly absurd. I trust that honourable senators opposite will cease to do so. Of course, at the individual level it is possible that there are exceptions. It is possible that a wheat grower who either had a poor crop last year, will have a poor crop this year or who has had or will have a poor crop in both seasons may have a liquidity problem. To a wheatgrower who has a very small wheat delivery in either of these years, an increase in the first advance will have little effect on his liquidity position because he has not delivered much wheat on which he could receive a higher first advance.
Once again, I suppose this is typical of the type of thinking which prevails among honourable senators opposite. They have an apparently genetic propensity to use ineffective remedies to solve alleged problems. A simple fact emerges. Anyone who knows anything about wheat growing or anyone who has looked at actual case studies or analyses from wheat farms must realise that the margin in favour of wheat growing- - given anticipated price levels for wheat and its alternative commodities- runs so heavily in favour of wheat that any wheat grower who is facing a liquidity problem and who does not plant as much wheat in the coming season as he can must have rocks in his head. Just a couple of days ago I obtained from the Western Australian Department of Agriculture an estimate based on the assumption that the on farm price of wheat for the 1975-76 harvest would be in the vicinity of $2. 1 5 a bushel. Most people consider that estimate to be conservative. But based on that assumption and on the Department’s estimated cash costs, the gross margin for wheat growing was $46 a hectare.
Given prevailing levels of meat and wool prices it is extremely unlikely- at least within the wheat growing areas of Western Australia- that any alternative to wheat production, other than some other grain, could reach half that gross margin figure of $46. If we look at the past, current and expected pool returns for wheat we find that in 197 1 the total return to the grower was in the vicinity of $1.25. For 1974-75- this is necessarily an estimate- it will be in the vicinity of $2.70. For 1975-76 which is a more hazardous estimate because it is further ahead, but which is a very conservative estimate, the figure is $2.20. If we look back to 1970 we find that the total return of $1.25 to the wheatgrower was so profitable that the Government of the day considered it necessary to introduce quotas which would restrict competition between farmers so that they would grow the limited quantity of wheat which was marketable at the ruling prices. Farmers 4 years ago were fighting each other for the right to grow wheat for a return of $1.25 a bushel. Do members of the Opposition have the audacity to suggest, given that historical reality, that it is not attractive to grow wheat for a return of $2.20 or $2.70 a bushel this year or next year?
– Is that due to the Government or the market situation?
– As I have frequently tried to point out to members of the Country Party for their enlightenment, the thing that overwhelmingly determines the level of prosperity in Australian agriculture, particularly in those sectors of it which are exporters, is the level of overseas demand. I certainly nave never denied that. Governments exert little more than a peripheral influence over the final result. There are some sectors where the misconceived actions of governments can seriously aggravate problemssuch sectors as fruit growing and butterfatwhere in the past most of the output has been consumed on the home market and marginal production has been exported, normally at very low prices. In that situation, if a government moves in to artificially stimulate production it can have quite serious consequences for the producers in those industries. I observe in passing that previous Liberal-Country Party governments showed a very disturbing propensity to do just that.
It also has been claimed that because the price of wheat is higher the first advance should be higher. I suppose there is a rough logic in that unlike the liquidity argument which is nonsense. There is perhaps a certain amount of rough logic in the argument that because the final return is likely to be higher the first advance should be higher. If the first advance for a particular year is increased- I am sure members of the Country Party would appreciate this if they were in government- a precedent is established for future years. If the first advance was increased beyond the level of $1.50 which the Government has approved for the following year, it would create a precedent from which it would be very difficult to retreat if wheat prices subsequently fell, and we still followed the argument that there ought to be some correlation between the likely final return and the level of the first advance. Perhaps it is worth looking back 2 years before this Government came to power when the likely size of the 1972 harvest was known, when farmers generally had had 3 years of pretty low incomes and when there probably was a genuine liquidity squeeze as distinct from a fictitious liquidity squeeze. Two years ago approaches were made to the then Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, to increase from $1.10 the level of the first advance. Honourable senators should remember, once again, that it was quite a poor wheat crop. The average yield was significantly below normal so the total amount of money circulated to wheat growers, even if the first advance had been increased, would not have been greater than normal. Mr Sinclair said no, which perhaps was a fair comment. What was not fair or reasonable were the reasons he gave for saying no. He said 2 things. The first was that it could provoke an adverse Treasury action. As I commented at the time, I would have thought that even the Country Party, after 23 years in government, would have learned that the Treasury is a Department of the Federal Government which has no option but to abide by directives transmitted to it.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I seek leave to continue my remarks.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
– It is a Bill the first reading of which can be debated.
– I move:
– I desire to say a few things. I intended to say them in the debate on the previous Bill but I will do so now. I have noticed a determination on the part of the Government to try to make out that the inflation and unemployment in this country have been caused-
– I rise to order to seek your clarification, Mr President. I think it is understood by the Senate that the purpose of adjourning the debate on the previous Bill was so that we could proceed with Government business. Am I to assume that as a result of this Bill now being introduced into the Senate- it is a money Bill and I accept that- the first reading is again open for debate? Is this to be the procedure for this evening?
– The chair does not know the arrangements that are made between one side of the Senate and the other. If an honourable senator has the call on the first reading of a money Bill he is entitled to proceed with his speech. Unless some other arrangement can be made Senator Wood now is entitled to proceed.
– I involve myself by speaking to this point of order or explanation, call it what you will. This procedure really is designed to make the processes of our life here work a little more smoothly. The first Bill, which I take to be the Customs TariffBill 1974, has been postponed for the time being on the initiative of the Government. Now we are dealing with Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1974.
– I think we had better get this matter in order. Is the honourable senator seeking leave to make an explanation?
-I seek leave to make an explanation.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
-I observe that on the initiative of the Government Customs Tariff Bill 1974 has been postponed- that is the best way to put it. We are now dealing with Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1974. The long title has not been read so I am purposely telling the Senate that we are dealing with Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1974, which is a money Bill. Honourable senators on either side are entitled, if they want to do so, to make observations on a wide range of subjects on the first reading of this Bill. If the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) would like to revert to that sort of discussion on the Customs TariffBill 1974 and not on this Bill, the Customs TariffBill (No. 2), we will help him to facilitate that process.
-A case is being made out by the Government- it is more like a propaganda message- that inflation and unemployment in this country are operating here only because they are operating in other countries. Of course, that is a complete fabrication. The position is that we have inflation and massive unemployment in this country because of the actions which this Government has taken since it came into office in December 1972. It is very clear that when it took office inflation was not an item of great concern to this country because at that time it was running at about 4 per cent. Today it has shot up considerably and yesterday afternoon I noticed that one newspaper said that inflation was rising at the rate of 25 per cent while another said it was 30 per cent. This indicates that inflation today is getting to a very dangerous level. Many people may not think inflation worries them very much but what it does is to cause their money to lose its value. Those thrifty people who have saved find that the value is going out of their money, and this is a very serious thing to those people. Therefore, I think that people should be awakened to this problem,
We were told the story by Mr Whitlam during the 18 May election campaign that the Government had collared inflation which was then on the down trend. What he did not tell the people of Australia was that the March quarter always shows the lowest inflation rate of the year. But that particular March quarter happened to be the worst March quarter for 22 years. I believe that the Prime Minister misled the public when he stated that the Government had collared inflation because ever since then the inflation rate has gone up considerably. There is no argument that inflation is now raging at a very dangerous rate. To say that inflation in this country is imported is sheer nonsense. We are fortunate in that we have not been affected like many other countries which have had to import great quantities of oil, thanks to Liberal-Country Party Governments which gave encouragement to the development of this industry for over 23 years. We encouraged the search for oil and as a result this country is a very lucky country. I believe that if that tempo of search had continued we would have been today in an even better position. That is one aspect of inflation. But it is rather serious when the Government of the day comes out at election time and says that it has collared inflation, that it is going down, when it is really rising at a very rapid rate.
To suggest that we have unemployment because there is unemployment overseas is just plain nonsense. We had what might be termed a very reasonable amount of unemployment when the Liberal-Country Party Government was in office. It was the actions of this Government which brought on the great rate of unemployment that has since taken place. There is no question that in days gone by the Labor Party was known as a high tariff Party because high tariffs meant that our own Australian industries, behind that tariff protection wall, had a chance to build up without fear of competition from other countries. But what did this Whitlam Labor Government do? It cut tariffs on some imported products that are also made in Australia by 25 per cent. This was the result of one of the great theories of Mr Whitlam who knows nothing about economics. The result has been that we have had a flood of goods from cheap labour countries, from South East Asia in particular. The result has been that thousands of Australians have been put out of work. These people have held demonstrations. We read about factories closing and unfortunately a number of these factories have been located in country areas. With all the Government’s talk about decentralisation, this has been one of the greatest tragedies for decentralisation in this country. Factory after factory has closed down. There is a serious situation in the clothing industry, the footwear industry, the car industry and so on.
This is not only said by me as a Liberal senator. What did Mr Hawke, the President of the Australian Labor Party and the head of the Australian Council of Trade Unions say? He was stressing the great seriousness of unemployment, so much so that he put the gun at the head of the Government and gave it just a few days to rectify the position. If the leader of the ALP and leader of the ACTU says that it indicates that the step that this Government took was a very serious one indeed. I feel that unemployment was started by the Whitlam Labor Government. Mr Whitlam did not care two hoots about the unemployed. He galloped off overseas on one of his many splendid trips. He is now to have another trip for his Christmas holidays and will see his own family in London at a cost of half a million dollars to the people of Australia. Does he worry about the people who are unemployed and the people who are having great trouble? As we know women in Queensland demonstrated and carried placards because they are out of jobs in the clothing industry.
– Organised by the Country Party member for the South Coast electorate.
– I wish to say to my colleague from Queensland that I believe in the sincerity of the women who turned up for the demonstration. Those women are out of work and they are asking for jobs. There is no argument about it. Even Mr Hawke said that they were out of work and that jobs should be found for them. Goodness gracious me, what happened because of the ultimatum that was put forward? The kitchen Cabinet, or whoever it is, met and came out with a number of proposals to rectify the position. I think it is quite apparent that this Government has had to back pedal on every one of the steps it has taken since it came into office in 1972. It has done a complete somersault. As a matter of fact I read an article the other day which stated that this Government has been the greatest somersaulter ever in this Parliament. As a matter of fact I believe it has somersaulted to such an extent that I understand Mr Whitlam is thinking about joining a Russian troupe of acrobats which is coming to Australia as the leading Australian somersaulter
It is a very serious matter to know that this Government did these things purposely. There is no question about it. The Government created unemployment purposely. It is what it was aiming for. Why it did so, I do not know. We are being told here day after day that the reason the economy is in a mess in this country is the obstruction of the Senate. I have a list of the Bills that the Senate has deferred or rejected. None of the Bills which have been deferred or defeated by the Senate has had anything to do with the economics of this country; nothing at all. How can the Senate be said to have brought about unemployment, inflation and the wreckage of the economy of this country? In 1972 Mr Whitlam promised the people of Australia the moon. What have they got? They have almost a wrecked economy; they have raging inflation; and they have massive unemployment. There is no question about it. The people of this country are worried about what is going on.
The Government has somersaulted. It has taken an about turn on practically everything it has done in order to try to recitify the position. The unfortunate part is that once these things start they have a psychological effect. Putting people out of work in the way the Government has done is like standing up a set of dominoes and touching one. They all go. Whereas this country previously had confidence today the business community is lacking in confidence. Business is worried. Large firms have gone into liquidation. It is all right saying business should have done this and should have done that. When firms are working under a credit scheme they are entitled to credit. They work on the basis of credit. It is just like sap in a tree. If a tree is ringbarked and the sap is cut off it dies quickly. If the source of credit for these big industries and firms is cut off the same happens to them. Not only is wreckage brought to the business houses but it also occurs in the way of unemployment for the people of this country.
I take this opportunity of speaking because of things I have heard said here today. Senator Wriedt spoke in such a way that I want to say that the wreckage that this Labor Government has caused in this country to our economy, the raging inflation it has brought about and the massive unemployment, with lots more to come, has had nothing to do with the Senate. It has been caused by the silly schemes of the Labor
Party. When it was put into office it purposely set out to cause inflation and to wreck the economy of this country. I hope that the people of this country will be alert and awake and realise that responsibility for the tragedy of moving from a country with a solid financial base to what we have today lies to the discredit of the Labor Party. During the 23 years that the LiberalCountry Parties were in office there was solid progress. We were respected throughout the world because of our reliability in business and industry.
We hear the Government yelling about multinationals. In my region of Mackay in north Queensland there are coal fields. For many years we were trying to get Australian people to work them. They would not be interested. The multinationals came in and brought about the prosperity of that area. The men working in those areas got much higher wages than they ever had before. We are very fortunate for the multinationals bringing their money in and developing these resources of Australia. Because of the overseas credits they are earning this country is stable- even under the present conditions. The Labor Party talks about these multi-nationals. Dr Cairns was in America recently pleading with these people to come and put money into Australia again. He talked to the gangster oil sheikhs from the oil countries and tried to get them to bring money into Australia. This is all back pedalling and exactly the opposite of what the Government said before.
Mr Whitlam now talks about how wonderful private enterprise is for the creation of work. What did he say before? When we come across this hypocrisy it makes us sick. Why, the Labor Party, during the last election campaign, engaged an overseas-owned multi-national advertising company to do its advertising so it would get back into government. The Party had the same foreign-owned multi-national company to do its advertising in 1972. What is more interesting than anything else is that the Labor Party still owed the foreign-owned multinational company $200,000 for the 1972 election campaign. At the 18 May election these haters of multi-national foreign-owned companies had a multi-national company financing their campaign to the extent of $200,000 and more.
– Have they ever paid it?
– I do not know. I have not checked on that. This is a case of hypocrisy. On the one hand the Government criticised the multi-nationals but now it is pandering to them to bring their money into Australia and help develop the country further.
Let us be straight about these sorts of things. I resent the statement that the Senate has caused the trouble. The raging unemployment, the inflation that is running like fire through this country and the wrecked economy has been caused by this Labor Government and not by the Senate. It has been caused by Mr Whitlam and probably his kitchen Cabinet. I think probably that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and a few of the more down to earth members should be taken into that kitchen Cabinet. I am sure that it would then bring forth a less indigestible meal for the people of Australia than the present kitchen Cabinet has. I want to say that it is not the Senate that is to blame; the Whitlam Labor Government is to blame for the mess in which this country now finds itself.
– I think it would be in the interests of the Senate if we stopped this pure politicking, put this motion to the vote and proceeded to the next legislation.
– Are you moving that the debate be now adjourned?
– I do not have to.
– Let me make this clear. The motion before the Chair is that the Bill -
- Mr President, a point of order.
-I just want to make the position clear.
– A point of order -
-I am on my feet. Please resume your seat. The question before the Chair is: That the Bill be read a first time. I want to be quite clear as to what motion the Minister wants to move.
- Mr President, I take a point of order. Senator Wriedt has already spoken in this debate.
– With great respect to you, Senator Wriedt has spoken at some length in this debate.
– No, not in this debate.
-Order! Senator Wriedt moved first of all: That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed though all its stages without delay. Secondly, he moved: That the Bill be now read a first time. Senator Wood spoke. We had a debate on whether it was a tax Bill. I ruled that it was a tax Bill and Senator Wood continued after an explanation by Senator Cotton.
– May I involve myself in this point of order? I think it is correct to say that Senator Wriedt spoke in regard to the first BillCustoms Tariff Bill 1974- which on the initiative of Senator Walsh was deferred. We are now dealing with Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1974 on which Senator Wriedt has not spoken but on which others have. It is still a money Bill. Others may speak broadly if they wish to do so. Senator Wriedt has not made it clear to me whether he wishes to put the question, and that is what I want made clear.
- Mr President, if you deem it necessary for me to move the adjournment of the debate I shall do so. I therefore formally move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Ordered that the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Debate resumed from 14 November, on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr President, may I have the assurance of the Government that both the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill 1974 and the Housing Agreement Bill 1974 may be taken as a cognate debate? I spoke to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) beforehand and he agreed that that course might be followed.
– The Government would have no objection to that proposition.
– The Housing Agreement Bill 1974 proposes 3 amendments to the 1973 Housing Agreement, and the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill 1974 sets out to provide a sum of $3 10m for housing and housing construction within the States. The Opposition does not oppose these Bills. As to the first Bill, the amendments are such as the Opposition foreshadowed last year would inevitably occur because when the measures were introduced by the Government they were then, in our opinion, wrong. The first amendment proposes to vary sub-clause (3) of clause 9 of the Agreement to permit the allocation to a State’s Home Builders’
Account of more than 30 per cent of the total advance to that State. That means that the advances to the State for the purposes of the housing authority and for the payment to the Home Builders’ Account would allow for more than 30 per cent to be provided to prospective home owners through co-operative terminating societies or to lending institutions of the State approved by the Minister.
It is a good thing that the Government, however reluctantly, is now recognising the need to provide more money and to provide home ownership for people of limited means. Quite clearly, home ownership is a major goal of the Liberal and Country parties. Last year we spoke about the inherent defects of limiting this amount. It is important that in the context of the coming months everything possible should be done to increase the opportunities for home purchase. Fundamentally, home ownership has many virtues by contrast with renting. For one thing, in the long run it establishes a very real asset for the family concerned. It gives the family an opportunity to take pride in possession. It builds, however small, a modest capital for that family. Because of those factors the Opposition approves and applauds that amendment.
The second amendment is one with which the Opposition also agrees, and that is that in clause 6 of the Schedule the inconsistency between the means test for housing authority accommodation and for Home Builders’ Account loans would be removed. The fact is that in determining a needs test the existing Agreement provides that overtime should be taken into account in determining earnings. A needs test in itself has many disadvantages. How can one clearly define a home in which there are one, two or more wage earners? How does one determine what is the income of a home and what are the commitments of the spouses and others? This Bill proposes that overtime be deleted- the Opposition applauds thatand it therefore brings the needs test, if one is necessary, into line both for housing authority and for Home Builders’ Account loans.
The third amendment provides that under the Agreement supplementary loans can be made throughout the year. Originally the Agreement provided for one loan for the year. This amendment now provides for supplementary loans. So the Opposition will support the 3 proposed amendments. It will also support the second Bill, which provides $3 10m.
But it would be quite remiss of the Opposition in debating Bills relating to housing, housing construction and home ownership if it did not put on record its total rejection of Government policies which have quite deliberately, and admittedly so, set out to wreck home building, to wreck housing and to wreck home purchase in this community. Let it be said and let it be known by the whole of the Australian community that the Government has agreed that its policy was, throughout this last year, to bring about a recession in the building industry. In the whole of its lifetime the Government has managed to do 2 quite outrageous things to the building industry. In the first phase of the first year of this Government it set out deliberately, by denying European selective migrant labour to the basic industries- the steel industry, the automotive industry and the building industry- to create basic shortages. Having done so, it created chronic shortages in the building industry, so much so, as I have said in this Senate before, that even 3-inch building nails- the basis of building construction- were in such short supply that it would take 3 months to obtain them. Having created a scarcity of materials the Government then set about introducing a credit squeeze and implementing a deliberate policy to wreck home construction companies and to wreck developers to bring about -
– By interjection one honourable senator opposite doubts this. Let me say that it is on record that Ministers of this Government applauded the collapse of developers. Let that be denied. Let it be denied that Ministers of this Government took great pleasure in seeing such great Australian companies as the Mainline Corporation and Cambridge Credit Corporation collapse. Let it be on record that this Government deliberately by imposing the credit squeeze put into chronic unemployment thousands of Australians, thousands of decent Australian building construction workers. Yet supporters of this Government sit here and laugh. They laugh even though this Government has now admitted that it set out on a venture deliberately to create a pool of unemployment. Indeed, they have taken as a virtue the need to create a pool of unemployment, in their view to bring down inflation. This Government and its supporters have created the twin evils of the highest inflation that Australia has ever seen and the greatest unemployment since the depression. On their admission there is more to come. On their admission some 300,000 or 400,000 will be unemployed by February and March. So we have here today a Minister pathetically responding to a question I asked him to this effect: ‘What are you going to do with the 230,000 young people who will be leaving schools, colleges and universities when you say that unemployment is going to go higher? What are you going to do with them when you admit that there are no jobs?’ He said ‘Have you not heard of NEAT? ‘- the National Employment and Training system. Has he not heard that so far NEAT has, I think, re-employed 400 people? What about the 249,000-odd people who will be unemployed by December? The Government will take pride in the fact that this re-employment agency has placed some 400 people. It is against this background that one must rise in indignation against a government which deliberately set out to destroy the home building industry. Let us see how this has been achieved. In this industry inflation has been so great that over the last year it ran at some 40 per cent. The Government itself can take no pride at all in the amounts of money that it allocates to the States for housing. This kind of money will create very few or no more houses because the delays, the inflation, the difficulties, the strikes will be such that the money will be consumed. Let me give an illustration. The Government recently announced that it was allocating $150m for distribution through the savings banks of Australia to help housing. This should be looked at in perspective. That amount represents finance for about 7,500 homes or the equivalent of about a fortnight’s construction work for the building industry in our time. So the Government’s policy on stimulating housing runs to about 7,000 homes.
– The building societies did not get a penny.
– And the building societies did not get a penny, as Senator Marriott remarks. Let me take a classic example of that because the ruination of the building industry should be understood by every Australian. The building societies incidentally are the proud creation of past Liberal governments. It was in fact the Stevens Liberal Government in the 1930s in New South Wales that developed and expanded the building societies which have done more, I remind the Minister, for the ordinary families of Australia than any other device for financing housing and it is this Government that talks about its humanity and its understanding for people that has destroyed it. When we on this side left office Australia had the highest rate of home ownership in the world- a proud boast. We could proudly boast that people on average incomes, people on an income of $90 a week, $100 a week, $1 10 a week could purchase their own homes. We could proudly boast that what is called the quartering device would work, that is, that a person could buy a home by paying each week one-quarter of his income. For example, if a person had a wage of $ 100 a week he could pay $25. Today with the interest rates at the level they are, and with the unavailability of finance, a person would need an income of $200 to $250 a week to be able to go to a society and finance an ordinary home. What has happened is that home finance has passed beyond the reach of the ordinary individual. The permanent building societies which in 1973 reflected the lending policies which we had initiated, had provided 75,000 families with housing through loans, will this year on projection provide 1 5,000 loans. This has been brought about by this Government which talks about its humanity and its understanding of people. In fact, the shortfall of houses by the end of this year will be about 100,000.
We are facing the most critical of situationshuge and growing unemployment, unemployment which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has said will get considerably worse and will continue to worsen throughout the first half of next year, so that those who are unemployed now and who will be unemployed in the months ahead can look forward to unemployment for six, seven, eight, nine months or more. In this situation we face inflation which, according to figures reported last night, is running at about 30 per cent- banana republic inflation; under a government which only a few months ago went to the people on the policy that it would reduce inflation by one-third and that it would maintain full employment; this under a Minister for Labor who said: ‘I do not want to stay on as Minister for Labor if unemployment gets to 3 per cent’. It is now 3.2 per cent or more but he remains the Minister, despite his assertion in this regard. We have the situation of the housing industry in ruins. Lest anyone thinks this is far fetched, I draw attention to the Victorian Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects which recently regarded the situation as so serious that it sent a submission to the Premier of Victoria, Mr Hamer. I have a copy of that submission in my hand. The conclusions of the survey referred to in it merit reading into Hansard. They are as follows:
The architectural profession has in recent months experienced an extremely sharp down-turn in work-load, and based on present indications it is believed that the magnitude of this recession could, by the end of the year, reach an unprecedented level.
The fall-off which is starting to be felt by the construction industry and reflected in official statistics will continue and unless there are immediate changes to ease the pressures which are restraining building development, it must be anticipated that there will be massive unemployment in the building industry and permanent damage to its fabric.
That submission by the Victorian Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects to the Premier of Victoria lists in each area what is happening to the firms of architects practising in Victoria. This was done as a survey, and group by group they were asked what was happening to them. One by one they recorded the situation. In architect’s offices which employed 40 people or more, this was the report:
More than half of these offices have reduced staff members during the last 3 months and/or expect further reductions, which in some cases will result in staff levels approaching 43 per cent of the normal operating level in recent years.
In the smaller ones there have been already some reductions of 25 per cent to 30 per cent in the staff. The Victorian Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects makes the point that what happens inside the architects offices now reflects the demands in the building industry in 6 months or a year’s time, and that a major recession now in the architects offices will reflect a slump in the very long term in the building industry.
– You do not understand building, Senator.
-It is on record that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs says that the Victorian Chapter does not understand builders.
– I said ‘building’.
– One wonders how the Minister could say of the Victorian Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects that it does not understand building or building programs.
– They are putting up big multi-storey buildings.
– As usual, the Minister is in error. This document relates primarily to surveys of architects who are engaged in home buildingthe little buildings and the cottageswhich the Minister and his Government are now stopping.
– The Minister has got you here. You check your facts. It is in the big buildings.
-It is worth looking at this matter. As there is some interest in this matter, I seek leave to have the document incorporated in Hansard so we can see whether the Minister has got me here.
– Connect it with housing.
– I ask whether the document may be incorporated in Hansard.
– We want to know what is in it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- I wonder whether you would give me the benefit of viewing the document before it is incorporated.
-I would be happy to do so.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- It is a document that is quite capable of being incorporated in Hansard. Is leave granted?
– No, Mr Deputy President, not until we know what is in it.
– Read the whole lot.
-To say ‘read the w hole lot’ is a device for taking up my time in thi;, debate. If the Minister is willing to move for an extension of my time to allow me to read the document, I will do so.
– Connect the document to house building and we will agree.
– Let the people of Australia understand that the Minister and his Government have refused to have incorporated in Hansard the report of the Victorian Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects which is a submission to the Premier of Victoria expressing the growing concern of the building industry. I will read now the second paragraph of the letter to the Premier. It states:
The survey has confirmed the seriousness of the position and in addition, the conclusions which can be drawn from it indicate that unless there is an almost immediate easing of the pressures restraining the flow of work, it may be impossible to avoid consequences for the building industry which are far more severe than any effects at present anticipated or previously experienced.
– Connect it to housing.
– This is the nature of the document.
– Connect it to housing.
– I have pointed out that this document lists not only categories relating to housing but also all other categories. For example -
– That is different from what you said previously. You said that it dealt with housing only.
– Let me say emphatically -
- Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. A while ago Senator Carrick, in reply to an interjection from the Minister, said that this document dealt with housing.
The Minister’s interjection was that architects are unemployed on account of big developmental works being abandoned or suspended and the senator replied that this report refers to housing.
– He said that the Minister was incorrect.
– He said that the Minister was incorrect and that I, as a senator, was incorrect.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There is no substance in the point of order. The senator is making his own speech.
-As the Hansard record will show tomorrow, I said that it covered a variety of building and dealt with residential housing. Indeed it does. It deals with buildings for health, educational, commercial, industrial and residential sectors of the community. It says that developmental housing shows a marked fall-off. Would the Minister now resist the incorporation of this document?
– On this point, I am not opposed -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There is no point of order before the Chair. I call Senator Carrick.
– I seek leave to make a statement on this matter.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-I do not think that leave can be granted to make a statement. If you wish to take a point of order, you may take a point of order.
– It is clear that the tactics of the Government are to try to stop the Opposition from bringing forward the facts. The facts are these: In a space of 2 years a country which had the best housing and home ownership record of any country in the world now has the worst. This was a country in which ordinary people on ordinary wages could build, buy and acquire their own homes, but they now find that totally beyond their capacity. This country, in which people had an adequacy of housing, now has in this year a backlog of 100,000 houses. A country in which building costs were reasonably controlled now faces building costs rising by 40 per cent or more a year. That is the basic reason why this Government resists the presentation of a document of such an authoritative nature.
– We do not. If the Deputy President would permit we would let you put it in.
– Let it be known that the Government refused the incorporation. Not only is there a shortage in commencements of housing but the most chronic shortage in serviced blocks of land in decades is building up. This is the Government that said throughout the municipalities and shires of Australia: ‘Put us in and we will get an adequacy of serviced land. We will break the bottleneck in land. We will bring down the cost of land.’ They were the people who said these things throughout the outer city and growth areas of Australia. According to the report of the Patlerson inquiry, which was held in Melbourne, and other reports, there is such a chronic shortage of building blocks that, even if there were a substantial increase in capacity in the building industry, the availability of serviced blocks would not keep pace with that demand. I commend to the Minister the report of Dr Patlerson which was made for the Institute of Urban Development in Melbourne. I think this report is generally accepted by governments. It has been provided to the Premier of Victoria. This is the background against which the Bill is presented.
The Bill reluctantly admits that we ought to give people a little better help to own homes. The Bill has removed anomalies that ought never to have been there. The Bill comes at a time of the worst disaster in the building industry since the depression years. It comes at a time when the Government has deliberately set out to destroy the building industry and to destroy the developers, who have played a major part in the building industry.
– Liberal Party funds.
-The remark was ‘Liberal Party funds’. I think that the Labor Party should look at the mote in its own eye. If ever there was a Party that ought to look at the type of funds that it has been taking it is the Labor Party. It would then say to itself: ‘Physician, cure thyself. If ever there was a Party which has danced to the tune of sectional interests in this country it is the Labor Party. I can only say that builders, developers and architects as much as politicians, medicos and others, are all people seeking to do a job in this community and for the most part they are doing a good job. But it does no service to your own integrity or indeed to the level of your own intelligence simply to sneer and deride. The only answer honourable senators opposite have to the destruction of the building industry is to sit there grinning inanely while there is the worst unemployment and the worst inflation that has ever occurred in Australia, and this indeed is the response of the senators on the Government benches. Senator Button is interjecting. It hurts, of course, when these facts are brought home. Of course the Government will say that this inflation has been imported. It is the popular cliche today. Let us see how we imported the collapse of the building industry, the unemployment in the building industry, the high costs in the building industry. What materials in the building industry are imported from abroad? Let the Minister answer that. Are the bricks not made here? Is the cement not made here? Is the steel not made here? Is the timber not made here? Even the 3 inch nails are made here. Are not the employees Australians when they have got the chance to do the job? How did we import this? Did we import the technique of bringing on the greatest credit squeeze in many decades, a credit squeeze which set out to make money scarce, to force up flat rate borrowing interest rates to 19 and 20 per cent? Was that imported? Or was it the cold-blooded deliberate action of a government which on its own say-so set out to produce recession in the building industry, to create unemployment? it is important that this should be said because throughout Question Time now the popular cry, the popular alibi is that all this has happened because it is imported from overseas. Let it be known that every ingredient in the building industry, from materials to labour, is Australian and wholly Australian. Every ingredient boils down in the end to labour costs in Australia. Every ingredient on top of that is the cost of money, the interest cost in Australia. Indeed, the cost of money in Australia, which is at a record height with interest rates having trebled in 2 years under this Government, is the creation of this Government. The only importation of inflation in the building industry is the importation of the Labor Party to the Treasury bench.
Therefore, in looking to this Bill I want to make it quite clear that the Opposition reaffirms its basic tenet that it stands for home ownership by Australian people, home ownership so that eople on average wages can own their own homes. We reaffirm that the home savings grant which we introduced when in government and which was destroyed, eliminated by this Government, will be reintroduced by a Liberal-Country Party government of the future, that it would not tolerate the destruction of the right of ordinary people to own their own homes.
– As a representative of a State that has had a great deal of pride in its home building programs in the past I should like to speak for a short while to this Bill. My State has been involved over the years in construction of very significant recognisable communities within its borders, especially in the city of Elizabeth to the north of Adelaide and in the constantly growing industrial area of Whyalla on Spencers Gulf. This program of home building in South Australia reached its peak in the year 1960-61, when the number of homes completed by the Housing Trust in South Australia reached the all-time record of 3,299. That figure includes the number of homes and flats which were completed in that year. Since that time South Australia has grown significantly as an industrial base and in relation to its total population. Yet last year, 1973-74, the number of houses and flats completed by the Housing Trust in South Australia showed not an increase beyond 3,299 but a decrease to the very low figure of 1,321. So in South Australia we have seen a very real decline in absolute terms in the number of home units and houses completed by the State housing authority. That decline has accelerated substantially under the management of a State Labor Government, and it is very much to the discredit of the Dunstan Government’s administration that home building in South Australia has fallen to such a low figure.
It is a rather peculiar fact that while this has occurred the Premier of South Australia has continued to publicise his housing programs. In his election policy speech in 1973 the Premier spoke proudly of house building under government auspices in South Australia. In the relevant part of his speech he said:
We have spent record amounts on public housing- in fact, twice the national average.
No one would deny that. However, the problem for Mr Dunstan is that while he spends a record amount on public housing- in fact, twice the national average- he does not produce the homes. For all his great publicity machine on the 11th floor of the Government administration building in South Australia he cannot twist the statistics even though he may try to hypnotise the public over whom he presides.
– Will you quote those figures?
– I will supply to the Minister further quotations of figures which will give the gradations of decline in the situation in my State, a situation which I very greatly regret. The Premier of South Australia, after claiming the expenditure of a record amount of money on homes, went on to say:
Assistance from the Federal Labor Government means that we will increase this achievement markedly.
Mr Deputy President, he certainly needs to increase it markedly. He went on:
We will set new records in providing public housing.
One major new project will be the immediate commencement of a scheme to provide pre-fabricated rental housing of high standard in park settings. This will occur on transportcorridor land not required for fifteen years. In addition, to lessen transport costs and to provide greater choice in lowcost housing, we will build workers’ housing in city and inner suburban areas.
He then had a very strange heading to this particular part of his policy speech: ‘Housing: ACTU ‘. His speech continued:
We have previously used State-owned land to induce investment and development by non-governmental organisations. At West Lakes this is already providing housing. A similar scheme is under way at North Haven.
As a continuation of this policy, we will over a period n-ake up to 300 acres of land in the Noarlunga area available to the Australian Council of Trade Unions to use for low-cost worker housing.
At that particular period Mr Hawke made a statement of a companion nature on the ACTU’s intention to build houses in the Noarlunga area of South Australia. It is rather significant, is it not, that after the election Mr Hawke, when questioned again, said: ‘We have changed our minds. We now think we will go to an area around Sydney.’ So much for Mr Dunstan ‘s bright and brand-new program for great record housing figures in South Australia, because the situation under his management, when studied from the point of view that I am elucidating, will not bear very close scrutiny. I advise the Minister, as he is obviously part of a government which is becoming fairly generous in relation to certain particular fundings of housing projects, to look at the Government in his own State to see where the money is going.
– You quote the Housing Trust figures.
– I have quoted the Housing Trust figures. I am dealing with figures of specific continuity which will stand up to scrutiny. The high spot in South Australian public housing was reached in 1960-61 when 3,299 units, flats and houses were completed. That figure was maintained in a general way until 1966-67, which was the last year in which the figure topped the 3,000 mark. That was the first real year of Labor Government in South Australia after the defeat of the Playford administration in 1965. It was really the completion of the last planning year under the Playford administration. It could be fairly claimed to be the end of government forward planning in the housing field under the Playford administration. Significantly it was the last year in which more than 3,000 units were completed. In 1967-68, which of course was the first real year of Labor administration in South Australia for 33 years, the figure had dropped significantly from 3,100 units to 2,236 units. The Minister would recognise that a drop of 900 units from 3, 100 units in one year is an extremely significant drop.
– Of Housing Trust homes.
– Yes, exactly. However, the drop in the figure continued in 1968-69, which was the first year’s operation of another government. That year could be fairly claimed to be the last of the 3-year period of Labor planning in the field of housing. The Walsh Labor Government and finally the Dunstan Labor Government of early 1968, left such a hole in South Australia’s finances that it took several years of careful management by the new government before the finances of South Australia could in any way be expanded to take up the slack that had been created by the previous 3 years of Labor administration. However, leaving the years 1968-69 and 1969-70, which were the recuperative years under a Liberal-Country League government following 3 years of Labor administration, we find that there was an increase in the number of dwellings completed in 1 970-7 1 , which was the last real planning year of that 2-year non-Labor Government. The figure rose again to 2,200 completed units. However, in 1970 the Liberal-Country League Government was defeated and Labor again took over.
In the short space of 4 years we saw an automatic and almost graduated decline from the figure of 2,200 units completed in 1970-71 which, as I have said, could be fairly claimed to be the result of the planning of the non-Labor government. Immediately the new effective planning year of Labor began to show results the figure dropped to 2,175 units. I admit that was a small drop, but then the dramatic drop began. The figure fell to 1,625 units in 1972-73 and to 1,321 units in 1973-74. Mr Dunstan in his policy speech claims that in our State of South Australia he has spent twice the national average on housing, and in support of that he produces a figure which will soon approach one-third of the record public housing figure which was proudly achieved as far back as 13 years before the period to which I have referred.
It was a disgraceful performance in South Australia that a Labor administration which was handed on a plate the most efficient public housing authority which this nation has produced and which was the envy of other States has degraded that authority to such an extent that it is producing perhaps one-third of the number of units that it produced previously. It is a mere shadow of itself, yet Mr Dunstan claims a record expenditure on housing. I agree that he can spend money but naturally, being part of a socialist administration, he does not produce results. I invite the Minister to study carefully what is going on in South Australia because his Government has been duped in a larger measure than was provided for in the general year to year housing agreement which was negotiated at Premiers Conferences and which is now provided for under the new arrangements.
– They want to be duped.
-This Government has been very seriously duped and, in the process, the South Austraiian people, as well as the general taxpayers of Australia, will be the losers. This has happened because this Government has supported the development of the so-called new city of Monarto. The South Australian Labor Government decided to have an alternate growth centre, for Adelaide and it made an examination of sites around the city of Adelaide in a 40 to 50-mile radius. It deliberately chose the most arid area that it could find in that 40 to 50-mile radius. It has decided to build the new town of Monarto on a wind-swept hillside to the north-west of Murray Bridge which is in the hottest area that one could find in that region of the State. The South Austraiian Government talks of new forests, ornamental lakes and grand schemes for beautification until one can only believe that this area will be developed on the same grand scale as Canberra. Yet we hear talk of economic expenditure in public housing.
One thing that has occurred with this aspect of the development of Monarto which should have been very foreign to a Labor administration is that for the first time in South Australia’s history workers will be conscripted to go to live and work in Monarto. I should like the Minister to realise that under the housing policy which his Government supports in the development of Monarto workers in South Australia are to be conscripted by the State Government- in the words of the Premier- to go to live and work in Monarto. The personnel of the Lands Department and the Department of Agriculture in South Australia will have to uproot themselves from their social environment in Adelaide, shift to Monarto and live there or else they will not have their jobs.
– You know that is not correct. You are telling untruths.
-This was stated in the words of the Premier of South Australia. It is no wonder that Labor senators from South Australia have been duped by their own Premier. He stated in the House of Assembly in South Australia that these workers cannot remain in Adelaide and keep their jobs.
– He has not said that at all.
-He has said it. By interjection the honourable senator is either trying to introduce untruths into this debate or he is ignorant of the situation. I advise him to study Hansard and to question his own Premier. He has been more duped than I thought he was by the silver tongue of an orator who has not produced one worthy project on behalf of South Australia, except grand public relations that are managed from the 1 1th floor of a building by a battery of electronic devices. I urge this Government to watch very carefully the expenditure of the many millions of dollars that it has already provided to back the development of Monarto in those wind-swept paddocks. It should ensure that this project is subjected to the same study that the Redcliffs project on the shores of Spencer Gulf has been subjected to by a Commonwealth inquiry, and I will speak about that matter in another debate. But I congratulate the Commonwealth for the exhaustive study that it made of the Redcliffs project in respect of which the Dunstan administration was trying to mislead not only its own public but also the Minister’s Government. If this Government applies the same standards to Monarto as it applied to the Redcliffs project it will get the same answerthe project is not viable. There is very serious public concern in South Australia that many millions of dollars of public money will be wasted.
I come back to the Bill. Not only will we witness a further decline in the number of houses completed, to the extent that I have illustrated here tonight, but we will find that the provision of housing will be a great deal more expensive because of the type of funding which we are considering tonight. Monarto would be the most expensive area to make habitable that one could find within a 50-mile radius of Adelaide. Of course, Adelaide itself will be bled white by this expensive white elephant, and the Minister is supporting it by the provision of many millions of dollars by way of additional special grants. I urge him before it is too late to read carefully the volume of material which is now emanating from South Australia and to make sure that the funds that we are providing tonight are not wasted in Mr Dunstan ‘s adventure at Monarto.
– You hope it fails.
– It is not a matter of hoping that if fails. Everyone knows that Monarto will not live by itself. Everyone in South Australia who has considered the area knows that it will become a distant dormitory area for Adelaide. Of course Adelaide has developed a marvellous situation in relation to transport. In that city one can still build on a block of land and travel comfortably to the centre of the city for the performance of one’s work every day. That most marvellous facility of travel is now to have superimposed on it a new creation which will be 40 miles away over the local range of hills and mountains at Monarto. Obviously in very great measure it will still be a dormitory area for Adelaide. It is obvious to any student of city development that the great overflow of population in Adelaide should go to the south, to the Noarlunga area and further down to the Willunga area, where living conditions are amenable and where it would cost to establish a living unit possibly less than three-quarters of what it would cost in Monarto. Tonight I am speaking, as I said at the beginning, on behalf of a State which had the proud record of being the most efficient home builder through its public funds of any State in this country. We have fallen to one of the worst. The reason is clearly available to us in the statistics. The fall coincided exactly with the planning years of Labor in South Australia. Now we have a government which has literally gone off its planning head. It is obvious that not only will it use Commonwealth money which in the future will be directed to Monarto but also, and above all, it is conscripting workers in South Australia to Monarto by saying: ‘If you do not move there you will no longer have your job with this Government.’ This is a disgrace in the face of Australia. It is a blot on South Australia’s past magnificent housing record.
-The Senate is dealing with 2 important Bills, the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill and the Housing Agreement Bill. The Government is attempting by these Bills to contribute to the States and to provide an agreement for the flow of extra money to enliven the housing industry. The debate has been important. In case the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh), who in this chamber represents the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson), does not find himself able to do so, I give my congratulations to Senator Carrick for the excellent address which he gave. I believe that it should be circulated widely because it took into account many of the important matters related to one of the major industrial activities in this country. I also comment on the speech of the previous speaker, Senator Steele Hall. Anyone listening to the debate would realise that he is a man who had control of the subject and of how finance for housing applied to his State of South Australia. If the Minister is capable of replying to the comments and criticism which Senator Hall made of the socialist Labor Government in South Australia we look forward to his reply. The important thing about this debate is that the speakers on the subject of housing have all come from the Opposition side. It is interesting to note that not one member of the Government has felt capable or sufficiently interested to be on his feet to speak on this most nationally important subject so far as the employment of people is concerned.
– I raise a point of order. My point of order is that the honourable senator on his feet -
– He is not now.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Order! Senator Marriott, Senator Georges is experienced enough to be able to express himself without any help from honourable senators on my left.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I am pleased that you are aware of my capacity to defend myself against any interjection which may come from the other side of the chamber. Senator Webster misrepresented in an offensive way the attitude of Government senators here.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTSenator Georges, there is no substance in the point of order. Do you feel that you have been misrepresented?
– No. If I felt I had been misrepresented I would say so at the end of the honourable senator’s speech. I find the remarks of the honourable senator offensive. He must be fully aware of why Government senators are not coming into the debate. It is because this legislation is important and urgent.
– I raise a point of order. This is a short speech by Senator Georges and not a point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTThere is no substance in the point of order, Senator Georges. You have made your point. I call Senator Webster.
-Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. The point I was making in my speech on housing was that it is a matter which concerns the most important industry as far as manufacturing and construction are concerned and it has been left to honourable senators on the Opposition side. I read the situation in this way: No supporter of the Government is capable of defending the policies of the Australian Labor Party at this time. That is evident. I plead with the Government, I go down on my knees to it, to reverse the policies which have been applied by the socialists in this country over the last 2 years. It is not a case of saying: ‘Look at the trouble you are likely to lead us into’. One has to say: ‘Look at the trouble you have got us into’. This is a situation which has never applied in industry or employment at any time in the history of this country. The industry is important. The criticism of what Labor has been doing is activated by the Opposition. I realise that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who is in charge of these Bills, is a man with some knowledge of the industry.
– I am sorry I cannot reciprocate.
– I take the point that the Minister has made. I make a comparison between the 2 points. I believe that the Minister was a plasterer. There is no need to apologise for that. Whether he was capable is something yet to be proved. But that is the background of his knowledge.
– What is the honourable senator’s building experience?
-At the present time I conduct a building business in which I have to be responsible for the employment of a number of people. I suggest to the Senate that it is of more concern to me that I attempt to maintain the employment of individuals than it appears to be for the Labor Party. Over the past years the Labor Party has taken definite and positive action to see that unemployment is promoted in the community.
– I am starting to find this offensive.
– The honourable senator should find it offensive because the practical facts, as he knows, are that at this moment the Government has brought the housing industry to its knees. It has created the greatest unemployment which has occurred in this country since the 1930 depression.
– That is rubbish.
-We have Senator Georges coming in and saying that this is rubbish. I hope that Senator Georges from
Queensland will rise to his feet and demonstrate how it is rubbish. We will see whether the honourable senator has any capability. But I do not wish him to interrupt me because I wish to say that the industry with which we are dealing had in 1973 a labour force of 472,000 individuals. I say here and now that, quite apart from the considerations of the party to which I belong, the construction industry in Australia is the thermometer so far as the economic health of the community is concerned. It is a gauge not only of the need for housing in our society but also of the living standards of the community. It creates environmental circumstances and better standards of living for people in the community. Surely that is something for which labor should be striving. It involves not only employment in the construction industry but also in the service industries supplying plaster, electrical goods, and plumbing equipment. In the background there is the manufacture and planning of the electronic equipment which may go into any house, the tiles for the roof, or the necessary galvanised iron and timber. A great industry is behind housing construction. This Bill deals with the greatest industry in Australia. What do we find after Labor has been in office for 2 years? The industry is crying out, as Senator Carrick has said. What is the position of the architects, the people involved in initial planning, whether for private industry or public industry, whether for the housing industry or for the industrial or commercial life of this country? Work has been brought to a stop because of the implementation of the socialist philosophy of the Labor Party over the past 2 years.
– Building crooks.
-Now we hear my dear friend Senator Mulvihill -
– The building crooks, the spivs who build offices and not hospitals and schools.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise to a point of order. I find utterly offensiveI am sure my fellow senators do also- the remarks of Senator Mulvihill which you must have heard describing Mainline as building spivs and crooks.
– I take a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Just a moment, Senator Georges; let me deal with one point of order at a time. Senator Carrick, there is no substance to your point of order because Senator Mulvihill did not refer to a senator or to a member of Parliament and you have not referred me to any standing order which would cover the situation. His remarks were not directed at any senator or member of this Parliament, or member of any other government or parliament
– I thank those honourable senators who took some offence at Senator Mulvihill’s remarks. I do not take offence. When a supporter of the Government speaks in that way about an employer of some thousands of people in this community, when he speaks of an organisation in that way and describes the people in it as spivs and crooks, he reflects on all the employees who work for that organisation. It is a drastic step for any Government supporter to take to say that he is pleased to see the creation of unemployment in any industry. It is a complete breakaway from Labor’s philosophy of the past few years whereby it was willing to criticise overseas owned corporations. Now Labor supporters come into this place and criticise the growth of Australian based industries. I have a very high regard for those industries. I have a very high regard for Mainline.
– You have a high regard for speculators.
– I find speculators in every sphere.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! Senator Webster, you are capable enough of making a speech about the Bill before the chamber without engaging in inflammatory language with honourable senators on your left. I think you can make a good speech by referring to the subject of the debate and I ask you to do so.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise to take a point of order as a result of that statement. I ask that Senator Webster be requested to at least now and again refer to the Bill and speak to it. We have heard of my early history and we have heard of what has happened to a lot of firms but we have heard nothing about whether we should or should not give money to the States for housing.
– I am certainly addressing my comments to the Bill. Honourable senators on the Government side drew me away from it when they talked about spivs in the building industry. If that is the view they take I think it fair that I make some comment in reply. I am directing my comments to the housing industry and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has heard that the Opposition is not opposing these Bills. As Government supporters indicate their complete ignorance of this particularly important industry
I think it essential that somebody attempt to point out how important it is. That is what I have been attempting to do. I am asking them to look at the importance of the industry as a whole, not just the construction side but right through to the supply and servicing of land. These things are all an essential part of the Bill we are debating. The Minister will rise to his feet and say that this Labor Government is providing so much more public money. It is not Labor money; it is the taxpayers money which is being given back to the States from whence it came. Yet the Government is claiming some credit for doing that. It is essential to point out to the Government and its supporters that the return of funds is not sufficient to make up for the disaster they have created in the escalation of costs, even in relation to the supply of land. This is important because we are dealing with the allocation of money which is to be used in various areas of home building by private builders and by the States and their housing authorities. Mr Acting Deputy President, are you aware that at this moment building costs are reckoned to have escalated to the extent that they are 50 per cent more than they were?
– When did that start? When did that progression start?
– I think 3 government supporters are replying to me. The Minister might reply to my question. If he disagrees with the statement he might go to the Australian Government housing authorities and get the facts. The true position is that unless the Government provides over 100 per cent more than the grant it made last year for each of these areas, it will deprive the States of their true rights. That must be acknowledged by the Minister. This has flowed from the stupid philosophy this Government implemented in the early stage of its career. What did the Government say in the first 6 months of its reign in 1972? It said to the general employee community and to the unions: ‘Go for your life for all the benefits you can gain. Go for your life to get the highest you can as increases in your salaries’. Do honourable senators know what that has created at the present time?
– There was a 150 per cent increase -
-Senator Brown is laying back in his seat and has made some inane comment. What the Government created then is going to bring about the greatest level of unemployment this community has ever known because employers are unable to meet the costs arising from what their employees have been granted. I make that point. I am not referring to what the employee has demanded over the past few years, I am referring to what the arbitration court has granted to employees over the past few years. I am an employer of a number of men in the joinery industry and I add something to this community, something that I doubt any Labor man has ever done in his life, and that is to create a position -
– Wait a moment. I take a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President.
– Give the number of the Standing Order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTSenator Davidson, I do not need any assistance from you. I have a knowledge of the Standing Orders and so has Senator Georges. Senator Georges, what is the point of order and what is the number of the relevant Standing Order?
– I have sufficient knowledge of the Standing Orders to know that if a senator is offensive to another senator opposite, even by inference, he should withdraw the words used. Senator Webster is saying that no senator on this side has contributed anything to the employment of people, to the production of goods or to the development of wealth in this country. That statement is offensive to me personally and it ought to be withdrawn. He ought not continue with the offensive remarks he commenced about 20 minutes ago.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Georges, are you saying that the words indicating that you never employed anybody are offensive?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
There is no substance in the point of order.
– I only make the point that I believe I speak with some authority in this matter. I challenge the Government to demonstrate its knowledge of it. I plead with the Government to change its attitude. When it first came into office it encouraged employees and unions to make applications, and the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to grant the benefits they seek. Today the small employer in the community, of which I am one, finds it impossible to grant his employees the benefits that are awarded. Mr President, do you know, as some members of the Opposition Parties would know, that as a result of the 35 per cent increase in salary granted this year to tradesmen in this industry, employers are facing, coming to Christmas, having to grant 4 weeks annual leave, having to meet a 17 te per cent loading for whatever reason the silly people on the Arbitration Commission granted it, and having to pay out to employees the equivalent of $600 to $700 for an 8-week period during which there will be no production. It will be impossible to support employees on that basis. Will the Government please take into account the problems it has created?
The next thing the Government did was to see to it that the interest rate would escalate. The Government took the first stance by requiring that the Reserve Bank increase the rate of interest on housing loans. I can remember Government senators some years ago saying in this House: ‘Why should primary industry benefit from the disparity of 1 per cent?’ They believed that the lowest interest rates in the community should be on housing loans. Senator Georges may have been one of those who said that. By the look of him I think it may have been. But what the Labor Government did was escalate the interest rate in the building industry to the highest on record in my lifetime.
– You started it.
-What has developed, and Senator Georges should take note of this, is a situation where no matter how much money is poured into the building industry, we will not enliven it. The Government has wrecked management and the industry by denying them encouragement. It has criticised profit although it did a double flip and changed its mind last week when it told the Prices Justification Tribunal that it should now take into account the profit motive. Here we have the Chairman of the Prices justification Tribunal, having been given his riding instructions by Labor, saying: ‘Do not tell me what I am going to do. I am not going to take notice.’ But the Labor Government now says: We are ruined unless you take account of the profit motive’.
– I rise to order and I regret having to do this to the honourable senator. I sincerely mean that. This debate is on 2 Bills- it is a cognate debate- one being the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill 1974 and the other the Housing Agreement Bill 1974. It would have to be conceded that we have listened for almost 20 minutes to Senator Webster and most of his remarks have been totally irrelevant to the substance of the 2 Bills. Mr Acting Deputy President, I direct your attention to standing order 42 1 which states:
The President or the Chairman of Committees may call the attention of the Senate or the Committee, as the case may be, to continued irrelevance or tedious repetition, and may direct a Senator to discontinue his speech.
I contend that the greater part of the remarks made by Senator Webster, in particular the latter part of his remarks, has been totally irrelevant to the subject matter of the debate. Therefore I ask you to give your attention to this standing order and at least ask the honourable senator to link his remarks to the substance of these 2 Bills. The reason I raise this point of order is that it is important that these Bills be passed so that we can allocate the moneys which are so critical to the welfare of the industry about which Senator Webster is registering so much concern.
– I rise to comment briefly and quickly on the point of order. It seems to me that it is highly relevant in a debate on housing finance to discuss the costs and problems of building houses. I suggest that in that area Senator Webster has been helping us greatly.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- I thank Senator Brown for inviting my attention to standing order 42 1. Having read the standing order I agree with him that Senator Webster has been straying from the Bill. I was inclined to uphold the point of order raised by Senator Brown but the balance was tipped the other way by Senator Cotton who invited my attention to the fact that Senator Webster was speaking about the economics of the building industry. That could have been interpreted in some small way as wandering from the purpose of the Bill. In those circumstances I will not uphold the point of order but I request Senator Webster to devote his attention to the contents of the Bill before the Senate for the remainder of his speech as this is a very important measure and a lot of people are waiting for it to be passed by this chamber.
– I acknowledge that you concede that I was dealing with the economics of the Bill and I regret that some Government senators are not aware of the economic effect -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
-Mr Acting Deputy President, I may be permitted to deal with this Bill as I think fit provided that I deal with this Bill on a basis -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! You will deal with the Bill in accordance with the Standing Orders of the Senate as they are interpreted by the Senate. I ask you, particularly as you are Chairman of Committees, to show some respect to the Chair. You will get the full protection of the Chair while I occupy it but I ask you to continue the debate in accordance with the Standing Orders and not in a manner in which you see fit.
-There has not been one word that I have uttered which is not in relation to the housing industry, and if I am pulled up at any stage for debating something other than these housing Bills I will accept the comment. But, as you said, Mr Acting Deputy President, I was dealing with the economics of the housing industry and if Government senators are unable to see that then I plead with them to try to see it. The economics of the housing industry relate directly to the granting of money to the States and to the housing societies. What the Government is doing is creating an enormous loss for employees in the building industry. The quality of life of any nation is reflected in the first instance by the standard of housing and its environment. The living standards of the Australian community depend upon adequate and sufficient housing.
The present Bill makes some attempt to distribute money to various areas where it may be needed. But having encouraged high costs in the industry and a steep rise in the interest rate the Government is now finding that individuals in the industry will not be able to obligate themselves to meet these costs and interest rates in the ensuing months.
– Why do you not–
– Will you please listen, Senator Brown. If you do not listen now you will not understand that individuals, with the level of their salary, will not be able to purchase houses because of the cost of money and the rising cost of houses today. Mr Acting Deputy President, will you allow me to mention land? It is an important component. A government senator interjected and said that developers or land speculators have created some bad thing in the community. The fact is that fewer blocks of housing land are available today than there have been in previous years. The cost may be very high when private enterprise develops land. People do not have to buy the land if they do not want it. There is land at very low cost in Victoria. I could take honourable senators and show them. The price of housing blocks in the Australian Capital Territory, where the Federal Government has had control over land for the last 2 years, ranges from $4,000 to $10,000. I should like to know why under a Labor socialist government the cost of developing a block of land varies so much that one individual may have to pay $10,000 but another may have to pay $4,000.
– There is a very simple answer.
– It is a very simple view for very simple people, but it is the fact. I hope the Minister will tell us how the criticism of private enterprise in this matter can be maintained against the experience of socialist government development. The facts are that we must see that there is adequate development of housing in this community. We must see that there is a national pride in the achievement by this community, as was previously the position, of the highest possible rate of home ownership. That rate of home ownership is being lost, because this Government does not want to see home ownership. It wants to see ownership by Government and that will be achieved by Labor socialist philosophy.
– I rise to draw the attention of the Senate and of the people at large to what has been taking place in this chamber today. Firstly, we witnessed a filibuster on the first reading stage of a Bill. Honourable senators opposite have been endeavouring to delay the passage of measures introduced into this House to make moneys available to the States.
– I raise a point of order. Mr Acting Deputy President, you called me to order and directed my attention to the 2 Bills that are before the House. An honourable senator on the Government side has risen and has not said one word about the housing industry. You have allowed him to continue. I draw your attention to that fact.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Senator Webster, as an observant senator you will have seen that when Senator McLaren got the call and started to speak I was engaged with the 2 Whips and did not hear what Senator McLaren said. In fairness I have to say that I did not hear what he said but I will be very attentive and will listen to what he says from now on.
– I apologise.
- Senator Webster, in his eagerness to take up some of my time, did not allow me to relate my remarks to the cognate debate on the 2 Bills before us. They are the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill and the Housing Agreement Bill. We have witnessed here today a deliberate attempt by honourable senators opposite, and in particular by Senator Webster, to delay the passage of these Bills which are to make finance available to the States. The States are waiting for the finance. Senator Webster criticised the Government for not giving full support to the States for their housing programs and for withholding money. Also, in the course of his remarks, Senator Webster criticised members of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and called them the ‘silly people’. I would have expected you, Mr Acting Deputy President, to have brought the honourable senator to a fullstop when he criticised the gentlemen of the Arbitration Commission. He referred to the ‘silly people ‘.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTSenator, I hope you are not reflecting on the Chair. I never heard the remark. I know that you, Senator McLaren, did not mean to reflect on the Chair.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I fully realise that in the heat of the debate here this evening you may not have heard the remark. I heard it and I think it is a disrespectful remark for Senator Webster to make. He is Chairman of Committees in the Senate and is expected to set an example of decorum to members on both the Government side and the Opposition side. We debated a matter of decorum here last night. Last Thursday night Senator Webster brought to the attention of the Senate the decorum which should be followed here. Yet he has spoken here tonight and ridiculed people who have been appointed to the Arbitration Commission. He referred to them as silly people because they brought down a decision with which he and his Party are not in agreement. I take umbrage at statements like that.
I wish to repeat, because of the continued interruptions, that Senator Webster and his colleagues are trying deliberately to prevent the passage of these Bills this evening. The Bills will make available finance to the States. I refer to a statement made by Senator Hall. He deliberately criticised the present Premier of South Australia. Over the years when both Senator Hall and Mr Dunstan sat in the South Australian Parliament Senator Hall was always the loser in debates. But Senator Hall comes to this place and tries to use the issue of Monarto to denigrate the Premier of South Australia. He said that Mr Dunstan, since he has been Premier, has deliberately misled the people of South Australia. I wish to link my remarks to the time when Senator Hall was Premier and deliberately misled the the people of South Australia. I refer to the time when he was fighting for his political life. Because of the misleading statements he made to the people of South Australia he lost government. I refer to a pamphlet which has Senator Hall’s photograph on the front cover.
– I take a point of order. It is offensive for me to hear a member on the Government side say that an Opposition member deliberately misled the people of South Australia. That is offensive because I have a regard for Senator Hall and I know that he would not do that. I ask for the statement to be withdrawn.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- There is no substance to the point of order.
-The tactics Senator Webster is adopting are quite obvious. He was in here when Senator Hall spoke and did not rise to his feet when Senator Hall made the statement that the Premier of South Australia had deliberately misled the electors of South Australia. I have conclusive proof, in a document published by Senator Hall, that he deliberately misled the electors of South Australia. The document has Senator Hall’s photograph on the front cover. The pamphlet states: ‘This is Steele Hall’. The pamphlet was published at the time Senator Hall was Premier of South Australia. He talks about his aims to build Chowilla Dam and to safeguard Australia’s water supply. Of course what he did is history. When he was elected he sold out to Mr Bolte in Victoria. He sold out and we lost Chowilla Dam.
– I raise a point of order. Standing order 4 1 9 states:
No Senator shall digress from the subject matter of any Question under discussion -
I submit to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that what is being debated now by the honourable senator opposite has nothing to do with the matter under discussion and is irrelevant.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- I thank Senator Chaney for inviting my attention to that standing order. I wish he had been in the House earlier and heard the previous debate. If he had he would have been up and down like a yoyo. In the circumstances, I will allow Senator McLaren to continue and I ask him, as an experienced senator, to bear in mind standing order 419.
-Tell the truth.
- Senator Hall has just interjected and said that I should tell the truth. Senator Hall deliberately told an untruth in his remarks. What I am stating here is, in fact, the truth. I am referring to a published document which was authorised by Senator Hall himself. It ill behoves him to interject and say that I should tell the truth. If he is disowning this pamphlet from which I am quoting it seems a funny thing to me that he should put his name to it and have his photograph on the front. When I quote from it he says that I ought to tell the truth.
– Will you table the document?
– I will table it because I have a cupboard full of them. The only reason I mentioned Chowilla was that Senator Hall stated that the present Premier of South Australia had misled the electors of South Australia on Monarto. I had to rise to my feet to prove that that was erroneous and that Senator Hall himself had misled the electors. He said that the Premier of South Australia was forcing public servants in South Australia to go to live at Monarto. I think that I can link my remarks to this Bill because there will be a very big housing project at Monarto. I know that all the Liberals, and Senator Hall included, have been emphatically opposed to Monarto since its inception for the very reason that it is a project that was launched by the Australian Labor Party, particularly in South Australia. I have spoken on this matter on numerous occasions in this House and I have pointed out that every major project that has been launched by an Australian Labor Party government has been opposed by the Liberals.
I want to return to what Senator Hall said about the South Australian Labor Government forcing public servants in South Australia to go to Monarto. I quote from Hansard for the South Australian House of Assembly of 2 October at page 1248. The official spokesman for Monarto at that time, Mr Dean Brown, was standing in for the honourable member for Murray, Mr Wardle. He asked the following question in the House in relation to Monarto:
Can the Minister of Development and Mines say by what date it is expected that the employment of 2,500 public servants will be transferred from Adelaide to Monarto?
Of course that very well respected member of the League of Rights, Mr Gunn, the member for Eyre- I think that he is or has been in the past closely associated with Senator Hall- said: Conscripted’. That was the very word used by Senator Hall in this debate tonight. He said that these public servants were being conscripted to go to Monarto. Mr Dean Brown went on to say:
Yes, conscripted. On 18 January this year, a newspaper report -
Senator Hall bases his argument on this report- stated that people would be living at Monarto in 1976. The report quotes the Minister as saying that people would be living there in 1976-77. One would presume that, in making that statement, the Minister was referring to far more people than the few who are living there at present in some farm houses. Moreover, on 15 July 1974, a report on page 1 of the Advertiser’ stated that 4,000 public servants were expected to be transferred to Monarto in 1976-77. Only last week, a public servant was told unofficially (although he was told by an authority on this transfer) that in fact he need not bother about shifting until 1980. Therefore, there is at least a three years to four years discrepancy between that statement and what the Minister has said. Having been at the site last week, I can say that it is apparent that the 1976-77 target will not be met.
In reply, the Minister, Mr Hopgood, said:
A committee has been set up by the Government to liaise with the public servants concerned and to maintain close consultation with them. The people affected will know the date before the honourable member knows it.
So it is quite clear from what was said by the Minister in charge of Monarto that there will be close liaison between the Government and the South Australian public servants in connection with their transfer to Monarto when it is required. This is contrary to what Senator Hall said in this House tonight. He said that these people would be conscripted to go to Monarto.
Of course, if Senator Hall had still been the Premier of South Australia and had been the innovator of Monarto it would have been one of the greatest projects that this country had ever heard of. But he is unable to cope with the present Premier. If one looks at Hansard one will see that on every occasion when the opportunity has been afforded to him Senator Hall has tried to denigrate the Premier of South Australia. South Australians know well that if it had not been for the double dissolution of the Parliament Senator Hall would have been back on his farm because he had to resign from his seat to contest the Senate election. It was only the double dissolution that saved him. Be that as it may, he is here. We accept him as an elected representative of the people of South Australia but I am a little disturbed that he, as a representative of the people of South Australia, should come into this chamber and use these two housing Bills we are debating tonight as a vehicle by which to denigrate the Premier of South Australia. When he had to meet the Premier face to face on the floor of the House at North Terrace Senator Hall came out second best on every occasion.
I hope that as years go by Senator Hall will have the courage to be the man he says he is. When Monarto has been proved to be the great project that we envisage it will be I hope that he will stand up and say that he was wrong. A lot of people consider that Senator Hall is a man of steel. Of course, that is why he has insisted that, although Steele is a Christian name, he be known as Senator Steele Hall. I hope that he will be prepared to stand up and prove that he is a man of steel and that he will admit he is wrong. He and Senator Webster have tried to delay the passage of these Bills tonight at a time when finance is sorely needed in the States so that they can proceed with their housing programs. I think that Senator Hall and Senator Webster have misused their powers as representatives of the States in this Senate.
Senator Webster admitted here tonight that he has a vested interest in the building industry. He said that he is in the building industry himself as a businessman. He has criticised this Government because there may have been some small downturn in the construction of houses in this great Commonwealth. But Senator Webster did not go on to tell the people that this was set in train before the Labor Party became the Government and that he supported a policy of the previous Government of allowing the developers to go in and buy up all the land that was possible and so make land too dear for the average working man to afford. (Quorum formed).
Mr President, before I continue my remarks on the 2 Bills I want to say that when Senator Cotton drew the attention of the Acting Deputy President to the state of the House there were 4 Liberal senators in the chamber, no Country Party senators, no independent senator and no Liberal Movement senator, but there were 10 Government senators present attending to the Bills being debated.
– Including the person in the Chair.
– Yes, including the person in the Chair. At least it shows that 3 Government senators to every one Opposition senator are vitally interested in the passage of these Bills. Members of the Liberal Party, Country Party, Liberal Movement and independent senators are not interested. That reinforces the statement that I made earlier tonight, that they are deliberately not interested and they are trying to delay the passage of these Bills to hold up the payment of the moneys to the States, thus preventing the States from providing the urgently needed assistance to the housing industry in this country. When I was interrupted by Senator Cotton calling for a quorum I was saying that this Government is suffering from the result of a policy which we inherited from the previous Government when through a lack of supervision that Government allowed developers to run riot and to buy up land, and then hold the working people to ransom by making them pay through the nose for a block of land before they could even think about building a house on it. Senator Webster now uses that to try to beat this Government about the head and say that it is our fault. It is not our fault at all. I think that those people who are so desperately in need of land would be well aware of the situation when these facts are put before them. It is not my intention to delay the Senate any longer because it is most important that these Bills are passed and that the money becomes available to the various States so that they can carry on their building programs.
– I rise to support the 2 Bills under discussion and to join with my colleagues who have consistently throughout this debate supported the 2 Bills- the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill 1974 and the Housing Agreement Bill 1974. We have all supported the Bills but we have taken the opportunity to point out to the Government some of the facts about the building industry today. I was shocked to hear Senator McLaren trying to assert that people on our side were holding up the passage of urgently needed legislation. I took the trouble to find out when the Government first brought these Bills into the Parliament. These 2 Bills were introduced into the House of Representatives not a day ago, not a week ago, but on 30 October. If there has been any delay or shilly-shallying it has been on the part of the Government. The Government controls the business; we merely respond when it brings on Government business. These Bills have been around for over 3 weeks and the only reason they have been brought on tonight is so that the Government can alter the order of business and take off the business paper the Customs Tariff Bill, Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. The honourable senator is grossly misrepresenting the position as it exists because the Bills were presented into the House of Representatives, debate was adjourned for one week by the Opposition and we have presented them within 2 days of their coming into this House. He should not mislead the people in regard to this matter. If he knew the processes of government- he is only a new boy, I admit- he would understand the procedures relating to legislation.
- Senator Poyser, are you claiming to have been misrepresented? If so, you should make a personal explanation.
– The housing industry in Australia today is clearly in a state of collapse and faces major disaster as a result of policies introduced by this Government. It is worth going back to some of the things that Senator Carrick said in his most persuasive and reasonable address on these Bills. Senator Carrick referred to home ownership in this country and made the point that we enjoy the highest rate of home ownership in the world. I am sure the Senate would like to know just how great this rate of home ownership was at the time we were in government and at the time we left office. The latest figures available to me relate to the year 1971. If one compares the latest figures on urban home ownership in various countries one finds that in Australia the rate was 67. 1 per cent compared with- figures much lower- 58 per cent in the United States of America, 54 per cent in Canada, 25 per cent in Norway, 40 per cent in Northern Ireland and 36 per cent in France. I repeat that it was 67 per cent in Australia where the people had enjoyed 20 years of LiberalCountry Party Government with our commitment to home ownership by all Australians. We have heard Labor politicians say that they do not believe in home ownership to the extent that we do, that they have a different philosophy on housing and that they have policies which are not aimed at enhancing home ownership throughout Australia. We are entitled to ask whether the Labor Party really cares about the housing industry. I would remind the Senate that as recently as 9 July when this session of Parliament began we heard the Governor-General’s Speech. That Speech contained the following passage which the Governor-General read on behalf of the Government:
The home building industry remains overstretched despite efforts by my Government to bring about a moderate abatement in the level of activity.
In July this year the Government was telling us that there was too much activity in the home building industry and that it was the Government’s intention to cut it back and to reduce the level of home building, to reduce the opportunity for Australians to have homes and to live in them. There is no other way one can understand the Government’s statement that the home building industry remains overstretched despite the efforts of the Government to bring about a moderate abatement in the level of activity. Well, it has certainly done that. We have seen in the last few months not a moderate abatement, not a marked abatement- a disastrous fall-off in activity in the building industry, in employment in the building industry and in the general beneficial effects that flow from the building industry.
We have heard from speakers on this side tonight- Senator Carrick, Senator Webster and Senator Steele Hall- some of the effects of this
Government and its policies on home building in Australia. The housing situation in Australia has become disastrous. The cost of building houses has risen sharply. The rate of interest on money that people borrow for home building has gone up markedly under this Labor Government. The credit squeeze has dried up the availablility of money.
– Who started this?
-Who started this, asks Senator Georges. He should know. This is deliberate Labor Party policy introduced progressively and now being removed when Labor finds that it does not work. This Government has encouraged wage rises beyond the capacity of the industry to pay and we have had uncontrolled inflation. It is no surprise that there has been a marked falling off in home building, and it is no surprise that builders, development companies and building employees are all feeling the pinch and that so many building workers are now out of a job, thanks to the Government which they thought was being elected to look after their interests. We have some figures which illustrate just what is going wrong in the home building industry in Australia. In 1972 with a Liberal-Country Party Government 163,000 dwellings were approved, and in my State of New South Wales over 50,000 dwellings were approved. If we could get back to the days when we were building almost as many homes as that we would be doing well. There has been a progressive and rapid fall-off in the rate of home building- a very marked fall-off. According to the ‘Australian’ newspaper of 2 October figures are emerging to document the extent of this fall-off. An article in that newspaper is headed Home building down by 60 per cent’. It goes on to say:
Building work began on 60 per cent fewer homes in Sydney in the three months to the end of September compared with the previous quarter.
Let us read that statement in conjunction with what the Labor Party put up in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech on 9 July. The Labor Government set out to stop activity in the home building industry. Well, it succeeded. There have been 60 per cent fewer commencements and total home building this year in Australia is likely to be about 110,000 or 115,000 units compared with 163,000 in 1972. What a change from the Liberal-Country Party Government. What an adverse change for the people of Australia. Of course we are supporting these Bills. Of course we are supporting financial aid for home building- anything to improve the effects of this Government’s policy. What is particularly interesting is that even this Labor Socialist Government has come to realise the folly of its ways. I have a Press release issued by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) on 30 September of this year. The Minister said:
The trend revealed by the latest building approval figures cannot be allowed to continue.
What an admission! The Minister for Housing and Construction said at the end of September that the trend revealed by the latest building approval figures could not be allowed to continue. Yet in July the Government told us that it had to cut back home building in Australia.
– It said exactly the opposite in the previous week.
- Senator Martin reminds me that it said exactly the opposite in the previous week. Goodness knows whether it even knew what it would say the week following. On 4 October the Minister for Housing and Construction issued another Press release. At this stage he said that following the Building Industry Conference he had discussed the need to stimulate the home building industry. In a Press release in October the Minister said that he wanted to stimulate the home building industry. In July the Government said that it wished to cut back and restrict its activity. That is stop-go government of the worst kind. This Government has done more than any government in history to bring a recession on the people of Australia, lt has attacked the home building industry deliberately as an act of policy. We must go back to the Governor-General’s speech in July if we want the proof of its intent and its aims. In September and October the Minister for Housing and Construction tried to duck out by saying: ‘We know we have made a blue. We know we have made a mistake. We know we have mucked things, so now we will do something to restore activity in the home building industry, if it is not too late. ‘ I do not wish to speak at length on this Bill. I join my colleagues in supporting the grant of this money to the States. I remind the Senate that when the Liberal-Country Party comes back to government we will ensure that housing for the Australian people becomes and remains the priority that it has been in the past. That is more than the Labor Party can say. It promised that it would cut back home building, and it did so. The effects have not been fewer houses, effects have gone far wider than this. Quite apart from cutting down on home building the Government has gone out of its way to make it undesirable for people to provide rental accommodation. The penalty on those who provide rental accommodation is another indictment of its lack of social awareness.
– How did it do that?
– It did it by imposing penalty taxation on those who derive income from rental accommodation. It will cut down the level of investment in that area just as surely as it has in private housing. Mr Les Johnson, the Minister for Housing and Construction, issues lots of Press releases. On 16 October he said that he was delighted that the States would be able to benefit from new allocations of money. We are delighted as well. We wish that it had not embarked in July on the kind of policies which led to planned contraction and planned disarray in the housing industry and planned unemployment for thousands of Australians. The Government has no coherent plan. I am glad that this money will go to the States. I accept the arguments of Senator Steele Hall about the previous Government, in which he was a leader, and its record in housing. I know that the States are the correct people to have and to use this kind of money. Once again I congratulate my colleagues Senator Carrick, Senator Webster and Senator Steele Hall for the thoughtful way in which they supported this legislation. I join them in supporting it, and I hope to see this money flow to the States where it is obviously so needed.
– I have no doubt that Senator Steele Hall must be gratified that at last he has a few friends on that side of the chamber. It seems to me that all he has to offer to them is a few crumbs and they will come to his support. My memory is not short because I remember that a week or so ago they thought him to be a pariah, somebody who ought not to be listened to or agreed with in any way. Tonight even Senator Webster spent some time in praise of Senator Hall. I believe that tonight Senator Steele Hall has taken a particular partisan point of view. He presented a case which he thought might gain him some support. I think Senator McLaren dealt very suitably with Senator Hall’s remarks.
What brings me into this debate is the charge by the Opposition, in particular Senator Webster, that we on this side had no interest in these Bills and were not prepared to support them. I make it very clear to the Opposition that we on this side find that there is an urgency to get this legislation through. To do this, if we have to deny ourselves the opportunity to participate in the debate, we are prepared to risk the criticism which may flow from the electorate. Our purpose is to prepare and discuss legislation, to carry out our policy and to get that legislation passed. When one considers the obstructionist tactics of the Opposition in this place one can realise how limited our time becomes to pass this and other legislation. The whole of this week -
– You wasted all day yesterday.
– Do not interrupt me now. During the whole of this week and the whole of last week the Opposition continued to filibuster, to obstruct and to delay. I will always remember that the Opposition delayed a very important social measure.
– Which one?
-The Family Law Bill. By deliberate delaying tactics the Opposition is endeavouring to defer the passage of this Bill until next year. To me this is a subtle form of cruelty on the part of the Opposition which is preventing the passage of a Bill when its passage is inevitable. That is bad enough.
– What has that to do with housing?
-I am speaking of the delaying tactics that Senator Bonner in particular and approximately six of his colleagues have engaged in to delay the passage of legislation in this place. Today we have witnessed the same procedure. We have endeavoured to restrain ourselves from entering the debate, but the rubbish that Senator Webster spoke in his contribution tonight needs some reply. As far as I am concerned, even if we must stay here until Christmas or beyond Christmas, if the Opposition is prepared -
– We will stay with you.
-We will see what happens to you in the last week when you are eager to get home to other commitments.
– That is up to you. Do not guillotine the debate.
– There is no chance of guillotining the debate in this place. Senator Bonner knows that. We have not the numbers. They have the numbers and they are ruthless with their numbers.
– We will stay with you.
-When it is time for you to go home we will see how quickly the Bills go through. In the meantime the Opposition is endeavouring to frustrate legislation. Today it is endeavouring to delay this very important legislation. We have heard all sorts of propositions that this Government has deliberately brought the building industry to its knees. Speakers on the Opposition side have failed to state or to declare that what we are suffering at present is a result of policies which were initiated well before this Government came to power. The escalation of land prices commenced well before we came into power. The misdirection of moneys for building commenced well before we came into power. The unbridled development of housing societies without any financial control commenced well before we came into power. The uncontrolled speculation in commercial building commenced well before this Government came into office, and the use of labour, materials and moneys in the building of high rise commercial units and uneconomical shopping sites commenced well before we came into power. In endeavouring to control this sort of misuse of finance, this misuse of building effort, in endeavouring to control these things we unfortunately affected the normal home building industry.
– You created the present situation.
- Senator, the causes which led to the restrictions that the Government had to apply were causes that your side was responsible for. If one goes back into the records one will find the number of times that senators on this side of the chamber have spoken about the undesirability of investment in high rise commercial type buildings in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and other places, using money at 12 per cent interest and charging rentals to cover a 20 per cent return for a complete recovery in 8 years. That sort of policy was allowed to develop under your government and, as a result, we have a glut of commercial building in the main cities of Australia. We have thousands of square feet of carpeted luxurious space which cannot be used for ordinary living purposes, and you commenced that.
– You have wrecked the economy and it will never be used now.
-Senator Withers overexaggerates and he has to accept the responsibility for his over-exaggeration. Senator Townley also over-exaggerated. Let me say that you people, by your over-exaggeration of what is happening in the economy, have become the producers of the situation about which you warn us.
– That is what the socialists always say.
– The person I am going to refer to cannot be categorised as a socialist. Incidentally, Senator Webster must be more perceptive than I because he seems to be able to find quite a number of socialists about the place. My definition of a socialist apparently is quite different from his. To the honourable senator who has interjected about turtles, may I say that the turtle project to which he has referred was commenced when the Opposition was in office and will cost us a cool $2m before it is finished. I was speaking of the over-exaggeration of Senators on the Opposition side. This overexaggeration I am claiming to be dangerous, and I refer the Senate to an article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of today, Wednesday, 20 November 1974. The article states:
Recession, not inflation, is to be Public Enemy Nol.
If you read that article you will see that those who predict economic doom are the ones who are likely to cause that economic doom in a situation that is volatile. But what upset me very much about the comments of Senator Webster and Senator Townley was that they looked upon the prospect of a recession with glee.
-No. Why were you smiling before, when you made the statement? You smiled well enough, but you have not got the common sense to realise that a recession of the type that you hope for will affect you as much as it will affect everyone else, except that while it will reduce your level of living it will introduce many people in this country to extreme poverty. You know that well enough. Do not come into this place and over-exaggerate what is happening in the economy at the present time. There is a shift in the direction of the economy at the present time, in the building industry in particular, and the evidence of this will be seen in the next few months.
– What did Bob Hawke say about employment today?
– What! 300,000 unemployed not disastrous?
– Let us look at the figure of unemployed. It is higher than it ought to be, but it is a recurring situation. You must recall that in 1961, when the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies had to impose more draconic measures than we are prepared to impose on the economy, signs went up in Queensland: ‘No labour wanted’. I have not seen such signs anywhere yet under this Government. What amazes me about honourable senators opposite is that they do not properly understand the system that they support. They do not properly look back into the economic history of the past 20, 30 and 40 years and realise that we go into a recessive period practically every 10 or 11 years. I would say that the measures that this Government imposed in the Budget were nowhere near as severe as those Menzies measures. Nevertheless, there have been some changes.
– Which Budget?
-Nevertheless, there have been some changes. Senator Withers is interjecting out of his place, but he is entitled to do that. I do that myself from time to time, but I do not get away with it. Apparently he has some special privileges.
– The credit squeeze is the worst ever, and it has been brought about by you people.
– No, Senator, you missed the point. The causes of the present squeeze, as you term it- the credit restriction- were causes which you inflicted upon the economy. You must know, if you are any sort of capitalist, that you cannot make a decision in a short time which has an immediate effect. The decisions which have affected the economy at the present time were made under your government, and I outlined those previously.
-He thinks 300,000 unemployed is all right. He said it is not disastrous.
-You are hoping for it, Senator.
– No, you said it is not disastrous.
-I did not say that at all.
– You did.
– I am saying that there is a shift in the direction of employment. There is a shake-out.
– Don’t be silly. There will be no increased employment for the next 3 months.
-I am going to refer to your comments, Senator.
– Why not come back to the Bill?
– I am coming back to the Bill.
-Order! Senator Georges will address the Chair on the Bill.
-Mr President, I wish to make a point in rebuttal of what Senator Webster had to say earlier.
– I don’t know why you pick on me.
– Because you were the one who was most vocal and you were the one who most misrepresented the position, and you were the one who stirred us into the debate when we were prepared to get this legislation through. What worries me is that you can come in here and complain that as an employer you employ people but you have not been able to adjust your costs during the year to provide for 4 weeks annual leave and to provide for a 17 ‘A per cent loading
– That is right.
-You have said that. You have not been able to adjust your business in such a way as tq give some sort of economic justice to your worker. You do not even know why the 17% per cent loading is provided. It is because the situation which your Government created brought this economy to the stage where it was impossible for a worker to afford to take 4 weeks’ annual leave because it costs more to take a week ?s leave than a worker receives in wages in your kind of employment. That is why the 1716 per cent loading was provided. Surely you, as an employer, should be prepared to improve the leave conditions of your worker. But, Senator, you ought not to be in so much distress. There should be plenty of work for you as a cabinetmaker or whatever it may be.
– Look at the cabinetmakers on that side.
-Cabinet-makers. The greatest user of furniture of the type that you would possibly make would be the school system in Victoria. Would that not be so? There is a great demand for school furniture in Victoria, because of the increased expenditure on education.
– Do they not make cabinets out of logs?
-Never mind. People are employed in cabinet-making, and Senator Webster is interested in it. I refer again to today’s Australian Financial Review’ which states that the State Government of Victoria has spent only 11 per cent of $5.7m offered by the Federal Government for new schools for Victoria’s migrant children, according to a Federal report. We find that an amount of $5. 7m has been given to the State of Victoria.
– In this year.
– Ah! There is the greatest fact that we have had yet- in this year. Good heavens above. It was probably given last week. Could we have a short adjournment while we wait for Senator Georges to continue?
-We are not having a short adjournment. The point is clearly made that in spite of the high level of unemployment in the building industry to which honourable senators opposite have referred, the Victorian Government has not been able to commit the full amount of $5.7m. This is happening not only in Victoria but also in Queensland. Those States have not been able to expend the moneys which have been provided which would take up the slack in the building industry. The moneys could be used to employ not only cabinet-makers, but also french polishers, bricklayers, carpenters and building labourers. Where is the great hoax? The great hoax seems to be that the States cannot adjust to the changes that are taking place. The changes are that moneys which previously were directed to speculative building by big speculators can now be diverted to low cost housing and to the building of schools and hospitals.
The States have not been able to adjust, and there a gross under-spending of money by the States, especially in Queensland. They have not been able to expend the moneys. Yet we have this continual cry by the Opposition that there is great unemployment and no stimulation in the building industry. The States have not been able to adjust. The Federal Government has endeavoured to come into the building field through the new Department of Housing and Construction. But in the 2 years that we have been in office, by the obstruction of honourable senators opposite we have been forced to a double dissolution and to another election. We have not been able -
– Do you mean double standards?
-It is not a matter of double standards. A lot of money was provided for Aboriginal housing.
– What has that got to do with this Bill? It has nothing to do with this Bill. We dealt with that the other day.
– If Senator Bonner had been in the chamber earlier and had not just come in- I thank him for coming in to listen to me- he would have heard the remarks that were made earlier. There were other honourable senators to whom he could have listened. I make this point clear to him: The remarks made by the Opposition tonight have emphasised, underlined and re-emphasised the point that there is unemployment in the building industry, that the building industry is running down. Honourable senators opposite have said that there is a high level of unemployment and that there is not sufficient home building. There is sufficient money to stimulate the economy, but the States are not able to use the money in the ordinary housing field, through the housing commissions, and Queensland certainly is not able to use it through the Aboriginal and Island Affairs Department, which is one area in which Senator Bonner is most interested.
I turn now to the present situation in Australia. There are no building commencements, but there are many homes that have been built and still remain empty. I defy honourable senators opposite to deny that the causes of these homes remaining empty stem back to their Government. There was the high cost of land. A block of land cost $12,000 or $14,000 or $16,000 and a speculator would build a house on that block of land. He would lift the price of what we consider to be a modest type of house -
– You have been in government for 2 years.
-We have been in government for 2 years and you were in government for 23 years. The mess that we are experiencing at the present time can be traced back to your government.
– What is the lowest value of a house in Canberra?
-It is $35,000 for a modest type of house. But the house remains empty. The speculator cannot get his money because no one can purchase the house. The cost is far too high. It has escalated from the time that you were in Government.
-Wait a moment. The speculator is finding difficulty in selling his homes in order to get further capital to build other homes. But the builder who is building for a person who has a loan has plenty of work.
– You have destroyed credit. You have put up the interest rate.
-The cause of high interest rates again goes back to the decisions that you made. I have spoken before in this chamber about the pace setting of the building societies which honourable senators opposite allowed to develop in an unbridled way.
– Are you opposed to building societies?
– Building societies would be the most inefficient way- and I have said this before- of providing low interest finance for homebuilding.
– Are you opposed to building societies?
– I am not opposed to building societies.
– Your Government is.
-Let me finish.
– You are opposed to building societies?
– I am opposed to a multiplicity of building societies.
– You want one big central government building society.
-No. Senator Webster is talking rubbish, and he knows it. Any reasonable organiser of finance in the building industry would appreciate that with the multiplicity of building societies competing aggressively one against the other for more deposits by offering high interest rates, there should be some rationalisation in this area.
– Rationalisation means destruction, does it?
– Rationalisation means the amalgamation of these small building societies which are duplicating services and running up costs.
– Building society interest rates are fixed by the Government. What are you talking about?
– Building society interest rates are fixed by State governments which accept no responsibility for the overall national economy, and Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson knows it well. If Victoria lifts the interest rate for its building societies by 2 per cent, Queensland subsequently follows. Unless some assistance is given to building societies to rationalise their operations and bring their interest rates down, the loans provided through building societies will be loans which ordinary people cannot service. Many houses remain empty. Many houses remain unsold. Many speculators are unable to continue. It seems to me to be a strange commentary on the type of economy which honourable senators opposite support that these huge building concerns which enter into land and building speculation, under the slightest pressure and restriction find themselves retreating into backruptcy or liquidation. The poor small employer or employee for whom Senator Webster weeps is the first one who suffers in that sort of arrangement. The big speculator goes free. He escapes his responsibility behind the limited liability of his company. I have been stirred into speaking in this debate. I do not think I have spoken since the Australian Labor Party has been in government- at least not in this sessionas frequently as I used to. I have said my piece. I merely say to the Opposition that if it wants to obstruct, to delay, to extend debate it puts us in a position where we may have to match it speaker for speaker.
– in reply- At the end of a Wednesday night I always seem to be left to hurry through a Bill with insufficient time to reply properly to arguments which have been put. As I have statedhonourable senators will find this on page 2353 of Hansard for last Wednesday- we make mistakes on a Wednesday when we are on the air. We should have controversial Bills on a Wednesday because we cannot stop honourable senators opposite from speaking. The States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill and the Housing Agreement Bill are not contested. They are agreed to. But they have been debated all afternoon. Again on a Wednesday a money Bill was introduced and it took all day to debate it.
– That is not so. We have been dealing with this Bill from 8 o ‘clock.
-Yes, from 8 o’clock. The rest of the day was spent on the first reading of a money Bill just because there was an opportunity to talk. I do not accuse honourable senators opposite of wasting time. I accuse them, on a Wednesday, of an inability to shut up in the belief that their speeches will get them votes at the election. The Bills would have gone through in an hour tomorrow but we happened to deal with them on a Wednesday. Let us look at what has been done in housing. When the Australian Labor Party came into power in December 1 972 there were some 93,000 applicants for housing trust or housing commission homes in Australia. In February, during the first session of the new Parliament, we made a grant to the States of $6. 5m for that current year. The States had been funded for that year but they would have had unemployment in the building industry because in building housing commission homes they had used up the paltry $ 163.2m which the Government had given them for the 1972-73 program. Therefore we had to supplement this amount with another $6.5m for welfare housing. We make no apology for it.
We said that when we came into office we would provide for the needy in society who had been neglected under the previous Government. We did this for welfare housing. This year we are making $3 10m available to the States for housing. This compares with the amount of $ 163.2m which was made available in the last year of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. That is the distinction between the activities of the governments in housing.
– The Minister will not cite us housing numbers, will he?
-We will deal with numbers directly. The Bills were called on. When Senator Webster got up to speak I told my advisers that if they wanted to go down to the staff canteen for the next hour they could because they would hear a lot here about the socialist Labor Government but nothing about housing. Of course we did not hear anything about housing. Then Senator Baume got up. He said that what Senator Carrick had said was worth repeating. He repeated it. He had no contribution to make to the debate. So what Senator Carrick has said is in Hansard twice. That was Senator Baume ‘s contribution to the debate. Let me reply to what has been said by those who contributed to the debate. Let us see what has been done. Today there is no unemployment in the housing industry in Australia. Last Thursday night I was speaking to a delegation which was comprised of New South Wales and Victorian housing trade unions. I am known to all the delegates. 1 asked them about the position of employment of members of the trades union in the industry. Last Friday I spoke to the Secretary of the Building Trades Federation of South Australia. No member of a union is unemployed in the building industry in South Australia
We came into office in 1972. We could not buy a house then. One could not buy because one could not get timber for a house. There was a lag of 1 1 months or 15 months before one could get a house completed in Australia. That was the position. The needy of Australia could not get a ouse at all because of the price of land and of housing. In Canberra bricklayers were getting $300 a week. Honourable senators opposite complain because someone gets 17 te per cent on an award wage for Christmas. Houses could not be bought. They could not be finished and they could not be erected. Something had to be done about the housing position. We did something in order to rationalise the housing position. In this process it was not the home builders but Mainline Corporation Ltd and Cambridge Credit Corporation Ltd- which honourable senators opposite uphold today- who were speculators. Because of the reduction in the price of land these companies went to the wall as they had to, whatever government was in power. This Government wanted to do something for the working people of Australia. It is not true to say that we do not support home ownership. We are responding to the needy. We think it is essential that they get a home. We did something so that it was possible for those who had the means to buy a home. At the price of homes at that stage they could not have bought one.
These Bills permit in excess of the previous 30 per cent to be made available to building societies and to home owners. They permit the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) to grant a greater proportion of funds for home ownership. This is only rationalising the industry. I say one more thing about Senator Carrick. He was not allowed to incorporate in Hansard a report from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. I believe it was a Victorian report. This was an attempt to show the depressed state of architects in Victoria without recognising that these were not home architects. The honourable senator mentioned that there was a section in the report on home building. But architects are employed in great numbers on big, multi-storey buildings. As Senator Georges told the Senate today those buildings are carpeted but they cannot be let. They were going up and there was no building force for home construction. We could not say that. Because of the lack of capability of someone in the Chair I was refused leave to make a statement. I would have -
– I take a point of order, Mr President. I find quite offensive the Minister’s remark that it was because of the lack of capability of someone in the Chair that he was prevented taking action. That is a reflection on the Chair, Mr President, and I invite you to call on the Minister to apologise to the Senate.
– I did not hear the remark.
– Well, Mr President, I will repeat the remark to you.
– Order! I did not hear the remark. Senator Cavanagh, did you make that remark?
-Whatever the remark was, I will withdraw it. I wanted to make a statement on that occasion. I wanted to say that if the document was tabled so that I could peruse it, rather than its being incorporated in Hansard where I could read it tomorrow and consequently it would be of no value in this debate, I would have been prepared to allow it to be incorporated.
– You could have looked at it.
– I did not know that and I was not permitted to ask to look at it. I was not permitted to state my reason for not allowing it to be incorporated in Hansard. Architects are in a depressed state because we have stopped multi-storey buildings. I turn now to the other contribution to this debate. Senator Steele Hall rose to speak. He has never got over his hatred of the Labor Government in South Australia because it chased him out of office. The man whom the honourable senator said has ruined South Australia has been accepted. He defeated the honourable senator as Premier of South Australia and has been twice elected Premier of that State. Senator Hall very unfairly cited the figures of the South Australia Housing Trust to show a decline now compared with the big rise in Housing Trust construction when he held the reins of government in that State. I believe it was the last year of office of the Playford Government. The honourable senator neglected to say that they were Housing Trust figures. In no way did they reflect the building construction rate in South Australia. He compared the figures with those for last year when there was a remarkable reduction in Housing Trust construction.
If anyone is responsible for that situation it was the then Federal Government. In 1960-61 the bulk of the Housing Agreement moneys was allocated to the Housing Trust. It received $8.12m and the Home Builders Account received $3.48m. The total allocation was $1 1.6m. About three-quarters of the money in 1960-61 went to the Housing Trust. In 1973-74 the distribution was as follows: Housing Trust $ 15.5m, Home Builders Account $17.25m; total $32.75m. Less than half the money in 1973-74 went to the Housing Trust and consequently it could not build so many houses. About three times the amount of money went into housing in South Australia and the housing construction rate was up but not through Housing Trust construction. What I have said also shows that the reversing of the contributions- putting the money into the Home Builders Account- denies the statement that we are against home ownership. In view of the time I shall conclude, Mr President, and thank the Opposition for the very stormy opposition that we got to these 2 Bills with which the Opposition agrees. I hope that we can pass these 2 Bills tonight.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 14 November, on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Cavanagh) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I would like to say in a very few words that the position in regard to Monarto is one which should lead this Government to make a very real investigation into what the South Australian Government is proposing in that very arid site relative to other sites available in South Australia. I draw the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) to an article which appeared on Monday in the South Australian ‘Advertiser’ in which it is stated that the Federal Government is committed to Monarto and has already contributed nearly $15m, the majority of it in direct grants and the remainder in loan funds. I remind the Minister that the director of Monarto has his offices in the same building as the consortium for Redcliffs which is now proving to be one of the monumental failures of State promotion ever publicised in any State in Australia. The Federal Government should very quickly and efficiently assess the future of Monarto or else that project, predicted to grow to be worth $2, 300m, will lead South Australia’s development to one side, at a tangent, and will be very detrimental not only to our State but also to the whole development of Australia.
Turning now to the remarks of the Minister about what the Labor Government did for welfare housing in Australia since coming to office in 1972, I remind him that not only have completions of welfare housing fallen in South
Australia from 2,175 to 1,321 but that the totality of all houses in South Australia also has fallen in absolute terms.
– This Government has a plan for decentralisation and urban development and it knows what is done. Studies have been made of the Monarto project. Everyone thinks that it is a goer except Senator Hall.
– Not the overseas experts.
– Experts were involved. It is a question whether we listen to Government advisers or Senator Hall. We do not accept Senator Hall as the expert in South Australia. We got rid of him. We could do nothing else with him but put him in the Senate where he now resides.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I have always believed that the adjournment debate is an occasion to remedy any injustices and tonight I rise on behalf of the Joint Commonwealth Secretary of the Commonwealth Council of the Amalgamated Metal Workers’ Union to refute an assertion that was made on 2 October by Senator Townley. I refer to the amalgamation of trade unions. This union, Senator Grimes, myself and others at the time questioned the authenticity of what Senator Townley was saying. On that particular night he said there had been numerous demarcation disputes despite the creation of the Amalgamated Metal Workers’ Union. It is the word ‘numerous’ that both the union and I take umbrage at, and I have a 2-page statement from the Joint Commonwealth Secretary of this union, Mr John Garland, which I intend to ask leave of the Senate to have incorporated in Hansard.
This is probably not the time for lengthy debate but I simply say this: The Joint Commonwealth Secretary of the large organisation concerned points out, among other things, that the very early and serious demarcation struggles which took place between the old Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society and the Amalgamated
Engineering Union, predominantly over welding, are no more. I object to Senator Townley ‘s instant assessment of a dispute in Tasmania, to which this statement refers, involving employer provocation, and to his use of the word ‘numerous’. I do not intend saying any more at this stage because I believe that after the document is incorporated in Hansard, when on another occasion we are dealing with industrial legislation or a Budget debate we can take it further. But when there has been an error made or a distortion of fact, a large organisation like the Amalgamated Metal Workers’ Union is entitled to have its viewpoint put. It is for that reason I ask that this 2-page document which bears the signatire of John Garland, the Joint Commonwealth Secretary, be incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)- 16 October 1974
Senator J. A. Mulvihill, Commonwealth Parliament Offices, 5 Martin Place, SYDNEY, N.S.W. 2000.
Statement- Senator Townley, Tasmania- Amalgamations
It was kind of you to forward us the Hansard pages of this Senator’s speech and we appreciate your reply, that is in defence of the trade union movement and of amalgamations in particular. You were very much on the correct line.
There are three things that can be said about Senator Townley’s remarks and, by the nature of the questions raised in your interjections, you are well aware of these:
The major point is that the dispute arose as a result of the company requiring Fitters to do Boilermakers* work and subsequently notifying that they expected the reverse also to apply.
There would never have been a dispute (and it did go on for some months, with periodical stoppages, overtime bans and finally the dispute itself) if the company had not been so truculent and resolute in its decision that this flexibility of working conditions was to apply.
To suggest, as Senator Townley does in a sweeping remark, that amalgamations have caused or extended demarcation disputes, is ridiculous and contrary to fact.
The records will clearly show that, since the end of 1972, there have been hardly any major demarcation disputes between the three former unions: Boilermakers, Engineers and Sheet Metal Workers, or between any two of the three former unions.
As a result, it can be said, except for the odd case like Renison Bell, that amalgamations substantially reduce any union conflict on a wide range of matters, not only demarcation, and an elementary examination of the position will show this to be correct.
We commend you for your attention in this matter and thank you for the enclosures forwarded with your letter.
Joint Commonwealth Secretary
– I remember well the day on which I made that speech. It was not made in the evening, it was made in the afternoon. The point that I was making at that time was that the amalgamation of unions does not necessarily stop demarcation disputes.
– It only cuts them down.
– If you want to have a talk in a moment you are welcome to get your kilt or whatever you like and come back here -
– I rise to order. I think Senator Townley should speak through the chair and not have a conversation with a senator in this chamber. If he cannot stand interjections and gets upset about them he should retire from this place because he represents nobody anyway.
– I ask that Senator Townley be allowed to make the remainder of his speech in silence.
-The dispute that I was talking about occurred in Tasmania at Renison Bell, one of the biggest, if not the biggest, tin producers in Australia. It resulted in a considerable loss of production. The dispute was over whether boilermakers or fitters, who are both members of the same union, the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, should perform the work of cutting bolts. All the AMWU members went on strike when the company requested a fitter to cut off some bolts which were incidental to his fitting work. The strike led to a stand-down of production workers and, after many weeks, dismissal notices to the maintenance workers themselves. Wages and other matters were brought into the dispute but in essence it was a demarcation dispute. To emphasise this point the AMWU members in a telegram to the Deputy President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on 4 May 1973 said bluntly: ‘This is a demarcation dispute’. That telegram and the circumstances surrounding this demarcation dispute may be found on the files of the principal registry in Melbourne. It was not until mid-May 1973 that the return to work was effected and at one stage it did look as though Tasmania would lose that industry. The point that I was making was that demarcation disputes can still occur within one union.
– I just want to take 5 minutes to clear up what Senator Townley said. On 2 October 1974 in Hansard page 1595 after talking about this issue- the introduction of demarcation legislation- Senator Townley said:
The fallacy of this argument can be illustrated by the fact that there have been numerous demarcation disputes within the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union which have led to industrial dislocation and stand downs -
– What is your argument?
-This I think clears it up. The argument can be canvassed some other time. Senator Townley continued:
Since the amalgamation of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths’ Society of Australia and the Sheet Metal Workers Union into the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union.
After Senator Townley said that, Senator Mulvihill reported it to the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. As Senator Mulvihill pointed out tonight- and as is contained in the document tabled by him- Mr Garland said:
The records will clearly show that, since the end of 1972. there have been hardly any major demarcation disputes between the three former unions: Boilermakers, Engineers and Sheet Metal Workers, or between any two of the three former unions.
As a result, it can be said, except for the odd case like Renison Bell, that amalgamations substantially reduce any union conflict on a wide range of matters, not only demarcation, and an elementary examination of the position will show this to be correct.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 November 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19741120_senate_29_s62/>.